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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"