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Plenty of heart, soul, and synths. - 80%

Ridley, August 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, LMP

Ah yes, Adagio. The band that will always get the bad wrap of being a "2nd-rate Symphony X". Well, perhaps calling them 2nd rate as of the band's latest album wouldn't be untruthful, but digging back to their very first full-length release, that'd be an insulting statement to make. In all honesty, comparing this French collection of musicians in the era of Sanctus Ignis and their two subsequent releases to the most popular US prog/power act isn't completely off-base. Both have progressive and neoclassical genre elements deeply ingrained into their sound, have vocalists who sound similar, and partake in heavy use of synths. However, the common dismissal of this band based just off of those homogeneous credentials dumbfounds me, because not only is there enough defining elements of Sanctus Ignis to keep this album's head above the sea of metal banality, it's also a pretty damn enjoyable listen, too.

If the Victorian-era album artwork wasn't indicative enough as it is, this album's overall sound is steeped in a bold brew of Baroque, pre-Romantic, and Romantic era classical fused with a progressive metal core, with the occasional inclusion of ethereal ambiance and oriental-sounding pentatonic scales. Outside of the latter inclusion, this was absolutely nothing new in the metal scene circa early 2000's, but Adagio really take those outer-genre elements to the next level of prominence that surpasses even Symphony X. This could be a recipe for disaster and many neoclassical bands fumble into the pitfall of drowning the instrumentation out with an overabundance of keyboards until everything sounds like a mushy, nauseating mess. Fortunately, main songwriter and guitarist Stephen Forte conjures a good balance between the two most of the time, letting the guitar and bass drive the compositions, with the synths forming a web of near-constant colorful backdrop that only pulls to the forefront when necessary.

Vocalist David Readman of Pink Cream 69 really steals the show here, with an emotive, powerful performance throughout. The level of command and control this guy has over his voice is impressive to say the least and really makes Sanctus Ignis all that much better. Founder Stephen Forte is very much a skilled player and has plenty of interesting tricks up his sleeve, avoiding the typical Malmsteen-esque "soulless shred" and capturing plenty of personality in his solos while dazzling with face-melting technical proficiency. The other band members are no slouches either by any means, with Hermanny & Bruinenburg forming a rock solid rhythm section and keyboardist Andersson having enough skill to keep up with Forte's soloing, which is impressive enough as it is. I will say I'm not the biggest fan of some of Andersson's orchestral synth sounds here, but considering this was recorded 15 years ago, perhaps he had the best available technology at the time.

With the good choices in general sound, production, and playing finesse all accounted for, that leaves one final piece of the music puzzle left to investigate: songwriting. Does it work? Well, for the most part, yes. The first 4 tracks presented are all top-quality material, with "The Inner Road" and "In Nomine..." competing for the best material here and easily two of the best tracks this band has written to date. Just listen to the mind-blowing chorus on the former and you'll get a good picture of what this band is capable of. Then... We're hit with the 11 minute snorefest that is "Seven Lands of Sin", a self-indulgent cocktease of a song that somehow manages to go almost nowhere while irritatingly building up to nothing at least 4 times within the song's bloated runtime. The second act as a whole is a bit shaky, with only the title track flaunting the brilliance the first four tracks displayed.

Unfortunately, this album also falls into some typical progressive metal hindrances at times, and this can be summed up in two simple words: "Because Progressive". Every now and again within an otherwise good track, there seems to be this odd inclination to ham-fist some sort of unusual, forced passage that totally breaks the flow of the song. Take the opening number "Second Sight", for instance. It's a strong opener, with an instantly gratifying prog-riff to start things off, an excellent chorus, and intriguing solo section. Right after that solo section however, the listener is slammed with a "Because progressive" moment in the form of a shitty-sounding harpsichord solo with no other instrumental backing, which awkwardly transitions back into the chorus, followed by the same lame harpsichord returning to fade the song out... In a completely different key. BECAUSE PROGRESSIVE. This is not the only track that has an awkward, flow breaking segment: we've got the pointless piano arpeggio solo in "The Stringless Violin", the solo section in "The Order of Enlil" that sounds like it was imported from a completely different song, and the jarring double-time measure in "Seven Lands of Sin", which is ironically the only thing interesting that happens in that aural melatonin overdose, to name a few.

Regardless of that heaping paragraph and a half of negativity, Sanctus Ignis is a good album, sometimes brushing the edge of greatness, but falls just shy of it due to some meandering and awkward songwriting choices and a lack of focus at times. There's far more done right here than wrong, and to pass this band off would be a mistake for anyone who likes low-key complexity while maintaining accessibility. .

No surprises but good for what it is. - 79%

Andromeda_Unchained, November 28th, 2011

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.

