Replacing three founding or longtime members would be enough to kill most bands. For Angra, that tribulation only served as a catalyst to make the Brazilian band even stronger. The quintet’s fourth full-length album, aptly titled Rebirth, is among the most refreshing melodic power/speed-metal albums released in recent years, and it showcases the depth of the band’s new players — vocalist Edu Falaschi (a finalist to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden at one point) and the rhythm section of bass player Felipe Andreoli and drummer Aquiles Priester. Falaschi’s voice is even more dynamic than that of original singer Andre Matos, and Andreoli and Priester already sound as if they’ve been playing together for years.
Originally formed in the likeness of such German bands as Helloween and Gamma Ray, Angra melded traditional Brazilian rhythms with European power metal and English lyrics on their first two albums, 1993’s Angels Cry and 1996’s Holy Land. The band’s elaborately produced third record, Fireworks, abandoned some of that tradition, but Angra recaptures elements of the tribal spirit on Rebirth — even though much of it is veiled in slick production by Pink Cream 69 bassist Dennis Ward. That said, Angra have never been as overtly true to their ethnic roots as, say, Sepultura. But then again, Sepultura have never woven complex melodies so effortlessly over walls of sounds the way Angra do on Rebirth. Following a brief instrumental called "In Excelsis," "Nova Era" kicks off the record with a feel-good blitz of harmony vocals, while "Acid Rain" and "Running Alone" each boast small choirs that sound huge. The two-part "Unholy Wars" serves as the album’s epic, with "Part I – Imperial Crown" incorporating youthful chanting and schizophrenic progressions with soaring power chords and vocal cords, while "Part II – Forgiven Return" rocks with catchy rhythmic and harmonic layers. There’s even a song adapted from Chopin’s "Op. 24 Prelude in C Minor" ("Visions Prelude"). Some tracks, like that one, follow a slower tempo than more mainstream power/speed metal, making Rebirth an intriguing work worth several spins.
Original guitarists Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt deserve credit for keeping Angra together after the departure of Matos (who has since gone on to record the impressive Virgo project with Heaven’s Gate guitarist Sascha Paeth), original bass player Luis Mariutti and longtime drummer Ricardo Confessori. Practically every song on Rebirth resounds with a youthful energy that belies the fact Angra has been together in one form or another for more than a decade. With this album, the band accomplishes what few of its brethren are able to do these days, and that is create a consistently classy metal record that will stand the test of time.