The blind test is interesting because it always helps to judge the true personality of a musician. As they listen to, and comment on these albums at random, you often learn more than during a conventional interview in often nerve-racking surroundings, or where the answers are often predetermined. The first one to run the gauntlet of “H Le Mag” is Andre Matos, the vocalist of Angra, the second flagship of the Brazilian metal flotilla behind you-know-who. Angra’s, whose impressive second album “Holy Land” has already been released and is already one of the true successes of the year. It has become quite a good (and unexpected) commercial success in this country and has already led to heir first French tour. The scene: a curious Andre Matos and ten CDs, not randomly selected, which will hopefully bring forth an interesting reaction. Action!
1. IRON MAIDEN: “Virus” (The Best of the Beast)
“Pfff – you’d think it was Bruce Dickinson singing, but it’s not. No, it’s not as good. The production is a bit weird. Is it a demo or something? No, I’m sorry, I’m not impressed with it at all, except..yes, leave it until the guitar comes in. OK, it’s not Bruce Dickinson singing, but it’s very Iron Maiden-ish. OK, OK, it’s Iron Maiden with the new singer. I took the time to find it but to be honest, I never had the time to listen to what Maiden is doing now. But the sound is really strange, it’s completely different than before, that’s why I thought I was listening to a demo. So, where do I start? I used to be a huge fan of Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickinson was a big influence on me, so I’m sorry to have to say that I’ve already tried to listen to their last album twice now and I just haven’t managed to do it. I didn’t find anything interesting enough on it. It’s sad, but the good old Iron Maiden, the band who brought out “Powerslave”, “Somewhere
in Time” and “Seventh Son” has disappeared. Adrian Smith’s leaving the band was a terrible loss. That was the beginning of the end and when Bruce left, well… I can’t see how they can get back to where they were, sorry. Two bands really influenced me as far as metal goes: Manowar and, above all, Iron Maiden.”
– Why Maiden in particular?
“It was…it was like in a dream. There was the music but there was also an entire universe surrounding them, into which you could project yourself. I saw Iron Maiden in 1985 in Rio when I was 13 years old. I couldn’t believe it, it was unreal. That is still the best concert that I’ve ever seen. I was thrilled to meet Bruce Dickinson when he came to Brazil last year.. I think he’s trying to find his true path now and I really hope he finds it, even though it’s very complicated. I think he’s in a similar situation as Sean Connery, when he decided not to do any more 007 films. It’ll take a while for people to stop seeing Bruce as THE Iron Maiden singer. It’s a shame that he left the band, but I understand his position. I hope that he gets where he wants to go.”
2. RUSH “Test for Echo” (Test for Echo)
There’s no problem here, it’s a superb album, sshhhh, don’t tell me, it’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s the new Rush, isn’t it? Ah yes, it could only be them. I adore Rush, I’ve not listened to this one yet, but I don’t doubt the quality of the album for a second. You hear the voice, the timing of the base and then the characteristic drumming and you know who it is straight away. Rush, as well as Yes and Queen have been big influences for us. Those are bands who do their thing without thinking about market value. They said to themselves, “We don’t care, we are artists”. As far as Rush goes, what I really like is that they’re modern despite their ages, they always add a little bit more which makes their timing absolutely perfect. They’re not young any more, but what can you say? You can’t compare them with Uriah Heep, can you ? (laughs).”
3. VAN HALEN “Me Wise Magic” (Best of, Volume 1)
(After a good thirty seconds) “It sounds like Van Halen and it’s very Van Halen-ish! The guitar does anyway, as do the drums. Is it new? Is it the new songs with David Lee Roth? But this.. it really sounds like “Fair Warning”. It’s very good anyway, it sounds very much like the old Van Halen, which I adore. Actually “Fair Warning” was the very first rock album which I ever bought and the first one which made me love rock, but I also like everything that Van Halen did with Sammy Hagar. I think that Sammy Hagar is a fabulous singer, he’s really into what he sings, you could say that he puts his soul into it every time. There’s something very special about the Van Halen songs with Sammy Hagar and I think it’s sad that he’s not with the band any more. Actually, I’ve never seen Van Halen live and I don’t think I’ll regret it now, will I ? (laughs). This is really great, Eddie is Eddie, but listen to his brother. Alex is phenomenal, the bastard (laughs). Ah, Sammy again, I think he’s fabulous. When you think, he’s nearly fifty years old, but this voice is incredible. So we’ll have to wait to see what happens with Gary Cherone, who’s not a bad singer, but what I’ve just heard, with Roth is good. I can’t understand why they didn’t keep him. Too many drugs, or too much ego, maybe?”
4. DREAM THEATER “A Change of Season” (A Change of Season)
“Mmmm, it’s like Metallica but, no, no, it’s not like them at all, now. Shit, I’m stuck. Let’s listen to a bit more to see…. It’s weird, you hear a bit of everything and I only know one band who does that, and that’s Dream Theater, isn’t it? Yeah, no-one can go from thrash to progressive as easily as they can.”
– I chose Dream Theater because Angra is a band who is often linked to the same sphere of influence.
“I suppose we have a lot of fans in common. Being associated to a greater or a lesser degree with Dream Theater is an honor, because they’re more or less one of the best bands around at the moment. They brought something very fresh onto the metal scene, even if they are a bit too technical or too progressive or too whatever, sometimes, but they opened the door for bands like ourselves. At the moment, you have the feeling that you are free to do what you want, knowing that there is a market for it. As far as Dream Theater goes, I love their album “Images and Words”, especially “Pull me Under” which is a great song. It’s a song I wish I had written (laughs)”.
