Adagio
Archangels in Black

Even though I consider myself a huge fan of Progressive Metal, it so fell out that French quintet Adagio, one of the strongest contemporaries in the genre, had been lost on my radar for unreasonably long five years before chance threw us together again. No sooner had I heard the first thrashy riffs of “Vamphyri”, the new album’s opener and unquestionably one of its best tracks, than I knew it was going to be an essentially thrilling listen. Of course, the passed years and frequent line-up changes have alchemized the band’s sound but not beyond recognition point. It is still top-notch Power Progressive Symphonic Metal with magnificent arrangements and mighty vocals. Nevertheless, if you start to compare Archangels In Black with their first two albums you’ll see some obvious differences. Firstly, the songwriting has become more peculiar with fewer accents on power neo-classical features which made the debut Sanctus Ignis so similar to early Symphony X and At Vance. Secondly, the songs themselves seem to be more accessible and less complex or focused on lengthy symphonic/orchestral sections as compared to their second release Underworld. And finally, there is far more diversity on the vocal front now, which is thoroughly proven by a wide use of all sorts of shrieks and growls pushed in between the marvelous slightly husky baritone of their new singer Christian Palin (Random Eyes, Essence Of Sorrow). For that matter, the new album has progressed along the same lines as its predecessor Dominate. To my benefit, I finally acquired that one just after I heard Archangels In Black and realized how much I might be losing leaving this niche in my Adagio collection empty.

OK, now I could speak on and on about their previous merits, marveling at one and all endlessly, but let me cut to the chase instead and give you some hints of what you can get by obtaining Archangels In Black. The bottom line is that the new material could be of interest to a much wider metal audience as not only does it consolidate the band’s former achievements in conventional Power Progressive Symphonic Metal, but it also incorporates some newer components, like interesting thrash, death, and even blackened infusions. Of course, they are still far from dominating the band’s trademark sound full of highly contagious motifs, habitual classical piano roulades, and all sorts of shredding and soloing from both the guitars and the keyboards, but they are right to the point here, if you ask me. But once again, don’t expect to be too much surprised if you already heard Dominate, for Archangels In Black is nothing else but the logical continuation of what the band accomplished with their previous release. While not all of the songs are equal in their impact on me, none of them sound bland or uninspired. For you to form a more appropriate judgment of Adagio circa 2009, remember such albums as Dead Reckoning by Threshold, When Time Fades… by Suspyre or Fallen Sanctuary by Serenity. I don’t want to say Archangels In Black is similar to them in every known aspect, but all of the four releases are the treasure-trove of today’s Progressive Power Symphonic Metal standing out due to a much more daring if not illogical songwriting and wide employment of various novelties. And these are the very things that separate all those bands from inveterate prog masters like Dream Theater or Vanden Plas.

Speaking of illogicality I mainly get at the fact that the new songs are written in a much more compact and easier to grasp style, which evidently conflicts with all the cannons of songwriting in Progressive Metal. You won’t find any intentionally prolonged tracks with lengthy instrumental passages and frequent thematic changes here. Nor will you be exposed to unnecessary guitar wankery or dragged out intros and breaks. In actual fact, this is simply a collection of very well-matched songs ranging from 4 to 6 minutes yet putting so many fascinating things you involuntarily begin to think that these tracks are longer than they really are. The secret is quite simple: they merely cut down the length of instrumental investments making them more concise, memorable and opportune. Actually, I find most of the songs pretty appealing and artistically impeccable, yet “Undead” and “Twilight At Dawn” have a certain pride of place among the others. Thus, “Undead” is so inimitable in its conversion from the classical piano introduction to the dark half-thrashy verse with blackened shrieks and monstrous riffs it’s simply impossible to resist the temptation to spin it again and again. Its guitar and keyboard solos sequentially changing each other are quick yet very impressive. Likewise, “Twilight At Dawn” will hardly leave anyone indifferent with its murky melody, wicked leads and spiteful tone. The dreamy break in the middle followed by the imposing “roll-call” between the leads and the solos is especially good!

To me, Archangels In Black is not the best thing ever done in this style, yet it’s definitely one of the most daring and even innovative by today’s standards. So far it’s in my top 5 of the year and I’m nearly sure it will remain right there within the next nine months. Now, try to guess whether I advise getting this album or not.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Igor Stakh
April 11th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I will definitely have to check this out, always looking for a great power/prog band to get into.


  2. Commented by: Staylow

    This isn’t normally my kind of thing – I’m really selective when it comes to this stuff like this, but this album is awesome. I love it.


  3. Commented by: Maidendeth

    Excellent review for an amazing album


  4. Commented by: November5th

    Album of the year so far for me.The have learned how to put all their great ideas into shorter catchier songs,thus extending their music career.


  5. Commented by: faust666

    Absolutely phenomenal.. The best guitar solos of 2009 ( so far ) feature in “Undead” and the title track.


  6. Commented by: Blog › Teeth of the Divine Staff Picks of 2009 › Teeth of the Divine

    […] 12.Adagio – Archangels in Black […]


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