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Nice balance of melancholy and passion - 90%

Waterlily0198, June 8th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Massacre Records

If you're a fan of old school doom then you probably have at least heard of Solitude Aeturnus by this point, and if not then you could certainly do worse than to give them a listen. In fact, you could check out any of their albums and be impressed if you like emotionally powerful metal. Metalheads talk about Into the Depths of Sorrow and Through the Darkest Hour a whole lot as far that sound goes, but I prefer Adagio, at least currently. It was the band's fifth album released in the 90's so that tells you they were consistent, and I find that impressive considering their musicianship remained very solid throughout all of this, and they never seemed like they were slouching in terms of songwriting either. Something that sets Adagio apart, however, would have to be its overall flow from track to track. It feels like a very grandiose journey as it progresses, and it never really loses its sense of direction, which is important if you have an hour long album.

The music here is doom with a strong sense of melody that you might expect from a prog power metal band. As always, Rob Lowe's vocals can go from hauntingly melancholic to soaring and epic, while John Perez delivers his best riffs which aren't afraid to take influence from metal genres other than doom. For this reason Adagio does really well in terms of pacing from track to track. The intro to "Believe" for example feels appropriate after an emotional track like "Days of Prayer." Additionally the driving riffing in "Insanity's Circles" reminds the listener of Solitude Aeturnus' traditional heavy metal elements, which I think is ideal since singer Rob Lowe has been vocally compared to Ronnie Dio, who was a powerhouse of traditional metal singing (obviously so).

It seems like Adagio wants to be a very massive album, and this makes it both taxing and rewarding to listen to from start to finish. Clearly, the tracks I mentioned previously are substantial and well written, but accessible, metal songs. But you have "Personal God" or "Empty Faith" in the mix too, which are more atmosphere based haunting tracks that serve to break up the intensity. However, if that type of slow melancholy isn't your thing, then Adagio may miss your mark. Still, you might just enjoy the riff heavy cuts, and like I said earlier there's a strong sense of direction. Speaking of riffs, just gotta love the powerful touch of "Spiral Descent", it has a sublime guitar hook that proves John Perez's mastery and the adept nature of this songwriting team. However, this track placed at the end of the album is a bit repetitive for its own good. Take it as you will, I think it's a good but ultimately bare bones metal song despite the refined hooks and fills.

Drumming is a highlight here. John Wolf Covington has always provided rich fills which I think lend Solitude Aeturnus their "epic doom" feel, in complimentary fashion to other elements that may be more obvious like Rob Lowe's diverse vocals or Perez's touch of melodicism.

I do wish Solitude Aeturnus were still releasing albums. I would have to say they are one of the greatest bands in American metal. They mean a lot to me (along with Messiah Marcolin era Candlemass) as my youngest son and I have bonded over their music and the lyrics, on all of their albums. Their albums are definitely comparable and contrastable to one another, both the weaker and stronger moments. Adagio though has the most outstanding songs I would say.