Century Media Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You've all heard the old saying that appearances can be deceiving, right? Well, let me add on to that: expectations can be deceiving as well.

I had heard a bit of a buzz about the Brazilian metal band Angra, both in the press and from our readers. So when their latest disc Fireworks arrived in the mail, I was expecting a headbanging tour de force...

Imagine my surprise when the disc hit the player, and what I heard was what you could describe as progressive metal! This was also a shock, seeing what label they were on - a label I knew from my college days as being one of the early purveyors of grindcore.

It took me several attempts to get through Fireworks, and several listens to really get what this band was trying to do. And while Fireworks didn't live up to my expectations, it is a solid album that should open the eyes of many naysayers who claim that metal is dead.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The group - vocalist Andre Matos, guitarists Kiko Laureiro and Rafael Bittencourt, bassist Luis Mariutti and drummer Ricardo Confessori - reminds me a lot of the style of music that Queensryche played in their glory days, with just a touch of thrash thrown in for good measure. If anything, Angra could be Royal Hunt with a tougher edge to the music and no reliance on keyboards.

Musically, Angra is a tight unit. Matos's vocals are strong and clear throughout the album, and he's not afraid to stand out in the metal world as a singer, not a screamer. On tracks like "Speed," "Paradise" and "Fireworks," his vocals ring out, almost becoming a unique instrument that blends with the guitar work of Loureiro and Bittencourt - as well as an orchestral section fleshing out the band's sound.

But if you're looking to be blown back through the wall by breakneck speed, with rare, momentary exceptions, Fireworks may disappoint you - at first. However, after numerous listens, the technical craftmanship and musical precision of tracks like "Metal Icarus" and "Lisbon" will win you over. Especially noteworthy is the nearly eight-minute opus "Paradise," which will hold your interest throughout. (I also wanted to note the cool drum licks provided by Confessori on "Metal Icarus".)

Angra is a band that has been overshadowed by one other band from Brazil - the legendary Sepultura, even though the musical styles of the bands are different. Angra does have its feet firmly planted in metal, no doubt about that - but if they were to set themselves apart by pushing the progressive style they have embraced, it could bring them some well-deserved attention.

The only negative is that it takes so long to really get into this album. Had I written this after one full listen, I would probably have written them off. But knowing that some readers saw something in this band that I didn't see on the first approach convinced me to give them a second chance - and a third, for that matter. I just wonder how many consumers would be willing to give an album like this at least three listens to really appreciate it.

Fireworks is a solid effort from Angra, and is one that should put them on the map for their own contributions to the genre. But be warned: if you do pick this one up, be prepared to spend a lot of time with it.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Century Media Records, and is used for informational purposes only.