Angra - ØMNI - (9/10)
Published on May 3, 2018
The very first lyric on this album is ‘Sorry!’ – and yet, a British band this is not! Yes, the brilliant Brazilians (and one Italian) of Angra return to us once more with their ninth full-length record ØMNI and prove, once again, that they are unmoved by the trends of the genre. As expected, Rafael and co. veer away onto a path only Angra could have carved; melding their brand of prog-tinged power metal with worldly influences. This band have always injected ethnic sounds into their timbre, but the fusion appears seamless on this new album. Eastern melodies, Latin percussion, shamanic chanting…and European-style upbeat power metal. I’m mentioning this for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with Angra’s style but, truth be told, they never quite do what’s expected. ØMNI plays like a direct follow up to 2015’s Secret Garden; improving each aspect of that album in every way. This new release is accessible yet complex, familiar yet refreshing, stylistically loyal yet exploratory. Put simply: damned interesting.
Fabio Lione is really cementing his place within the band’s ranks. The iconic ex-Rhapsody legend only seems to improve with age, and it’s heartwarming to hear him provide gruff aggression as well as soaringly high passages and mellow sweetness. He really impresses on the vibrant opener “Light Of Transcendence” – probably as close to traditional European power metal that this record gets. Fabio is occasionally backed by a choir which gives some tracks a huge texture, especially the fiery accentuations in “Travelers Of Time” (you’ll know which bit I mean when you get to it!). In other vocal-related matters, Rafael himself occasionally gets stuck into mic duties, and there is an absolutely stunning guest spot from Alissa White-Gluz on the deathly “Black Widow’s Web.” I’ve always advocated the use of harsh vocals in power metal as it creates an extra dimension to the music, and this is a perfect example. The de-tuned riffs and murderous lyrics, combined with Alissa’s growls make this one of the best cuts on the album – though it’s not without its melodic flair.
As usual, Angra throw plenty of complexities and rhythmic fuck-arounds to keep you guessing. Not enough to put you off or become self-indulgent, but enough to hold a music lover’s intrigue. It never feels forced. The natural fusion of South American rhythms and ethnic percussion with the irregular time signatures of progressive metal create a sound purely Angra – exemplified by the primal tribal-ness of seventh track “Caveman”. Even when overall structures are on the simpler side, like the catchy, ethereal “Insania”, there are still buckets of melodic and textural wizardry to prevent boredom at any cost (on this track in particular, keep your ears peeled for Felipe’s masterful bass work!). ØMNI is also seriously heavy. Hidden among the frenetic fretwork are some massive headbang-worthy segments, like the opening riff to “Silence Inside” or the 3:33 mark in “War Horns” to keep your neck aching.
This isn’t just a balls-to-the-wall mix of complicated timings and crushing heaviness. ØMNI flows like a smooth journey through different landscapes of sound. The crawling “The Bottom Of My Soul” and the radio-friendly mellowness of “Always More” break up the maelstrom and create an overall theatrical experience. Extra special kudos to the closing instrumental “Infinite Nothing”. Whereas most bands would include this kind of outro just to be a throwaway track or CD filler, this piece is actually an orchestral medley of tunes from all the previous songs! The more you hear it, the more recognizable the melodies. Quite an incredible concept, brilliantly executed. Every band should do this! It took a few listens to really start enjoying this LP for what it was, as well as respecting its place within the Angra discography. But I implore you, reader, get familiar with ØMNI – the rewards shall be great! The future looks bright for the Brazilian veterans.