Angra – Fireworks (1998, Century Media)
- Wings Of Reality
- Petrified Eyes
- Metal Icarus
- Mystery Machine
- Extreme Dream
- Gentle Change
- Rainy Nights (bonus track)
André Matos – Vocals
Kiko Loureiro – Guitars
Rafael Bittencourt – Guitars
Luis Mariutti – Bass
Ricardo Confessori – Drums
Producer: Chris Tsangarides
Total Time – 1:02:45
Brazil’s Angra have been one of my favorite Power/Progressive Metal since this album’s release in 1998. I was new to the Internet and I tapped into a few Metal websites (that are now gone) and one of the big topics was Angra. Aside from Sepultura, I’d say Angra is one of the most popular Metal bands to come from Brazil and, not knowing anything about the band, I figured that their location made them different enough to check out.
Leadoff song, ‘Wings Of Reality’, is a major Power Metal feast akin to the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray, and Hammerfall. Lightning quick guitars, double bass drumming, and high end vocals are the signature Power Metal ingredients but there is some fine orchestration and piano mixed in. Of course, there is plenty of time for solos and they are superb. ‘Petrified Eyes’ slows down with the opening instrumental and then speeds into the main riff. André Matos puts in another vocal exercise in precision while the guitar weave in and out. As with many Power/Progressive bands, Angra balances both well during the song. ‘Petrified Eyes’ slows down towards the chorus and also mid-song. There is major riffing here but the guitars are so clear that you can easily separate both.
‘Lisbon’ makes good use or orchestration and acoustics to support the sound. It’s a slower song, a heavy ballad, that is full of melody and retains heaviness in a simpler approach. The orchestration adds a layer but doesn’t overpower, it actually makes the song a bit more radio-friendly and accessible while retaing it’s epic appeal. Forget the orchestration and head straight for a Metal assault with ‘Metal Icarus’. The opening is a dual guitar intro that bleeds into the main riff. The song just cruises along with the guitars and drums just driving Matos to another soaring vocal performance. The chorus seems repetitive and the song changes time for the solos, which are still very fast. Listen to Ricardo Confessori’s drumming come the solo break, you can feel the double bass and cymbals crashing.
Another guitar laden intro opens ‘Paradise’, add in a bit of orchestration to the mix, and you think you’re going to another fast song but…..to my ears ‘Paradise’ is almost like a Lana Lane song. That’s not a bad comparison, or maybe an accurate one, but that’s what I hear. The main riff is more traditional in sound like Judas Priest and then drops to something different at the bridge. The chorus is a totally different pace from the main riff. By the middle of the song, everything has changed for the solos and instrumental bits. There is a lot of melody and the vocals high powered, I can easily sing right along and enjoy myself but I get a bit lost musically because there is a lot going on here.
‘Mystery Machine’ starts out with another instrumental opening and barrels into more of a traditional Power Metal song. Very Helloween, very Iron Maiden, in approach and that is refreshing after some of the confusion of ‘Paradise’. During the solo, the guitars sound very Maiden-ish due to the harmony. What I really like is the in your face vocals at the bridge and chorus, Matos doesn’t go for the high end as musch and pushes his straight power. The title track is my favorite: ‘Fireworks’ is more accessible than the previous songs, it’s slower and has a simpler approach focusing on the melody. I could call this mid-tempo or a ballad but what I like most is when the song picks up towards the end to a quick gallop and then just stops for the guitar solo. The vocals follow the gallop and really send the song soaring. There is some keyboards used to enhhance the sound and the mood. Everytime I hear this song I think of watching the night sky, not for fireworks but for stars. The lyrics are positive, upbeat, a little poppy but very catchy.
‘Extreme Dream’ immeadiately picks the pace back up but then settles down as the song continues. This constant pace change can be a little annoying at times but Angra balances this with good melody and harmony. There’s not much of it here on ‘Extreme Dream’, the song seems to be constructed more more the instrumental side of things, really focusing on the guitar flashes of Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt. Actually, the whole album has fine guitar work but this songs seems to be constructed just for that purpose. The song also seems to be like a part two to the previous song at times…..I usually skip this one.
Another favorite song of mine is ‘Gentle Change’, probably one of the most ’80s flavored and pop-oriented songs you’ll ever hear from a band with Angra’s pedigree. There is heavy guitar here but the underlying acoustics and scaled back drumming added with the piano/keyboards give the song a different dimension, a total different feel. I want to call this Hard Rock actually. The song takes on a beautiful quality to the sound: the piano, the vocals, the lyrics, the melodies…..my wife likes this song and she has no idea who Angra is! I have every Angra album and this is a very different song from anything else I think they’ve done before and after this album. This song is essentially about the break-up of the current lineup of the band that would happen after this album’s release. It’s interesting that the band creates such a great song out of the demise of this lineup.
‘Speed’ is what you expect…..speed! A blistering guitar intro opens, the bass and drums kick in and continues staright through the song. Very straight forward Power Metal hear with the time change mid-song for the solos. Every edition of the album I’ve seen has ‘Rainy Nights’ as a bonus track. Not sure why but that’s what it is. Maybe it’s because the song is unlike any other on the album, it’s more of a dance song than anything else. From the first time I heard it to almost 10 years later, I can only think of dance clubs and techno music. Brazil has a major dance club scene in the major cities so I could see how Angra could be influenced by this but the song just sounds too processed. The drums can’t be Ricardo Confessori and have to be a drum machine because they are just on a continuous loop that never changes. The keyboards and orchestration are distracting and more “danceable” than Metal. Maybe this song was aimed at airplay in their home country and South America? Not sure but it just seems out of place on this record.
A great album! I reach for this record more than any other in the Angra discography probably because this was my first introduction to the band. There is enough good music here to satisfy fans of all styles of Metal but especially Power and Progressive. Musically, the guitars drive the album and there is a good balance between straight forward Metal and the orchestrational aspects. This album also cemented Matos as one of my favorite Power Metal vocalists, his performace is excellent. Favorite songs here: ‘Gentle Change’, ‘Wings Of Reality’, ‘Lisbon’, and ‘Fireworks’. Unfortunately, this album was the swansong of this lineup with Rafael and Kiko retaining Angra and Matos, Confessori, and Mariutti moving on to form Shaman.