Posts Tagged ‘ Kiko Loureiro ’

Album of the Week 07-2018: Angra – Ømni


Change does not appear to affect Angra. They survived a massive schism around the turn of the century and now Dave Mustaine has hijacked longtime guitarist Kiko Loureiro for Megadeth, they still manage to put together another great album. Most of the current line-up already proved that the (largely) Brazilian band could still pump out great progressive power metal, as ‘Secret Garden’ was the best metal album of 2015. Now that ‘Secret Garden’ has put Angra back on the map, ‘Ømni’ shows the band stretching their boundaries a little. The results are slightly less memorable, but a very rewarding listen nonetheless.

Much to my surprise, Loureiro’s replacement Marcelo Barbosa is an integral part of the album, having contributed significantly to the songwriting. Sole founding member Rafael Bittencourt gratefully profits from the possibilities his guitar partnership with Barbosa provides as well. As a result, ‘Ømni’ ends up sounding less European-tinged power metal and more like a progressive metal album with very distinct world fusion overtones. Angra never shied away from putting their South American roots on display, but it seems like partnering with Barbosa gave Bittencourt the courage to dive deep into crossover opportunities, providing the basis of the most interesting moments of ‘Ømni’.

That does not mean that there is no place for power metal on ‘Ømni’. In fact, the album starts out with two fairly traditional, euphoric power metal numbers, with ‘Travelers Of Time’ being the more contemporary take on the genre and ‘Light Of Transcendence’ the more old school one. Even these tracks sound fresh though, as Angra always had a way of rubbing up against clichés, but never fully engaging. On the metallic side of the album, ‘Magic Mirror’ is great, but ‘War Horns’ is the true winner. Darker and heavier than Angra usually sounds, it is an intense listening experience, on which Loureiro guests.

Despite all this familiarity, ‘Ømni’ is best when it surprises. The semi-ballad ‘The Bottom Of My Soul’ has a very folky basis and some beautifully heartfelt vocals by Bittencourt, while ‘Caveman’ has some chants in Portuguese and Latin-flavored drums and percussion alternating with the stomping riff work and Fabio Lione’s mighty voice. The complete fusion of all styles can be heard in ‘Ømni – Silence Inside’, in which we can hear everything from subtle bossa nova touches to virtuosic progmetal without ever sounding disjointed. If anything, the song has a supreme build-up. ‘Black Widow’s Web’ may come across as messy, but is too enjoyable a dark progster to complain. ‘Insania’ contains some of Felipe Andreoli’s best bass work yet.

All in all, ‘Ømni’ presents quite a unique mixture of styles which leaves you wondering why this combination is not attempted more often. It is a great progressive metal album that may not be as easy to digest as ‘Secret Garden’ was, but will probably prove to be more durable throughout. ‘Ømni’ is one of those albums that slowly reveals its small secrets over repeated listens. In addition, it is the ultimate evidence that Angra still has its artistic merits more than two and a half decades into their career. Anyone who wishes to hear how versatile the guitar can be in a metal context should give ‘Ømni’ a spin.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ømni – Silence Inside’, ‘War Horns’, ‘The Bottom Of My Soul’

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Vegetation-based names in Gitarist


No, seriously. The bands I have interviewed for this issue of Gitarist are named Black Stone Cherry – about their surprisingly good new record ‘Kentucky’ – and Mandrake’s Monster. So apparently, I was attracted to plants this month. Both interviews were pleasant meetings and if you haven’t heard of Mandrake’s Monster, be sure to check them out live, because their as of yet unreleased new material is incredible. It’s a bold step to go that heavy and that poppy at the same time, but they blew me away at Eurosonic Noorderslag. Speaking of which: there’s a photo spread of the shots I took at that festival in the new Gitarist as well.

As if that wasn’t enough already, there is an extensive article on Megadeth’s fantastic new album ‘Dystopia’ in which both band leader Dave Mustaine and new guitarist Kiko Loureiro – who is also half of the guitar duo in one of my favorite Power Metal bands: Angra – are interviewed. The other large specials are about the guitarists who worked with David Bowie – despite my intense dislike for his music, the article is very interesting – and the NAMM Show, where my colleagues have had a first look at many interesting instruments, amplifiers and peripheral equipment for the rest of the year. Alice Cooper’s guitarist Nita Strauss speaks with us in the wake of her first clinic, there’s the amazing Robert Cray, there’s loads of gear reviews… Plenty of fun for the guitar geek.

