When the average metalhead thinks of Metal from Brazil, their mind will immediately go to Sepultura. While Sepultura did influence so many bands with their style of Thrash, Groove, and Death Metal, there was another band that started in the 90s that took over the Progressive and Power Metal world....ANGRA! The band has gone though many changes over the years, not only musically, but lineup wise as well. Arguably the biggest lineup change came when guitarist Kiko Loureiro took his leave to join Megadeth. But with this change came the brand new album from Angra, OMNI, which is available NOW through earMUSIC. Before the album came out, I had the opportunity to ask founding member of Angra, Raphael Bittencourt, a few questions about the world of Angra in 2018. I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
Well, I thank you for the opportunity, for the interest, for the support and anything.
February 16th brings the release of Angra’s 9th album Omni. How does it feel to have this album coming out in just a couple weeks for all of us to enjoy?
First of all sorry about taking so long to answer to these questions. And it feels great to bring this album out at this moment, it really represents that the band has still lots of passion for music, passion for metal, passion for working and this business and the metal scene. We have been reborn once again.
As some of my favorite Angra albums are written, this is a concept album. What is the concept behind Omni?
OMNI is a word that means “all”. No like everything but a single thing that connects everything making a whole, like an omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence thing. All the stories and all the ideas behind it is about the fact that everything in life is a movement of contraction and expansion between the absolute nothingness and this concept of wholeness. And through this we start to think about other dimensions, other possible things that we don´t think it´s possible, but quantum physics are now proving that they are more than possible. They are very near to us. Other expressions of reality are becoming more and more a fact than science fiction. So there´s the concept that all is together any many other arguments and subjects like we've written this album as a whole. The band was very close together and we worked on the songs as a team, as a collective thing. It also summarizes everything that has been done in the past for Angra. I believe that we have the first ten years as a thesis, as an idea has been brought with Power Metal combined with Brazilian music and symphonic music and progressive stuff. So an idea was born. After ten years there was this huge line-up breakup. We brought an antithesis with a new band with a new line-up. We were now becoming more aggressive, we were now becoming a bit more progressive in some ways. And now, a third era is born; what we call the syntax - So making a reference with the Greek rhetoric. I´d say that the Greek rhetoric is usually based on a thesis, an antithesis and the syntax that summarizes the common points between these oppositions. OMNI is also representing that syntax – the point for the band where we learned and we grow with the best experience with our past history. I believe that mankind is now getting ready to get into an era of syntax. An ear that will start on 2046 because some people are being born now and they will be around their thirties in thirty years of course. And it´s a new kind of human being that will certainly change this world. Starting with the fact that they will together build and artificial intelligence system, cognitive computing system that will make a huge transition to our own cognitive systems. So in thirty years from now a huge change in the human cognitive system will happen. Due to the evolution of our brain that will be a natural thing. Together with the revolution of energy sources like oil, we will be less dependent on oil and together with economic and financial revolution, because we will be less dependent on money or gold and material resources. Virtual coins and virtual money will take a huge presence in the future world – in three decades from now.
I have gotten the chance to be able to check out Omni for quite a bit of time now and I really love what the album has to offer. So many elements of what always drew me to Angra is represented in full force, while expanding upon new ideas. How did the songwriting process begin with Omni?
That´s a good one. It all started out of jam sessions. We were touring with Tarja Turunen – we were the opening act for Tarja in Europe two years ago. We had lots of fun. We were very well treated by her and her crew. We were always happy and hanging around and started some jam sessions backstage. That was awesome, because we didn't mean to write songs. We didn't mean to write an album. We just met to hang out and make music. Sometimes we grabbed the garbage can and forks and knives with plates and started making rhythms out of it. We have recorded the whole thing. That´s how it all started. A few months afterwards we started to seriously listening to this stuff and we started to add other stuff that we were individually writing. Then we started to get together to listen, to practice and try to find some riffs and some melodies for this stuff. It was a very natural and fun process. I can say that it has been quite a while I had so much fun writing an album like this one.
