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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Promo Backlog CD Review: Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All

Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All
2006/07 Listenable Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I recall getting routine updates from The Netherlands' Angtoria for the better span of 2006 as they were recording God Has a Plan For Us All and I'm sure the behind-the-scenes story of its conception is enough to fill a two-page article, given the presumed blood, sweat and frustration going into this elaborate symphonic/prog metal outing.

By now the whole symphonic metal thing has started to wear just a bit thin despite the mass appeal of Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Within Temptation, Kamelot, Dol Ammad and Leaves Eyes, but honestly, only a handful of the entire lot are worth the salt of the subgenre's earth and if you're keeping tabs, the trend is starting to slip into the hands more aggressive black and death metallers who exchange the style's normally daydreamish soundscapes set to a rockout pace for more brutal though no less melodic measures.

Part of the general lackluster feel of symphonic metal these days is the fact that most of the bands cheat by using synthetic orchestral maneuvers in the Goth, not to mention the customary female leads seldom stretch beyond their contemporaries, and despite the uplifting falsettos and high altos, as a whole, it's all getting to be old hat. While Angtoria obviously managed to get through the rigors of assembling God Has a Plan For Us All, a lot of prog and symphonic metal has come stampeding behind them like a crash into Valhalla, which leaves question as to where this group fits into the fenced herd.

Granted, Angtoria's Tommy and Chris Rehn likewise command their grand symphony merely at their fingertips, but let's give them a little credit; God Has a Plan For Us All has plenty of heavy metal starch and a dynamic lead in Sarah Jezebel Deva to give them your ear. Despite the artificiality of their implemented brass and string sections, Angtoria's execution is smart-as-a-whip and streamlined within the overt drives and frequently wonderful melodies of their songs.

Songs such as "I'm Calling," "Diety of Disgust" and the title track are rich in texture and motion, flowing with close to the same fluidity as having an in-house orchestra at their beckon call. Certainly the expense to produce the real thing isn't quite so feasible in a music society where the threat of traditional point-of-sale CD extinction heightens by the day, thus when a protracted facsimile is handled tastefully and ornately as Angtoria does, then it's far more excusable.

Of course, expect lots of keyboard flashery (sometimes sounding like the music to the eighties version of Knight Rider) and Yngwie Malmsteen Bach-like fret kills throughout God Has a Plan For Us All, but in modification. The Rehns are more interested in creating a tier-by-tier composite of sound with each song, which in turn molds an unfolding Goth rock epic that throws its chest-born soul against the echoing pop-mindedness streaming beneath the entire project.

As God Has a Plan For Us All grows less hostile after the mood-swingy "Six Feet Under Is Not Deep Enough" and more scaled into quixotic and self-inquisitive music explorations (bringing guest vocalists Aaron Stainthorpe and Martin Haggstrom in for note-tipping duets), the album shoots for a grand finale in the final quarter of the album beginning with the split personality of "Original Sin (The Devil's Waiting In the Wing)," which largely comes off like an anxious Danny Elfman score to an unborn Tim Burton film. The album then seems to gain further momentum with upbeat stampers like "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned" and the wistful closing ballad "That's What the Wise Lady Said."

In all, there's an obvious passion in what Angtoria does and God Has a Plan For Us All sounds like it was an obsession to complete. It is a meticulous and strident album with teeming confidence and intelligent counterproposals to an apparently doomed subsection of the genre. If they all possessed Angtoria's ingenuity and bravado...

Rating: ****


The RIpple Effect said...

Nice review. I gotta admit, I burned out on the Symphonic metal genre many moons ago. In fact, I only hung in there for a short time before I got bored, but your summation of this album is excellent.


Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

thanks, bro, I share your unenthusiasm, but every now and then we get some leakers in there