Angra - Fireworks

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number:
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:38:00

Whenever bands like Angra, Symphony X, Stratovarius, Elegy, and countless others who reside on the top of the prog metal heap [release a disc], their discs don't seem to get the recognition that other unknown bands get who release unsuspecting, monster discs on us. Angra and the others get hyped to death, put fans in a frenzy waiting for the release, and then for some reason the buzz dies down instantly. This does not mean that the discs they release are not great, it just means that fans have come to expect the best from these bands, and once they hear the music, their expectations are either met, or not met, and we continue on in our search for more exciting prog metal. Well, I'm here to say that these bands ARE the reason that we love metal and prog metal, and when they release discs, they show us why they are at the top of the heap, and don't seem destined to be thrown off anytime soon with releases like this.

I might add that every time one of the major bands do release something, they always get compared to either their previous release or to their masterpiece, which I don't think is fair at all. Most bands of this caliber have their masterpiece, and then go on to produce more, top notch, quality music, and that's what counts. If we look for a masterpiece every time, our expectations will surely not be met, and our outlook on the music as well will be limited. To expect a Holy Land or a Divine Wings or an Images & Words is not only asking for the impossible, but certainly asking the bands to outdo themselves each time they release a disc. I think it's every band's goal to release a masterpiece in a lifetime, and then continue on to produce the best music they can, and this is exactly what Angra has done. I'll certainly reference Holy Land, but only in sound and style, not in level of musicianship or style. Holy Land is great, but so is Fireworks.


Angra has taken some of the neo-classical elements of Angel's Cry, injected some of the melodies and orchestrations of Holy Land, and then have expounded on that by adding in that unique and signature Angra sound. In other words, this is one hell of a melodic, symphonic, at times neo-classical based disc. From the double-bassed runs of "Wings Of Reality," to the orchestrated sounds of "Lisbon," to the Holy Land-ish foreign sounds of "Gentle Change," this disc certainly covers quite a bit of ground. Just about every song sounds "different," and it's obvious that the band wanted to display a wide variety of musical style, and the title Fireworks aptly applies in this case. I believe that this disc really shows the versatility of the band, and they've taken the best of their attributes and rolled them all into this disc. It's quality Angra, and while it doesn't take on the shape and form of Holy Land, it does have many qualities of that disc.


I've always said that twin guitar attack of Rafael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro are among the best and underrated in the business. The diversity, speed and precision of these two are a marvel of music, and they should really get more recognition for their work. Again, I attribute this to the "expected" performance, because these guys are the standard, but they really should get more exposure; in addition, they both have a hand in writing most of the music for the band, another accomplishment gone unnoticed. Some of the twin leads they share are amongst the best I've heard from them, and this could possibly be the most "guitar" oriented disc of all Angra discs. The bass and drums are perfectly in sync with each other, and the speed at which both perform on a regular basis is nothing short of amazing. Every member of Angra is a virtuoso in his own right, and the music certainly reflects this. Andre Matos, usually the focal point of the band, and the man behind the orchestrations and classically influenced compositions, surprisingly has very little to do with the writing on this disc, which may be some of the reason for the change in style at every turn. He is involved in more of the lyrical content this time out, but not as much as he has in the past.


Which brings me to Andre's performance. Personally, I think Matos is one of the best in the business, and is one of the more versatile and talented musicians in the world. He is usually noted for his classically influenced writings and for the orchestrations behind the Angra sound. This time out, Matos seems to have added in only bits of orchestrations throughout the disc, and this may account for the "change" that people are hearing this time out. Most of the songs have some sort of strings or slight keys to accent the music, but nowhere near the orchestrations we've heard in the past. Andre also seems to be singing in a slightly less higher range than he normally does, and it's a bit easier to understand his words because of this. At times, he does reach those ranges that only dogs can hear, and those familiar little "squeaks" of his prominent on the last 2 discs are all but gone. He seems to be a bit more comfortable singing in this "normal" range, and his voice takes on new beauty because of it. He still gets aggressive and "pretty" as heard on songs like "Lisbon," when his voice becomes almost feminine, but adds that beauty that only Angra can add to music this aggressive and involved. Overall, I enjoy this style of his a lot better, as it's easier to hear the words, and this range adds a certain flair of beauty to the music.