With Kiko Loureiro taking a hiatus from Angra, and Omni behing the first album without him, how did the songwriting dynamic of the band change when Marcelo Barbosa coming into the fold?
The biggest difference was not having Kiko by my side. But I was writing most of the stuff with Felipe Andreoli – the bass player – who has been with us for already 18 years, which is a long time. He is a very experienced and skilled musician. We started to have a great chemistry with him right away. We have been friends for a while and Kiko has also suggested to replace him. Not only Marcelo was a good songwriter partner, but he also changed completely the dynamic of the band. The shift of one single member makes a huge difference in the overall dynamic. Marcelo was so happy to be in the band. He is a very experienced guy. He has got a guitar school, he is promoting guitar events in Brazil – like international clinics with every guitar player that you can ever guess. It was fun, because the band – Fabio, Bruno, Marcelo – they were very fresh to that. Only me and Felipe were older in that situation. So we could capture that freshness into some new elements and new ideas to rewrite our own history.
Light of Transcendence and Travelers of Time have been represented as singles for Omni. How did it come to be to pick out these two songs as singles?
Actually “Light Of Transcendence” was an accident, because it was played in a radio show in Japan. It went out as an accident, because the record company let it out with no notice. “Travelers Of Time” represents a little bit the now moment of the band. It´s not the fastest one, it´s not the typical Power Metal. It has got some progressive elements, it has got some Brazilian rhythms and it summarizes a lot what the band is at this point. It´s a good song but it´s not our best song on the album. I wanted people to have a zip of what the album tastes like but I didn't want to frustrate them with no other surprise. So I kept some other surprises, some other songs like “OMNI – Silence Inside” which is a great song or also “Magic Mirror”. I thought “Travelers Of Time” would be very objective and representative of the band.
Omni also features a number of fantastic guest appearances that really heighten the intensity of the album. How were these guest appearances decided upon and able to happen?
We have been inviting guests for our best albums. And it´s always nice to perform with your idols. This time we didn't want too much that people think we´re doing marketing out of these guests. But we like it to be very sincere. Whenever we invite someone to be part in our album it really needs to have a purpose. We have been to 70000Tons Of Metal two years ago and had the chance to see Alissa performing live. I realized that I was in front of the greatest metal artist performing nowadays. She is a diva, she is a metal queen, she is just great. She delivers 100% of what she records in her albums and she is a great performer with great charisma. It´s just hypnotizing to get Alissa to our album. So we all in the band were amazed and we thought we must have her in our album – we must do something with that artist. The Fabio said that he got her contact, because he toured with Kamelot and she is a friend of one of the guys from Kamelot. So he asked her and she did accept because she is a friend of Fabio. We were all very happy with this, we were celebrating and cheering because Alissa is going to perform with Angra. Well Kiko is out of explanation. He is not in a hiatus. He is out of the band as he is now performing with Megadeth and after Megadeth maybe with another band. So he has got no intention to get back to Angra. We have found our way without him. He is still a great friend of mine and everyone. He is still taking part on decisions that concern our past records. He still gives suggestions about what we want do with no obligation. Just as a friend. And it was as a friend that he took part on the song “War Horns” in our album to show the people that he is out of the band and he has got his own career which is going huge nowadays. But he is still a friend of ours and he is still glad to take part in our albums. Well and Sandy is a huge artist here in Brazil and a very bright and beautiful soul. She is a diva here in Brazil and started her career when she was six years old. She was singing children songs and we all know her in Brazil for a long time. She is a friend of ours, she is close to us. When I came up with the idea of “Black Widow´s Web” and the personification of the social media into a female stereotype – the black widow – I wanted also to split this female character of the black widow into two polarities; one very fatal and mortal represented by Alissa, and the other side representing the naïve and ingenious side of female entity that we want to represent. I didn't want to have the social media being demonized as something very negative. I just wanted to bring the discussion of how some people get sucked up their personalities and identities into social media because of their desperation. So that´s the discussion. The idea of having such a major voice from one side of Sandy and then the demonic, evil voice of Alissa on the other hand having this contrast in the same song – I thought that it was a good idea and I still think it is.
