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Three years after the superlative Underworld Adagio released their third full length Dominate. Armed with a brand spanking new singer in Gus Monsanto, who is a world class prog/power vocalist. Gus boasts a quality mid-range and an excellent high register, in some ways he was the perfect voice for the band with a more "metal" voice, although I still prefer David Readman. Another change to the fold was a shorter album length, as well as shorter songs and the arrival of slight extreme metal influence.
I've always felt Dominate was something of a double edged sword, on the one hand the strong material here is some of the bands very best, and on the other was the fact that this just couldn't live up to Underworld no matter which way you look at it. Where this album succeeds is in its first half, a tour-de-force in prog/power. Some of this material is quite heavy, particularly "Arcanas Tenebrae/Dominate" and "Terror Jungle" which rivals Symphony X at their most punishing.
Where I feel this album fails, is in the extreme vocals which stick out like a sore thumb, and as seems to be the trend with Adagio is another top heavy album. However I felt it is more so with Dominate I very rarely bother with anything post "R'Lyeh the Dead", and that Fame cover is fucking redundant.
On the whole Dominate is a worthy purchase though, especially for fans of the band. If you were put off by the longer songs on their previous two albums this one gets straight to the point. The first 5 tracks are absolutely worth your money, but the rest can be happily missed. I feel this would have been better suited to being an EP.
Do you hate those 1 minute intros that start so many Power Metal albums? Well…Adagio probably hate them too because they waste no time with the opening track “Fire Forever”. It’s melodic, heavy and chorus based, showing great energy and is generally a crowd pleaser. You will find a similar approach to songwriting throughout the whole album and it has a sort of Gothic Horror movie vibe to it.
Let’s get this out of the way though, I think Adagio lost something after Underworld when David Readman left the band on management issues. While it is true he didn’t have his hand particularly far in the songwriting pie, something about the sound on this album feels a bit hollow and rushed. It may or may not be due to him leaving. Even the lyrics seem to have been less thought out and polished. Some listeners like this album more than the other ones, and I think they like the energy, the focus, the obvious technical proficiency and the kind of subtle progressiveness that comes across as unpretentious.
Make no mistake, Adagio has a full roster of very very skilled musicians (yes that includes the drummer and bass player) and a vocalist with a decent set of pipes too on this album. Together they could probably come up with decent song in about five minutes with some decent bass lines, guitar solos, keyboard lines and vocal lines, all in one song; what makes me disappointed is that the songwriting could have been more ambitious! The production sacrifices reverb and atmosphere for loudness and headbangability. The songs are all chorus based and seem predictable because of it. Often the verses go straight to the chorus without any kind instrumental interlude to build the tension. Perhaps the band has become a job for the members instead of a vessel for musical expression like it should. The inclusion of a cover of the song “Fame” is quite uh…telling if you ask me.
You may ask why I gave it a positive score? Well it’s because this band still knows how to write entertaining songs; Stephen Forte and Kevin Codfert are one insane pair and their solos are still well above average and carry some drama and emotion. Codfert exerts his unusual piano playing a few times to good effect and Forte’s harsh vocals are intense even if they are sometimes seem out of place. “Children of the Dead Lake” is probably my favorite song on the album and it IS a good song even if the theme for the lyrics is mad and contains laughable grammatical errors. There is a bizarre bit in “The Darkitecht” that’s straight out of the soundtrack to the Adventures of Tintin by Herge too...The ballad is ok.
In conclusion, Adagio have created a crowd pleaser that is entertaining but at times seems like a shadow of what it could have been. From the sound of “Archangels in Black” this poppy, hook based sound is the direction that the band wants to go and frankly, when a band is this good you have to cut them some slack. There aren’t many bands that could make an album like this.
Reviewing stuff like this is tough, since there isn't a whole lot to really say about it. Adagio are a French Progressive/Power Metal band and this is their third album, and while it is listenable, it is not especially good or remarkable in any sense of the word. Adagio really, and I do mean REALLY, like Symphony X, to the point of emulating them in a fashion similar to an immature younger sibling, and it shows here. Most of these songs would fit like missing puzzle pieces on The Divine Wings of Tragedy or The Odyssey, featuring Symphony X's trademark neoclassical wizardry, the riff and songwriting style, and a vocal performance that could be likened to a weaker Russel Allen - Gustavo Monsanto is not untalented, but he isn't particularly stirring or unique in his workmanlike delivery either. Let me just underline the fact that a lot of the songs here really do sound as if they were ripped from Symphony X recording sessions; it is THAT bad. Copying isn't always a sin, but at least do it with some spark of passion or aggression or anything that at least makes the music enjoyable! This band seems to be too afraid to step outside of their box and do anything besides leaf through Symphony X's books, which is a shame - the talent is obviously there.
