Here's the story: while doing some shopping downtown with my better half, I decided to check out the metal section of one of the local record stored, like I've done so many times before, while she went to pick-up something in the Illum department store. I immediately went to the discount section in the metal department of the record store, knowing that that they have some ridiculously cheap things there. I found this release by Adagio in that section. Now, a band name like Adagio made me suspect that this would either be an extremely cheesy power metal release or a progressive metal release with instrument-wanking galore. I thought "what the hell, it's not like it's expensive" and bought the CD. I've done this numerous time before - bought a ridiculously cheap release by a band that was completely unknown to me - and I've burnt my fingers, but I've also had some really positive surprises.
So were my expectations met?
Yes and no. "Dominate" turns out to be a release that combines power metal and progressive/symphonic metal, but, fortunately, it's a best-of-both-worlds situation. There are some cheesy elements, to be sure, and a lot of instrument-wankery. However, this is neatly wrapped in heavy, thrashy, or groovy guitar riffs. The guitars actually have a very dark sound and feel to them which adds a sense of Nevermore-ish darkness to the music, which is probably another de-cheesing factor. Moreover, the vocalist(s) make use of mid to high registers, spiced up by death metal growling and black metal screaming which provides a welcome break from the volatile high register voices used by a lot of power metal bands. The symphonic aspect is primarily contributed by heavy use of keyboards - there are times when the keyboards become too dominant - but mostly they just serve to add a certain athmosphere and provide an extra element of melody. While I really like the use of avant-garde piano-patterns and Dream Theater-like keyboard solos, I find the use of the keyboard to emulate symphonic orchestras weak: it simply sounds too synthesized, and I would prefer if Adagio had actually hired a real symphonic orchestra to take care of symphonic arrangements.
The album contains a cover of the theme from "Fame", but, surprisingly, they actually manage to make a more-than-decent power metal song out of it, leaving the ghastly ballad "Kissing the Crow" as the weakest track on the CD.
I think this album will appeal to fans of power metal along the lines of Nevermore, Symphony X, Harrow and Rawhead Rexx, and I would also recommend it to fans of heavier progressive metal.
(review originally posted on metalmusicarchives.com)
Summary: This is a masterpiece. A perfect blend of prog metal with an aggressive edge and classical music. It's really different from bands like Rhapsody who try to create the impression that there is a fully fledged orchestra playing. Although Adagio also do this occasionally, they mainly use piano and strings/synth/effects which create a rich, polyphonic experience. Usually there are one guitar, one pianist and underlying strings - and of course the bass and vocals.
I won't mention each song here - they are all really outstanding, not at all derivative of bands like Symphony X and Dream Theater. Many rhythmic extravaganzas, purely classical piano interludes by maestro Andersson and stunning guitar solos by Mr. Forte. What I like most about this album is the diversity of the songs which at the same time really work as a whole, every little melody seems to be vital, nothing uncalled-for or forced. The vocals are more than a match for the best vocalist of the genre - namely Russell Allen of Symphony X.
Next Profundis 7:39
The Mirror Stage 6:31
Missa Aeterna Bonus 6:36