Coming up later this year, you will be performing, once again, at ProgPower USA. How does it feel to be coming back for ProgPower?
It´s always great. I think it´s the only big Prog Metal with Power Metal event happening there in the US. So it´s an event that connects Progressive and Power Metal and I think it´s the only one people drive or fly from all over the place to check their bands out. It´s an opportunity for us to be together and exchange ideas with other bands and to see some other stuff that has been done in the US and also getting in contact with a new crowd. Very often people come to us and say they have never heard about Angra but they love us. It´s a privilege and a huge opportunity. Whenever they invite us, I´ll accept.
I was in attendance back when you played all of Holy Land in it’s entirety (One of my favorite performances I’ve seen live). What should North American fans expect from Angra at your 2018 performance?
Thank you my friend! This time we´re bringing some new songs from OMNI. This time we bring a more solid line-up. I think we´ve now really built a very consistent line-up, a very strong band that has been revitalized for the next 20 or 30 years. That´s how I feel. The North American fans will get a little bit of that energy, the motivation, one of the best moments of this band. I founded this band almost 27 years ago and it has been a long time – I wouldn't say never – that didn't I feel this energy, the atmosphere in the band so positive and so productive and so good for the members and for the crowd. So they will also listening to some of the songs that were very representative throughout the past 26 years.
Besides ProgPower, what is else is happening with Angra in 2018 and/or 2019?
We have around 100 concerts throughout the world this year. So we have around 30 concerts in the US, because we´re touring after ProgPower around America. We have 4 concerts in Japan, 2-3 concerts in China and Taiwan. We have around 30 concerts in Europe. We have lots of concerts in South America and Brazil. So we will be touring with OMNI. For next year we would like to record a DVD to a live concert, making a live footage of this moment. We will document everything I was telling you - this excitement, the new beginning, the reborn of the band – maybe with an orchestra, maybe a simple thing with acoustic stuff, maybe just a metal concert. We still don´t know. But I really would like to document what´s happening there.
Was there any albums that came out in 2017 that you enjoyed?
I can´t recall now, but if I remember it later on I´ll tell you. There is a Brazilian band called Project 46 and they have released an album, but I think it was this year and not last year. It´s a very good band. They´re singing Portuguese. It's a mixture of Thrash and Death Metal and other stuff. It's very good.
Once again, thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview. As a long time Angra fan, it was an honor to be able to ask you a few questions about everything going on in the world of Angra, AND be able to talk about what will easily be one of my favorite Angra albums, Omni. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
I thank you a lot for the space and the opportunity for us. I thank you my friend. I hope to meet you on ProgPower or in one of our US dates to chat and have a beer together. OMNI is already one of mine. I´m very proud of this album. I think that I have three favorite Angra albums now: “Holy Land”, “Temple Of Shadows” and “OMNI”. Well, I think you covered very much everything. I see you in America, hopefully in September. Thank you my friend and take care.
Angra- OMNI is available NOW through earMUSIC
Heavatar has everything you could possibly want in a Power Metal band. Epic songwriting, orchestrated integrity that gives great nods to composers of the past, brilliant musicianship, and a great sense of a musical greater good. Recently I had the opportunity to ask Heavatar mastermind Stefan Schmidt (Vocals and Rhythm Guitar) some questions to talk about the sophomore album, Opus II: The Annihilation which just came out this past Friday (February 16th) through earMUSIC. Here is what he had to say!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
Opus II- The Annihilation is coming out February 16th through earMUSIC. How does it feel to get your sophomore about album out as Heavatar?
It’s always great to see your idea come to life. Of course the mastering of the album is already months away, because after that it has to be produced, promoted and distributed, but all the songs still feel fresh, because we worked on them together in the rehearsal room. The old school way.
With getting the chance to being able to listen to the album, I really love the direction The Annihilation goes into. It feels like a very natural progression from All My Kingdoms. Was the songwriting as natural as I am making it sound?
Yes, definitely. As I said, this time it was not a guy thinking about a song at his home studio and then getting together friends for the album. This time we already had the experience of one European Tour (with Grave Digger) and knew much better what suits our style best. We worked on every song together in the rehearsal room and came up with arrangements that sounded best for Heavatar.
