Adagio - Dominate
Progressive Neo-Classical Metal
9 songs (47:15)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Al
Album of the month

I adore originality in all art forms. It’s so rare in the overpopulated landscape of artistic endeavour to hear, see or feel something unique that when these moments come along they deserve to be lapped up with gusto. I’m overjoyed that my first real musical experience of 2006 was one of these moments thanks to a band I had honestly never heard of before, ‘Adagio’ I salute thee. It’s been a long time since I plugged a CD into my stereo and so captivating was the music I heard, found myself unable to move or do anything else until the album finished.

The band was formed in 1999 as the brainchild of guitarist-songwriter Stéfan Forté, and had two full length releases under their belt when in 2003 the band was hit by both drummer Dirk Bruinenberg and vocalist David Readman leaving the group. This resulted in them securing the services of a new drummer, Eric Lebally and starting a search on the internet for a new vocalist. This search came to an end when Gus Monsanto, a Brazilian singer, was chosen from the tide of hopefuls who sent their demos in and recording of ‘Dominate’ began.

Such dramatic changes inevitably must have resulted in a slight change of sound and even though I will most definitely seek them out now, I am unfamiliar with ‘Adagio’s’ previous releases which makes me unsuitable to judge how much the sound has changed. What it does do however is allow me to examine this merely as an album without any preconceptions of what the band ‘should’ sound like and not be swayed by the change of vocalist, which is always a jarring experience for a fan of any band. For older fans, rest assured the songwriting is still mainly in the hands of Stéfan Forté and thus besides the line up changes, the heart and soul of the band is in the same place.

The album actually starts relatively weak with Fire Forever which possesses some incomprehensively technical guitar work and amazing vocals but unfortunately just ends up sounding like a very good power metal song. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle it’s just that listening to the rest of the album it’s quite far removed from what they excel at and what they were obviously trying to achieve. It’s an enjoyable listen but feels disjointed with the rest of the record.

Dominate signals the start of the album main in my eyes, and displays the lavish musical tapestry that continues right the way through to the final track. There are so many elements on display in each song that attempting to give each one an in depth description would take pages and I don’t love you that much. I will instead attempt to give you examples of what is so exemplary about this recording.

An array of classical instruments are implemented throughout, but the focus is firmly based around the use of piano (or keyboard, it sounds like classical piano to me but the audiophiles among you may disagree). The use of piano varies from atmospheric build up such as in the intro to R'lyeh the Dead to awe inspiring examples of lead classical piano in Children of the Dead Lake. The complexity and technical merit of these piano solos is something rarely seen in metal and it is refreshing to see another instrument played to such a masterful degree on a metal album.

The guitar work as I mentioned before is unbelievably technical with some of the arpeggio based solos being in a realm of expertise rarely heard. There are some heavy as hell riffs on offer as well particularly on Terror Jungle where sludgy distorted riffs combine with double bass drumming and some bizarre clean licks to create a unique atmosphere. The lead vocals on offer are a mix of a power metal style akin to that of Bruce Dickinson at times and a straight ahead slightly growled metal delivery. The quality is superb however and Monsanto’s voice continuously adds volumes to each song and never grates. The clean vocals are contrasted in parts by death metal growls, these are few and far between in comparison however but work very well when used.

One other aspect I feel I should note is the cover of Fame. I have a very tumultuous history with metal cover versions of pop songs as I feel that many of them break up the flow of a record and fail to differ enough from the original to prevent them from being mindless cash-ins. The cover of Fame however did make me genuinely smile as it is different enough to warrant attention (I personally don’t remember a distorted moshtastic breakdown at the end of the original, but then again memory distorts things) and I actually failed to recognise it before the chorus kicked in. It’s a bit of an oddity but is pulled off very well, other bands considering covers should take note.

This all combines into a dazzling and absurd mix of classical, prog, death and power metal (and Fame) that left me bewildered and elated. I have no qualms about making this my first album of the month and urge you to give it a try, it may make the dark January months seem that little bit brighter.

Killing Songs :
Terror Jungle, Children of the Dead Lake, R'lveh the Dead, The Darkjtecht and Undying
Al quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Adagio that we have reviewed:
Adagio - Life reviewed by Joel and quoted 90 / 100
Adagio - Archangels In Black reviewed by Khelek and quoted 85 / 100
Adagio - Underworld reviewed by Marty and quoted 94 / 100
Adagio - Sanctus Ignis reviewed by Sin and quoted 91 / 100
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