posted on 1/2008 By:
Much to my surprise, the metal world in '07 didn't actually conceive many albums I'd consider to be complete and utter disappointments. There was one glaring exception, however, that stuck out like a hump on a supermodel, but it's probably best to avoid soiling this review by drudging up ill memories of the -wink- nocturnal rites -wink- performed that night which left me horking intensely enough to develop sixpack abs. Nope, probably best to let sleeping dogs lie...
Ah, what the hell. The sleeping pooch in question was Nocturnal Rites' The 8th Sin -- a bitter pill to swallow in my camp last year. But why bring it up again?? Because, much like the buzz surrounding the pre-release of that album, I heard all sorts of nasty little rumors floating about in regards to the new territory charted via the latest release from Norway's Pagan's Mind: rumors of a "nu" modern sound and abundant use of newfound experimentation resulting in a straying from the band's signature prog/power sound. So, it was with great caution that I approached God's Equation. Thing is, I actually enjoy this album. It's pretty damned solid. In fact, it's been happily resting within arms-reach of my current rotation for the past three weeks. True, it's taken nearly that long for it to fully settle in, but there it now sits...quite cozily. No, it's not likely to outshine the band's highly celebrated 2005 release, Enigmatic: Calling, but many genre aficionados would consider that record to be damn-near perfection, so it's not surprising that rumors of deviation from that formula have caused trepidation with long-time fans of the band. The bottom line is this: God's Equation is undoubtedly a shift, but those shifts are fairly digestible when neatly wrapped within the band's tried-and-true formula.
I'll address the new shifts using a two-pronged attack; the first aimed directly at the (gasp) vocal variation found here. Nils K. Rue's voice has always been one of the instrumental selling points of this band. The man's cords are phenomenally well suited for this genre -- a smooth, rich, fearless delivery that brings to mind early works from dudes such as Geoff Tate and John Cyriis (Agent Steel), et al, but it's Rue's truly monstrous range that sets him on a tier above most, especially when compared to current players in the game. Nils can effortlessly hit the highest of notes (which he mostly refrains from) as was evidenced on the band's PERFECT rendition of King Diamond's "At The Graves" on the remastered version of Infinity Divine, but he can also pull off near-perfect mirrors of acclaimed mid-range vocalists as well. Case in point, the rendition of Bowie's "Hallo Spaceboy" on this recording. The guy's like the bloody Frank Caliendo of progressive metal for hell's sake.
God's Equation still showcases Rue's notable talent, but it also puts more focus on distortions and various effects to harshen his voice in a nearly Rammsteinian fashion -- notably, "Atomic Firelight", "Evolution Exceed", and the aggressive "Alien Kamikaze". But these moments are still liberally out-weighed by the more familiar, lustrous delivery fans have come to expect. In fact, I'd have to say this record holds some of the warmest, most infectious chorus' I've heard on a Pagan's Mind record. The title track, "Painted Skies", and the aforementioned "Atomic Firelight" and "Evolution Exceed" all deliver in spades when it comes to memorable choruses. These songs will stick in your brain when given time to digest, believe me.
The second shift on God's Equation points clearly towards the obvious musical variation bubbling to the surface here. Sadly, This record leans less on the Fates Warning - No Exit styled progressive metal so soundly stamped and perfected on a release like Enigmatic: Calling. Instead, the band chooses to incorporate some decidedly more "modern" elements into the well-traveled equation, giving this record quite the different feel when stacked up against the previous three releases. For example, the title track, "Atomic Firelight" and "Evolution Exceed" all contain moments of fairly bouncy riffing that's sure to raise a number of purists' eyebrows, myself included, but somehow they're more digestible because of the way they're tempered by the truly miasmic choruses found on these same tunes.
The Rammstein-like effects mentioned earlier bleed into the music at times as well, resulting in a more jarring, mechanical feel to a few of the tunes. This is especially evident on the album's most aggressive cut, "Alien Kamikaze", which I honestly would have rather seen replaced with something more akin to "Search for Life" on Enigmatic: Calling -- a lighter cut that beautifully spotlighted Rue's brilliant voice. And honestly, that's exactly what I found to be the main flaw with this release: there's too much focus on delivering big, heavy riffs this time around; something I've never depended on this band to deliver in the past.
This is undoubtedly a Pagan's Mind record, and that's something I can't stress enough. The recognizable elements are still there, including the always interesting lead guitar work of Jorn Viggo Lofstad (which I somehow failed to mention throughout this lengthy beast), so please, don't walk away thinking this is another example of what Disillusion or Dissection did to their fans. And unlike Nocturnal Rites, I don't believe these guys went too far with the mixing in of "new" ingredients in order to snare a wider spectrum of fans. I'd likely point newly interested folks towards the band's back catalog, but I'd say there's certainly enough "Pagan's Mind" on God's Equation to please even the most stubborn of old fans, you just need to give it a little time to fully settle in.
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