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Ahh good old power/prog. I’ve always found it incredible that here is one niche in the world of metal that is quite accessible for both the old school metal fans plus the newer 2000s breed of fans, but strangely enough as a genre, it seems to be quite hard to actually get into or dig on a daily basis. I hate to say this, but more than often you’ll probably end up hearing “It’s too cheesy/happy/uplifting to actually be called metal” and that “It works as good background music, but nothing else really”. Well having said that, all you elitists out there can safely keep that sad opinion to yourselves and miss out on some of the best metal music out there. Perfectly fine by me. These guys along with Circus Maximus are the real deal as far as Norwegian power/prog is concerned. Even the intro song “Approaching” is brilliant and unlike other bands who use it only for the purpose of being a space filler, this song has an amazing spacey atmosphere (well the whole album does actually) and builds up the first song beautifully and “In Brilliant White Light” is also another beautifully heartfelt interlude with some amazing piano.
Talking of the spacey atmosphere I really don’t think any other song portrays that atmosphere better than the epic closer “The Prophecy Of Pleiades” with some epic vocal lines along with face-stomping riffs laden with a touch of the silken keys. There are even a few instances of computerized clean vocals especially in the first song “Through Osiris’ Eyes” which is one hell of an opener with a ripping solo to boot. “Entrance: Stargate” and “Dreamscape Lucidity” have some amazing duel vocal harmonies with a throwback to the iconic prog/power acts of the 80s, namely Crimson Glory and Fates Warning. “The Seven Sacred Promises” has some of the best vocal and guitar melodies on the entire album plus “Dimensions Of Fire” has one of the best guitar solos I’ve heard in a while; a bursting flood of melody, shred and feel. If you want more of the power metal influence with some heavy riffs “Aegean Shores” will suit you just fine with a killer progressive break at 3:14. I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift.
Nils Rue has one of the best voices in prog with a smooth crystalline tone really giving him an edge over other such vocalists in the prog realm. It may not be exceptional or fabulous in the sense, but boy is his voice good. Where other acts focus more of overwrought displays of instrumental virtuosity or riffing, Pagan’s Mind focus more on the unique atmosphere generated by their music plus no instrument overshadows the other (namely the guitar, which in the case in a lot of prog metal as far as excessive wankery is concerned) and every instrument has its proper and equal place. Also because of the power/prog tagline, their music is a hell of a lot more catchy than the straightforward prog acts with the help of infectious melodies that (good) power metal is known for. And fuck no, I ain’t talking about DragonForce and their shitty ilk. Seriously, if you have no idea about what good power metal is all about, kindly get schooled first and then come back to this review. Go on, I’ll be right here.
What I particularly like about this album is that it does pay homage to the great bands of the 80s, namely Queensryche, Crimson Glory and the like but not in a plagiarizing sense. Rather a subtle influence is interwoven among several of the songs along with their hard-hitting riffs and catchy vocal melodies that a lot of the prog bands out there seem to have (unfortunately) forgotten about. And the best part which is the case for most of the classic albums out there; each song stands out by itself yet adds to the bigger picture of the album. Sure a few might drag on a bit more than necessary (Back To The Magic Of Childhood Part 2 being the only slight offender in this case, in spite of being a good song otherwise) but the rest of the album is so goddamn dope that I can easily overlook that little detail.
If you remotely consider yourself a fan of either progressive metal or power metal, you definitely need this album. Period.
Pagan's Mind wear their influences on their sleeve. But unlike many many progressive bands, this influence does not lapse into outright plagiarism. Listening to this evokes many familiar names, particularly that of Dream Theater, but also say Stratovarius and others. But the band's expression is truly their own, with a strangely futuristic sound permeating dominating the entire record.
What struck me instantly about this band was that they had the ability to write actual songs. The opening tracks show the album at its strongest, with some great vocal melodies. And did I talk about the guitar on this yet? Well I guess not, but its hard enough to hold back. Jorn Lofstad, who I'd never heard of previously, is impeccable on guitar here. Far more of the Adrian Smith mold than the Dave Murray ilk, Jorn's soloing is rather sublime, keeping at just the right pace and rarely ever giving way to excess. It is in fact his sense of melody that keeps the album going during its more tiresome parts.
