Adagio – Life – Album Review
Album Title: Life
Label: Zeta Nemesis Records
Date Of Release: 26 July 2017
It has taken a while to get around to reviewing this record, but for those of you who are eager to hear my thoughts about it, here you go.
One of the main reasons why this review is being published after the release date is because I was unable to secure a promo. Such is life, I can’t get them all. I have therefore had to listen via YouTube and other streaming platforms. It has meant that my listening time has been drastically curtailed because my day-to-day responsibilities mean that a lot of my listening is done away from free internet access. But nevertheless, I have succeeded.
I’ll start this review by stating that I have never been a fan of Adagio. I don’t own any of their back catalogue and I am completely unfamiliar with their previous work. I can only assume that when I tried them previously, they didn’t make enough of an immediate impact for me to persevere. Given the amount of music I listen to, sometimes I have to make snap decisions and Adagio must have been an unfortunate victim of my often ruthless screening process.
I had in mind, with a name like Adagio, that they’d play a form of neo-classical power metal with perhaps a vague progressive edge. Who knows, that may indeed be true of their four previous records but that’s certainly not the reality with which I am faced with album number five, entitled ‘Life’. And I’m rather pleased about that if I’m honest, because neo-classical power metal is not a personal favourite musical style it has to be said. Maybe that was why I dismissed the French metal band in the past?
Whatever the reason, I am here to write about the present, and that means focusing on ‘Life’ which has been crafted by the Gallic quintet comprised of long-standing members Stéphan Forté (guitar), Franck Hermanny (bass) and Kévin Codfert (keyboards) alongside complete newbies Jelly Cardarelli (drums) and Mayline Gautié (violin) and their illustrious American vocalist, Kelly Sundown Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Epysode etc).
What I certainly wasn’t expecting was the degree of heaviness which confronted me almost from the outset. Not only that, but the overt djent influences were a shock to the system too. This was not at all what I expected to hear but I like it when that happens because it keeps me on my toes and prevents me from getting too blasé about things.
At its core, ‘Life’ remains a melodic, power metal record but there’s so much more to the music than that. This is an album that is crammed full of different styles and influences, from symphonic bombast, to technical progressive indulgence via classic heavy metal and back again. Staccato riffing, djent-like groove and plenty of flamboyant lead lines all come together in a multi-layered, extravagant body of work. The compositions are involved and purposeful, a veritable explosion for the senses, demonstrating the undeniable talent that oozes from the pores of all six musicians.
To underline the diversity of ‘Life’, within its nine tracks and near-hour length, there are echoes of bands as diverse as Symphony X, Epica and even Periphery. And, in many ways, this is the thing that prevents me fully falling for its many charms. It is just a little too over-the-top, a little too ambitious. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should. If Adagio just reined things in a touch more, ‘Life’ could have been a very special album indeed.
That being said, ‘Life’ is still, overall, a positive listening experience. For starters, there’s the voice of Kelly Sundown Carpenter, another of the newbies to Adagio, joining the band during the seven-year gap since they last released new material in the form of ‘Archangels In Black’ (2009). The American seriously owns the microphone from start to finish, sounding hungry and full of energy and passion as he delivers everything from menacing lower notes to soaring high over the music far below.
Opening with your longest track is a brave move but the title track is worthy of the accolade. The chugging, churning djent riffs are full of intent, but it is the myriad of twists and turns within the song that draws my admiration. It refuses to sit still, always looking to explore different sonic tapestries, occasionally returning to a bold and melodic chorus.
‘The Ladder’ contains some great bass work as well as an excellently melodious lead guitar solo, whilst ‘Subrahmanya’ blends some striking djent guitar riffing with an Eastern flavour to nice effect. This is Adagio at their cinematic and symphonic best, delivering something extremely powerful in the process.
The album continues in a similar vein until the very end, mixing a myriad of different influences into their substantial output. But as the record progresses, I find my attention waning and my patience faltering. As I said before, there’s just too much going on to be able to absorb it properly. Sometimes subtlety and finesse is called for rather than a megaphone and a sledgehammer. Additionally, as I listen to ‘Life’, I realise that it is in the melody department where Adagio also falter. If you’re going to be as ambitious as this, you need to give the listener enough of an anchor to hold on to. That anchor is often melody and whilst ‘Life’ is not without hooks and memorable moments, the melodies are not big and bold enough to permeate everything else that’s going on. Even when left in the capable pipes of Carpenter.
Ultimately, ‘Life’ is an extremely frustrating listen. I love some of the flamboyant musicianship and the ambition. I also love the vocals from Carpenter as well as the production which does allow all of the instruments to be heard most of the time. But unfortunately ‘Life’ is too long, too busy and too chaotic. In the case of Adagio, less really could be more.
The Score Of Much Metal: 7.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day