5. NIRVANA “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah)
“Hey, that’s Nirvana’s best riff! What is it? Ah yes, the live album, ok. Well, it’s not exactly my cup of tea and I bet that’s why you chose this album (laughs), but I can understand why so many people were attracted to this music. I think that there is something very sincere which comes across, which you can’t ignore. And that really is something. I don’t like this style of music but Nirvana weren’t a bad group, otherwise they would have never had so much success. Seattle? No, I listen to neither Pearl Jam nor Soundgarden even though I like the sound of voices like the one from Pearl Jam. I think that stuff like U2 are a lot more interesting, in any case.
6. AC/DC “Hail Caesar” (Ballbreaker)
“OK, that one is really easy (laughs).”
– I am sure you have a lot of stories to tell about AC-/DC..” “Well, in a nutshell, we opened for them a month ago in Sao Paulo in a football stadium packed with 40,000 fans. It was a wild experience. Honestly, I got a shock when I walked onto the stage and saw their equipment. Tons, there were tons of it. Huge amplifiers, a massive video screen. And when you went and saw what little we had, you knew how far we still have to go. But the best thing about it is that they actually chose us to open their show. From what I’ve heard, it was Angus and Brian who wanted Angra, though we didn’t have the opportunity of talking to them. They arrived just before they went on stage and the meeting was limited to a handshake. I didn’t stay backstage to see their show, I went down into the crowd to get the real feeling of everything. And it was fantastic. I thought they were perfect, with a sound like I’d never heard before. I saw their engineers, they’re the best in the world. Old men, some of them sixty years old, but who had worked with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin…”
7. YNGWIE MALMSTEEN “Gates of Babylon” (Inspiration)
“Mmm, mmm, mmm, apart from the fact that I’d say it was a Scandinavian band, whose name I’ve forgotten, I admit that I’m stumped. The song sounds a bit familiar but it doesn’t tell me much, let’s wait for the guitar… OK, it’s Yngwie Malmsteen, that’s his style.” – It doesn’t seem to impress you much..
“I love “Rising Force”, Yngwie’s first album, the one with Jeff Scott Soto. It’s a super album, there’s a song called “Icarus Dream” which is magnificent. After that there were two or three albums which weren’t bad, and then “Trilogy”, I think. But what he’s doing now isn’t interesting at all. It all sounds the same, so you may as well listen to the old stuff.”
8. METALLICA “Until It Sleeps” (Load)
“Easy, easy.. the new Metallica is a great album, very different from the Black album , which I consider their best, but this one is great, nevertheless. A lot of people are saying that it’s not heavy metal any more, but I don’t agree. I think, if you make the effort to really listen to it then you’ll understand where they were trying to go. It’s not an easy album, I’m the first to admit that, but you shouldn’t judge it if you’ve only listened to it once.”
– Metallica is being accused of taking a very sharp corner, a situation which Angra can relate to, because “Holy Land” is quite different to “Angels Cry”.. “Above all in Japan, yes, they are very conservative there. With “Holy Land” we took the risk of doing what came into our heads, rather than doing it in a more calculated manner, by telling ourselves that the first album sold well, so we should do more or less the same thing. Why wait until the third or fourth album before taking the risk of shocking people? It was out of the question to wait, even if it meant selling less albums in Japan than, ummmm, Helloween (laughs).”
9. DEEP PURPLE “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” (Purpendicular)
(After one second) “Wow, this is my favorite track on this album. It’s a superb song. Very simple, a single riff and you still can’t get it out of your head. And have you heard the drumming? The way they do it is incredible. This is a fabulous album and an extremely important one. Because I listen to it and I say to myself, “See, you can get older and still remain in this business.” Because around me, everything I listen to, I get the feeling that rock careers are like those of soccer players, they don’t seem to stay in the business for very long. When I listen to Deep Purple today, I know that it’s not true. See? I listen them and I feel reassured. The first time I heard ” Purpendicular” I couldn’t believe it. I was on a promo-tour in Japan and I listened to it all the time I was traveling. I got really addicted to it. You feel really comfortable with it, really happy to be playing this kind of music which so many people like. And Steve Morse, for me, is the best guitarist at the moment.”
10. SEPULTURA “Roots Bloody Roots” (Roots)
“I was waiting for this! (laughs). They said some pretty unpleasant things about us recently, but, in all objectivity, I really can’t say that this is a bad album. Leaving their attitude about us to one side, and just look at the music, which is irreproachable. Sepultura does their thing better than anyone else. They were the first Brazilian band to have any kind of success beyond our borders and we will be eternally grateful to them for opening the doors for all the other Brazilian bands. As far as “Roots” goes, I think it’s a very intelligently written album. But what I can’t understand is that they’re now saying that we’re trying to copy them. They really say that and I have the feeling that it’s only because they’ve never listened to our albums. If they had listened to them, they would have realized that from our very first album, our greatest influence has been traditional Brazilian music. A song like “Never Understand” is nothing less than Brazilian music and we recorded that a long time before they ever wrote “Roots”.
And besides that, I don’t think that anyone has the right to claim exclusivity over the Brazilian culture, Sepultura don’t have a monopoly on that. We have nothing against Sepultura, it is a great band which deserves the success it has, but we wish they would leave us alone and take the time one day to really listen to what Angra is doing.
Blind test compiled by Sylvain Descombes (H Le Mag)