Times have been rather tumultuous for French progressive metal stalwarts Adagio since the release of their last album Archangels In Black (Listenable) way back in 2009. A continuing series of vocalist setbacks saw numerous changes in that time, with the latest seeing Mats Levén single year duration come to an end with him being succeeded by Kelly Carpenter. Jelly Cardarelli and Mayline Gautie have also joined as drummer and violinist respectfully. A mammoth wait for an album was also heightened by a crowdfunding campaign, and thus, the promise of big things to come. Now finally the follow-up arrives, revealing what is their most ambitious work to date, which sadly is not entirely a saving grace.
Never to be accused of being simplistic, Life (Zeta Nemesis) once again offers a cacophony of styles at its disposal; with grandiose symphonic orchestrations across elements of progressive technical metal, the bombast of Power Metal and the occasional extreme end splattering; a combination that has been their calling card for some time. It is at these points where the album is at its strongest; where it is vibrant with sounds towering, making up for such points of familiarity with strong hooks.
Unfortunately, though, when Adagio try experimentation is where Life shows real shortcomings. Loosely conceptual about despair and pain, Life is a considerably moodier and bleaker album than much of its predecessors, and it simply doesn’t suit their style. The nine-minute title track that opens the album proves a particularly clumsy introduction, with its crawling pace simply not connecting to much of what follows; and really prove wasteful of Carpenter’s huge pipes which are clearly suited to the euphoric.
Bands should always be respected for pushing to broaden their own boundaries and strive for evolution, but Life has to be considered a misstep into a direction they simply aren’t built for. Very technically proficient, and when they are at pace they really show their capabilities, but when they try to go into more morose territory it makes what should have been a flowing, single piece feel utterly disjointed.