That's not to detract from the performance of the rest of the band here, and its quite a relief to actually hear the bass play as prominent a role as this in this genre. That said, while the vocals here seem to work excellently for a few songs - I do find them far too one-dimensional for an album as a whole. This severely detracts from the album as it goes through its length, making the songs sound a lot more impersonal and aloof than they really should. Sadly enough, the general songwriting quality of the album also steadily slips away after the first few tracks. Much of the record is stuck on one tempo, and while there are several memorable sections - simply owing to the ability of the band itself, I cannot help but think this could have been much much more than this.
The album is quite overlong and several songs sandwiched midway through the album's length, including most prominently, the 9 or so minute instrumental; could have been cut down to size much as the opening tracks on the album have. Things only truly get back to their initial strength with the competent ballad (interlude?) in 'In Brilliant White Light' and the precise 'Aegan Shores' which features another great solo by Jorn. The closer has some interesting sections, but again, much like the bulk of the album - lacks the sheer memorability that some of the highlighted tracks have.
Pagan's Mind is no doubt a much needed breath of fresh air in an otherwise moribund genre. But there's still plenty of work left to make this nearly as brilliant as it often hints at being. I've heard several songs off follow-ups to this album and they do show signs that the band has actually gone down the right road after all, but that's for another review.
Highlights : Through Osiris' Eyes, Entrance Stargate, Aegan Shores
I've always held off reviewing Pagan's Mind records. I figured it would come off as fanboyish and immature, and that I just didn't have the writing skills to describe Pagan's Mind, who have inevitably become my favorite band over the last few months after discovering them. But I figured I would try someday, and I suppose now's the time---so this is Pagan's Mind's sophomore effort, Celestial Entrance, and it's probably one of the best progressive metal albums ever created.
Pagan's Mind are always compared to Dream Theater, a band from which they take obvious influence---in both songwriting and technicality, not to mention the vocals of Nils K. Rue (which I will expand upon later). They even manage to plagiarize their idols a bit on this album, such as the beginning of the last track here, "The Prophesy of Pleiades", stealing both the melody and the vocal lines of the beginning of Dream Theater's "Learning to Live" (off the Images and Words album). But the difference between Pagan's Mind and Dream Theater is that Pagan's Mind condenses their sound a lot more, they write actual songs instead of just showing off for 13 minutes at a time. They don't needlessly show off, but are content with writing riff-packed and melody-infested progressive metal gems like "Through Osiris' Eyes" and "Aegean Shores." Oh, of course there's some instrumental noodling here and there, as on the 9+ minute "Exploring Life", but there are usually clearly defined chorus and verse structures, and a few these songs are actually extremely catchy, unusual for the prog genre.
Celestial Entrance itself is an enthralling mixture of the best qualities of both progressive metal ala Pain of Salvation and power metal such as Stratovarius or Gamma Ray. It's all got a spacey, futuristic sheen to it, aided by the song titles, lyrics, and cover of the whole package. There's also a noticable jazz influence in the rhythm guitar and drumming when the music slows down (there always has been with this band), which I've always liked, somehow helped with the spacey atmosphere most of these songs have. A very light, mellow, jazzy ambience often creeps it's way into the faster parts of the longer songs, and it's a nice change, very easy to listen to. In contrast, there are also some harsh black metal screeches in some of the tracks here, perhaps adding the feeling that something sinister lurks in the far corners of the galaxy. And this is a prog album, so every note is tailored to perfection, no mistakes here at all. The sound is as clear as a cloudless sky, absolutely flawless. Not too heavy and not too light either, nor is it muddy or dirgey in the least. There's a noticable self confidence about this album---there always seems to be with prog---but Pagan's Mind as a band have never struck me as the type of band to become self-indulgent or snide. This isn't really arrogance, just an unmistakable, fiery self confidence that they'll rise to the top.
