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Intricate, but also dramatic & dark - 80%

licas32, November 9th, 2011

Following a long waiting, “Archangels In Black” didn’t quite stick with me as I would have expected and thus I embarked on a long reading with whichever reactions the album has been obtaining. I quickly realized that if others showed the same awkwardness, I couldn’t agree less with any of the less positive reactions the album obtained.

So, what’s wrong with “Archangels In Black”?

Fundamentally nothing.

The reason for the awkwardness might be that “Archangels In Black” shows some rather deep changes in Adagio and demands that fans not only relearn what they’re looking for, but also a more extensive appreciation before forming an opinion.

Other than that, “Archangels In Black” is an extremely good album. Instrumentally powerful, between Forté’s excellent guitar work and the dynamic and progressive rhythm section, there’s a lot to chose from. Worthy of note is also Codfert’s exemplar performance, making justice to his reputation by presenting us with a subtle and delicious keyboard work.

Maybe the greatest news is the vocal might that band found with Christian Palin, whose voice will remind David Readman, but more powerful, transgressing levels of aggression that place “Archangels In Black” in a quite extreme side of metal. Some vocal lines wouldn’t be out of place on a Death Metal album and might be excessive for purists, but Christian’s main focus is on very theatrical and dramatic moments filled with the melody to grab you at once.

The resulting music is heavy and intricate, but also dramatic, dark, sometimes close to a manifesto of madness and suffering that will bring out memories of Beyond Twilight, always a good thing. “Archangels In Black” thus presents us an imaginative and less typical Power Metal of Neoclassic and Progressive contours highlighted by the great performances of the musicians involved. If it will take some time for us to get used to Adagio’s new sound, the persistent ones shall be rewarded and this will reveal itself as one great album that even includes a booklet with excellent photography and added value presentation.

This review was written for:

Adagio - Archangels in Black - 80%

Andromeda_Unchained, February 25th, 2011

It's funny how it always goes: the more you expect from an album, the bigger the chance of you being let down. After the fantastic Dominate I was intrigued as to see what direction French prog metallers Adagio would take with album number four. The build up to the release of Archangels In Black was pretty exciting to say the least, featuring teaser trailers showing off awesome parts of the album, and then eventually monstrous opener "Vamphyri" was loaded onto the Internet by the band months before the release date, and that had me sold. After what seems like ages, it's finally time for Archangels… and upon first listen the wind was cruelly snatched out of my sails.

First and foremost Archangels… isn't a bad album. It's actually pretty good, just not as good as it should have been. From my initial listens of "Vamphyri," I thought they were going to roll with the extreme influences that had been creeping into their music since 2003's Underworld. I was expecting the album to sound a lot like "Children of the Dead Lake" from Dominate, albeit with a little more growls. A good description of Archangels… would be to imagine a cross between Underworld and Dominate, but instead of taking the absolutely mind blowing parts from each they just took the decent parts. Don't get me wrong here: there's a nice dosage of genius weaved throughout the rich tapestry of Archangels In Black. Stéphan Forté's guitar work is phenomenal as usual; especially the solo from "The Astral Pathway". The expectations were very high and it's a damn shame they couldn't fully realize them.

Overall this is a good album, and deserving of the 80 rating I awarded it. Hopefully the next time around they will hit us with a mind blower, but for now Archangels In Black is good and will no doubt be better than a lot of the Prog albums seen throughout 2009. Adagio fans, approach this one with an open mind and keep your expectations reasonable, and for those new to the band I'd definitely recommend checking out this album first then digging backwards to enjoy the rest of their material. Certainly worth a look.

Originally written for

Definitely Interesting - 80%

BudDa, September 3rd, 2009

Oh, come on! This is a lovely album. Its not fantastic but its a good ol'solid prog power album and I bet you me, of all the 6 or so prog power albums that will be released this year(yeah, I mean the ones worth checking out) this one right here will rank high up there with the best of them this year. This is one of those albums that achieve the purpose. The lyrical themes displayed in here are perfect, its a way above average album..its heavy, induces subtle headbanging..and at the end of it all, its almost worth forgetting. However, in my case, I found myself coming back to this album again and again why, am listening to it right now. What can I say; this album has grown on me. This is though my first outing with this French quintet.

