Angra – Angels Cry
The library of Brazilian power/prog band Angra is a bit of an unusual one, and there seem to be several different “moods” that the group settles into on various albums, which re-occur later in their career. Both Fireworks and Holy Land demonstrate qualities that later would crop up in Aurora Consurgens and Aqua, and if this is the case, the band’s self-title 1993 debut Angels Cry is the crackling herald of things to come on Rebirth. It’s very alien to think that Angra was once a fledgling power metal band, brilliant and talented even in its infancy, but all of them have started somewhere, and Angra brighter than most.
The complexity and ingenuity of Angels Cry is as striking now as it must have been when the band’s first few fans put their headphones to their ears or the needle to vinyl back in the early 90’s. Similar to any good progressive metal band, a new juicy tidbit jumps out of music upon each repeated listen, continuously enriching the album’s experience, whether it’s one of Matos’ vocal turns, a backing guitar melody that you just noticed, or that great bass fill that you weren’t expecting. The dual guitar mastery of Loureiro and Bittencourt, while not having reached the majesty that it would on later albums, has its beginning here, and it’s a bit of a puzzle as to why the aggressive shredding was fairly absent on the subsequent two albums before returning in a blaze of glory.
Angels Cry was perhaps one of the true pioneering albums of the early 1990’s, and indeed of the progressive power metal fusion genre in general. On this album, Matos, Loureiro, and company repeatedly take speedy power metal, frequent neo-classicism, instrumental prowess, regular tempo shifts, colorful chordal combination, and stinging guitar solos, blending them nearly seamlessly, track after track, into a final product that is often both exhilarating and spellbinding. More than nearly any other progressive power project of the early 90’s, the combination of all of these elements just plain works.
Part of the reason for this success is the voice of Andre Matos. Not until Shaman’s 2002 release Ritual, after departing Angra, would he put forth such a strong lead vocal performance, and I feel that even that does not equal his work on Angels Cry. While his voice fits well enough in the following Holy Land, Fireworks saw his vocals beginning to clash with the music that Angra was creating. But here, at the beginning, Matos’ vocals are effortlessly strong during high points such as “Evil Warning”, “Carry On”, and “Streets Of Tomorrow”, followed by touching sensitivity in “Wuthering Heights” and “Lasting Child” (though there are a couple of parts on the latter where his vocals gain a bit of an irritating quality). Throughout these songs and on the rest of the album, Matos bounces back and forth with grace and poise, with only an occasional long-held falsetto drone to spoil the grandeur.
These occasional vocal trips, along with a very occasional tendency to drag out a musical idea, are the only small problems with this rather magnificent debut. The great work on Angels Cry is spread all around the album, but my personal favorite section is the run from “Never Understand”, through “Wuthering Heights” and “Streets Of Tomorrow”, and ending with “Evil Warning”. All of these songs are among the best compositions in Angra’s early career, and offer lasting memorability and the utmost level of enjoyment that the band has to offer.
There’s really no poor starting point for new listeners to Angra, but depending on the attention level of the new listener, I would recommend Angels Cry over even Rebirth or Temple Of Shadows, because we all enjoy seeing how a band started, especially when the artist’s baptism is as fulfilling and stirring as Angra’s. A debut to stand the test of time, Angels Cry is a testament to what young and talented, but as yet unknown musicians can accomplish when they set their minds to their work.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5