After seven years, ADAGIO are back with their latest album Life. While a new vocalist, drummer and violinist takes up the call, there is no doubt that the band have attempted only to progress further into their creative pool to make a record with ambition and scale.
Life begins with mellow orchestral openings, laced with a sombre undertone, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to an OST rather than a prog album. It’s thematic, and lyrical without words. Finally, that bass kicks in, and the drums bring things back into alignment. You can imagine an entire world cinematically opening in your head, long even before the vocals take you into the tale the band want to tell. Instantly, this feels very much in the vein of DEVIN TOWNSEND or DREAM THEATER, a melodic tale, theatrical with a huge scale and weight already embedded even on the first listen. The Ladder takes a turn to the more jazz influences on the prog scene, and it’s reassuring that the guys have a great grasp on that still. There’s a lot to enjoy if this is what you’re into, if you’re looking to enjoy an album for its new and innovative style, this might not be the one for you. There’s a heavy djent influence in this album that might not be to everyone’s tastes, as with Subrahmanya, and unfortunately The Grand Spirit Voyage, while filled with some truly impressive skill in each musicians’ ability to master their instrument, loses itself in its own ambitiousness.
The Darkness Machine, again, feels like it needs a little more refinement and reining of ideas. Each song works fine on its own, with some top production overall, but it becomes more and more apparent that this is style over substance, and a constant change in dynamic from one song to the next is disjointing. With no song under the four-minute mark, as you’d very much expect with an album of this kind, listeners would be forgiven for getting tired a couple of tracks in. there is no master riff or references to listen out for to hold you within the story of this album.
However, fans of ADAGIO‘s previous work won’t have any trouble getting into the feel of things. Again, nothing is much different to their previous work, all the scale and might within the ensemble still remains. I’ll Possess You is as good a piece of musical story letting as any, yet it is lacking any real spark. If anything, it’s the guitar work that could do with some more inspiration. With all this obvious technical ability, it all feels a little safe and by the numbers. Lesser players could make riffs with less intricacy can pop more than this album does, and as the instrumental voice of ADAGIO, the bar needs raising in places. Take Secluded Within Myself – once more, a perfectly fine track in itself, but all sense of connection and emotion within the guitar playing is lost. Trippin Away by this point ticks the box for symbol crashing, key driven ballad, and very little else.
Torn ends things in a similar way to how this record began, finally bringing some continuity. It’s strong in it’s vocal performance, and every part of ADAGIO is playing to make a piece of emotive music, rather than the run through of very expansive ideas as within the bulk of the album.
For sure, it would be best if you could enjoy Life as one continuous journey, however there are several tracks that simply don’t want to fit into the collective. For a band with as much prowess and obvious technical ability, it’s a little disheartening that ADAGIO haven’t balanced the need to push the emotive heart of the album and rein in some more convoluted and experimental ideas to make the album more inclusive as an experience.
Life is out now via Zeta Nemesis.
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