One thing you can count on with Brazilian progressive power metal band Angra is that they're always evolving. No two Angra albums are identical. Still, I thought I knew what to expect from Aqua, the band's seventh full-length studio album and the first since original drummer Ricardo Confessori rejoined the fold. I don't think anyone expected an album like Aqua!
The first time I played it I hated it, largely because it didn't sound anything like Rebirth or Temple of Shadows (hell, I'd have taken another Aurora Consurgens). The second time I started noticing that there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye (or ears, I guess). Now that I've had a couple of weeks to really take it in (I bought the Brazilian import) I am in awe of what the band has accomplished.
So what does it sound like? Well, it's a conceptual album based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, and tempestuous is a good word to describe Aqua. It's a very progressive album, and one that really highlights the band's growth as songwriters. It's also unquestionably a metal album, though the heavy hitting Rebirth-style songs like "Arising Thunder" and "The Rage of Waters" are balanced by more organic sounding Holy Land-style progressive rock songs. Confessori's inventive drumming and native percussion sounds play a large role here, as do symphonic orchestration and choirs. The background choirs on "Spirit of the Air" in particular give you a glimpse of what Holy Land might have sounded like with Edu Falaschi on vocals. I feel like I could go on and on about all of Aqua's little twists and turns, but I'll let you discover them yourself.
If there's such a thing as a typical Angra album, Aqua isn't it. It is, however, one of the band's most ambitious and artistic efforts, and one that serious Angra fans should really come to appreciate. It may not happen on the first spin, but Aqua has an aura that resonates the more you hear it. Keep an open mind, and enjoy the journey!