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Angra: Holy Land | Nothing More To Say…

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Last Updated on 22:43 by Nikos Nakos

Reviewing gems from the past is my favourite hobby. But it is an extra pleasure when I write about albums that were released in the era when I was a declared devotee metalhead. For approximately 5 to 6 summers, Heavy Metal was definitely my thing: I purchased albums exclusively of the said genre like a maniac and a time when I was innocently ignoring all the other genres and  the action of fixing the boundaries or limits of extreme music.

 So, Angra came to my life when I was so thirsty for new music in my micro-world and at the same time in the macro-world, when power metal was at its prime and in the proper decade when experimentation was an everyday business.

 Most people outside Power Metal Underground circles ignored in 1996 the São-Paulo-based band, but the hell rats that were moving and living under the surface, already knew Angra’s debut full-length very well, and were part of the rapidly growing fan base worldwide (especially in Japan). Entitled “Angels Cry”, their virgin attempt features  ten tracks of authentic Power Metal with many Progressive and Classical influences.

 Their sophomore effort though was a step beyond; a brave and inspired fusion of Progressive Power Metal blended with Brazilian Folk influences and a Helloween’s meets Queen mixture under the Brazilian’s land sounds.

 “Holy Land” was so ambitious that it was also a concept album, whose theme is centered on the Brazilian land, around the time it was accidentally discovered in the 16th century (from a European perspective), as depicted in the art surrounding the album release. Once fully opened, the cover illustration turns out to be an old 15th-century map. The opening track “Crossing” features a rendition of O Crux Ave by 16th century catholic composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. In more than a minute and a half the band includes jungle noises and symphonic parts summarising the folk meets classical influences that along with relentless Power metal riffs and dynamic drumming will fit like a glove with the high pitched singer’s Andre Matos velvet voice in order to create an extraordinary album that marked mid 90’s.

 The following songs deal with life in the “holy land” prior to its colonisation by the Portuguese and subsequent changes Brazil underwent upon their arrival. Furthermore, title track “Holy Land” contains many indigenous and folkloric influences taken from Brazilian music, but also includes classical arrangements symbolising Europe at the time.

 Of course the album features one of the best songs that power metal gave us in the 90’s, the brilliant “Nothing To Say” that is the brother of Viper’s “To Live Again” in terms of catchiness, top notch quality, popularity and access to the masses worldwide. According to drummer Ricardo Confessori, the track was developed around a drum riff he created around 1994 at a small rural property owned by guitarist Rafael Bittencourt. His band mates heard it and soon joined in to create the rest of the song, including the single-note opening riff.

 The whole album in its entirety leaves plenty of space for Kiko Loureiro’s and Rafael Bittencourt’s technical skills to shine, that dress so beautifully André Matos’ trademark born for opera voice. Matos sings with no hesitation and flawlessly moves from high pitched to slower tempos and from melodic approaching to falsettos ranging like only megatheriums can do.

I wrote before that Angra was rather ambitious and brave for this release and the choice of Hansen studios and the participation of Kai Hansen, Sascha Paeth and Charlie Bauerfeind in the recordings and production ensured that they would get the piece of the cake they deserved.

The album has a plethora of rhythms and no problem to jump from Nothing To Say’s full speed attack to “Silence and Distance” slower tempo and the brilliant soft piano intro. Guitars and orchestra work perfectly here leaving the stage for Matos to deliver the goods with his performance. Same for “Caroline IV”, a song that blends various styles and forms with frequent tempo changes. On of the more progressive driven tracks here, while later folk percussion and tribal drumming appear on “The Shaman” (The band effectively split in half following 1998’s Fireworks album, with vocalist Andre Matos departing along with the rhythm section of Luís Mariutti and Ricardo Confessori to form Shaman.) and yes the album has a ballad friendly approaching with Savatage or Queen structure and feeling as in “Make Believe”. “Z.I.T.O.” (this and “Nothing to Say” are the only songs that are actually Power Metal) brings me in mind a contest in a Greek magazine back in the days and also Ozzy’s SATO for obvious reasons, a great song with virtuoso guitars and soloing and pummelling double bass drumming; I doubt who remembers what ZITO stands for…hahaha. The album closes actually like fading out with “Deep Blue” a melodic and mellow song and  “Lullaby For Lucifer”, featuring nothing but Matos’ voice, an acoustic guitar and ambient sounds of animals and running water. “Holy Land” had almost an ethnic character, something not easy to do without sounding ridiculous. The excellent orchestration and instrumentation, the magical voice of Matos and the outstanding guitars or the drama sometimes the album oozed would be meaningless if the final result wasn’t so  effortlessly gushing musical genuineness.

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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