July 26th 2017 – Zeta Nemesis Records
02. The Ladder
04. The Grand Spirit Voyage
05. Darkness Machine
06. I’ll Possess You
07. Secluded Within Myself
08. Trippin Away
In the early 2000s, a new wave of progressive metal was beginning. A second generation of musicians, influenced by what Dream Theater and Symphony X had been doing for the past decade. they combined technical playing, complex lyrical themes and arrangements with a more modern, power metal feel. Generally, these bands – which include Pagan’s Mind and Beyond Twilight - get referred to as ‘power prog’; a label we can also attribute to France’s Adagio.
Life is Adagio’s fifth full-length, and their first in eight years. Previous albums Underworld and Archangels In Black are considered to be classics in the genre, but after such a long time nothing is guaranteed, and it’s worthwhile noting that there have been member changes. Adagio have recruited powerhouse vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter as their new singer; a fairly underrated vocalist who’s received little attention while playing in a fair amount of bands like Beyond Twilight, Outworld and even Firewind. He has a dark power to his voice that generally meshes very well with this style of music, and so unsurprisingly he is fairly consistent throughout the album. Carpenter really makes use of his power and grit with great effect; opening track “Life” is a great example of how good he can sound, as is “Subrahmanya”.
While we’re talking about “Subrahmanya”, it is an absolutely killer song; aggressive, dark, and grandiose, every note is steeped in the arrogance and aggression of the Hindu god of war after which the song is named. Title track “Life” is another fantastic tune, with an epic feel and heavy, complex elements that weave a beautiful sonic tapestry, while “I’ll Possess You” begins with a fantastically haunting violin passage before moving into a slow, heavy, and emotive song.
Life does have weaker spots, such as “Secluded Within Myself”; a song that could be great if it didn’t overuse a specific riff. Repetition is a perfectly valid songwriting technique, but it needs to be done correctly; in this case, it ends up taking away the impact. Ballad “Trippin Away” is another that misses the mark by just being fairly uninteresting, and it’s a niggling complaint, but the gaps between the songs are a bit longer than normal, which just feels weird.
Getting back to the good stuff, the playing on Life is damn fine. Courtesy of another new member, Jelly Cardarelli, the drumming is mightily impressive; he provides a rock solid base for some of the groovier passages, but also shows off some of his talent on the more progressive passages, such as on “Darkness Machine”. Meanwhile, guitarist Stéphan Forté lays down some good lead work, especially on “Subrahmanya” and “Darkness Machine”. Although a couple of his riffs do get overused, they’re still good riffs.
Pleasingly, Life‘s guitar tone is thick and tight, which is great for the groovier sections. The keyboard parts don’t overwhelm the mix, which is always a danger on any album like this. Carpenter’s vocals are well-placed in the mix as well – it really is a shame he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, because he really is a great vocalist.
Adagio’s extended break could easily have left them behind, but with Life they have done a fairly good job of integrating modern sounds and production values. There are a few less-interesting moments on the album, but they are not as big a deal as they could be, and the good moments really shine; “Subrahmanya” is one of the better progressive metal tracks of the year, and the band’s incorporation of newer melodic ideas helps them not sound dated. Hopefully a few more people use this album to pick up on the band as they deserve more attention than they get.