This is also throwing people off. It's not the muddled sound of Angel's Cry, nor is it the pristine, precisely recorded sounds of Holy Land. However, it's more of a raw, in your face sound, complete with dry drums and vocals recordings, and this is what is giving people a hard time enjoying this disc to the fullest. Actually, the recording is very well done, putting every instrument precisely where it belongs, and giving the guitars a cleaner sound so that you can hear what both guitarists are doing at the same time. The drums are clean as well, with a "dry" sound that makes the kit seem like it's right in your living room. The bass is punchy and solid. It shakes and rocks walls just like it did on Holy Land. The vocals are even more prominent this time out, giving Andre that in your face sound as well, and it's now much easier to hear what he is saying. The vocals are bit on the dry side of the recording as well, but the many layers of harmonies more than make up for this effect. To be honest, it didn't bother me at all, but it is quite obvious that there is a different sound going on in Angra this time out. How you handle it is a matter of taste and tolerance to change. It's a great recording, and you can pick it apart any way you like, but it still sounds years ahead of what most bands even dream of achieving in their lifetimes. The lush keys are still sounding great, even a bit further up in the mix, as evidenced by "Lisbon." Although there aren't as many keys as on Holy Land, I believe it's because Matos didn't have all of his hands in the cake this time out. Overall, the sound is great, and I liken the change to what Elegy has done on their new disc. They went from a more thick, muddled sound to a cleaner, more raw, in your face type sound as well and it works well.


Angra has given us another great, quality disc here with Fireworks. I will say that it is a more guitar oriented performance, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the great releases of the year. Agreed, it's not Holy Land, but why would we want it to be? The band would only be duplicating what they've already done, defeating the purpose of change and the ideals of progression. If you want to hear more of Holy Land, get Angra's last EP called Freedom Call, which contains songs that were supposed to be on Holy Land but never made it. Put on your change hats, and grab a hold of this disc. It's Angra, it's quality music, and it's musically worlds ahead of what most bands dream of achieving performance-wise. Don't let the "change" statements fool you. This band has not changed, has not sold out, but has delivered the goods we expect from the leaders in prog metal. If you want the obligatory complaint that I normally have with any release, then it would be the cheesy CD artwork. The cover depicts a guy blowing fire like Gene Simmons does, and I know from past discs that Angra does not chince on their artwork. Whether they were rushed, or fresh out of ideas, the cover could have been more "Angra-ized" than this one. No, I won't complain about anything on the disc musically or sonically. It's what I expect and got from Angra - high quality, progressive, well thought-out metal. Few bands can match the level of musicianship of Angra, and this disc goes to further prove that. Essential.

Wings Of Reality (5:54) / Petrified Eyes (6:04) / Lisbon (5:12) / Metal Icarus (6:23) / Paradise (7:57) / Mystery Machine (4:10) / Fireworks (6:19) / Extreme Dream (4:15) / Gentle Change (5:35) / Speed (5:55) / Rainy Nights (5:05)

André Matos - vocals
Luis Mariutti - bass
Ricardo Confessori - drums
Rafael Bittencourt - guitars
Kiko Loureiro - guitars

Reaching Horizons (1992) (Demo-Tape)
Angels Cry (1993)
Holy Land (1996)
Freedom Call (ep) (1996)
Holy Live (ep) (1997)
Fireworks (1998)
Rebirth (2001)
Hunters And Prey (ep) (2002)
Rebirth World Tour - Live in Sáo Paulo (2002)
Temple Of Shadows (2004)
Aurora Consurgens (2006)
Aqua (2010)
Best Reached Horizons (2012)
Angels Cry - 20th Anniversary Tour (2013)
Secret Garden (2014)

Rebirth World Tour - Live in Sáo Paulo (DVD) (2003)
Angels Cry - 20th Anniversary Tour (2013)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin BR

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website:
Hits: 1205
Language: english


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