The theme?! Well, I think the album title-Archangels In Black, couldn't be stressed any accurately. Its dark and its Gothic..flirting with a host of metal sub genres(mainly goth and black) but above all remains true to prog power. Just that the whole dark-ish concept is not lost to us, Adagio has gone on to add some aggressive/harsh vocals for good measure. These though are intelligently place throughout the album and you'll notice that where the harsh vocals are placed, there's also a heavy guitar riff for accompaniment. YES, at some points the album is as heavy as fuck. Take the opening track-Vamphyri for example, which is also one of my highlights off this album. The opening scream is one of the heaviest parts of this record and it is accompanied with a heavy-thrashy riff and well done kicks on the double bass. This riff continues, though subtly and fades a bit as the song progresses. Well done Keyboards fill this void left by the guitar only for that thrashy riff to come back towards the end, kicking your ass in various ways. The Astral Path which is track number two is almost characteristic of this formula only that it misses the harsh vocals. The opening riff is a bit similar to that of Vamphyri and Codex Obscura. However, its accompanied by synth like choir making the whole ambience somewhat epic. Speaking of epic, check out the beginning of, without a doubt, my favorite track on this record-Archangels In Black. The gloomy hellish bells at the start with a choir backing up some outstanding keyboard work is simply to die for. There is even a blast beat after this..yeah, u heard me right..fucking blast beat!

Lets not forget the riff department coz this album is oozing with a lot of that. Fear Circus, of which a video was done for, and which is also the most accessible song on this album has not only one catchiest bridges in "Let me please show you the way|The grim reaper awaits| Flat fifth whistle announces| The deadly departure" but also one of the catchiest riffs. The guitar player pretty much throws everything into the mix..thrashy, heavy and neoclassical riffs abound. So, imagine a fabulous head-bobbing riff and then an even more fabulous solo whipped over it. Yes folks, thats whats happening here. The solos are played dexterously..never rushed. Back to Vamphyri. Here the riffs are played at pace but when the solo comes first, its loud crushing and a bit hurried but as it progresses, the guitarist manages to slow it down. However, this could almost go unnoticed because it doesn't disrupt the tempo of the song.

The only downside to this album I can think of, is that the second half of the album is not as interesting as the first. Like I said before, I am not familiar with Adagio's earlier work. If you are like me, pick this album up. If you have listened to their earlier stuff then kindly email me with how this compares.

Not bad - Not bad at all - 90%

Mithr4ndir, May 9th, 2009

I was square on top of the fence with this album for the longest time. I had heard from everyone who likes this album that it is a massive grower, and I took the cliche with a grain of salt. That saying does hold true with this album. The first couple of listens and you'll be like, "Really? Really Stephen? You actually released this?" But as you listen to it more, you begin to assimilate all of the fantastic musicianship present

The vocals were my main concern coming into this record. I for one despised Dominate solely due to the vocals. Gus utterly destroyed what would be a serviceable record with his vocals. Christian Palin does much, much better on this record than Gus did on Dominate. No, he isn't as good as David Readman, but that shouldn't discourage you from purchasing this record seeing as nobody is as good as Mr. Readman.

Compared to Adagio's first two opuses, this record is far more guitar driven. That's not to say that the first two lacked in the guitar department - that is nearly a blasphemous sentence - it's just that the keyboards in this album aren't as prevalent as in Sanctus Ignis or Underworld.

To expand on the guitars - they are utterly masterful, as expected. Stephan's guitar work is absolutely stunning. There is nothing lacking in the solo department, and unlike some parts of their other albums, the riffs are very, very good too. Much heavier and more ballsy than anything they have put out thus far.

The only questionable part in this entire record is the retarded intro to Fear Circus, and it is the cause of the large chunk of points taken off. It is so horribly irritating that it takes away from the greatness of the song that follows.