Nils K. Rue's vocals may be a sticking point for some. He sounds a bit like a rougher James LaBrie, but he has a very prominent lilt of sorts in his voice, perhaps just his Norweigan heritage, and he tends to get rather nasal at times. But I don't mind his voice in the least, even with the layers of distortion they seem to pile on him like bricks. Every vocal line here is flowing with passion, energy, and sometimes even aggression. The choruses can be extremely catchy, as I mentioned above, and this is partially due to the fact that Nils has a catchy voice, one that you remember after the first time you hear him sing. By his side is one of the best guitarists I've ever had the pleasure of hearing, Jorn Viggo Lofstead. His riffs are heavy metal oriented, with a rather cold, mechanical feel applied to them, while his solos are winding, twisting neoclassical beauty. I don't know why he doesn't get more recognition as it is; he's one of the most criminally underrated guitarists in the metal world right now. The keyboards here are definetly worth noting. One would expect the keyboards by Ronny Tegner to take on a more neoclassical role, or perhaps just a backing ambience, but here they're put into full force with a rich, electronic sort of sound that overlays the guitars and adds to the 'space' theme. Listen to Mr. Tegner's work here and be transported to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, drifting with the stars and watching the planets go by. Stian Lindaas Kristoffersen's drumming is powerful enough to shatter stars, and Steinar Krokmo's basslines are snappy and spot-on, accurate enough to dance on Saturn's rings, providing the needed backbone, and the last piece of this perfect puzzle.
This is an incredibly solid album, and the only Pagan's Mind album where I remember every track and enjoy every single one. From the short introduction song, we're lead into a cornucopia of progressive metal perfection that never lets up on speed, heaviness, or power. Every single song is of stellar quality, even the rather obvious Dream Theater worship of the last track (which is still my least favorite on the disc). They're all very memorable for prog, too, as usually I don't find myself remembering any prog tunes that easily. But with this band, it's hooks galore, reeling you in like the biggest fish in the sea. And there is no shortage of diversity, either, as none of the songs sound alike. Even on first listen, one would be able to tell all of these songs apart. We have midpaced stompers, a few faster songs, one ballad, and three instrumentals, and not one second of the 70 minutes on this disc is boring.
For prog fans, this is mandatory, and you'll love it. And then, even fans of modern power metal will find something worthy of note here, and maybe even the traditional heavy metal fans. This is not inaccessible music in the least. I believe I've outlined every aspect of why this is a perfect metal disc, and thus I encourage you to go pick this up however fast you can. My highest recommendation.
NWOBHM. NWOAHM. NWOSDM. These 'new waves' of metal music have flooded the underground metal scene as a tsunami washes over a city. Now you can add the term NWONPM, or the New Wave of Norwegian Progressive Metal, to the confusion. It's leaders?-none other than Pagan's Mind, the latest sensation of prog making a name for themselves with their epic blend of sci-fi power and prog. Nitpickers may claim that Spiral Architect started the backlash trend against Norway's black metal heritage, but their technical insanity was only one album strong and didn't inspire.
Pagan's Mind have released three albums so far, with the most recent album Enigmatic:Calling, representing the first conceptual epoch of the trilogy. This album, then, is the second foray into such interesting topics as the mystic parallels of the four religions, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and certain theories by people such as Erich von Daniken(who hypothesized that aliens may have affected human evolution by certain methods of genetic engineering) and other scientists. As ludicrous as Scientology and similar theories are to me, I can't listen to the music on this album and hate it for its lyrics. It's all so glorious and fiery to me, like a Steven Spielberg movie, and I can only leave it with an enriched imagination and a smile.
Celestial Entrance represents a classy synthesis of restraint and ambition. Jorn Viggo Lofstad can shred with the best of them, but this album is clearly about the songwriting. For a prog metal band, Pagan's Mind creates some of the catchiest choruses in the genre, and even though 'catchy' is often equated with 'bad' by elitists, there is no redeeming value in being a total shred monster. Many times this isn't even progressive.