As with All My Kingdoms, there is great nods and motifs to classical composers of the past on The Annihilation. Was there any particular composers or arrangement ideas you specifically wanted to show off on this album ahead of time or did those ideas come in as the songwriting progressed?
The Chopin thing (Hijacked by Unicorns) was in my mind for years, the other ideas came when we started songwriting and gave some thoughts on which classical motifs really inspire us.
None Shall Sleep and Purpose Of A Virgin Mind has been released as singles for the album. How was it decided those two songs would represent the album?
It’s always hard to decide for singles, haha. I think in these days, the value of a complete album is not so much honored anymore by younger fans. They are more used to listen to music in “Playlists”, perhaps even on ones not did by themselves but by Spotify or Amazon. So it is even more important to chose singles that somehow represent the complete style of the album. I think these two songs give a strong idea what we sound and play like.
With 5 years between albums, how much do you feel the band has progressed in that time?
Especially in terms of growing together, due to the mentioned European tour. In terms of style or playing, you can not do any better than Jörg always does, haha. But it felt really good to take all the experiences from the first album into the 2nd one.
The album also features an outstanding cover of Manowar’s Metal Daze. Where did the idea come from to cover this particular track?
I love Manowar. Eric Adams is my favourite singer and I always wanted to sing a Manowar song. We chose that one because it was the only one Jörg was willing to play, haha.
What is next for Heavatar?
Promoting the album and seeing what options will arise.
Any other plans for 2018 or beyond for you?
For me personally, we will work on the 7th Van Canto album to be released in Summer.
How do you feel about the state of Power Metal in 2018?
During the last years I concentrated more on my relationship to Power Metal. To be honest I do not listen to so much music anymore, compared to when I was 16 or so. It’s more about creating an own idea and finding the best way to bring it to life. And my ideas always seem to result in something power metal related, so I guess, this is just my favourite style and this does not depend on whether Power Metal is still a big scene or not.
For those that may not be as familiar with classic composition and composers of the past; what would you say those who enjoy Metal music could stand to learn or appreciate from the classical art form?
There are some parallels, when it comes to harmony and especially the dynamic range. And also the part of exaggerating (faster, louder!) is a common thing in classical music as well.
Was there any albums in 2017 that you enjoyed?
I really love the new Threshold album and the Sons of Apollo debut.
Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I am really enjoying what has been created with The Annihilation and hits so many areas of music that I love. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
Thanks for you interest in Heavatar and keep up the great work!
Hevatar- Opus II: The Annihilation is out NOW through earMUSIC
For those that know me. I normally tend to do my reviews of albums at the end of the year, to make for a grandiose Best Of The Year round up. This year, I'm still going to do that, but I also wanna cover albums that deserve the love the whole year round. When I got the opportunity to check out the brand new BTBAM album, there was no way I couldn't put my thoughts into words for all of you to enjoy!
Between The Buried And Me is about to release their 8th album Automata I March 9th (Along with Automata II out in June 2018) through their new home at Sumerian Records. After celebrating last year with the 10th anniversary tour of arguably their biggest album to date, Colors, the band has never been known for making the same album twice. So what does BTBAM have in store for us this time? A Caribbean Ska-Core album? A collection of Austrian TV Show Themes? A 7" Split with Taylor Swift? Not this time around! The band has actually decided to take Automata and release it in two parts and show that the band has grown even more since their last album, Coma Ecliptic. But how you ask? Let me explain!
The album starts with Condemed To The Gallows, which is available to check out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq8u0uDK61E Right off the bat, with it's clean guitar intro, you can feel the band is going to kick it in a big way, you just don't know when. Rather than showing off their more death metal sides as done in the past, it kicks more into a heavier prog and synth heavy intro before the systematic brutality begins. Adding a lot more atmosphere, the band brings back more growls than previously seen, while keeping the more prog rock influence in tact. Imagine if Colors was made my TesseracT. The half way point of the song features some beautiful guitar soloing that while brief, is highly effective. Immediately after this brings one of the heaviest moments on the album with a breakdown that is quite reminiscent of The Silent Circus days before kicking back into its prog antics, before eventually ending where it began with it's haunting clean guitar riffs before turning into static.