Their debut, their best - 100%

PowerDaso, December 8th, 2010

Progressive metal is a very interesting genre. When by it, it lets out all of the virtuosity of a musician or band as a whole, see Dream Theater, they have let their skill go out without a fail in every single opus they have released. When it is mixed with another genre, like in the case of Adagio, it conserves the progressive paraphernalia and mixes it with the base elements of the other genre, thus creating something that works up amusement easily. Generally the genres have already been tried out, which is basically the reason for Adagio being compared so much to the progressive power metal gods, Symphony X. However, I consider Adagio has done nothing but taken influence from them, as a band that follows a similar genre usually does, and follow their own path in this symphonic divergence of Symphony X's genre, and the clear proof of it is this album, Sanctus Ignís.

Looking for a new band to follow, I ran into Adagio's Underworld. While I think the band had a lot of talent, I felt it was too ornamented and needed less of it, so guided by experience I thought about looking for their debut album, since most debuts don't have so much ornamentation most of the time, and I found Sanctus Ignís. Adagio here manages to show off full talent of all of their musicians, remarkably more of Forté (it's his band after all), Andersson and Readman. The rhythmic part of the guitar tends to follow a very steady way, and quite able to present the similarities with Symphony X in some moments, mainly when mixed with the keyboard's strings. Readman's voice is another similar point to Symphony X... wait, I don't want to compare them, so let me describe more. Readman's voice is usually not high pitched, but he has the ability to take it to some really sharp notes, this can be noticed ever since the opening track, Second Sight. Other qualities of his voice are the the persistent gritty tone and the amount of power he applies into his singing. He is quite perfect for the band, and I say this having only heard Gus Monstanto as other singer for them (he is great for them too, don't get me wrong). Andersson is an outstanding keyboardist. He intends most of the time to help with strings or pads, as he also uses an organ for a few unisons with Forté, for example in The Stringless Violin, on fills or small interludes. On other moments, when it's his turn for soloing, he goes out full range. He has fast piano solos, harpsichord solos and, of course, synth solos. All of them are equally amazing but not as common as each other, the latter being the most frequent. Stéphan has some fairly... bah, not fairly; his solos are out of this world. He is an extremely fast shredder and knows how to apply good rhythmics to the solos, as well as he adds feeling to them. More than anything, his playing was what got me into the band.

The progressive elements are very present in this album. It's easy to find in all songs sudden rhythmic separations, common in modern prog metal, done by the guitars, drums and the almost unlistenable bass. Fitting more in the symphonic side of Adagio there is the absurd amount of strings that make up the intros and most of the openings for instrumental sections on songs, as well as escorts for some solos, be it guitar solos or keyboard solos. The symphonies are more common on the band's second album, though, as well as ornamentations from these. The song on this album with the hugest presence of symphonies is by far Seven Lands of Sin. The mix of both genres, however, brings up the surpassing solos, similar and sometimes better than those of their resembled band, Symphony X.

This album's mix is remarkable as well. Most of the time, albums nowadays aim for an amazing music quality, but this is not this album's point. It looks forward much more into making the voice, guitars and keyboards to stand out. The voice's agent is evident because of how it comes out much more in the choruses or in parts where a choir is included. The guitars take over the sound to par with the keyboards when they shouldn't actually sound so loud, and the keyboards, of course, they need to stand out because of the genre.

I consider this album to be much better than their critically acclaimed Underworld because it is not over-ornamented and is therefore more easy to keep listening to, while it still conserves that darkness and mystery that is present in all Adagio's works (or at least until Dominate). I recommend it a lot for solo fans, you will find the most amazing solos in this album, in all songs. If you are a fan of Symphony X you might like them a lot because of the similarities or hate them because of being a wannabe version, as people tend to call them. It's among my favorite albums right now, and well, if you find it don't hesitate about buying it.

Highlights: "Second Sight", "In Nomine", "The Stringless Violin", "Seven Lands of Sin", "Sanctus Ignís".

A majestic neo-classical power metal album - 96%

Lvondas, May 28th, 2009

From the first seconds of the opening of "Second Sight", you know you are in for something different from the norm.

The baroque stylized choirs, orchestra (though synthesized), the piano, the melancholy guitar soloing of Stephen Forte, the 7th string heavy riffing, the occasional church organ, bells or harpsichord and David Readman's (hard rockish but strangely not out of place) voice all combine to create a glorious atmosphere that summons up images of Gothic Cathedrals and sophisticated French aristocrats.

