If this was made according to the “we never tried this one” before principle, well, how ’bout somebody elsehaving tried this one?..
Best song: METAL ICARUS
Track listing: 1) Wings Of Reality; 2) Petrified Eyes; 3) Lisbon; 4)Metal Icarus; 5) Paradise; 6) Mystery Machine; 7) Fireworks; 8) Extreme Dream; 9) Gentle Change; 10) Speed.
Uh-oh. I like diversity as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it would have been a great idea if a diverse band like, say, the Beatles, came together one morning and said: “Let’s try something else! Let’s record a Jimi Hendrix album!” I’m not sure it would have worked fine, and even if it would, I would still rather listen to a real Jimi Hendrix album instead. So it sort of stuns me that a band like Angra actually did behave that way, because what Fireworks is is yer basic average power metal very much in the classic Iron Maiden et al. style.
Now I’m no Maiden-hater and all, but after hearing Angra masterfully glue together thrash and classical and then even more masterfully marry “classical metal” to Brazilian tribal rhythms, I sure had a right to expect something special for their third offering. At the very least, a Holy Land Vol. 2 – surely there was more potential in that thing. Oops, no dice. Instead, what I get is an album full of power metal riffage and… uhh… well… more power metal riffage. It’s not all that bad, and a few songs come close to classic Angra level, with good melodies and all, but it’s not nice hearing them say ‘Ride’s over, pal. Now we’re back in the usual corporation’. And for that – I punish you, Angra! I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!
Seriously now, if you’re a big power metal fan, feel free to raise the rating one, maybe two points. It’s not atrocious, and complex enough to keep you interested – but I likes me my riffs better defined than something like ‘Mystery Machine’, whose introductory riff is a direct clone of some Iron Maiden tune I’m sure you remember and the rest is a stupid barrage of power chords and stuff. It’s also rather nasty to hear Matos mostly abandon his shrill whistling and become more of a typical metal screamer, often emulating Bruce Dickinson. That said, we still have to be grateful, since the majority of good things I have to say about this effort is related to the guy’s vocal hooks. Even ‘Mystery Machine’ has a couple of them – like the way he twists his voice on lines like
‘master of fate you’re the only one who kno-ows…’; that’s ample indication of a real vocal talent, of somebody who’s not content with merely getting the screamy message across but who wants to get playful with it as well.
Speaking of really good songs, there are two here, straight in the middle. ‘Lisbon’ might be called a power ballad, but I don’t like power ballads, yet I like ‘Lisbon’ ==> ‘Lisbon’ ain’t no power ballad. If you don’t believe me, go ask Aristotle. What ‘Lisbon’ is (besides being the capital of Portugal) is a masterful medieval-styled prog-metal epic, with excellent keyboard parts (Matos uses his accessories as both harpsichords and strings, adding a few Moogish solos later on) and an anthemic memorable chorus. The only problem is that when I ask myself the question “What progressive rock band does this remind me of the most?” the first answer that comes to mind is “Fuckin’ STYX!”. And then I have to convince myself that this is much better than Styx – because the vocalist is better, the keyboards are more creative, the guitar solo is played by a first-rate metal musician, and the overall percentage of cheese is nowhere near as high. But it still reminds me of fuckin’ Styx.
So make your choice.
Fortunately, ‘Metal Icarus’ does not remind me of Styx. Because it’s much more of a direct metal tune – fast as lightning and real heavy, despite the feeble “keyboard strings” in the background. Iron Maiden would have killed for a tune like this, but ha! nobody ever offered it to them, so there. It’s particularly ass-kicking in the solo section (in the classic Iron Maiden principle, one of the guys is playing really really breathtakingly speedy and the other guy is playing relatively slow, but with more o’ that feeling), but, of course, the main attraction is still the infectious ‘time after
time, night after night’ chorus. Lyrically, by the way, they’re still treading the same dark romance grounds, this time with a touch of Goth to them (‘angel’s dressed in black’), but that’s certainly optional knowledge.
Other than that, well, I guess the “focal centerpiece” of the opus is the diplodocally oriented ‘Paradise’, which is built upon a fantastic guitar line, I’ll give you that. The song’s most fabulous moment, I think, are its first fifteen seconds when it’s just that guitar line and nothing else – not very complex-sounding to my ear (I mean, by real heavy metal standards, not KISS ones), but very moody
and majestic at once, like a weird introduction to a metallic requiem: long, continuous, weepy, and meditative. Unfortunately, one minute into the song it goes away, and later on reappears only occasionally – until, finally, we get to hear it for what seems like ages in the coda. It’s not a very good song in general, though, certainly no ‘Carolina IV’ when it comes to integrating its separate parts. But the guitar line is good.
My biggest problems are with the large final chunk of the album, starting with the title track: the songs are really non-descript. I mean, they’re sort of okay when they’re there, on the basic headbanging level, but leave way too much of a tasteless metal porridge in your head when they’re over. Looking at the track entitled ‘Speed’, I sort of remember they really had this very very fast song to wind things up, a real thrash monster that ended with a great solo romp, but to tell you the truth, if it were entitled ‘Metal In My Spleen’ instead, I wouldn’t be remembering that. The biggest disappointment is the title track – six minutes of wasted time (multiplied by four or five listens, aarggh!). Somebody tap me on the kneecap – maybe I’ve lost my reflexes, but I doubt it.
Basically, they’re just feeding on others’ glories here. I’ve never done any research on how the album was conceived, and have no idea why they dropped all of their individuality; considering that this would be the last Matos-led Angra album, there is a possibility of Fireworks actually being dominated by the rest of the band – but I repeat, I know nothing of it. All I say is they really should have placed the final product back to back with Holy Land and see the goddamn difference; why they never did, or, if they did, why they never took any action, is a mystery to me. Or maybe they just wanted to push Iron Maiden out of the business, especially considering Dickinson was out of the band at the time. No way, guys. Brazil ain’t no place for serious competition. It’s a great country, and it’s got some respectable metal bands coming out of it, but hey, you got your corner of the market,you fuckin’ stay there! You know, sometimes I feel like a goddamn son of a bitch.