I remember hearing Angra for the first time back in the 90s when a friend came with the ‘Angels Cry’album and said this was the band of a few young dudes living in a close neighborhood and featuring Andre Matos from Viper on vocals. I was immediately hooked and that marked the start of an actual good friendship with Andre, formed bassist Luís Mariutti and Kiko Loureiro, now the widely known axeman from Megadeth. Angra had all the positive characteristics a power metal band needs and their influence from that point on to guys like Tobias Sammet is just a statement of how impactful they were.
Fast forward a few decades, some Entertainment Tonight-worthy fights and many lineup changes and we have the current consolidated Angra, and albeit modified by a few twists and modern elements, still the same unique and bold act as ever. The stalwart Brazilian prog/power metal outfit has returned with ‘Cycles of Pain’ an album that encapsulates both the brilliance that led them to a prominent role in the metal world and the imperfections inherited by dubious management and musical directions.
The effort’s arrangements are familiar to Angra’s followers and the exotic, non-metal elements are ever present once again, which is what makes them stand out from the generic, run-of-the-mill cheesy power metal band. From the grandeur of “Riding Into the Storm” to the soaring crescendos of “Faithless Sanctuary“, the epic atmosphere and grandiose elements elevate the record to an above-par level. In fact, songs like the abovementioned and the likes of “Gods of the World” and “Generation Warriors” are where the Brazilians really shine, as they borrow from the heydays of their focused power metal approach like ‘Fireworks’ (1998) and ‘Temple of Shadows’ (2004).
When departing from their more traditional power metal sound, the record takes a slower and more emotional approach. This shift is most evident in songs like the title track and “Here in the Now”, where the band delves into the introspective and melancholic territory. Drummer Bruno Valverde and bassist Felipe Andreoli shine in these moments, conveying a profound sense of longing and introspection through their instruments. It’s always a daring move that showcases Angra’s willingness to evolve and experiment within their established sound.
What truly sets Angra apart from the ocean of colorless power metal bands out there, however, is its exploration of Brazilian music elements. Throughout the album, they infuse characteristic Brazilian rhythms and melodies, paying homage to their cultural roots, like the beginning of “Faithless Sanctuary” and the great “Vida Seca” which incorporates nature sounds, and amazing percussion and features one of Brazil’s popular music legend Lenine, who delivers a great vocal performance that gives the album life and an extremely organic change of scenery. Moments like these are testaments to Angra’s commitment to celebrating their cultural heritage while still forging ahead in the world of metal. Other prominent vocal participations include Fernanda Lira (Crypta), Mayara Puertas (Torture Squad), and Amanda Somerville (solo, Kiske/Somerville, ex-Aina).
Speaking of singing, Fabio Lione’s vocal performance in the faster, more energetic tunes is where he is truly at his best. His versatile range, ranging from soulful crooning to powerful vocal acrobatics, injects those powerful tracks with raw emotion. Some of his more “experimental” approaches like the operatic moments in “Tears of Blood” might be a statement of his range but don’t really function well in the grand scheme, making him look like a hollow version of himself.
Guitar duo Rafael Bittencourt and Marcelo Barbosa delivers some memorable riffs and harmonies. Tracks like “Dead Man on Display” showcase their technical proficiency and songwriting finesse. The synergy between the guitars and symphonic elements is a testament to the band’s creative prowess and Angra’s legacy is well safe in their hands. One of the defining features of ‘Cycles of Pain’ is its seamless guitar blend of prog and power metal elements. Angra has long been recognized for their intricate compositions, and this album continues to showcase their virtuosity. “Tide of Changes – Parts I and II” and “Faithless Sanctuary” epitomize the prog power vein, with their complex time signatures, intricate guitar work, and dazzling instrumental interplay. Here the band proves once again that they are masters of their craft, pushing the boundaries of what symphonic metal can achieve.
However, it’s essential to address the flaws present throughout the record. While the album has indeed glimpses of brilliance, it suffers from some inconsistency in the musical execution and continuity. There are tracks that, despite their technicality, fail to leave a lasting impact, leaving them lost in the shuffle. Additionally, the pacing could be more refined, as it occasionally feels like a rollercoaster of emotions without a clear narrative thread. This newly found appreciation of the band for a slower and more emotional approach led by Rafael Bittencourt is commendable but doesn’t always work. Some may yearn for the full-on power metal sound that Angra is renowned for, and they might find the record to be a slight departure from their expectations.
‘Cycles of Pain’ is, nevertheless, a rich tapestry of musical exploration, seamlessly weaving together the prog power vein, Brazilian music elements, and flirtation with human emotions. It’s not without its risks, but I recognize its musical achievements while acknowledging the challenges it presents. It’s an album that demands an open mind and rewards those willing to explore its multifaceted landscape. In conclusion, it’s a nice addition to Angra’s discography, offering a little bit of everything in terms of the band’s current approach to the power metal World. Recommended.
Overall Sound7/10 Good‘Cycles of Pain’ is, nevertheless, a rich tapestry of musical exploration, seamlessly weaving together the prog power vein, Brazilian music elements, and flirtation with human emotions.
Songwriting & Lyrics8/10 Very GoodIt's an album that demands an open mind and rewards those willing to explore its multifaceted landscape. In conclusion, it’s a nice addition to Angra's discography, offering a little bit of everything in terms of the band’s current approach to the power metal World.