Sunday, 22 May 2011

Adagio - Underworld (2003)

Format: ape + cue + log
Genre: Neo-classical/Progressive Power metal
Release Date: 2003
Label: NTS

David Readman : Vocals

Stephan Forte: Guitar

Franck Hermany : Bass

Kevin Codfert : Keyboards

Dirk Bruinenberg : Drums

Reviewed by: Larry Daglieri, December 2003

When Adagio released Sanctus Ignis a couple of years ago, the band were met with barrages of reviews calling them Symphony X clones. True progressive metal fans just looking for another quality disc released in their beloved genre found true bliss in the neo-classically driven / song-oriented style of Adagio. With neo-classical guitar wiz Stephan Forte at the helm, and vocalist David Readman of Pink Cream 69 enlisted, the disc was otherwise highly praised and accepted. Since the band was a project and pulled musicians from other highly acclaimed bands such as Elegy, many thought that this would be a one-time deal.

Without warning, Adagio released Underworld and any doubters that this band means business need kindly eat some crow. This is one of the best releases of 2003, and the band certainly has something to say along with making some serious upgrades since we last heard them. Enter in a full concept disc, accompanied by orchestral arrangements, choirs, 13:00 songs, an incredible production, and above standard songwriting. Basically, this is what you get when you cross a progressive metal band with a movie soundtrack influenced by Classical music. The music is guitar driven, of course, compliments of the multi-talented Stephan Forte, who more than makes a passing resemblance to a certain Mr. Romeo. Stephan also had a hand in the production, and also in the orchestral arrangements and choirs. The show wouldn’t be complete without the riveting vocals of David Readman, who has certainly earned the respect of prog metal fans with his ease of performance coming from a hard-rock background to belt out the lead on this opus. His voice is raspy, powerful, and shows that he can still reach outer limits without a strain or effort to be found.

Musically, this is a sophomore outing disc that sometimes either makes or breaks bands, especially progressive metal bands. Adagio has taken the more difficult route and created a special disc here, with a bone-crunching production surrounding a Classical opus injected with a high dose of metal. At times it can be speedy, double bass heavy, but never lingers in one speed for too long without changing tones, moods, or tempo. In between songs, the symphony takes over, as if the metal band left the stage and the symphony orchestra has taken over. As quickly as the orchestra takes over, the metal band asserts itself once again to carry on the Underworld story. There are plenty of keyboards on the disc, ranging from pianos, to synths, strings, and beyond. Of note, the drum playing is simply phenomenal with Dirk Bruinenberg (Elegy) spreading his drum wings outside of Elegy and showing that he is has more chops than humanly possible.

The disc is dark, brooding, powerful and moody and gives little room for breath except between orchestral passages and intros, which drive the story. If you’re thinking Symphony X - V; this is much heavier in the symphonic region. The songwriting is a bit more intricate here, as well as the compositions being more Classically-influenced. One word of caution, do not try to listen to this disc song for song. It is meant to be played in its entirety, as a story, as a concept, which makes the disc that much more artistic and creative to these ears. If you are a fan of blistering neo-classical guitar work, frantic drum work, aggressively powerful vocals, and a metal movie soundtrack, then this is for you. One of the best of 2003 in the progressive metal genre for sure.