Almah – Motion (2011)

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Music

When Brazilian power metal gods Angra halted their 15 year career in 2007, many thought it was the end of an era. While their was misinterpretations as to whether the band had broke up or was merely on a hiatus, the actions of the band’s members made me think the group was finished.

Nearly everyone on the roster branched off to new projects almost immediately. Guitarist Kiko Loureiro joined Tarja, as well as releasing a couple of solo albums. Guitarist Rafael Bittencourt formed Bittencourt Project. Drummer Aquiles Priester quit the band, and vocalist Edu Falaschi, who had already recorded a solo album called Almah in 2006, decided to bring along bassist Felipe Andreoli made Almah a full-fledged band.

The group’s 2008 release Fragile Equality was well received by both Angra fans and critics, and appeared to be a adequate life raft for those devastated by the split of one of power metal’s most revered acts. After all, it maintained the style of Angra, with complex structures and Edu’s unmistakeable vocal power.

For me, it was better than nothing at all. The Almah records lacked Loureiro’s virtuoso guitar feel, and the epic sound didn’t quite get to where it wanted to be – but they were still better than most of the other stuff being released at the time.

In 2010, however, I – along with metal fans everywhere – exhaled a huge sigh of relief when Angra announced their reunion. I was having a hard enough time keeping up with everyone’s side activities and whereabouts, so with the release of Aqua, it seemed that all the projects and solo stuff would disappear and the band would get back to concentrating on the ‘Angra’ brand. Right?

Wrong.

Just over a year after the successful release of Aqua, Falaschi is set to continue on with Almah. While I’m not quite sure what to make of his allegiances at this point, I will say that the release of Motion came as nothing less than a surprise. Considering the Almah line-up hasn’t changed since the last record, though, I have a sneaking suspicion that Falaschi knew he was coming back to this project at some point, Angra or no Angra

The release of Motion (coming October 25th) wasn’t the only shocker here. The new, far more aggressive sound the band has adopted caught me equally off-guard. While Falaschi has long been considered one of the more ‘beautiful’ voices in metal, you wouldn’t know it through most of this album. But don’t let that detract you just yet. The tougher-sounding vocals and the rougher-edged musical approach shines a new light on Edu and his band mates that – while unexpected – shines pretty damn bright.

Where Angra took out the highlighter and colored over the ‘progressive’ portion of their description, Almah almost seems to hide it as a disclaimer. Sure, some of the ‘progressive’ elements are present, but often they are hard to pick up on due to the bombastic metal nature of this album. By not over-populating the record with Angra sound-alikes, the band has given itself the opportunity to explore different styles and compositions that showcase the true talent the band employs.

The album opens with “Hypnotized” – and dueling guitars that trick you into thinking it’s yet another Angra wanna-be, but quickly erases that thought with possibly Edu’s most demonic scream ever. It’s more Priest than prog, and sparks a hellfire of originality and freshness.

Things stay heavy with “Living and Drifting,” and it is noticeable that the guitar work of both Marcelo Barbosa and Paulo Schroeber has vastly improved. The last album had its moments where I thought the guitars really lacked integrity, but such is not the case here. It’s not the time for any comparisons (yet), but the duo hold more than their own here.

“Days Of The New” opens with a flirtation towards a southern/groove vibe, which is again a successful stretch for the band. It doesn’t light the power metal torch until the chorus, but the track stands strong both musically and vocally.

The aforementioned ‘beauty’ in Falaschi’s voice is showcased in “Bullets On The Altar,” but the singer still manages to find a way to keep it edgy with a snarl from time to time. It’s a softer song, and has that familiar ‘other’ band’s structure, but an underlying heaviness keeps it unique. The guitar solo soars, and makes enough of a statement to keep the Loureiro fans at bay.

After a relatively predictable track, the band delivers the hardest track on the album in “Zombies Dictator.” Whatever preconceived notion you had about the band are completely blown to pieces with the barrage of riffs and drum fills. You’re actually reminded of Brazil’s other great metal band – Sepultura – at moments throughout. There are definite ‘Almah’ moments, but as far as finding new ground, the band outdid itself here.

The first single off of Motion is “Trace Or Trait,” which is a glorious combination of 2008 Almah and 2011 Almah. Again, we are treated to the grand vocals of Falaschi at their highest level, but he also pulls off a rough primal scream from time to time that sharpens the knife that slices through you. From a radio perspective, it’s probably a bit ‘too’ heavy, but any station with the balls to play this single will get positive response for sure. It has some very progressive style at times, yet also pounds away in the true spirit of heavy metal. Another outstanding effort.

“Soul Alight” adheres to the ‘stay heavy’ formula the album has presented. Edu lets the guitars and drums do most of the work here, and an added keyboard line only adds to the scheme. I was one of many that thought Angra’s last album was a bit too ‘fluffy’ at times, and it is clear now that Falaschi had an axe to grind with his ‘metal’ side. Even when he tries to be operatic and grand, you can tell he’s just anxious as hell to get back to kicking your teeth out of your mouth.

The album drops off a bit with “Late Night In ’85.” a quasi-ballad that tried its hand at straight arena rock and came off a little sour. There wasn’t enough of anything here that throttled me, as it seemed everything – from the vocals to the instrumentation – tried to be dedicatedly slower. I give it hope that maybe, after multiple listens, it will grow on me. But after two times through, it didn’t leave much of an impression that will last very long. In the future, it would be best if Almah left the ‘Scorpions-sounding’ songs to the Scorpions

“Daydream Lucidity” immediately reminded me – just with the title – of Queensryche, and the music did it’s best to keep that train of thought on track. While most of the album tried hard not to accentuate the progressive nature of Falaschi’s past, this was definitely a reminder of what got him here. This was as progressive as it gets. Pink Floyd progressive. Yes progressive. It does, however, remain pretty damn heavy. So much so, I’m not sure even Angra could have pulled this off so flawlessly.

Just when I thought we would get through the album without a single acoustic love song, the band turns off the amps and turns down the lights with a bluesy ballad in “When And Why.” I’m not a big fan of these types of songs, and nothing done here is going to change my mind – but I can understand the need for one of these. I don’t have to like it (and I don’t), but getting all ‘warm and fuzzy’ from time to time has been a card Falaschi has played throughout his career, so it wasn’t really a surprise. I thought it was way out of place on such a heavy album, but so be it.

All an all, I think this album succeeded in numerous ways. It finally separated Edu’s second band from his first band, and it also gave us a new perspective on Falaschi’s range and intent. Also, it showed a great improvement musically from previous efforts. This album is such a different animal that Angra fans actually may not like it, but that’s fine with me – and probably okay with Edu as well. After all, if you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, what good is he, really…

7.5/10

Tracklist:
01 – Hypnotized
02 – Living And Drifting
03 – Days Of The New
04 – Bullets On The Altar
05 – Zombies Dictator
06 – Trace Of Trait
07 – Soul Alight
08 – Late Night In ’85
09 – Daydream Lucidity
10 – When And Why

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