Pagan's Mind is different from most other prog metal bands because their keyboardist doesn't play neoclassical solos, instead opting for rich, thick ambience. At times it seems that the band has transcended conventional labels and instead reached the moniker of space metal or heaven metal. But alas, to call it heaven metal would be to prematurely assume that it's the best metal record ever or something.
In addition to the space atmosphere I mentioned, there are a few other interesting tidbits you can find in a few of their songs that might throw you off guard at first listen. For one thing, Nils K. Rue adds two special vocal techniques to his arsenal of badassery. One is a muffled rasp and one is a black metal(or Bal-Sagoth) moan that several modern BM bands use. Listen to "Dimensions of Fire": the fourth stanza suddenly morphs into a black metal segment with said vocals and a phrase in Norwegian! It's amazing because at one instant all pretenses of prog and power metal are gone. It's just an evil black metal section, and before you know it you're reunited to the higher dimensions of the aforementioned genres. Very interesting twist. These black metal moans are also used generously during a narrative portion of "Dreamscape Lucidity". Another thing that is interesting, but not so great, is that the first two verses of "The Prophecy of Pleiades" shamefully rip off Dream Theater's "Learning to Live". There is some slight variation, I'm sure, but it appears that even the best of the new school is not immune to a case of DT-copying.
Still, this doesn't change how I feel about this album and its unique effect. The lyrics may be a little cheesy, especially since Nils admits that he believes all of it, but I've come to expect cheesy lyrics from bands with even a hint of power metal influence. The only thing that bothers me is that on a few occasions Steinar Krokmo's bass lines mimic the main melody too much, but he really shines when the band slows down and lets him do his thing. This is an amazing band and hopefully one that will divert more attention away from the Norwegian black metal scene.
Highlights: "Through Osiris' Eyes", "Of Epic Questions", the great instrumental duo of Back to the Magic of Childhood", "In Brilliant White Light"
Amongst the blossoming collection of Progressive Metal outfits hitting the scene at the turn of the millennium, Pagan’s Mind does much to distinguish itself from the fold in terms of lyrics. Bored by the endless supply of Queensryche worshippers who spend their lyrical capital commenting on politics, but also avoiding the otherworldly aspects of Fates Warning’s music, their lyrics can best be described as a lengthy set of philosophical discourses. The ancient Greeks and the Egyptian thinkers are present in their work, much like that of Virgin Steele and Symphony X, but in Pagan’s Mind we see a large musical divide between itself and these lyrically similar outfits.
Symphony X is often known for its amazing technical displays, both in the keyboard and guitar department. Pagan’s Mind explores the prowess of both instruments, but in a more reserved fashion, and focuses a bit more on the atmospheric aspects of the various synthesizer ambiences and some of the similar potentials that rest with the guitar. The solos are impressive, but they tend to stick in your head a bit more, as they are more individualistic and not so heavily Malmsteen inspired. Virgin Steele, despite having a collection of brilliant and talented musicians, primarily articulates its greatness through David Defeis’s vocals and through repetitive and catchy melodies. Pagan’s Mind has its share of vocal intrigue and memorable melodies, but the sum tends to be more massive and extravagant than a few of its parts.
The songs on here are all individual works of wonder, although when listened to from start to finish, this album can function on a conceptual level. Tracks such as “Through Osiris’ Eyes” and “Aegean Shores” are among the more accessible, containing distinct choruses and catchy progressions, yet defying the redundant structure method of your typical power metal track. “The Seven Sacred Promises” sounds heavily influenced by early Fates Warning and is probably one of the least progressive tracks on here. “Dreamscape Lucidity” and “Entrance: Stargate” are slower works, but still have a solid amount of energy and intrigue to them.
The instrumental works on here are highly impressive as well, exploiting every potential textural device and maximizing the amount of variation between a large collection of varying ideas. The album’s overture “Approaching” segues nicely into “Through Osirir’s Eyes”, yet I could get equal enjoyment out of it by hearing it by itself through random play. Both “Conception” and “Exploring Life” work well together to tell a 12 minute musical story, loaded with treats for the ears.
