|Musical Style: Progressive Power Metal||Produced By: Menahem|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 62:51|
The Christian metal scene in Brazil has grown in leaps and bounds the past decade. Eterna, a São Paulo based outfit, is the first name that comes to mind. The group released the melodic power metal of its first two albums in the late nineties, Shema Israel (1997) and Papyrus (1999), before following up with more of the same on The Gate (2001), Terra Nova (2002) and Epiphany (2004). Shining Star deserves mention as well. Also combining elements of melodic metal and power metal, Shining Star hit the scene in 2000 with its full length debut Fatal Mistake only to return with Enter Eternity in 2005 and Reset three years later . Destra, another group from São Paulo, heads in a more progressive direction on its two releases, Sea Of Doubt (2000) and the excellent concept album Joe’s Rhapsody (2004). Other bands worthy of consideration include Seven Angels, Amos, Dracma and Stauros.
Menahem is the latest act to come out of Brazil. Hailing from Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Menahem came together in 2002 prior to recording a demo, the 2005 effort Prisões Sem Muros, and a three song EP and full length debut, Angels & Shadows, in 2008. What Menahem brings to the table is a joining of power metal and progressive metal certain to appeal to fans of countrymen Eterna, Angra, Destra, Shining Star and Scelerata. Those whose musical tastes trend towards Symphony X, Suspyre and Dream Theater will find a lot to like here as will proponents of Jacobs Dream, Faith Factor and Sacred Warrior.
Angels & Shadows is based upon a foundation of quintessential power metal numbers such as the swarthy “Escape”, majestic “Trip Beyond The Mind”, technical “Prison Without Walls” and its diverse title track. “Promise” and “Suicidal Friend” reflect the progressive aspect to the bands abilities while a more low key direction is taken on the ballad “Ocean Of Tears”, acoustic laced “Pain” and subdued “New Chance”. Menahem even delivers a short piano based ballad in “Creed”.
Frontman Lean Van Ranna turns the area of lead vocals into a legitimate strength with his clean but mid-ranged style. He occasionally reminds me of Russell Allen (Symphony X) or Ronnie James Dio but with the low end grit of Clay Barton (Suspyre). When he cuts loose and goes for a high note, Ray Parra (Sacred Warrior) comes to mind.
Another standout quality to Menahem is the strength of its instrumental sound. Lengthy instrumental jam sessions – some with a fusion-like touch – abound throughout the project. “Angels & Shadows”, “Escape”, “New Change”, “Promise”, “Freedom” and “Suicidal Friend” all showcases significant instrumental portions allowing the talented guitar team of Lucas Marc and Jessé Aires to exhibit their abilities.
Keyboardist Guilherme Oliveira makes his mark as well, adding just the right melodic touch (some of his work reflects a neo-classical feel) without overdoing it. Drummer Murilo Marc is also on top of things with his precise timekeeping skills and complementary outbursts of double bass.
Production is another strong point (something you cannot always say about every Christian metal release to come out of Brazil). What I particularly like is how all the instrumentation is allowed to rise above the mix while presenting an even blend of rhythm guitar and vocals.
After opening to a short instrumental, “Valley Of Megido”, the album dives into its stunning title track. “Angels & Shadows” delivers it all, bringing variances in tempo – ranging from the quiet and subdued to the striking – along with aggressive guitar riffs, hard hitting double bass and a lengthy instrumental passage that come across fusion-like in capacity. A grit-laden chorus slows in a tranquil manner at its end. Spiritual warfare is the subject matter here:
Angels and shadows fight in the skies
Light and darkness show their power
The King will return in the end
The war is about to end, I can already see
The skies opening and the King appears
“Escape” finds Van Ranna adding a touch of aggression to his delivery. A dark and swarthy piece, the song plows forward from the start in guitar driven fashion, maintaining the forced impetus on the way to a rollicking chorus in which keyboards play a prominent role. A bass guitar solo opens an instrumental section upheld by a stretch of blazing lead guitar.
The pace lets up with “New Chance”, a quieter and more subdued piece making use of keyboards, acoustic guitar and piano. The rhythm guitar makes its presence felt as well, particularly during its sweeping chorus, as does a distinct bass line. A bluesy lead guitar carries another lengthy instrumental section. “New Chance” talks about putting the past behind:
Wake up from this nightmare
See the sun shining in the horizon
Don’t listen to the echo of your past
Get the chance to start again
Your footprints are not alone like before
He says don’t be afraid; trust Him even now
Menahem exhibits a more progressive side to its abilities on “Promise”. With over half its seven minutes instrumental, the song proves a virtual “jam session” as the guys put their abundant musicianship on full display: a two minute instrumental break at just past the halfway point gives rise to a jam band-like feel. But there is more to “Promise” than its instrumental proclivity in that it also delivers quite the pronounced melody (the chorus can best be described as fleeting but captivating at the same time).