At times this isn't even really Prog, borrowing far too much from their more fellated peers to "progress" at all, but in the end, Dominate is not that bad of an album. It's simply unremarkable, with even good songs like the haunting stomp of the title track and the sprawling "R'Lyeh the Dead" coming off as lacking in comparison to any of Symphony X or Angra's better songs, and without most of the great hooks that those bands use, too. Symphony X and Angra are great bands because they have the ability to write catchy songs while still breaking down walls of complexity at the same time, and Adagio simply don't write very good hooks, instrumentally proficient as they are. Dominate is, in the end, a disc of mediocre quality that won't stick with you after it's done. Get it if you must, but it's really nothing more than cookie cutter Prog/Power Metal.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
The arrival of talented Brazilian vocalist Gustavo Monsanto signalled great things to come from Adagio, France’s answer to Symphony X, but unfortunately last year’s ‘Dominate’ failed to live up to their past glories. Gone are the impressive neoclassical elements for the most part, restricted to Stéphan Forté’s brief lead guitar passages in the style of Michael Romeo or a laid-back Yngwie J. Malmsteen, while Kevin Codfert’s keyboards now sound just about the same as every other power metal band that fancies itself as a bit progressive. One of the most noticeable and drastic changes is evident within the first minute of the album, as Monsanto’s pleasant mid-range singing gives way to one of the least effective death metal growls I’ve heard in a long time, as Adagio seemingly attempt to join the melodic death metal bandwagon despite sharing few other similarities besides a couple of particularly heavy passages in assorted songs that last for all of thirty seconds.
I’m being a bit harsh on this album, essentially a collection of quite enjoyable modern metal songs, but it’s because it disappointed me so much. Adagio’s ‘Underworld’ was an excellent release that combined the usually pretentious and tedious neoclassical metal genre with genuinely powerful and enjoyable prog metal in the vein of America’s Symphony X, but here that band’s influence is allowed to dominate (ironically), the only release being in the more traditionally power metal songs that owe equally to Brazil’s Angra and to older artists such as Dio. Note those names down if you didn’t know them already, and hunt their albums down, after which you can return to this as a sort of disappointing epilogue. Beginning as a seemingly straightforward prog-power album in the vein of Angra, something that wouldn’t have been entirely unpleasant, the rest of the songs tend towards blatant Symphony X forgery that are, at their best, effective but inferior copies of the real deal, and at their worst churn out a couple of cheesy eighties rock ballads. There’s even a pointless cover of Irene Cara’s ‘Fame’ that departs from the original in all but the vocal melody, yet doesn’t do anything interesting with the song (you know, THAT ‘Fame.’ Yeah, the eighties thing. No, not that one, that’s ‘Gold’ you’re thinking of, this is that other one that’s pretty much the same as that. Yeah, that one).
The first song is really good, even if it’s nothing new. A relatively straightforward power metal anthem permitted to mess around a little towards the end with some guitar noodling and a cool solo, this song is a great introduction for new vocalist Monsanto, even if his growls are a little distracting and unpleasant. His default range is great, booming in the middle like his finest contemporaries, and he has a good singing voice too, so it’s a shame he doesn’t use it more. Like most simple metal songs, this is mainly remembered for the enjoyable chorus in which Monsanto wails the title against a barrage of fast and nicely developed instrumentation, there really isn’t anything to fault this track as an album opener. The semi-title track is another good effort, although a little long, in which the heavier elements come to the fore with greater reliance on growled vocals and double bass drums complete with some blast beats and what the band imagines are black metal keyboard melodies. It’s a little confused, seemingly trying to earn praise for being heavier than it actually is in the style of many melodeath bands, but once again it’s the chorus that stays with the listener as they try to type a review afterwards, this time performed in the medium range to suit the slightly darker tone.
It’s with the third track that the album starts to disappoint by relying too much on its influences and essentially throwing out a number of songs that could be considered Symphony X B-sides. The way the drums and guitars hammer out clinically precise rhythms in perfect time with each other before giving way to a keyboard melody is taken straight from Symphony X, and even the main riff, once it develops, reminds me completely of that band around the period of the ‘V’ album, released six years earlier. This song is notable for a cool bass lead section, in which Franck Hermanny seems intent to prove his credentials by playing a number of unusual high notes before returning to his back seat, but once everything settles down into verses and choruses the style once again shifts into what I can’t help but identify as 90s Dio, using the same slowed, near-doom heavy riffs and vocal style as the former Black Sabbath frontman. Perhaps realising that there’s nothing left to lose, the band then transform into 80s Dio for ‘Children of the Dead Lake,’ though this more upbeat song is more interesting for its instrumental sections in the second half, culminating in a speedy piano ditty in the vein of Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘Sting of the Bumblebee,’ only less fun.
