Concerning geography, I’m the first to admit my complete and total cluelessness. I’m the guy that, until recently, thought the Philippines were off the coast of Central America. My knowledge of European countries is directly linked to the number of metal bands they have produced. When it comes to Brazil, I’m aware of exactly three things; their Olympics were a gongshow, they lost 7-1 and they love their power metal. That’s right, Almah is back with E.V.O, another offering of trademark Brazilian power. Helmed by ex-Angra singer Eduardo Falaschi, these cats are veterans to the scene and with E.V.O marking their 5th studio album, the band has become an entity of its own. It would seem Falaschi is riding high on that fact too because E.V.O is one of the most joyous, cheerful metal releases of the year. But does that make it good?
E.V.O begins the way any self-respecting power metal album should – with bombastic amounts of energy and a complete disregard for self-restraint. After briefly instilling us with a sense of tranquility, opener “Age of Aquarius” bursts forth in earnest. Double kicks and speedy riffs are rained down upon the unsuspecting listener as Falachi’s voice threatens to pierce the heavens themselves. In fact, one of the most immediately differences between E.V.O and Almah’s previous works is Falachi’s pitch, which he keeps quite a bit higher this time around. The opening track is easily my favorite of the album, and reminds us why Almah has found such success in the power metal scene. “Age of Aquarius” fails in but one regard, and it’s an unfortunate transgression indeed – it sets expectations for the rest of the record way too high.
As E.V.O continues to spin, it becomes apparent that this is not your average Almah album. Gone is the moody heaviness that dominated previous efforts Motion or Unfold. From “Speranza” onwards the music is unabashedly upbeat, vehemently vomiting forth sunshine and rainbows at every opportunity. This positivity is not a problem in and of itself, but many of the melodies used to express it sound derivative and simplistic. “The Brotherhood” is too cheesy for its own good, reminding me of a Christian rock song more than a power metal ballad. The chorus to “Infatuated” is so generically poppy it physically upsets me with every listen. The riffage on “Innocence” treads dangerously close to nu-metal-land, a dark and desolate place I escaped long ago.
None of the material I’m griping about is inherently bad (with the notable exception of “Infatuated”), it’s just that a lot of it isn’t all that compelling either. After the complexity and creativity displayed in the opener, many of the cuts feel tepid. The average song length is a concise four minutes. This further lends itself to the poppy, sing-along-metal mentality that permeates the record. Many bands have pulled off this style while still writing enjoyable material (see Mastadon’s The Hunter) but with E.V.O Almah haven’t nailed that sweet spot between infectiously catchy and intellectually stimulating. After such a strong start the disappointment hits deep.
It’s a damn shame too, because E.V.O contains so many splashes of excellence. Songs like “Pleased to Meet You” demonstrate a forward thinking creativity, evoking Protest the Hero while the band experiments with their usual sound. Even on the weaker cuts Marcel Barbosa’s fret-work is top notch, his solos often reminding me of Michael Romeo’s from Symphony X. The album is produced to a tee, sporting a dynamic and modern mix that captures all the energy of the music. These traits make E.V.O all the more frustrating a listen, as there’s so much being done right here that it feels like Almah squandered the record’s potential.
We metal fans are often considered a gloomy bunch. When a release like E.V.O comes around and blatantly beats us about the head with messages of golden-age living and poppy, uplifting positivity, we take pause. It’s not that we’re allergic to happiness, it’s just that we want our music to engage us in the way other genres do not. E.V.O fails in that regard, while succeeding in so many others. It’s a baffling experience of a record that demonstrates Almah’s veteran skills while also frustrating me to no end. It’s worthy of a listen if only to see whether or not you agree, but there’s undoubtedly worth in this music. It’s simply too inconsistent to give a higher recommendation. Who would have thought such happy music could put me in a bad mood?