However, there are 3 remaining songs that truly rise above the rest of towering compositions on this opus, each in its own unique way. “Dimensions of Fire” is the most power metal song on here, complete with spoken dialogues, and a rather cliché sounding chord progression in the chorus which contains a less cliché melody. “…Of Epic Questions” is musically the most original song I have ever heard, taking a set of seemingly unrelated chords and turning them into a rather catchy yet neo-tonal work. “The Prophecy of Pleiades” is my personal favorite, and not merely because it is musically the most longwinded and ambitious among this collection. I have always had a fascination with the star formation that bears this name, in addition to M45 and The Seven Sisters, which is contained within the constellation of Taurus. These 7 stars have been the subject of much fantasy and lore due to their optical intrigue and prominence in the sky when observed with the naked eye. It makes sense that the ancients attributed such magical qualities to this group of stars, much in the same way that they are an invaluable tool for astronomers as they calculate the varying distances of cosmic phenomena.
In conclusion, this album is well worthy of all the shouts of approval that it has received from the various reviewers on this site as well as those of others. It is truly an enlightening listen, one that gives some interesting perspectives on the nature of ancient science, philosophy, and overall pagan thought. Although it is primarily geared towards an intellectually advanced audience, it can be enjoyed by fans of traditional and power metal. I am proud to give “Celestial Entrance” my endorsement, as one of the best albums to come out in 2002.
Pagan’s Fucking Mind! What more can I say about this band that has not already been said? When it comes to genius musical talent these guys are at the top of the list. I have listened to this masterpiece (Celestial Entrance) a million times, and every time I listen it gets better, and I hear something new. I have had this on an almost continuous spin since sometime in 2003. Probably the only other album that I have listened to more is the great Lost Horizon’s A Flame To The Ground Beneath. These two albums are by far my favorite two, and although I will not yet fully admit to it, Celestial Entrance is starting to step over A Flame To The Ground Beneath as more superior!
For those of you that don’t already know (and if you don’t, clime out of that damn rock and wake up) Pagan’s Mind write and record the most perfect music I have ever heard. I have called albums flawless before but never have I meant it at such a magnitude as is here. 100% perfect is exactly what this album is. Nils K. Rue hits every single note just as it should be hit; and what’s cool about him is he can go from high to low with no trouble at all. Besides Nils’ magnificent vocal display is Jorn Viggo Lofstad’s guitar manifesto, WOW! Jorn is now one of my favorite guitarists, as it appears to me he can do anything he wants with a guitar. Not to go unnoticed is the excellent drumming of Stian Lindaas Kristoffersen, as well as bassist Steinar Krokmo, keyboardist Ronny Tegner, and backing guitarist Thorstein Aaby (who is no longer in the band). Pagan’s Mind is not made of an all-star line-up, but all of these guys are extremely talented at what they do, and all the members together is what makes Pagan’s Mind so special.
Doing a track by track review would take me all week, as each song has its own diversity and uniqueness. And yes, every single track kicks ass! The two standout tracks that I will mention are Dreamscape Lucidity and Back To The Magic Of Childhood: Part 2 – Exploring Life. Dreamscape Lucidity is one of my all-time favorite songs! This song alone puts Pagan’s Mind in another dimension not matched by any other musician on Earth. I love the guitar riffs in this song, as well as the lyrics. Back To The Magic Of Childhood: Part 2 – Exploring Life is a 9:18 instrumental, and this is another song that defies music. This IS, I believe, the best instrumental ever written (not just in metal, but in all of music). This is probably Jorn’s best work, as he does an outstanding and perfect job on the guitar. These two songs are Pagan’s Mind at their best, and the cool thing is there are 10 other tracks besides these two that are just as good.
Besides how freakin awesome this album is, the artwork is also really cool. I don’t buy very many albums, only ones that are truly worth it (and of course this was). Pagan’s Mind uses some really cool themes for their artwork; I don’t really know how to define it. Sort of like space of unknown dimensions with a little darkness.