Perhaps the stand-out track of the album, though not quite my favourite, is also the last point at which the album is really worth listening to. The epic ‘R’Lyeh the Dead’ begins with yet another dingy keyboard intro, though this time extended as a proper introduction for this eight-minute piece, complete with what are probably synthesised violins but still sound very nice, before a dirty guitar crawls up into the tomb and unleashes the heaviest riffs of the album, accompanied by a steady and enjoyable drum beat. The reason this song works where track three failed is that the heavy sound here is a natural development of the band’s standard tone, rather than a blatant failed attempt to sound like death metal, although Monsanto does growl predominantly once again. The majority of the song is enjoyable and suitably demonic, excepting the light and cheerful keyboard solo that Codfert decided was a good idea to include for some reason or other, while the last few minutes are another chance for the band to show off within reason, and according to taste. It’s a little too long, but this is an enjoyable song that keeps the album from being a complete failure; it’s just a shame that everything afterwards is of little value.
‘The Darkitecht’ follows a similar formula to the rest of the album, beginning slowly with a section that seems to draw directly on Black Sabbath’s 1970 title song (Note: If you’re thinking of ripping something off and hope nobody will notice, don’t pick the very first metal song ever recorded), but the rest is the usual Symphony X worship, complete with a keyboard solo overlaid on top of an instrumental jam that could come from pretty much any of their early recordings. The fade out at the end would act as a form of relief, if not for the horror of the next song: ‘Kissing the Crow’ is without a doubt the worst song here and shatters the mould completely, a short piano ballad with soft singing that robs Monsanto of all his charm. After that comes the infamous cover of ‘Fame,’ unrecognisable until the chorus comes in and Monsanto delivers the well-known lines in a disinterested manner. There might be a guitar solo or something, I don’t really care. Many versions of the album conclude with the bonus track ‘Undying,’ which fits perfectly into the sound of the album and even tends a little more towards the power metal direction of the opening song, though by this point I was too fatigued and disillusioned by the preceding offerings to enjoy this average extra as much as I perhaps would otherwise.
I’d strongly advise against buying Adagio’s most recent album, and instead aim to track down their excellent ‘Underworld’ or perhaps the more highly rated albums of the bands they seem content to steal from, namely Angra’s ‘Temple of Shadows’ and anything from Symphony X. Gustavo Monsanto proves that he’s a great vocalist when he’s not trying too hard to sound angry, and Stéphan Forté has proven his guitar abilities many times, so I’m hopeful that this album doesn’t represent the start of a downturn for these otherwise impressive Gauls.
The first time I've heard an Adagio's song was in 2002, a friend of mine has bought their first record "Sanctus Ignis", my first impression wasn't so bad, even being a generic Symphony X.
In the last year I'd heard about a brazilian singer in Adagio, his name was Gus Monsato, it awakes my curiosity, first to hear the band with a new identity and after to hear a compatriot in a very promising band.
For my surprise, "Dominate" is much better than the others releases, the first song "Fire Forever" sonds like an Angra cover, the lowest point in "Dominate", but from the second track to the end we can see a very heavy, dark, gothic and technical band, with 2 capital influences - Symphony X and Angra - and various elements of Thrash Metal, Death Metal and Doom Metal.
Monsato is a great singer, I'm sure he'll make history in Adagio, his influences makes the songs more melodic but sometimes more agressives, like varying it enters Edu Falaschi and Chris Barnes.
Forté keeps doing a great job, some good grooves and solos, but the great prominence is the compositions in a general way, more directed in the band than in himself.
In “Dominate” the majority of songs are candidates to be classics, the title track is a real work of art! Mixing death metal parts with the other melodic ones in a shady atmosphere with a sticky chorus, following the same line it is "Terror Jungle" maybe my favorite song.
"Children Of The Dead Lake" and "The Darkitecht" places more the melodic side in evidence, but without losing the dark atmosphere and the great chorus' melody. The epic and heavy "R’Lyeh The Dead" is another one that enchanted me deeply for the clear influences of Doom Metal.
Finishing with the cover for the disco music "Fame" that sounds very different of the original version and the japanese bonus track "Undying" very similar to Symphony X, especially in 'Divine Wings Of Tragedy', but a very good song too!
A record to hear and to applaud, of a band who certainly will make new fans
First of all I have to say that this is a very good album. It shows great musicianship, good melodies and dark atmospheres. But this is something that can also be found on the previous Adagio releases in a more interesting way. "Dominate" shows a simpler, more metal version of their symphonic / progressive metal style. This might not be necessarily a negative point, but I think it makes Adagio lose their best ability: the mixture of progressive metal and classical music. "Dominate" is basically a prog / power metal album with some orchestral elements, a little bit in the vein of newer Angra. In fact, the new singer Gus Monsanto sounds pretty much like Edu Falaschi. That's not a bad thing, of course. But this album lacks the amazing dynamics and complexity of the previous albums, especially "Underworld". It barely surprises the listener.