“Prison Without Walls” showcases a technical band of power metal. A somber ambience is put forth by the song, reflected in its use of deep backing vocals and resonant wall of rhythm guitar. A low key vocal performance adds to the unfathomable scene as does a catchy chorus of the palatial variety. I can see Jacobs Dream doing something like this. The message hear revolves around escaping from a “prison without walls”:
The cells aren’t closed anymore
The fear is gone; don’t be afraid
Now you set yourself free
He died so you could live
I have already been like you
But the power of the blood set me free
“Freedom” presents with its changes in tempo. The song calmly drifts through its first verse prior to the rhythm guitar kicking in at the start of the second. Gaining even further initiative, “Freedom” culminates as it obtains a romping chorus backed by rapid fire double bass. Instrumentally, the guys again pull out all the stops with another trademark jam session.
The melodic metal ballad “Ocean Of Tears” opens, appropriately, to the sound of waves washing upon the shore. The song proceeds to move forward to a lush joining of acoustic guitar, keyboards and punchy bass lines- all the while creating an atmosphere on the moving side of things. Initiative picks up after four minutes as an edgy rhythm guitar steps forward. “Ocean Of Tears” focuses on dealing with the storms of life:
But more and more the wind pushes me back
The more I struggle with the storm
The more I drown
I see the light at the end of the torment
A wonderful place
Where I can leave behind all guilt
I see my bones, my flesh and soul are renewed
He gives me an opportunity
To live forever and distant from my past of fear
Menahem returns to power metal territory on “Trip Beyond The Mind”. Walls of aggressive rhythm guitar and sweeping keyboards dominate a mostly mid-paced landscape as the song gives rise to a sublime – if not grand and stately – ambience. More non-stop jamming finds Lucas Marc and Aires shining on lead guitar.
“Creed”, the albums shortest (2:33) and mellowest tracks, moves its distance to a melding of piano and orchestration. Lyrically, this one proves as aptly entitled piece as you will find:
I believe in God the Father
Creator of Heaven and earth
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord
Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost
Birthing of a virgin
Was crucified and died
On the third day He rose again
He ascended to heaven
And is seated at the right Father’s hand
He will come to judge
The living and the dead
And His reign will have no end…
The semi-ballad “Pain” sets a moody tone as it flows forward from the start in an acoustic based manner. The song maintains the ethereal atmosphere as it gradually maneuvers its first two verses, abruptly picking up in pace as it acquires a chorus fortified by a rumbling rhythm guitar and eerie keyboards. With its subtle but unmistakable melody, “Pain” ranks with the albums finest.
“Suicidal Friend” brings seven and a half minutes of progressive metal. Time changes galore characterize the song as it dives through passages ranging from the guitar driven and aggressive to others reflecting a more tranquil aura (in which keyboards play a prominent role). Menahem – as one would expect – again takes every opportunity to exhibit instrumental sound. “Suicidal Friend”, as its title implies, portrays a suicidal individual who turns to God for help:
I pick up the bullet that will set me free
I leave my memories in the past
I’m afraid but I need to go
Don’t cry for me anymore
I hear a voice calling me
Keeping me from going on
A strong light appears
I see a man dressed in white
He says that He knows me
And knows how I feel
He shows me the way out
A reason to live
I enjoy the consistency to Angels & Shadows in that each of its tracks holds up under repeated play. Strengths in the areas of lead vocals, instrumental sound and production add to what is a solid release from a talented band I am looking forward to hearing more from in the future. If you are a fan of the Brazilian metal scene – or power/progressive metal in general – then by all means pick this up.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Valley Of Megido” (:33), “Angels & Shadows” (5:43), “Escape” (5:04), “New Chance” (5:15), “Promise” (6:50), “Prison Without Walls” (5:03), “Freedom” (6:39), “Ocean Of Tears” (6:06), “Trip Beyond The Mind” (6:08), “Creed” (2:33), Pain” (5:30), “Suicidal Friend” (7:28)
Lean Van Ranna – Lead Vocals
Lucas Marc – Guitars
Jessé Aires - Guitar
Guilherme Oliveira – Keyboards
Israel Scates - Bass
Murilo Marc - Drums