Shaman - Origins
AFM Records
Melodic / Progressive Power Metal
10 songs (42:21)
Release year: 2010
Shaman, AFM Records
Reviewed by Kyle
Album of the month

I have no clue what Angra and Shaman are smoking, drinking, or otherwise ingesting, but I want some of it. Obviously both bands stem from the same origins (no pun intended) – each was founded by Andre Matos, who can’t seem to remain in a band for more than five years due to “musical differences” (or perhaps just being a cunt). But the soul of these bands is something truly special, equally influenced by both a love for well-crafted heavy metal and for traditional Brazilian music. For Shaman, however, that magic seemed to all but disappear with Reason, the overwhelmingly disappointing follow-up to the band’s fantastic, nearly-classic debut. I was so turned off by that album that I didn’t bother with the album that followed next, Immortal (I assumed that with every member replaced except for Ricardo Confessori, the band was far from it). Yet now here we are with yet another post-Matos Shaman album, Origins, and a combination of rave reviews and promising word-of-mouth compelled me to take a listen.

As those of you who have almost assuredly glanced at my score already know, I was stunned. On first listen, Origins hit me as an undeniably gorgeous album, a combination of tight, technical progressive riffs, sublime choruses, and a sense of folksy tradition that all gels splendidly. In short, describing Shaman in the year 2011 as a beefier, more straightforward take on Angra’s effective prog/power/folk metal formula wouldn’t be too far off. The album is a conceptual one, revolving around a young man’s coming-of-age story in Russia. I unfortunately can’t find more info than this online, but the lyrics do a nice job of conveying a sense of maturity and growing up that, combined with truly beautiful and memorable melodies, makes for an effective album where the themes covered fit perfectly with the songwriting, translation flubs be damned (and there are a few).

In fact, when you look at the album from a perspective where the album matures along with the young man it tells the tale of, the fact that the songs grow slower and more methodically written as the album goes on makes perfect sense. Yes, the album drags a bit at its tail end – a mediocre ballad and an overall slower pace are to blame here – but with this shift comes a greater presence of acoustic guitars and lovely symphonic meanderings that make for a nice break from the full-on power metal that Shaman bombards the listener with for the first half of Origins. This album really does move at a breathless pace at its start, with two wonderful melodic power metal epics leading the charge (Lethal Awakening and Ego) with a nice ‘n’ heavy progressive piece (Inferno Veil) sandwiched firmly between the two.

And throughout, that same sense of melody I keep raving about never leaves; the bridge of Lethal Awakening and the chorus of Finally Home (the album’s masterpiece) nearly brought me to tears the first time I heard them. Needless to say, such fantastically written music provides superbly talented musicians; Ricardo’s drumming is as well-planned and diverse as ever, providing a solid framework for precise, meandering, machine-gun guitar riffs. Unique bass lines are provided throughout the album – you can actually hear the bass guitar quite well in the mix – and anchoring it all are Thiago Bianchi’s vocals. I have mixed opinions about this guy; he can sound really amazing sometimes (Lethal Awakening, Finally Home), but when he opts for a more intense singing style he just comes off as silly. Plus, I think I can detect just a slight hint of autotuning technology at work (sometimes his vibrato just sounds jumpy and artificial, typically a telltale sign of autotuning), but overall he’s a competent vocalist – though perhaps not the best choice for the band.

So, that’s Origins in a nutshell: A beautiful, at times moving piece of power metal, marred only by a weak song or two, some odd vocals, and a less-than-perfect production job. Yes, a bit more time could have benefited the overall mix to great effect; as it is, vocals are a bit low in the mix and each component doesn’t quite mesh together as crisp as it could (though this is certainly not a fault of the musicians). To wrap things, up, I’ll just say this: Power metal fans, Angra fans, and those that thought Shaman’s quality had taken a permanent nosedive, you owe it yourself to pick up Origins. It may have flown under my radar last year simply because of my lack of interest in the band, but I’m certainly glad I decided to pick this gem up; I highly suggest that all power metal fans follow suit.

PROS: Awesome performances, gorgeous melodies, and a heaping helping of that soulful Brazilian vibe that Angra fans will immediately recognize.

CONS: Production could be better, a couple of weak songs, vocals are hit-or-miss. Plus, it's over way too soon!

Killing Songs :
Lethal Awakening, Ego (Pts. I & II), Finally Home, S.S.D. Signed, Sealed, Delivered)
Kyle quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Shaman that we have reviewed:
Shaman - Ritualive reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
Shaman - The Ritual reviewed by Chris and quoted 93 / 100
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