Angra – Holy Land
You know, I rarely hear people talk about Holy Land, and songs from it rarely appear on Angra setlists nowadays. As the most difficult Angra album to locate on hardcopy, It took me a while to get a copy and understand why this album is so criminally unsung. This is more an album of indigenous Brazilian sounds and tonality than a metal album, and since much of the album follows this tendency (except perhaps opener “Nothing To Say”), it is generally less accessible to the metal public and indeed a rather singular entity in their discography and field.
While I generally have claimed not to be a great fan of André Matos and gave him some crap in my review of Fireworks, my feelings are not the same here. I think that his less substantial, somewhat airy voice serves the timeless feeling of Holy Land very well. That’s one thing that always jumps out at me about this album, it emits a feeling of antiquity and reverence. The instrumentation is rarely hyperactive, and much of the album moves at a relative trickle, with tribal-sounding percussion, soft piano, and swaying vocals. While the opener is fairly straightforward, “Silence And Distance” sweeps the listener in a decidedly equatorial direction, and by the opening of “Carolina IV”, it’s clear that home is far behind (unless, of course, you’re Brazilian!). This song deserves special mention, as it is the focal point of the album, and in my opinion, one of the finest that Angra has ever crafted. A tale of seafaring, dreams, and the miraculous beauty of the sea, it sprawls ten and a half minutes, from chanting verses and atmospheric interludes to a zippy power metal chorus.
After the majestic high point of the album, Angra mellows out quickly with the ancient and enchanting title track, with its distinctive sparse piano accompaniment and featuring of pipes. Angra has always been excellent at writing enjoyable and memorable softer material, and this nor “Make Believe” are any exception to that rule. The other better known track from this album is “Z.I.T.O.”, and while the significance of the song’s title is lost on me, the awed and innocent discovery of nature’s wonders, bundled up in the lyrics, is certainly not. “Pure”, is another good descriptor of the general theme and feeling of Holy Land. The music is almost reverent in its regard for its subject matter, be it the ocean, mother nature, or hopes and dreams. As such, this is an easy album for the ideological dreamer like myself to get absolutely lost in for its entire duration.
Instrumentally, this album is remarkable mainly for its stronger use of keyboards and certainly for native percussion. There are solos and guitar leads of course, but they are fewer and farther between than ever before, and many of the songs (“The Shaman”, “Carolina IV”) have a sense of wandering. For metal, there is an awful lot of fairly empty space that is filled with little but light keyboard and percussion, along with some ambient sounds. As mentioned, Matos’ voice excels in this setting, and he is a full asset to this work. While his strange, sometimes effeminate crooning might seem strange in some settings, the mystic element that is almost constantly present on this album makes it feel very natural.
Holy Land is essential for Angra fans, anyone who enjoys strong elements of folk in their power metal, but it’s a bit of a grower and definitely not for every fan of heavy metal. I find it extremely refreshing and very engaging. Not always the most memorable, but it has its moments.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5