Sound: 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. Stphan Fort 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. // 5
Lyrics: '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? // 6
Overall Impression: 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. // 6
- Duncan Geddes aka duncang (c) 2009