This issue should be in stores throughout Holland and Belgium from today. Get it while it still has that great new magazine smell!

Album of the Week 03-2016: Megadeth – Dystopia


So you’re Dave Mustaine and you’ve just released the biggest piece of shit you’ll ever release. Yes, I think ‘Super Collider’ is worse than ‘Risk’. What will be your next step? Record an album that’s easily your best in over a decade of course. One has to admire his resilience; Mustaine has had enough misfortune to make any ordinary musician quit five times, but his determination always forces him to get back up when he’s down. This time, the result is ‘Dystopia’, a sharp, fierce blend of Thrash Metal and traditional Heavy Metal with spectacular guitar work. In deed: the mark of a great Megadeth record.

Maybe it’s the new lineup. The Daves (Mustaine and bassist Ellefson) have enlisted the help of Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler this time. The former is a master of his craft who luckily gets enough room to display his talent and the latter simply sounds better than he ever has. The drum sound helps, but I think his parts are infinitely more interesting than what he does in his main band. Maybe these two guys were just wat Mustaine needed to write another scorching Metal record.

Then again, the songwriting is cranked up a notch as well. Occasionally, you can hear that Mustaine had a little trouble coming up with an ending for a few songs, but after a song and a half, you’ll have heard more good stuff than on all of ‘Super Collider’. The first two songs are among the album’s best anyway: opening track ‘The Threat Is Real’ is nice and Thrashy, while the title track has a passing nod to ‘Hangar 18’ with its highly melodic midtempo main riff – well, midtempo by Megadeth standards – and the sudden tempo change for an amazing guitar solo section near the end.

Standing out for me is ‘Poisonous Shadows’. With its dark, brooding nature, vaguely Arabian-sounding string section and amazing chorus, it shows that Mustaine can write an excellent catchy track if he really puts his effort into it. Furthermore, the high octane instrumental ‘Conquer Or Die!’ is a showcase for Loureiro’s skills on the electric as well as the nylon string acoustic guitar, ‘Fatal Illusion’ and ‘Lying In State’ are delightfully aggressive and the slower tempo makes ‘Post American World’ a perfect vehicle for a darker, more threatening take on the band’s sound.

While ‘Dystopia’ may not be the big return to the ‘Rust In Peace’ brand of Speed Metal some people may have been hoping for, I think it’s excellent at finding the middle ground between Heavy and Thrash Metal, which is exactly what made 2004’s ‘The System Has Failed’ such an awesome record as well. Mustaine’s lyrical views may be a tad far-fetched every now and then, but I’ll take a Mustaine I disagree with politically over the insipid drivel that dominated the previous record any day. At least this Mustaine sounds inspired, vicious and aggressive. And let’s face it: isn’t that how any fan of his work would want him to sound?

Recommended tracks: ‘Poisonous Shadows’, ‘Dystopia’, ‘The Threat Is Real’

Album of the Week 52-2015: Angra – Rebirth


For a country that has such passionate Power Metal fans, it’s remarkable that Brazil doesn’t have more bands of the caliber of Angra. Then again, not many bands in the genre worldwide are as good as Angra is. They have all the melodic qualities of European Power Metal bands, combined with the interesting songwriting of many Progmetal bands and something uniquely Brazilian – more on that later. Though ‘Aurora Consurgens’ might be my favorite due to the inclusion of some favorite songs, ‘Rebirth’ is every bit as good and probably the best representation of all aspects of Angra’s sound.

‘Rebirth’, as a title, shouldn’t be taken lightly. After original singer André Matos left the band, taking the rhythm section with him, many fans were afraid of Angra’s future. Matos’ replacement Edu Falaschi is a revelation though: his voice is much more powerful than the somewhat feminine tone of Matos and adds a little grit to the mix. Also, guitarists Rafael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro took care of most of the songwriting and that’s probably why the Angra sound is still very much intact, while openings to other musical opportunities are all around, especially in the progressive tinges that seem to be Bittencourt’s doing.

Opening track ‘Nova Era’ is like a second coming of the band’s classic track ‘Carry On’: an uptempo and upbeat Power Metal track with positive lyrics to set the mood for the record. That doesn’t mean the whole album is filled with happy-go-lucky tunes. In fact, a lot of the songs have a darker tone or at least alternate between brooding sections and more hopeful segments, like ‘Millennium Sun’ and ‘Acid Rain’ do. The latter even has distinct Brazilian percussion in its awesome middle section, something that is expanded on ‘Unholy Wars’, which has an intro akin to Brazil’s beloved MPB and moves between a pulsating verse and middle section and a very positive chorus.