With this static, it immediately goes into House Organ. A peppier and false hope giving happy sounding intro before kicking into it's mid-tempo goodness. Organ filled riffs are going on among the calculated BTBAM formula. More of the atmospheric guitars filled up the mellow moments of the track. If you have to compare this track to anything in the back catalog, it hearkens back to Fossil Genera - A Feed from Cloud Mountain. And before you know it, it's done at 3:41 in length.
Quite possibly the best track on the album is next, Yellow Eyes. The synths and some of the guitar riffing brings heavy Pain of Salvation vibes while mixing a bit of the Hypersleep era of BTBAM with it. A little before half way through, the Mike Patton style vocals make their comeback in a short, but effect manner. before kicking into my favorite riff of the album. The song Sings "YELLOW EYES" before kicking back down to a very Opeth flavored mellow groove. Once again, the atmospheric guitars make an appearance as everyone else goes absolutely insane with their riffing and vocal melodies. A very catchy electronic synth and snare drum duo riff kicks off the last bridge of the song before bringing things back around chorus style. 7:30 brings one of my favorite solos on the album, which again feels like it could have fit so perfectly on a Pain of Salvation album. With that it brings the end of the track that is layered in haunting synths to bring on the next track.
Millions comes up next and it's one of the most left of center BTBAM songs. While being in 5/4 for a majority of it It battles between a spooky 80s throwback, an Indie Rock Top 40 single, and classic BTBAM Prog Rock. The second half of the song features more short and effective orchestration before going into dark Mr. Bungle/Dillinger Escape Plan groove territory with the song ends with fading drums that remind you of DEP's Black Bubblegum before synths kick into the next track.
Gold Distance is the Veridian of this album. A short segue way that features beautiful soundscapes and guitar that just lasts a minute and two seconds in length before kicking into the final epic.
Blot is the album's lone epic track, sitting in at 10:27. The song starts with a very Middle-Eastern feel, which the band has explored in the past. This all leads to riffing that feels right at home with other all star epics such as White Walls and Swim To The Moon. The majority of the verse riffs are at the same mid-tempo, with short bursts of blast beats and growls thrown in from out of nowhere. Then it kicks into classic Colors style riffing but with a renewed sense of purpose, adding much more variety and atmosphere. The chorus is one of the happiest sounding moments in BTBAM's catalog. The middle segment of the song features some fantastic Middle-Eastern style soloing mixed in with some great prog riffing underneath before going into White Walls/Ants in the Sky style territory with it's mellow somber sounds mixed in with rim clicks. After exploring what is possible with this, the song begins to build and build and build until it.....brings silence. But just for a couple seconds as it leads into one of the other heaviest moments on the record. Kids who need a reason to thrown down in the pit will love this riff to bits. This leads back into the ever glowing chorus that grows and grows into a quite angry prog riff that goes ballistic and then....cuts, almost abruptly. With a feeling of "Hey, that can't be it. WHAT COMES NEXT?" A perfect musical cliffhanger while we wait for Automata II.
All in all, BTBAM has found a way to reinvent themselves while keeping their integrity in check and making fans of any era of the band happy. If you love your brutal riffs, it happens in all the right moments. Do you love the prog wackiness? That is shown all the proper love. Do you want the band to explore new territory such as more atmospheric moments? Automata I is filled to the brim with atmosphere.
Clocking in at a little over 35 minutes, this feels like a complete BTBAM album that leaves you wanting more, and thankfully, we are getting more in June. What will those last 4 Automata songs be? 4 epics? 4 top 40 singles? Pure instrumental atmosphere you play over top Automata I (Actually, that may be a cool idea if done right) but we will have to find out down the road. Till then, get excited for Automata I. BTBAM in 2018 is bringing everything to the table and it will leave you wanting MORE!