In conclusion, Pagan’s Mind kick ass, and that’s all there is to it! Its bands like this that are going to keep metal alive, and I don’t see how anyone can make a better album than this, and if so, I’ll have to see it, or rather hear it to believe it.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
I picked up this CD on a whim, which I rarely ever do, and to my surprise and pleasure, I was hooked from the first track. Produced by the promiscuous Frederik Nordstrom, the album's overall sound is progressive power metal, drawing elements from both euopean power metal acts and from proggier bands like Dream Theater, though the first few songs on the CD definately have a more power metal feel to them.
The album starts off with the instumental introduction "Approaching," with a nice organ melody line, before breaking into a catchy guitar and drum riff. Then the keyboards come in to flesh out the driving introduction. This track is full of energy and really sets the mood for the first half of the CD.
The intro leads nicely into the first vocal track "Through Osiris' Eyes." Yes, there is a bit of a concept album going on here, or at least a recurring theme through several songs. The songs starts with a fairly crunchy guitar riff, before the keys take over the melody line. The vocalist (Nils Rue) comes in, sounding like a cross between Geoff Tate from Queensryche and a slightly lower pitched James LaBrie...and like them he seems to have some pitch problems sometimes. It could be intentional, and one you get used to it, I find the unique inflections add to the music. His voice isn't extremely high, but remains firmly in the tenor range. The crunch comes back here in the bridge, where the vocals get raspy nearly to the point of a growl, before leading into the catchy, melodic chorus. Which is another thing the band does very well, catchy as hell choruses. The guitar solo does it's job, but it's nothing you havn't heard before.
The next track, "Entrance: Stargate" seems to borrow lyrically from the movie, but it also contains similar references as the previous track. Anyhow, the song starts off with a nifty riff, and is a bit more drum driven, with a very percussive sound. It slows before the entrance of the vocals and a soft melody line comes in. The first verse is almost lilting, but when the bridge rolls around, they kick it up a notch. The vocal range goes a bit higher on this track, especially on the chorus.
"Of Epic Questions" is one of my favorite songs on this album. Again they have a small organ intro, before going into a drum and guitar groove. You can tell this song is a bit different than it's predecessors from the vocal entrance; they are quite deep, before transitioning back into the previous range. I'd say that overall, the vocals are much more aggressive on this song. This is especially seen in the second verse, where they again approach nearly death metal growls, before returning to melodic power metal vocals on the chorus.
"Dimensions of Fire" has some interesting vocal parts ("construction madneeEahesss"). The music is midpaced through the verses, and comes in strong for the chorus. Solid track, nice chorus. Around 4:30, there is a nifty raspy vocal line, and then the songs repeats the chorus again. Which is one of my only complaints about the CD, and it is a minor one. They repeat the choruses a lot. I don't mind so much, because they sound good, but it can get to be a bit much in repeated listenings (ie, having your CD player on repeat).
In "Dreamscape Lucidity" we have what I'd call the first 'epic' song on the CD. Though not as long as "Dimensions of Fire," which clocks in at a respectable 7:30, there is a certian variance in the music and a sense of a quest to the lyrics. It is a little bit cheesy at points ("We protect these dimensions with our eternal souls..."/"I was sent by Aurora"/"Enter the gate and move on"), but overall pulls off the concept nicely.
For me, things started to slow down around "The Seven Sacred Promises." Which isn't to say the song is slow...merely that it didn't hold my attention as much as the other songs did. Verse, bridge, chorus, verse, rinse, repeat.
And now the instumental "Back to the Magic of Childhood." I'm not one for long instumentals, so I don't trust myself to give an unbiased opinion here. Let's just say that my intrest wanes at this point, and doesn't completely recover until the last track.
"In Brilliant White Light," "Aegean Shores," and "The Prophecy of Pleiades" rounds out the rest of the CD. The final track (at least from 1:30 to 2:30, including the first two verses) is complete and utter Dream Theater worship. In fact it borrows/steals heavily from "Learning to Live" from Images and Words. The song totals nearly 10 minutes, yet is interesting enough so that you don't notice how long the song actually is.
So, if you didn't want to read through all of that writing, and want to skip to the overall recap here it is: Good, solid proggish power metal with catchy choruses and a singer you'll either love or hate.