Brazilian prog metal masters ANGRA has maintained a solid if grossly unheralded presence for many years, leading to wonder how it hasn't been muttered in the same breath as the genre's elite, through the band is frequently compared to DREAM THEATER. This band is elite, however, and at times better, let the debate machine grind. Guitarist/keyboardist Kiko Loueiro brought ANGRA some overdue attention by going on hiatus to join, and in some ways, rescue MEGADETH on the monster "Dystopia" album. Former vocalist André Matos has hung in the higher profile AVANTASIA, while his replacement, Fabio Lione fronted RHAPSODY OF FIRE before coming over to ANGRA. Loueiro's stand-in, Marcelo Barbosa, gets his crack as the band engineers another ear-pleasing trip to anywhere but your private minute on its stellar ninth album, "Omni".
The brisk soar of "Light of Transcendence" sounds like and moves nearly as fast as DRAGONFORCE, but instead of feeling impossibly overwhelming even with so many parts moving at ludicrous speed—including its soaring symphonics—there's a tremendous balance to it all. "Light of Transcendence" feels lofty instead of weighty.
"Travelers of Time" is a glistening prog thumper with one of the most alluring choruses you'll hear in metal this year. ANGRA loads the track with tribal percussion during the intro, tapped to even greater heights throughout "Caveman", and rocketing through a thrash swirl between the song's winding progressions. Yes, there's a ton of sensory parts to maneuver alongside Fabio Lione, who works through this band's complexities as if he's been here a full decade. Another flavor change arrives on "Black Widow's Web", where a womanly leadoff chant is gobbled by squelching, Ihsahn-esque black metal vocals, while the band merrily pounds away behind them. Bruno Valverde clubs a sturdy rhythm to the overtly melodic "Black Widow's Web", which stands to be raked by a gory breakdown and synth-splashed syncopation where Valverde lays in wait to spring again.
Daring to title a cinematic action-packed number "Insania", ANGRA shrewdly serves up operatic and fusion-based measures—bassist Felipe Andreoli is a plucking madman on this song—without hyper-extending. Despite all the intricacies, there's a conventional sensibility behind the gasping theatricality to the songwriting, ditto for the soft and textured love ballad "Always More", making it wholly gratifying. With this grand spectacle coming to close, the superb power ballad "The Bottom of My Soul" is colossal in its own right. The acoustic guitars and mandolin scale to passionate heights with orchestral tugs, hitting an emotional climax in the guitar solo section. Not that "The Bottom of My Soul" should really be compared to QUEENSRYCHE's "Silent Lucidity", but ANGRA has nonetheless achieved a stunning next-gen successor here.
The ferocious "War Horns" is yet another example of how majestic ANGRA's talents are. You're nearly too busy slamming your noggin vertically to catch them, but the choruses escaping from "War Horns"'s wall-whumping thrashes are so refined and supple even DREAM THEATER should be jotting notes. Rafael Bittencourt and Marcelo Barbosa put on a clinic through the entire album, but the neoclassical shredding on this tune is astonishing, even with Bittencourt's pedigree.
"Magic Mirror", "Silence Inside" and "Infinite Nothing" are stuffed with all the audile candy a prog junkie can gorge on, but ANGRA brings its roots to the fore here, particularly the flamenco sweeps leading of "Silence Inside". "Infinite Nothing" is based in chamber fugue and ANGRA thus expels a symphonic masterpiece in obvious admiration of THE MOODY BLUES's "Days of Future Past".
As ever, ANGRA puts immense thought and devotion into every single stitch it laces within its wondrous compositions. Knowing when to tantalize and when to jerk the band's listeners back with addictive harmony, ANGRA may or may not achieve greater international acclamation with "Omni", but they sure as hell deserve it.