Adagio – Archangels In Black
Archangels In Black
I have an odd history with this band, first being introduced to them through their debut album Sanctus Ignis, which was described to me as Symphony X, only not quite as good. I agree with that statement, but the next material I heard from this band was this, Archangels In Black, which is so dramatically different from their debut album that I was wondering what the hell happened to them. So I went on a journey through the rest of their discography in order to discover what had happened. The style in this album is very heavy. Much heavier than their first two albums, and maybe just a bit more so than their previous recording, Dominate. It has more death metal growling and dark, crunchy riffs, whereas their first two albums were very neo-classical, symphonic, and progressive with lots of piano usage and more progressive elements. Previously, it may have sounded like Symphony X, but now they have turned in a whole new direction, towards what I would consider to be progressive/power metal with melodic death elements thrown in for effect.
What really entrances me about this album – and make no mistake, it’s a great album – is how the softer bits and orchestral parts are woven so tightly around the raw power of the rest of it. The atmosphere of this album is really dark, gothic, and creepy; the orchestral arrangements really enhance that atmosphere and provide an excellent balance between heavy and light while still maintaining that atmosphere. This, my friends, is some top-notch song writing. I’ve heard a lot of people knocking this album, saying it should have been better, but I really don’t agree with that. It’s a great improvement over Dominate, though I suppose it could be longer.
Of course, albums are judged by their songs rather than their overall sound. “Vamphyri” is the explosive opener as well as the chosen single for this particular album which you’ll understand the moment you hear this song; it begins with a very heavy riff building up into a scream/growl from Christian Palin (whom incidently is my favorite Adagio singer so far) that immediately tells you this is some seriously heavy metal and not for the faint of heart. Vamphyri is definitely one of the better songs from this with a great melody and chorus that is sooo much fun to sing; this song should be very pleasing to power metal fans.
“Fear Circus” is another noteworthy track, as it is the only music video from this album. It’s got a very cool groove that makes it easy to fall in love with. Actually the part of this song that captivated me the most was the middle section when the metal backs off and the orchestra comes in with a rather haunting melody that leads into a fantastic keyboard/guitar solo. “Undead” is also a great song, with a very well done piano solo introduction which is actually kind of misleading, because when the metal part kicks in it does so with an immediate and not even remotely subtle bang. The melo-death growls are very prevalent in this song, more so than most of the other songs; while I’m not a huge fan of melodic death metal, I don’t mind it as much when they are used sparingly in collaboration with normal vocals mostly for effect; Adagio has really managed to find a good balance in this album. “Codex Oscura” is the epic here, and it’s quite good, combining an orchestral opening with creepy atmospheric effects, memorable melodies, and exciting dynamic changes.
For the most part, all but one song is great: “Twilight at Dawn”. It starts off well enough, but around the two minute mark it introduces the chorus, which is the least melodic chorus and the least enjoyable of the album. It’s not bad, but it repeats over and over again more than any chorus really should. With all the repetition of death grunting, it just gets old (though I think a melo – death metal fan would be able to appreciate it more).
Overall, Archangels In Black is a great album, and the band’s finest to date. Adagio has managed to create a unique sound and make it their own. The orchestrations they use are some of the best I have heard on any metal album (Blind Guardian’s At The Edge Of Time might have a slight edge), and with it, they’ve managed to produce something special. Honestly, with the constant vocal lineup changes (three singers in four albums), I’m amazed they have managed to stay as consistent as they have. This is one incredibly talented group of Frenchmen, and I can’t wait to see what they bring out next.
Ian’s rating 4.25 out of 5