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Album cover

Adagio - Underworld

Artist: Adagio
Title: Underworld
Label: Nothing To Say
Length(s): 63 minutes
Year(s) of release: 2003
Month of review: [11/2003]

Line up

Stephan Forté - compositions, ?
Kevin Codfert - keyboards
Franck Hermanny - ?
David ? - ?
Dirk ? - ?
with
RMS Hreimarr - vocals on 4 and 7
Guy Cornut - choir direction

Tracks

1) Next Profundis 7.39
2) Introitus/Solvet Saeclum In Favilla 8.14
3) Chosen 7.52 MP3
4) From My Sleep... To Someone Else 6.37
5) Underworld 13.25
6) Promises 5.03
7) The Mirror Stage 6.31
8) Niflheim 8.09

Summary

A full choir, plenty of hard work and money went into this metal cum classical music project led by Forté.

The music

Next Profundis is combination of muscular rock vocals, progmetal and classical intermezzo's. I like the song best during the classical parts, which are very melodic. The hardrock vocals are not bad, but a bit unadventurous. I guess I have heard enough of those. I guess the Introitus part of the second track is the big choir. Here indeed the influence of current Hollywood soundtrack composers is evident. In the bio John Williams is mentioned, and the grandioseness has something of the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack and similar epic scores. The Latin vocal choirs remind me more of some of Enya's work. The music continues to be very melodic, but for some reason the melodicity of the progmetal parts strikes me sometimes as a bit cheesy. But I should have the composer his due as well: everything that happens is in line with the song, the transitions are never artificial and in addition to pacey symphonic metal. The guitarwork reminds me at times of Marty Friedman, e.g., on his song Forbidden City.

Chosen is again pacey bombastic symphonic metal, with typical hardrock/metal vocals (you may compare them with those of Russell Allen of Symphony X) and romantic classical interludes and just a hint of baroque.

From My Sleep... To Someone Else opens with sprinkles of piano, somewhat neo-classical even. Then the rhythm guitars set in and we are back in metal territory. A church organ also plays, and this gets to be quite heavy, also because of the presence of the vocals of guest vocalist RMS Hreimarr, singer of a death metal band. The convincing chorus is quite catchy again. Plenty of violins in the back make for a very symphonic feel. Very accessible in places, but in my mind the best song so far, the Malmsteenian guitar solo notwithstanding.

The title track Underworld is by far the longest. The opening is entirely orchestrated and good stuff at that. I mean it has all been done before (although maybe not on this type of album), but I do like it a lot. Then the guitar sets in, and the music becomes quite tense, especially when the slightly dissonant piano runs set in as well. The power metal vocals only set in after more than four minutes. The remainder of the song is also rich in orchestration, but the focal point is the strong memorable vocal chorus. After two such choruses the music becomes moody and sparse with a melancholy piano after wards building up again with violins. The melodic changeover into something Arabic styled is next, here the rhythm guitars and soloing keyboards take over for some progmetal. The ending has sweeping orchestral bombast.

Promises is a sugary ballad, in the line of Malmsteens Dreaming with plenty of romantic violins. It never gets rowdy, the ending is in fact very subdued. The Mirror Stage is something quite different again with complex keyboard soloing. The rhythm guitar has strong prominence and this song is with its meandering keyboards certainly not the most accessible. The growling of the guest 'vocalist' is restricted to the final minute.

Niflheim is the closer opening with bombastic drums and violins. This is in fact a flashy instrumental with a continuous string of power rich instrumental passages and of course the necessary and filmic orchestral parts. The melodies have a certain Middle-eastern ring to them.

Conclusion

It it not unusual that a progmetal band or album also takes on some elements of classical music, most notably as it is used in this day in the form of orchestral soundtracks. However, it is hardly ever so pervading as with Adagio, reaching its pinnacle on the excellent titletrack. The music is generally extremely melodic and accessible. There are a few heavier and complex tracks, From My Sleep... and The Mirror Stage, but the remainder is although heavy at times so melodic and generally memorable that I can hardly imagine anyone having real trouble with that. The classical elements are enhanced by some fitting vocal choirs, a bit in the vein of the Carmina Burana (not as overpowering though).

© Jurriaan Hage