Many people complain about the innate egoistic qualities present in progressive metal, and I just have to ask why? That is one of the integral parts of the genre, and it isn't going anywhere. If you're going to complain about it, then you should turn your back on the genre.

Originally written for:

Archangels in Black...Metal?! Just One Riff... - 64%

Daru_Jericho, February 11th, 2009

Adagio are a French symphonic progressive metal band that have had the ill-fate of being plagued with numerous vocalists over the years. ‘Archangels in Black’ is the band’s fifth release and marks the debut of their new vocalist Christian Palin. This release is significantly different to anything the band has previously committed to tape.

The most striking feature about Adagio’s newest effort is the overwhelmingly heavy new sound they have acquired. The guitars are immensely heavy on virtually every track, fast double bass drumming rears its head and the title track has a black metal riff! The use of growls are present on songs, inclusive of the opening number ‘Vamphyri’, and they sound even more gravely on ‘The Fifth Ankh’. The talents of Palin are suitable but do not detract attention away from the guitars. Fortunately, the band is not solely concerned with making their album as heavy as humanly possible. There are a variety of mood changes though out the release: ‘The Astral Pathway’ is an eldritch number; ‘Fear Circus’ shares a fairy tale-sounding moment; ‘Undead’ has sophistication in the form of a classical guitar introduction.

The novelty of having Adagio play very heavy music is that it gets old rapidly. The riffs no longer seem impressive or versatile. The frequency of the dark and heavy sections undermines the power of them used elsewhere on the release. The growls seem to be there for the sake of increasing the heaviness of this album and the release could stand alone without them.

While heavy symphonic progressive metal is fairly uncommon, this could divide Adagio’s fanbase in two. Nonetheless, it is good to see them add something new to their musical repertoire.

Originally written for

Not that impressed with 4 out of 5 members - 47%

duncang, February 4th, 2009

Originally written for

I know that, as a reviewer, my job is to take in every last second of a record and judge the full picture. However, the way that Adagio chose to introduce their new album sets off alarm bells immediately; the intro to ‘Vamphyri’ sounds suspiciously like a malnourished dog trying to sing ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’. Still, after 45 minutes of solid music that sort of thing can be forgotten and forgiven; unfortunately not applicable here. This album is more or less defined by the descriptors ‘progressive’, ‘power’ and ‘symphonic’, and already you should be forming a vague idea of what Adagio sound like. Typical for this style, the production is slick and shiny, but there are some passably dirty riffs with friction that is quickly smoothed over by some peripheral keyboard melody.

A more positive impression that the beginning of ‘Archangels In Black’ gives is that of the lead guitar. Stéphan Forté is a very talented guitar player, with a cohesive soloing style and a good ear for melody. It’s not just the first song either; every song has at least twenty-five quality guitar solos included. Those moments where he takes centre-stage are the most enjoyable on the album. Just as well, considering how frequently that is.

‘Archangels In Black’ is the debut of the band’s third vocalist, Christian Palin. A fan of male ‘operatic’ vocals may disagree but I see very little of interest in his vocals. He hits his notes charismatically; however the bombastic tone of voice does not help deflate the music’s underlying egotism, so wonderfully showcased by the wishy-washy orchestral wank of ‘Codex Oscura’. The lyrics match the semi-gothic aesthetic of the album artwork and the band members themselves. It’s not all about blackened angels and vampires and the like, but a large portion of the words sung are at least tenuously linked to that stock set of images. They are, however, twisted around some philosophical subtext, but from a ‘progressive symphonic metal’ band, what did you expect?

Bizarre intros aside, this album could be much worse. It could, after all, not have any of that wonderful lead guitar and instead be comprised entirely of dime-a-dozen riffs and predictable vocal lines. It says a lot when something as cosmetic as lead guitar can bump up an album’s rating by a point or two. It can say a lot about the guitarist, of course, but it also says a lot about the inadequacy of the rest of the band in comparison. If you do salivate at the thought of another Petrucci-esque guitar player to fawn over, then certainly ‘Archangels In Black’ is worth a listen, but otherwise there are releases much more deserving of your attention.