Between The Buried And Me- Automata I is available March 9th through Sumerian Records.
Check out Condemned to the Gallows here:
Jack The Ripper is one of history's most notorious killers. Throughout the entertainment world, many books, movies, tv shows, etc; the man has been represented in many ways. But with We Sell The Dead, Jack takes more of an overhead inspiration over this band with dark melodies, heavy subject matter and haunting aesthetics that really give this band an original flavor. With the debut album, Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell Is Full, is coming out February 23rd through earMUSIC, I had the opportunity to ask guitarist Niclas Engelin (In Flames, Engel) a few questions about this fantastic release. ENJOY!
Thank You very Much for taking the time to do this interview.
No worries, my pleasure!
First things first, how did We Sell The Dead come together?
It started with me an Jonas wanting to write and play some really heavy music together in the Sabbath-/Candlemass-vein. And we wanted the mighty voice of Apollo and the thunderous drums of Gas to be a part of it.
The debut album, Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell Is Full, is coming out February 23rd through earMUSIC. How does it feel finally getting this album out?
Fantastic! There’s really no other word for it. I mean, we’ve built this totally from scratch ourselves, and have just done exactly what we want. So that’s an amazing feeling!
With that, how does it feel working with earMUSIC to get this album out?
Awesome! They are so professional and they have treated us with nothing but respect from day one, so it has been really great for us.
I’ve gotten the chance to be able to check out the album and I absolutely love what I hear. It really feels like it’s a great culmination of some of the best elements all of you have brought into your respective bands (past and present). Was this an intentional songwriting formula or how did you decide upon what direction this band would be going in?
As I said above; the songwriting was intentionally going in that direction, but we also wanted to feel free within that formula. Plus, everybody brings their own persona and style into the mix, so the final product never looks and sounds like the beginning.
The lyrical concepts are also very intriguing, discussing Jack The Ripper. Where did the idea come from to use him and his crimes as inspiration for the other aspects of the band?
Me, Jonas and Dan, the animator, talked a lot about how the visual setting was going to have a 19th century feel to it. And when that was decided, Jack the Ripper sort of just popped up. He is not really a figure in any of the lyrics, but you might say his spirit hovers over the entire project, haha!
So far, Turn It Over and Echos of an Ugly Past have been released as singles for the album. How did you decide on these two songs representing the album ahead of time?
Actually, as we speak, Pale and Perfect has also been released as video/single. But we chose those songs because they appear in that order in the story line of the videos, that Dan has thought up. On the album, they are in a different order, though.
Is there plans on releasing any other singles before or after the album’s release?
Yes! Six of the songs have animated videos, and they will all be released as singles.
With such a great album as Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell Is Full, where do you see the band going from here, musically?
Jonas and me have already started working on the songs for the next album. No rest for the wicked! I don’t know, maybe we’ll go for a more fuzzy stoner sound next time. We talked about simplifying more on the new material, production wise. We’ll see.
So what are the plans for the band for the rest of 2018?
We want to play live, tour and meet audiences all over the world! And record songs for the next album!
With 2017 only being a short time behind us, did you have any favorite albums from last year?
I’m a huge Judas Priest fan and hearing the first 20 seconds of the song ”Firepower” made me dream of a new ”Painkiller” or ”Defenders Of The Faith. Those 20 seconds made the year for me.. But Arch Enemy or Rag ’n Bone Man Raaawked my world in 2017!!
Between We Sell The Dead and your other musical endeavors, what do you like to do in your free time?
I hang out with my kids & wife the free time and I like to keep myself in shape. And I like to spend time with friends and having a laugh!!
Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Like stated above, I really love what you guys have accomplished with this album. The songwriting is stellar, the production is pristine, and the dark atmosphere fits perfectly. I really hope others will enjoy this album as much as I do. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
I would like to stress that this is a real band, not a project. We Sell The Dead is a band, and we are here to stay now. Thanks a lot for your kind words they warm my heart and a huge thank you for the interview and helping spreading the gospel of ”We Sell The Dead”!!
We Sell The Dead- Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell Is Full, is coming out February 23rd through earMUSIC