|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Karim Serri|
|Record Label: Conspiracy||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 48:43|
We’ve championed the Christian metal bands from Brazil in our pages since launching Angelic Warlord. The most well known is Shining Star, a project of guitarist virtuoso Fabio Rocha acclaimed for its first two albums Fatal Mistake (2000) and Enter Eternity (2005). Latter reflected the influences of melodic power metal in featuring classic tenor front man Lance King and former melodic hard rock with gravelly mid-ranged vocalist Nando Fernandes exhibiting his abilities. Eterna gained renowned for the Dio tinctured vocals of Leandro Caçoilo on its melodic metal turn of the century releases The Gate (2001), Terra Nova (2002) and Epiphany (2004), while Allos stood out with the high-end flavorings of Celso Alves accenting the power/progressive slant of its debut Spiritual Battle (2012).
Results from the region, as one might imagine, have also been somewhat mixed. Dracma displayed marked potential on the bluesy hard rock of its debut Perfect Creation (2002), while same applies to Seven Angels and the power metal of its albums The Second Floor (2002) and Faceless Man (2006). Lone drawback to either band, however, was vocal performances not quite up to the standards fans and critics might expect from either genre. Others failing to inspire in the vocal department include Destra on the progressive sounds of its 2000 release Sea Of Doubt (the group’s excellent 2004 follow up Joe’s Rhapsody with very competent vocalist Rodrigo Grecco is another story) and Stauros with its power/progressive efforts Seaquake and Adrift from 2000 and 2001, respectively.
How does Efrata, the most recent Christian metal act from Brazil, measure up? Something Powerful Inside, the groups Conspiracy Records fall of 2014 full-length debut, comes across hit and miss. On one hand, I appreciate the albums musical diversity, ranging from straightforward heavy metal (with a leaning towards the traditional side of things) to lighter melodic metal to classic hard rock to occasionally progressive nuances. On the other, Efrata struggles somewhat in the vocal department, an area that, as outlined in the previous paragraph, has at times proven an ‘Achilles heel’ to groups from the region. The best explanation I have is that Brazil produces more bands than there are quality vocalists, which leads to erratic performance at the vocal position and shaky outcomes in the studio.
In the case of Efrata, front man Rodrigo Godoy brings a tough and guttural mid-ranged delivery that while fitting with the music at hand also comes across somewhat forced and strained. Repeat listen reveals a powerful but uneven vocalist with a style I find difficult to embrace (acquired taste might be the better term that applies), or at the very least potentially prevents the group from garnering further acclaim. Consider, for instance, how the Something Powerful Inside material is far from bad but might have stood out further with a vocalist giving prominence to the greater range. Efrata reminds me in this regard of fellow Brazilian act Sunroad, traditionally one of my favorite targets from the area to pick on, albeit Efrata (in my opinion) benefits from that much more memorable songwriting.
Something Powerful Inside, needless to say, proves aptly entitled when factoring the groups heavier side. “Butterfly Effect” is one of my favorites, a mid-paced and trenchant guitar driven slugger that can also taper for a surprisingly smooth refrain in which swirling backing vocals that hint of King’s X hold sway. This one finds Efrata at its creative best. “Growing Time”, another deliberate slugger with a swarthy edge, powers its distance to airy keyboards and guitars that plunge in and out of the mix. Keyboard and guitar solos carry the instrumental moments. “Words Of The Wise” gives rise to some power/progressive metal lacings, intricate with its complex drum sound (credit timekeeper GE in this capacity) but also classically influenced from its layers of church organ. Verses drive and plow, while refrains takes off at once to a heightened tempo. Lone drawback is some slight repetitiveness.
