Adamantra – Act II: Silent Narratives
Reviewed by Jeff Teets
I must confess that this is the first review I’ve undertaken for Black Wind where I’ve been previously unfamiliar with the band I’m reviewing. For a change, I can’t begin by telling a long-winded story to give some form of perspective, so I’ll just try to get to the facts.
Formed in 2003, Finland’s Adamantra are preparing to unleash their sophomore effort, Act II: Silent Narratives, at the end of May 2014. Despite being in an underground band myself, I admit I am often skeptical when approaching new bands I’ve never heard of before signed to small-scale labels, which was the case with this 5-piece progressive power metal outfit. I’m often worried that the production will be sub-par, the vocals will completely turn me off, or the music will just leave me painfully underwhelmed. There are always exceptions of course, but many times I find myself scratching my head and just yearning for something different.
Fortunately, such is not the case with Adamantra and its second full-length effort. However, I must admit that starting the album with an 18-minute epic (“Lionheart”) does throw the listener for a hell of a loop from which many, myself included, may never fully rebound. Despite that, Silent Narratives does a lot of things right. The band’s sound evokes several comparisons, with odes to most of your genre front-runners – progressive power metal with symphonic tinges and keyboard solos, reminiscent of Kamelot in places and Rhapsody in others. Symphony X has to be the most accurate comparison though, with the band’s heavy riffing bringing to mind shades of Michael Romeo, dueling neoclassical guitar and keyboard solos, and somewhat gruff but generally melodic vocals reminiscent of, though inferior to, the inimicable Russell Allen. The band’s sound calls to mind a strong influence of the American prog/power metal mainstays circa its landmark album The Divine Wings of Tragedy, which just happens to be an all-time favorite of mine.
The album’s stand-out track for me is, without hesitation, the fabulous “In the Shadow of the Cross”, which features some driving piano texture and a somewhat more melodic vocal approach than many of the album’s heavier numbers. While certainly far heavier and up-tempo than a ballad, it evokes strong emotional and melodic overtones that bring to mind all of the reasons I love older Symphony X and Kamelot so much. Every member of the band pulls their weight, giving each instrument a chance to shine from time to time, including bass, which is all-too-often buried in the mix. The band varies tempo and feel considerably throughout the album, allowing vocalist Tuomas Nieminen to sound like almost two or more completely different singers – a more angry, gruff style (hear him at his harshest on “The Oracle”) and a Roy Khan-esque lower register in the more balladic moments of the album’s epic opener and “Angel of Music”, featuring guest female vocals.
If Silent Narratives has a major shortcoming as an album, it is certainly pacing, thanks to a slow start with the 18-minute opener. Very, very few bands can achieve a successful opening track at 10+ minutes’ length, and unfortunately, I don’t think this was one of them. Aside from general pace, I think the songs could use a little more identity overall. A few tracks (“In the Shadow of the Cross”, “The Oracle”) stand out as memorable and thoroughly enjoyable, but for the most part, I feel the disc is a bit lengthy for the shortage of hooks and memorable moments it provides. The band’s playing abilities cannot be faulted at all however, and despite existing in a comfortable stylistic range, they certainly know how to provide variety. Nieminen’s voice isn’t quite on the same level as the singers he’s reminiscent of, but he’s still beating the average for bands of this style on Adamantra’s level. Silent Narratives is an album worth checking out for any fan who loves the bands mentioned in this review, but if it were to play up its strengths and minimize its weaknesses by the release of a third full-length album, I feel this band would certainly be worthy of reaching a much wider audience, if it isn’t already.
3.5 // 5