Angra – Cycles of Pain Review

Ten albums down. This landmark tests a band in many ways—not everyone’s destined to land on Defenders of the Faith after all. That vital quality, consistency, remains part of that longevity. And as Angra Metal Guy has stated before “Consistency has been hard to come by for Angra.” At least that was until Secret Garden fell upon the world and took with it those words. This modern iteration, fronted by Fabio Lione (ex-[(Luca) Turilli(/Lione)’s] Rhapsody [of Fire], Spirits of Fire) and steered by steadfast co-founder Rafael Bittencourt, has remained just that with a twist: consistent and invigorated. Bittencourt has pushed himself to grab the mic on occasion; Lione has succeeded in curbing his syllable count and applying more edge and snarl. Angra seemingly can’t be stopped, and Cycles of Pain postures itself to extend this reign.

Lione as Angra’s vocal anchor hasn’t ever sounded this urgent. In fact, I’d venture to say that outside of his most glorious moments with Rhapsody [of Fire], he never has.1 As much as time can cause a legacy act to slip into albums of increasingly important statements2—and make no mistake, Cycles of Pain does drift this direction—it can too add a necessary patina to high polish voices like Lione’s. Cast with the seasoning of having screamed his heart out with Angra over the past nine years, Lione coats Cycles, born of strife in the band’s homeland, with a comfort, a warmth, and an edge of earned hope. Golden-throated, anthemic prog/power? He’s got you on “Ride into the Storm.” Dramatic, hypnotic crooning? Shout “paaiiintiiings in the galleryyyyy of liiiiiiiiiiiife” in vain on “Dead Man on Display.” Digging deep for an operatic duet? Didn’t know he had it in him, but Lione nails a lower register harmony to Avantasia/Epica choir collaborator Amanda Somerville (“Tears of Blood”).

Guests play an important role throughout Cycles of Pain, allowing Angra to cautiously shed adherence to their own conventions. Often digging into Brazil-inspired tones for foot-shuffling tempos and identity-driven, unique sounds in metal, Angra still needs to try to sound like a different Angra. And to do that this go around and stave off the angst present in other tracks, “Faithless Sanctuary” and “Vida Seca” channel a celebratory nature, the latter featuring a seductively joyous Bittencourt harmonizing with Brazilian star Lenine in Portuguese-language resplendence. Similarly, “Here in the Now” features budding, regional chameleon Vanessa Moreno adding a new age-vibe chant to placate mounting tensions. Tensions and uncertainty have plagued the country that Angra calls home in recent years, so all this celebration overflows with an extra helping of real emotion, culminating in the triumphant, soaring title track.

Fitting to the divergence in attitude from the past two records, Angra has turned the engineering business away from gloss-master Jens Bogren. Looking to the past, Cycles of Pain sees under-the-hood care from Dennis Ward, who has handled Edu Falaschi’s recent solo work and Angra’s Falaschi-era work, including fan favorite Temple of Shadows and top-ranked Aurora Consurgens.3 Ward’s production choices lean toward a neutral palette while aiming to focus on the biggest melody in a given instance, such as hard-panned ferocious guitar leads (“Ride into the Storm,” “Generation Warriors”), boosted growling bass pulses (“Tide of Changes” I and II, “Faithless Sanctuary”), blistering solos (“Vida Seca,” “Cycles of Pain.” But against this peaked-but-flatter canvas, certain verses and bridge builds can feel similar, both to each other and to previous Angra work (“Dead Man…,” “Gods of the World,” “Generation Warriors”). Each does have the added bombast that long career can afford—additional live orchestration, chiming cymbal flourishes, layered hand percussion—which ultimately separates the tracks enough, but in a long run time with only a theme in spirit, Cycles can drag a little between its grandest declarations (“Vida Seca,” “Cycles…,” “Tears…”).

Angra plays the game well, and in 2023, you’d be hard-pressed to find this stadium-sized brand of anthemic prog/power in finer and fresher presentation than what Cycles of Pain packs in its hour. But, in the same way that Ømni filled my plate with a little more than necessary, Cycles of Pain has me reaching to loosen my belt by the time the curtains shutter the stage. But when you’re at a buffet stocked with the exuberance that these perennially exciting Brazilians (and Lione) hold, it’s hard to refuse going back for another bite.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 3rd, 2023

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