Originally written by Justin Bean.
Allow me to pose a rather challenging question to the fans of a genre plagued by elitism-
What is talent in regards to music? Is it technical proficiency in playing an instrument? Is it the capacity to write a good song? Or is it the ability to play lots of notes and lots of double bass really fast? There are many answers to this question, each one demonstrating the subjective nature of the word ‘talent’. Anyone can claim that such-a-such band or performer is ‘talented’, but talent is completely relative with metal being no exception to this rule.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of power metal (make that progressive power metal), it is hard to deny the elevated level of talent Angra possess. Temple of Shadows is Angra’s highly ambitious full length follow up to 2001’s Rebirth which was nothing short of a dazzling display of Angra’s ability as adaptable and diverse song writers, as well as a showcasing of their well-honed talent as musicians. Temple of Shadows is a thematic maelstrom of technicality, dynamics, energy, and, unfortunately, boredom, that at times picks up where Rebirth left off—further reinforcing Angra’s ability as progressive power metal all-stars—but also has the tendency to lapse into long periods of attention-draining kitsch.
It is true that the presence of talent doesn’t necessarily make for a good album. Yet coupled with a successful song writing formula that demands the listener remain engaged with and attentive to most of this thirteen-track epic, talent in this case makes for a high quality release. I use the word ‘most’ because despite the diversity of sounds on Temple of Shadows, the album does lag at several points. It opens with three stunning tracks of melody, speed, aggression, and beauty that have something for everyone; thrashing guitars, pummeling percussion, and plenty of solos that put John Petrucci (Dream Theater) to shame. “Wishing Well” marks the album’s first dip below the high bar set by the first three songs. The combination of acoustic guitars, keyboards, and operatic vocals place the song in the rock-opera department, sounding more like a musical’s score than a metal album. But fear not! “The Temple of Hate” once again grabs you by the seat of your pants and the speed and thrash returns. Aghast! Like the hormonal ups and downs of a fourteen year old, the album again makes a dive on “The Shadow Hunter” and doesn’t ever quite recover its prior level of excellence.
If you venture beyond track 9, you’ll find yourself surrounded by experimental landscapes that cover folk (“Late Redemption”), prog rock (“Morning Star”), jazz, and more of the rock opera soundtrack. The profound skills of each musician in Angra is constantly apparent no matter what style is being played, but the final four or five tracks, some of which are six and seven minutes long, may become difficult for some to swallow by the album’s forty minute mark.
Quickly I’ll mention the recording – it’s damn near perfect. Simple as that.
I’ll conclude by saying that overall, despite how it may seem, I found little to gripe about on Temple of Shadows. I personally enjoy most of the tracks, whether they’re slow, fast, cheesy, or brutal. I’ve done my duty and offered up an objective, critical dissection of this towering opus of a release, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one fine piece of musical artistry. Of course some of you might already dislike this album based upon the fact that it is progressive power metal of the highest order, but even a self-proclaimed death metal fiend such as myself can’t deny that this release is on par with the ‘best’ of any genre of metal which is, after listening to the barrage of beautifully crafted guitar solos and harmonies, the beat-splicing-and-dicing rhythm section, and the operatically-proficient vocals, a near-indisputable fact.