Maintaining the heavier emphasis but in the faster package is “Sacred Blow”, expeditious in tempo in allowing Efrata to show off its tight as it gets technical proclivities. Bruising aspect to the low end adds to the song heavy hitting aura. Interestingly, instrumental moments head in a jazzy direction. “Like The Book Said” proves a short but unyielding barnburner, almost approaching speed metal and thrash with its combative flair, but also able to reflect time signatures in which it descends into occasional tight and airy passages. The aggressive nature of the piece fits well with guest lead vocalist Celso de Freyn’s assailing style. Also, note the albums best stretch of flashy lead guitar.
If interested in a melodic direction, “Led By The Spirit” tempers things with its emphasis on lighter guitar tones in lending a commercial hard rock ardor. A groove based setting is the upshot, with talented bassist Leandro Paiva adorning things with his pensive bass work. Slowing the tempo further is ‘Light Your Eyes”, a mid-paced and driving melodic hard rocker in which the groups polished vocal harmonies distinguish themselves along with added incise bass lines. Six-minute semi ballad “Come Back Home” challenges for albums best. The song proves haunting and atmospheric, maneuvering its first two minutes to airy acoustic tinctures before rhythm guitars curtly step forward and set the dramatic tone. Melody comes across persuasive and heaviness vastly understated.
“Take My Heart Again” represents the first of two traditional ballads. This one proves piano based, with complementary orchestration and periodic rhythm guitars adding to the ethereal scene. Ironically, Godoy puts in his finest vocal performance in that he actually sings as opposed to just belting it out (his raspy timbre proves quite flattering in hinting of John Schlitt). “My Hero” has a piano basis in gradually growing and building its first two and a half minutes until fading out. Three and a half minutes of silence bass before the song returns in the form of narration in the form of the salvation message.
Producer Karim Serri (Seven Angels) delivers refined results, with guitars the centerpiece to the mix while also allowing copious bass to stand out. Lone complaint is the slightly forward placement of vocals. Professional packaging joins dark but eye catching cover art with a well-designed mini booklet in which easy to read multi colored fonts stand out (of note is how accompanying each song are corresponding scripture references).
Speaking of which, lyrics prove well written in intelligently communicating the group’s faith. Consider “Growing Time” in this capacity -
Renew your strength in your God
We know, in His presence there is
Until we reach the fullness of Christ in our lives
And leaving the old carnal mind
To turn our story into
A song for His glory
- in addition to “Sacred Blow”:
Now we only have Your mercy
Mercy that again was donated
The Almighty became man
And died our death
Again the greatest proof of love
I don’t have to fear being alone
We know what to do
“Like The Book Said” draws upon Revelation -
Everything becomes like the Book said
Every moment ahead seems to be so bad
There’s not enough to bring hope where we live
Did you every learn?
If you think you are standing firm,
Be careful you don’t fall
- and “My Hero” John 3:16:
Thanks for the cross
For winning the battle that I had lost
(It) was not for free
You wore the thorns
(It) was meant for me
I have a new heart
Doing things You do
With a brand new mind
Just to think as You
Something Powerful Inside adds up to a medium to good but slightly uneven album. Production and musicianship are solid as is (for the most part) songwriting, particularly when factoring the musical variety at hand. Vocals, however, can be an acquired taste, at least in light of how they potentially prevent the group from garnering further claim (as already noted either way). A Mike Lee type would fit well here. Still, let’s hope we hear more from Efrata in the future in that Something Powerful Inside hints of better things to come from the group.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Butterfly Effect” (5:25), “Growing Time” (5:22), “Words Of The Wise” (4:32), “Led By The Spirit” (4:07), “Take My Heart Again” (4:00), “Light Your Eyes” (4:19), “Sacred Blow” (3:46), “Come Back Home” (6:04), “Like The Book Said” (3:39), “My Hero” (7:29)
Rodrigo Godoy - Lead Vocals
Ricardo Augusto - Keyboards
Leandro Paiva - Bass
GE - Drums
Celso de Freyn - Lead Vocals
Lucas Bastos - Bass
Karim Serri - Bass
Yeanpierre Caipo - Bass & Lead Guitar