I must apologise about starting this review off on a negative note, but, as much as I like metal music and have a huge respect for acoustic music, I’ve never got the idea behind remaking metal songs as acoustic songs that some artists seem to think is an interesting idea. Granted, re-recording songs in general is an idea that tends to sit poorly with me (in the vast majority of cases, the original tends to be better than the re-recording, making the re-recording somewhat pointless in the grand scheme of things, although the reasons behind it certainly can be commendable), but, when the only real change to the songs is to take away the electric guitars from them and no major effort is made to recreate the song from the ground up to suit a sound which lacks electric guitars, that’s usually a bad sign. Helloween tried this with 2010’s Unarmed and, while some songs did indicate some greater effort was made into making the songs suit the new sound (‘Dr. Stein’ was pretty jazzy and some of the songs had a focus on symphonics which gave them a grander sound which worked quite well in some cases), it pretty much highlighted why this idea just doesn’t work well in most cases. Goldblade also tried it with Acoustic Jukebox in 2014 and it worked about as well as one might expect trying to recreate punk songs acoustically would.
Still, just because it doesn’t work in most cases doesn’t mean it will never work…well, OK, maybe it does, but there’s certainly far worse people to give it a shot than Brazilian vocalist Edu Falaschi. Known by most people as the ex-vocalist of Angra and the current vocalist of Almah (although he has other records to his name), this is a record by Falaschi to allow him to celebrate 25 years of performing metal music on a professional level. While this is certainly ominous when you think about it, considering the earlier mentioned Unarmed was also a 25th anniversary release, there’s certainly something to be said in favour of Falaschi giving it a shot. Metal might be difficult to translate songs from, but an artist who is used to working with progressive styles of music like Falaschi is should know what is important to the song to keep to make it recognisably the same song and what can be safely changed or discarded without sacrificing too much of what made the original song what it is.
So you would think, at least. But does that happen in practice on Moonlight? Well…yes and no. There are certainly things which work about the record and I’d be lying if I said that the record completely failed at what it aimed to do…but it’s a record that is more a curiosity for Falaschi’s fans than something to really make a big fuss about and I do have to question whether there’s a lot of reason to listen to it beyond to see how the songs have been transferred into an acoustic style.
Let me start the review off with a potentially odd complaint: for a record that is apparently celebrating Falaschi’s career in metal music, it’s odd that just about every track on this record is one that was originally recorded while he was in Angra. I’m not kidding: the only song on here which wasn’t originally on an Angra recording is Almah’s ‘Breathe’ (Bleeding Heart’ was on an EP rather than an album, but it’s still an Angra song, so it counts!). Considering how much of a career Falaschi has had which isn’t Angra focused (I’m not just on about Almah here: he had songs with the bands Mitrium, Symbols and Venus as well), I feel justified in complaining a bit that this is hardly a comprehensive look back on the guy’s career when most of it is just from one band. This could have been a great opportunity for Falaschi to include some of the songs which he started out his career with and which aren’t going to be known to most people to offer something new to the people who only know him from Angra and Almah: as it stands, though, the tracklist is just so heavily focused on Angra that it pretty much limits the appeal of it to the Angra fans who liked Falaschi’s time in the band rather than offering a more general overview of his career. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but, considering the album is being billed as containing acoustic renditions of his most iconic songs from Angra and Almah, I do feel that it is kind of cheating a bit to only have one Almah song on the tracklist, as it just begs the question of why he didn’t just pick another Angra song and release the record as a reinterpretation of his best Angra songs, considering that’s pretty much what it is by that point!
Anyway, the record’s sound is pretty much best summed up as gentle piano ballads with symphonic elements to give the record a grander sound and some jazz and blues elements in some cases to keep things interesting. It actually does feel quite appropriate that the record is named Moonlight, as it reminds me of the sort of thing that you’d listen to on a dark night where the only light comes from a full moon (and you’re wanting to listen to something calm rather than, say, doom metal). I’m not familiar enough with the original songs to say how they translate over into this sound, but it does feel like Falaschi has tried to make sure the songs fit into this sound, as, aside from a few occasions where it’s obvious that the original song demanded a falsetto scream which Falaschi isn’t doing on this record (which is commendable in its restraint and commitment to the sound of the record, since falsetto screams aren’t usually appropriate for acoustic music!), the songs do feel like they’ve been written from the ground up to suit this new sound.
