Worth checking out for power metal fans willing to try something different
Before I get into discussing this album, I would like to offer a bit of (somewhat) constructive criticism to whoever wrote up its press release: Do a little bit of simple fact-checking next time! The press release indicates that Almah vocalist Edu Falaschi joined Brazilian power metal greats Angra "for their 2006 album, Aurora Consurgens.' No he didn't! He joined in time for 2001's Rebirth, shortly after Angra's original lineup literally split into two bands. While this may not seem like a major oversight, it completely overlooks what I feel is perhaps their best album ever, and a highlight of the metal scene in recent years: 2004's Temple of Shadows.
One reason I wanted to drive that point home is that Temple of Shadows in particular is a good reference point for Almah, an album that has many potential reference points, perhaps too many to be sensibly connected to anything in the Angra catalog. But then, Angra, in recent years, had become a band with an increasingly diverse sound, making this metallic smorgasbord of an album seem like less of a departure when one considers where Falaschi's main band had been headed. Here he takes a leap even further afield, beyond the boundaries of what is supposedly allowed in Angra's sonic stew.
Almah is a power metal supergroup of sorts. Joining Falaschi for this trip through some of hard music's more exotic locales are Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, Stratovarius bassist Lauri Porra and Kamelot drummer Casey Grillo. The result is something quirky, modern, in-your-face and daring in its sonic scope, making this band tough to pigeonhole indeed. Listen to Almah and you will hear uptight, hyper takes on modern metal, vaguely tribal-sounding drum patterns, radio-rock production values and smooth, pastoral balladry amongst the eleven tracks enclosed. Things start off a bit panicky and confused on "King,' which combines a vaguely bluesy (but heavy and down-tuned) riff with a decidedly non-bluesy everything else into a confused but enjoyable up-tempo stomper, like an insomniac awakened by an alarm clock blasting Slayer at five in the morning. Argh! What's going on here?!?!?!
The rest of the album seems a bit more sensible, perhaps due to getting one of the album's most potentially jarring tracks out of the way early, or the listener simply becoming accustomed to this sonic nuttiness. The pleasures to be had are numerous and varied, from massive prog metal dirge that kicks off "Children of Lies,' to the excellent, atmospheric ballad "Forgotten Land,' to "Breathe,' which almost sounds like a lost track from U2. Throughout, the songwriting standard is high, meaning that as diverse as the album is, Almah never quite lapses into filler.
The only criticism I would level at the album itself is the production, which to me sounds a little too techy and mainstream in some places (the drum sound ain't too hot either, in my opinion). Still, this is well worth checking out for power metal fans willing to try something different, or anyone who can appreciate the type of multi-faceted, world-conscious metal that Angra has been dabbling in with increased frequency in recent months. Note: Almah will apparently be touring a bit, albeit with only Falaschi remaining from the lineup heard here. In fact, the touring lineup is now 3/5 of Angra, leading to rumors of Angra's breakup, though band members have since reported that these reports of their band's death have been greatly exaggerated.