The tone of this album is pretty dark, focused on minor key melodies, but its all in the name of epicness instead of anger so works perfectly with the posh vibe. When you're in the right mood the atmosphere will envelop you completely and you will be inclined to get out some expensive red wine. Having so much poshness on an album these days is very refreshing. Even the lyrics are deep and tackle topics such as death (Stringless Violin), sin and "Second Sight". Some tracks like The Inner Road are more philosophical. There seems to be a Catholic vibe to the lyrics especially in songs like "In Nomine..."

There are no ballads but there are 2 instrumentals (excluding the bonus demo track), one of which is a cover of Led Zepp's famous Immigrant Song which is barely recognizable in its new neoclassical attire. They are not out of place as this is quite an instrumentally driven album. Speaking of which we have top tier musicianship on this album. I have already mentioned Stephen Forte's truly excellent and virtuosic guitar playing but Anderson on keyboards (excellent solos and keyboard tone choices) and the other members of the band (the bassist and the drummer get their chances to shine) do a fantastic job too. David Readman has a fantastic range (very high notes as well as lower more relaxing notes are hit) and he does a very professional job on the vocals matching the tone of the album.

It is difficult to pick stand out tracks (a great compliment to the band!) but personally my favorites are the anthemic “In Nomine…”, the truly epic “Seven Lands of Sin” (clocking at just under 12 minutes and featuring memorable lines such as “wandering the labyrinth of tears...scaling the pyramids of despair”) and the closing track “Panem et Circences”. It is impossible to say which of the songs are actually the best.

The only negatives I can think of about the album is that the unique atmosphere is persistent throughout the whole album so if you aren’t listening properly you may feel like its is getting monotonous (mostly minor key). This is Progressive Power Metal remember so you as a listener have to focus a little to fully appreciate the music.
Secondly, superficially this music sounds like a Malmsteen, or Symphony X clone and it may not hit you immediately that Adagio has taken the genre to somewhere different and darker.

No two Adagio albums are alike but they all share a few key elements such as the generous use of the piano. “Underworld” is at a tie with this one for what I consider their best albums. “Sanctus Ignis” is more accessible, more focused but less Progressive than “Underworld”. “Archangels in Black” and “Dominate” are a big step in a different (more straightforward and less atmospheric direction) and require a different frame of mind to enjoy fully than the first 2 albums.

Fans of this album may also enjoy Stratovarius, Galneryus, Winds (the use of piano being the similarity here), At Vance or Symphonic X.

Neo-classical metal wizardry! - 95%

Mithr4ndir, June 27th, 2008

This, the first effort from French musicians Adagio, is remarkably good, if a bit inferior to Underworld. Before I go on to the actual review, I feel myself obligated to once again address the foolish comparisons to Symphony X. Yes, Adagio takes influence from Symphony X, as many bands do, but calling them a mindless imitator? Not even close.

The guitar work from Stephan Forte in this album is superb. Ranging from slow, melodic, and emotional to fast, note-filled, and technical, Forte offers something to everybody with this release, and does it well. Forte maintains his spectacular guitar tone throughout the entire album. It's really quite fantastic.

They keyboards, as per usual with Adagio, are absolutely top-notch. While it is my belief that Mr. Andersson (Haha yes. Squeezed in a Matrix reference) is slightly worse than Kevin Codfert, he is still a superb keyboardist. His harmonies he forms with Stephan, or his solos are just incredible.

Now, the high point of this album lies in the vocals of David Readman who is the greatest clean vocalist walking the planet today. He has the greatest voice of anybody I have ever heard. As on their next album, David turns what would have merely been great songs into masterpieces with his emotion, energy, and skill. He is the high point of the album.

The drumming and bass work on this album are one of the few things that keep this album from getting a 100. Now I might not be as big on bass as some other metal-heads, but I at least like to hear it in every song, and that's not always the case. Dirk Bruinenberg's drums are, simply put, meh. The other thing that keeps this from being perfect is the cover of Led Zeppelin's the Immigrant Song. It's fun and all, but completely unneeded and silly.

The highlights of this album are in this order:

In Nomine...
Order of Enlil
Seven Lands of Sin
Stringless Violin
Inner Road

cloning prog bands doesn't work - 60%

Cedric, November 30th, 2004

First off, I’d like to say I don’t know anything about this band, and am reviewing this album while I hear it. From what I gathered from reviews they are a classical/heavy metal hybrid. This usually does not really appeal to me, but I did hear from people they are a little above average than the usual Symphony X or Malmsteen clone.

Hmm, while listening to this, their chops do show, but again, this is another Symphony X clone. Now I actually like some of SX’s work, but that doesn’t make a clone just as good. The vocals are just a French version of Russel’s vocal talent. The solo is another typical show-off solo, with no real inspiration and much arpeggios. These guys do seem to have a crunchier and more aggressive guitar sound, which is usually ignored by most other power metal bands. The keys are oppressive and always present usually playing the key either with strings or pad sounds, and overlaying with harpsichord.