Growls are a new element to be found here, performed by Stephan Forté. They can be heard on several songs, doing a nice contrast with Gus' melodic singing. I especially like the effect on the title track, with a very cool black metal part in the middle. This is one of the best songs, carried by a powerful rhythm and catchy vocal lines. It's also pretty dark, as the rest of the album. "Children of the Dead Lake" is a fast song featuring a fantastic piano interlude that remids me of Beyond Twilight; this is probably my favourite and most "Underworld-ish" sounding part of the whole album. Keyboard player Kevin Codfert is incredibly talented, too bad he doesn't play a big role most of the time. I especially appreciate his piano playing.
Orchestral elements are still present. "R'lyeh the Dead" starts with a long intro which is suddenly broken by a massive guitar riff. This is a long composition with lots of death metal vocals. "Terror Jungle" also shows strong orchestral elements in the beginning, mixed with heavy guitars. Yet, as I said, the album is more metal oriented and less classical than before.
Stephan Forté said in an interview that he considers the music of Adagio as orchestral music with metal arrangements, but "Dominate" shows the opposite. It might be more appreciated by metalheads, but personally I find it very generic and uninspired, compared to their older albums. Stephan is an extremely talented guitar player and composer of dark, complex symphonic metal. This simpler approach doesn't show all his abilities. I'm very glad to hear that he promises the next Adagio album to be "the ultimate balance between melodic and extreme metal and can be considered as a more brutal vision of "Underworld"". Yes, I'm sure a combination between the heaviness and extreme elements of "Dominate" and the orchestral complexity of "Underworld" might be the ultimate Adagio album. Cannot wait.
Let me start off by saying that "Underworld", their previous effort, is a classy, slick, and glorious symphonic power metal record. However, this follow up "Dominate" falls flat for many reasons.
Gone now are the classical interludes, magnificent choirs, powerful production, and overall epic feeling. Replace that with more condescend simplistic songs, more growling vocals, out of place guitar noddling, and somewhat dense production.
Okay, their are moments on "Dominate" that really shine. As a whole though, this album has no direction. The title track starts off strong enough, reminding me where "Underworld" left off. Then, a couple minutes into the song, their is a part that sound like it came straight off a Dimmu Borgir album. This sound just doesn't fit this band at all. A high caliber power metal band playing entry level symphonic black metal and death growls just doesn't cut it. Soaring power metal vocals accompanied by amateurish death growls is even worse.
Stephan Forte is a great Neoclassical guitarist and has shown in the past that he can be a great composer. I just get this feeling that he spread himself too thin with ideas on this effort. Being the sole writer/lyricist for a band can have its flaws. Even his soloing on this album is inferior to "Underworld". Although a few world class chops are played through out this album. I have to mention that with a new vocalist and drummer that the band chemistry is not as strong. This can certainly improve, as both new members are quite capable. I blame the material, as it was just not there for them to really shine. Like how the interplay of bass and drums on "Underworld" was awesome.
Adagio seems to be going for a more dark concept. This is were my main gripe is. You have 6 songs of somewhat dark power metal, then you finish the album with 2 very out of place fillers. One being a love ballad and the other being a cover of the utterly cheesy 80's song "Fame". Lame.
I hate to constantly compare this to "Underworld". But that is their high standard for me now. On its own "Dominate" is a mediocre and forgettable power metal record. Its a shame "Underworld" was so terribly underrated and overlooked. The potential for this band is immense. I hope they can rebound on the next record.
Since their first album "Sanctus Ignis", Adagio was seen as one of the most promising progressive/melodic metal bands. This time with "Dominate", the evolution is obvious and the result is more direct and punchy.
Aside from the opening track "Fire Forever", which could easily have been part of "Sanctus Ignis", the atmosphere is radically different. Amazing guitar and keyboard solos are still present but the rythm is far heavier.
The mix is a good surprise as we can clearly hear each instrument, including the cool bass lines of Frank Hermany.
After David Readman's departure, I was waiting to hear the new singer Gus Monsanto. In fact he's doing a good job: his voice does not have the personality of Readman's but he adds some interesting grunts and screams which fits very well the new direction of the band.
Indeed, melodic lines alternate with more extreme kick-ass riffs. There are even 10s of pure black metal in the title track! -Stefan Forte has learned from his listening of Anorexia Nervosa- These riffs are however carefully distilled so that nobody should be afraid of listening to something too extreme. This is still Adagio by the way and we find back dark and symphonic intros, blasting guitar stuff, excellent piano, etc.
There are some minor imperfections, such as the drum lines which are far from being original, but overall every metal fan should find this album interesting. Moreover, the pleasure improves with the number of listenings.
Key tracks: Dominate, R'lyeh the Dead, The Darkitecht.