There’s not much point in talking about the songwriting (it’s based upon previous songs, so much of your opinion on the record will depend on your thoughts on the original versions of the songs), so I’m going to instead ask how successfully the songs stand up on their own. As someone who isn’t familiar with the originals, I do have to say that some songs feel like they were poor choices for this sound, as they don’t quite fit in with what the record is aiming for. ‘Arising Thunder’ is clearly based upon a very fast song and Falaschi tries to translate that speed into the song, with the end result that the song feels too fast to really be right for the record’s vibe. I can see why he did it, but it just feels too quick to work as an acoustic song. This isn’t the only song which has this problem, admittedly (‘Rebirth’ also has it), but it’s easily the song which suffers the most from this problem. ‘Angels and Demons’ also is problematic, as it tries to translate the faster part of the song while also maintaining a clear contrast in the speed and the end result doesn’t really work as well as it could have done. I’m also not convinced by ‘Wishing Well’, but more because of the addition of a saxophone onto the record in a way which doesn’t really feel like a necessary addition and doesn’t really contribute much beyond just being there. The song which I feel works the best is ‘Bleeding Heart’, which is done incredibly well and is genuinely worth a listen even if you’re not a fan of Angra due to how well it handles everything. I also find ‘Breathe’ works rather well, although it doesn’t leave as much of an impression as it really should do. The rest of the material isn’t bad, but it doesn’t hit the heights that it should really do to make it worth hunting down for most people.
The performances on the record on the instrument front are probably best summed up as what they are: with the exception of the piano, they’re more supporting the rest of the music rather than really adding much to the music. It’s done nicely, I should stress, and I wouldn’t want the record without most of the additions (save maybe the saxophone), but they’re not performances that are trying to be the focus of the record, so their impact is more akin to adding extra flavour to the music than anything else. The piano is actually very well played, with pianist Tiago Mineiro managing to play some surprisingly difficult material (in some cases, pushing towards speeds that might make you wonder if Art Tatum got reborn and took charge of the piano without telling anyone) and doing it very well indeed. I certainly would say that the guy is the standout performer on the instrument front and I’m actually curious to listen to some of his usual work to see what he usually plays!
Falaschi’s vocals…well, first off, if you’re only familiar with Angra for ‘Carry On’, you’re going to be shocked at how much lower Falaschi’s voice is compared to Andre Matos’ voice. I’ll admit, when I first heard his voice, I actually went “…How did this guy manage to hit notes high enough to be a replacement for Matos?” simply because I wasn’t expecting a voice that is more akin to a high baritone than Matos’ very high tenor. Still, once I’d got past that surprise (about a decade after most Angra fans had already done, I’ll admit…), I did take quite a liking to Falaschi’s voice. He actually plays towards the strengths of the material by going for a softer style than might be expected and completely avoids going for his falsetto. Some metal fans might be disappointed by this, but I find it actually fits far better than going all out would have done. He has a pleasant tone to his voice and, while he doesn’t push his voice to any extremes (again, playing towards to the strengths of the material), he demonstrates an acceptable range to the songs which keeps things from avoiding becoming monotonous. He produces a solid vocal performance, nothing more or less, and he sounds great for a guy who has been singing professionally for over 25 years!
The production on the record is excellent. Seriously, there’s nothing I’d want to change about it, save perhaps making the supporting instruments a bit louder in the mix: the mastering is tastefully restrained, the mix is (mostly) excellent and the instruments sound wonderful. Nothing more I need to add, really!
Ultimately, Moonlight is a record that isn’t bad and is done well in quite a few places, but it only is really of interest to those who are already fans of Falaschi’s work in Angra and always wanted to hear acoustic versions of the songs on the tracklist. To most people, though, I don’t think it really offers enough to be of interest to them. That doesn’t mean this is a bad record, though: I found it quite a pleasant listen and I would certainly say that this is one of the better attempts at an acoustic metal album that I’ve heard. If you’re a fan of Falaschi’s work as a vocalist in Angra, it’s worth a listen, but, for everyone else, you’re probably going to want to give this a miss.
Moonlight was released on the 20th of May by Test Your Metal Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.