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