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Potential to be rather awe-inspiring at times - 78%

Innersfree, February 23rd, 2013

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