There is nothing really exciting about this band. It has everything to be successful as a “prog” band, choppy rhythms, keys, overly done vocals, and “epic” song structures. There are some parts which can be interesting, with some interesting piano, but this is background music in this stage of metal history.

Symphonic yet very heavy metal - 88%

Manu_SwordMaster, July 30th, 2003

I bought this album because I love everything related to symphonic music and metal...
Definetely after Rhapsody, this is the best mixture between orchestral arrangement and metal... This is even much more heavy...
What I think it is lacking is some big choir... I don't know why this is missing, considering all the classical composers influences of Stephan Forte...
Anyway... it can turn a little bit boring sometimes. And if you don't like long soloing and instrumental parts, then you will find this very boring.

Another strange thing is the lyrics, which are hard to understand for example:
"They ve insidiously concealed the truth
Ostensibly in the cause of Equality:
We ve been coaxed into lethal apathy,
Desperately clinging to an abject safety."
Don't ask how he sing this....

Its very good music, and even can please some narrowminded metallers as it may be heavy enough for them. All the musicians are first class, and the result is very good. The only drawbacks are that it may become a little bit boring at times, and that it should be a little bit more verstile since the sound doesn't change much through the album, (and having so many instruments at their disposition, they should variate the sound a little bit more)...

The FRENCH Connection - 80%

DREAMASTER, March 2nd, 2003

When the French guitarrist Stephan Forté decided that was time for him to do an album, for that goal, he recruited the services of the Pink Cream 69 singer David Readman, the Majestic keyboard player Richard Andersson and Elegy drummer Dirk Bruinenberg. Although he didn't knew what the results would be, this debut album is a great piece of work. Stephan,inspired in the classic composers built a sound for his musical project, that he called Adagio(which mean something smooth, a word used in classic music), supported in classic music . So, it's not odd to see a painting from the Renaissance as the album cover.
The album is very well produced. The sound of Forté guitar and the keyboards was mixed very well since there are some duels between these two, as well as the drums, mainly the drumbass that has real punchy sound and last but not least the voice of David Readman is very well mixed because the choirs that appears in the songs does not stands out over the the singer's voice. Readman's voice it's very stronger and melodic but very different from the usual voice that most power metal use. So, if you like power metal and are sick of the same singers voice, you have here the alternative.
This album has some really strong songs that stand out from others and what is funny is that they are at the begining of the album and not at the end.
The album begins with the song "Second Sight" which is a mid-tempo song(very different from many metal albums that start with a fast song) that intruduces us to the sound of Adagio. My only complaint, is that this music ends with some classic keyboards sound that ruins a bit the feeling you get from the whole song. Nevertheless, this is a very good song
"The Inner Road" begins with a good guitar intro. Here David Read shows the great and the powerful voice he has. The keyboards sets a good mood in this song where you get great guitar solos and also some keyboards solos too. Different from the first song, this one ends with a beautiful keyboards classic sound.
"In Nomine..." begins with a neoclassic keyboards intro that burst into a great fast section where we have a good keyboards solo. Then we have a great moment where you only hear the keyboards, very smooth and the power of the drums with a real punchy sound. This song is really great.
"The Sringless Violin" is no instrumental songs with violins. This song begins with a great keyboards intro. This songs changes between a fast and a mid-tempo pace. In the middle of the song we have a great interlude between the guitar and the keyboards. Once again, you can hear the powerful voice of Readman and also another strong song.
Then comes the epic song of this album called "Seven Lands Of Sin" which begins with a somewhat spooky intro that starts growing in a mid-temp pace to a dark interlude with a great vocal choir and bells sound, followed by a great guitar solo. The song ends in a good fast pace.
The "Order of Enlil" is an instrumental song that begins with a very nice intro with some oriental sounds and with a great duel between guitar and keyboards.
These have been the strong tracks of this album. The next ones are above average.
"Sanctus Ignis" is the song that gives the name to the album and shows us again the great voice of Readman.
"Panem et Circences" begins with a very good drum intro that burst into a fast section. Here you have also an interlude with a very emotional guitar solo, followed by an intricate fast section.
Then we've the Led Zeppellin cover "Immigrant Song" where we have a great guitar work. The keyboards give it a good mood and also a very good additional percursion and string section.
The European bonus track "Niflheim" give us a very nice instrumental version of this song, where you can hear a real beautiful guitar solo.

Agagio begin their career with a strong debut and is a promise in the world of metal.

This album is for people that like to hear different sounds, are not restricted to a genre and are tired to hear the same sound that recent power metal bands deliver. This album is a change for better.