Two years ago the debut of the then new formation ADAGIO, titled "Sanctus Ignis" blew me off completely, with best symphonic, classically influenced Power Metal, which I back then had christened "European answer to SYMPHONY X", and I think that this still stands. I had closed my reviews with the words: "More of this!!" and with "Underworld" anno 2003 my demand has been met.
What has changed with ADAGIO? First of the position of keyboarder, instead of MAJESTIC/TIME REQUIEM/SPACE ODYSSEY key hitter Richard Andersson we now have a certain Kevin Codfert, apart from that the band around French guitarist and mastermind Stephan Forté has stayed the same, at least as far as the line-up is concerned. Why? Because musically they do not just pick up, where "Sanctus Ignis" had left off.
Nowadays ADAGIO almost bear more Progressive than Power Metal ingredients in their sound, even though we still get straight and faster passages, which are rather rare to find in Prog. Still the opener "Next Profundis" shows right away that the band puts more emphasis on complexity and instrumental skills than before. PINK CREAM 69 singer David Readman from the start proves once more that he is an extraordinary singer and is able to really bear a song.
The start of "Introitus/Solvet Saeclum In Favilla" is extremely epic and soundtrack like, followed by crunchy double-bass, driven by Dirk Bruinenberg, from ELEGY, after which it gets a bit more progressive, before dynamically alternating between the two genres, compository inexperience definitely is not the case here. A comparable case is the following "Chosen", which offers emotional and complex arrangements as well as driving double-bass passages, everything flowing into each other, topped off by a really inspired vocal performance of Readman.
Thundering riffs go hand in hand with intricate fretboard wizardry, complemented by keyboard cascades and piano lines, symphonic, but never sounding exaggerated or forced, but with a flow that albums of this kind only rarely have. Just take the more than 13-minute title track as prime example for this, uniting all of the mentioned elements into a cohesive whole! And that they do not fear to take up band foreign influences is shown in "The Mirror Stage", where towards the end a short, but effective Death Metal outburst surprises the listener!
The other side of the medal is, though, that you cannot just listen to ADAGIO's music in the background, but due to the quite remarkable complexity need a few rotations to get into the sound as the material may sound a bit inaccessible at the beginning. But if you give yourself and the CD some time, then you shall be awarded with a very layered and musically high standing album, which reveals new and interesting details even after countless rotations.
ADAGIO 2003 sound a bit different than ADAGIO 2001, but still strong! (Online January 2, 2004)