Aquaria - Shambala 4/5
2. Heart of the gods
4. Into the forest
8. Child of the universe
10. Skies of Amazonia
Aquaria's debut impressed me greatly for being a perfect clone of modern day Angra. Well, while the sound hasn't changed much for this 2nd CD, I don't feel like calling them an Angra clone any more, in large part because I like this new CD much more than the latest Angra CD, 'Aurora consurgens'. You're still going to immediately think of their Brazilian counterparts when you hear this; it's still in the same melodic power metal style with classical and progressive flourishes. The songwriting here is top notch and I find it more engaging than Angra's 'Aurora consurgens' and Aquaria's debut, 'Luxaeterna'.
Perhaps the lamest part of the CD is yet another instrumental, short, ditty to introduce the CD. Is there really any new musical ground to be broken in metal with these intro tracks? In power metal alone there are a zillion (I am pretty sure that's an exact figure) CDs that open this way. Can we think of some other way of beginning a CD if a simple song isn't good enough? In any event, 'Heart of the gods' is the real beginning of the CD. It gets things going quickly with compelling, speedy, classical power metal. Singer, Vitor Veiga (who is also with Endless) is just awesome, sounding like both Edu and Andre from Angra with a little bit of Fabio Leone from Rhapsody thrown in. He may add a little artificial vibrato to his voice at times, but he's hardly the only metal vocalist guilty of this.
My favorite track is 'Expedition'. This has a tremendously uplifting chorus which is backed by this unusual, semi-progressive yet melodic guitar riff, and I find the combination tremendous. Picking out highlights among the rest of the CD isn't easy because it's all very strong, varied material. While Aquaria's sound isn't remotely original, they manage to construct such compelling songs and melodies that I don't get distracted by the fact that this sounds a lot like other stuff I have heard before - unlike another band's latest CD I could mention (*cough* Gamma Ray - 'Land of the free II' *cough*).
I do have to once again comment on the track lengths. Much like their debut, Aquaria does litter the CD with some songs that go on for too long. 5 tracks all come in at the 7 minutes or longer mark. In the band's defense, at least none of these songs are duds, so enduring them isn't the chore it could have been. That gripe aside, this is one of the strongest CDs I've heard this year.
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