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I've always quite enjoyed France's Adagio, their sophomore effort Underworld is an unsung classic in the progressive power metal scene. However, I'm here to talk about their debut Sanctus Ignis, which from the bands entire catalogue always managed to elude me; when reaching for an Adagio album this is often my last port of call.
Funnily enough though, every time I whack this bad-boy on I always wonder why I so rarely bother listening to it. Imagine a veritable melting pot of Malmsteen at his absolute finest, a suitable helping of Symphony X and some almost hard rock sensibility thanks to singer extraordinaire David Readman. A great thing about Adagio, which was merely hinted on here, was the darker tone they had to their music (as far as prog/power goes). Shades of this are quite noticeable in "Inner Road", and "Stringless Violin", with church organs etc being used to good effect, adding to the grandeur.
The original Adagio line-up was jolly spiffing, of course the three key players were mastermind and heir to the Malmsteen throne Stéphan Forté, keyboard wizard Richard Andersson (who was the stuff of power metal wet dreams) and as mentioned earlier David Readman. These three individuals dominate the album, particularly Forté and Andersson who have plenty of extended passages for dazzling. As for Readman, well his voice just fucking rules, he really should do more metal.
As for the songs, this is you're standard neo-classically tinged progressive power metal, I can guarantee everything you would expect from the genre is here in spades. Standouts would include the center piece "Seven Lands of Sin" which boasts everything Adagio do best, 11 minutes of pure progressive joy - not to mention some of the albums finest riffs being housed here. The aforementioned "Inner Road" and "Stringless Violin" are really cool too. However I do think the album takes a dip in quality towards the end, especially if you have the bonus tracks which drag out the album way more than necessary. Although the title track is worthy of sticking around for, which is a hyper charged exercise is neo-classical wizardry.
While the band still had their best to come <sanctus Ignis serves as a quality intro to one of the cooler bands in the prog/power genre. Everything from Forté's mind melting guitar wizardry, to the dramatic piano's the would later come to use to brilliant effect were here. Not to mention their guitar/ keyboard duels which can match the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X any day. Whilst the album hasn't really stuck with me over my listens I could never deny its quality, and I would happily recommend this to progressive/ power metal fans. Also fans of shredding guitar and keyboards would do well to check this out. A good debut performed by experts.