Many Power Metal are on the receiving end of quite some ridicule because of their ballads, but it has to be said: Angra is really good at them. ‘Heroes Of Sand’ is a pretty standard power ballad, though executed well enough to be quite enjoyable, but the album’s title track builds amazingly well from a pure power ballad to a strong progressive Metal section and back, while ‘Millennium Sun’ also qualifies due to its somber segment for piano and vocals in the beginning. Falaschi’s slightly raw edge contributes greatly to the quality of those songs as well.

Even though this could be said for most Angra albums, ‘Rebirth’ really deserves to be in any serious Power Metal collection. ‘Angels Cry’ is generally considered their classic album, but since I prefer Bittencourt’s songwriting to Matos’, I have to vote for this one. Also, while the neoclassical elements are still there, the increased progressive sound also means that ‘Rebirth’ is slightly less predictable. Regardless, if you like expertly written and quite likely even better played Power Metal, this is the way to go. Many European bands could listen to this album in envy.

Recommended tracks: ‘Unholy Wars’, ‘Rebirth’, ‘Acid Rain’, ‘Nova Era’

Album of the Week 04-2015: Angra – Secret Garden


Two weeks ago, in my review of Jupiter’s new album, yours truly said he’d be surprised if someone released another Power Metal that good this year. Well, it’s still only January and we’ve already gotten two amazing records in the genre. Angra’s brand new ‘Secret Garden’ is just about as good. A fantastic record that probably represents the scope of the Brazilian quintet’s sound better than any of their other albums. It’s always suspenseful to see what a band comes up with after a lengthy hiatus, but in case of Angra, we shouldn’t have worried. ‘Secret Garden’ is stellar.

Since 2010’s decent ‘Aqua’ album, there have been two significant changes in the Angra lineup. First of all, Fabio Lione is the band’s new lead singer. I have always thought that his predecessor Edu Falaschi was somewhat similar to him in terms of timbre and I think Lione delivers the work of a lifetime here. Also, returning original drummer Ricardo Confessori has been replaced by 24 year old Bruno Valverde, who seems to prefer a more natural drum sound, which is part of why ‘Secret Garden’ is so much more powerful sonically than ‘Aqua’. The South American percussion lends the album an interesting rhythmical edge as well.

It’s the core of bassist Felipe Andreoli and guitarists Rafael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro who seem to be in charge of quality control here. Despite two key members having been replaced, ‘Secret Garden’ still features Angra’s distinct progressive Power Metal sound. It does show the band exploring their extremes a little more; ‘Final Light’, the downtempo stomper ‘Violet Sky’ and opening track ‘Newborn Me’ (which has some amazing acoustic lead guitar work as well!) showcase the more progressive side of the band, whereas ‘Black Hearted Soul’ and ‘Perfect Symmetry’ are more traditional, upbeat Power Metal tracks.

While Lione is credited as the album’s lead singer, Bittencourt also lays down some impressive singing. With his voice being lower and rawer than Lione’s, they are definitely complementary, as shown when they sing in unison in the amazingly atmospheric ‘Storm Of Emotions’. ‘Violet Sky’ and the uncharistically calm closing ballad ‘Silent Call’ even feature him as the sole singer. Two female singers make a guest appearance as well. Doro Pesch simply hasn’t sounded as good as on her almost Goth-like duet with Bittencourt (‘Crushing Room’) in years and I have yet to hear Epica’s Simone Simons sing something better than the album’s title ballad.

Fans of Power Metal should buy ‘Secret Garden’ immediately if they haven’t yet. Make sure to get the limited edition, as it features a cover of one of my favorite bands (The Police) in the shape of ‘Synchronicity II’, another fine Lione-Bittencourt duet. Angra has yet to truly disappoint me, but ‘Secret Garden’ ranks right up there with ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Aurora Consurgens’ as my favorite Angra albums. A very interesting and strong comeback from one of the world’s best Power Metal bands. And I’ll rephrase my view: if the first half of January is in any way indicative of 2015, it will be an amazing Power Metal year.

Recommended tracks: ‘Storm Of Emotions’, ‘Perfect Symmetry’, ‘Newborn Me’

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