Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ANGRA: "Secret Garden"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMusic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

It's no secret (garden) that yours truly struggled to appreciate the work of Fabio Lione and the albums of the Italian Kitch Symphonic Power Metallers Rhapsody (aka Rhapsody Of Fire). I wrote some harsh words about the man and go no further then to our massive archive to dig up the skeletons of the past. He's grown into his shoes though and the chemistry between Lione and the Brazilian band is definitely hear-able on the "Secret Garden". I'd go as far as saying it's Lione's best vocal performance ever and the Angra material clearly fits the man like a glove.

It should be pointed out that the various lead vocal appearances by guitarist Bittencourt's make for something else as well as the styles are mixing nicely together. The album is the fictional concept effort about a scientist who fights to restore his happiness after a tragic accident. It's death, religion, and various scientific, philosophical and aesthetic beliefs and values. The whole science vs. religion and what not really.

"Newborn Me" is the opener and you may pick up the odd reference to Dream Theater and Pull Me Under. However, there's much more to this and the impressive drum parts by Bruno Valverde has clearly been inspired by fellow-Brazilian Igor (Sepultura) while the guitar work of Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt are technically challenging throughout the track. In fact. The two are constantly pushing each other to and over the limit. Very progressive and something different from the band. Great.

"Black Hearted Soul" is traditional Angra. "Final Light" really gets Valverde going behind the kit and the tribal drumming works like a charm. Again, very nice and slightly different from previous albums. Animated accent by Lione and perhaps a bit too Rhapsody-like on this track? "Storm of Emotions", the great ballad with a special nod to Dream Theater. Next, 'Synchronicity II', a pretty decent version indeed of the classic song by The Police.

It's plain weird that the album's title track feature Simone Simmons (Epica) on lead vocals. Nope. It's not a duet and it sure makes you wonder about the logic behind this decision. Her voice and lively accent is hardly something to brag about and definitely not in this particular case. It's not a winning concept and especially not in comparison to "Crushing Room", the fine power ballad duet between Doro (Warlock) and Bittencourt.

Pre-produced by Roy Z (Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson, Halford) and recorded and produced in Sweden by Jens Bogren (Arch Enemy, Dragonforce, Kreator, Opeth), Secret Garden is quite the surprise and a fine mix of happy Euro metal and mature progressive stuff.

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