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Angra - 'Secret Garden' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/9f/1d/21/Angra-Secret-Garden-19-1430767264.jpg Hot

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A simply fantastic album from a simply fantastic band.

After a self-imposed four year hiatus, the Brazilian Power Metal juggernaut known as Angra return with what could easily be their best album so far. Entitled 'Secret Garden', it's a concept piece based around the story of a scientist who loses his wife in a tragic accident and then has to reconsider his non-Christian/atheist beliefs and re-evaluate whether she is still with him, even though he cannot see or feel her.

The lyrical content of the eleven songs focuses on the deep feelings of loss, religion/scientific argument and finally salvation and they are (for me personally) the strongest the band have written. Having Doro Pesch and Simone Simons (Epica) as guests, playing at different times the voice of his departed wife, angels and parts of his subconscious, whilst various other band members take on the other character's voices doesn't hurt either. However, before we get to the music, I must highlight and tip my hat to the work of Roy Z who handled the pre-production and Jens Bogren who recorded, produced and mixed everything, because the sound they have come up with is simply immense.

As for the songs, 'Newborn Me' starts the story off with the ominous sounds of the accident, then we hear a ventilator pumping oxygen until the band blast in with a heavy keyboard and guitar riff that attacks from the very first note. New(ish) boy Fabio Lione is straight away the revelation on this album as I've never heard him sound better and from this classy start, '...Garden' continues to build and grow.

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'Final Light' is a brooding mid-paced song with wonderful Latin American rhythms hidden subtly in the song's melodies whilst the solo guitar work of Rafael Bittencourt and Kiko Loureiro is mesmerizing. 'Storm Of Emotions' is a beautifully laid back song full of emotion and feeling, whereas the title track featuring Simons is an epic (sorry) track with full orchestration and some stunning musical arrangements; this offering really is the album's tour-de-force.

Oddest song has to go to 'Synchronicity II' (yes that Police song), which is given the full Angra treatment and fits so well that you if you hadn't heard it before, you'd never know it wasn't one of the bands own songs. Finally there's 'Crushing Room', a duet between Bittencourt and Doro which is just astonishing and, along with '...Emotions', deserves to go down as one of Angra's greatest songs.

As comeback albums go, this one is a little bit special and old fans of the band, as well as potential newcomers, should give this quite extraordinary album the time it needs and deserves to wield its magic upon them; a simply fantastic album from a simply fantastic band.

Ian Johnson

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