Pagan's Mind - Celestial Entrance

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Limb Music Products
Catalog Number: LMP 0211-046
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:42:00

Okay, let's get past the obvious - if you didn't guess from the artwork gracing the cover, Pagan's Mind are another epic progressive power metal band. That is, their songs are about heroic quests and other lofty subjects. And before you think I find fault with that, I don't. And the bonus is that it's all very well done, having the right combination of strong vocals, strong performances and interesting arrangements. The album's title is Celestial Entrance, which obviously refers, at least in once sense, to the stargate gracing the cover. When you throw in metaphor and such, one could make various other arguments, but we'll not stray there now.

The word "entrance" has another pronouncation, and this one is equally apt in describing this album. You are entranced. I mean, this is really that good. Once you're "through the gate" - that is, listening to the music on the CD and not just studying the album cover (which, while it is a stargate, the album is not based on the Stargate movie or series), you'll notice a few other things, namely that vocalist Nils K Rue sometimes sounds like Geoff Tate at times and sometimes like James LaBrie. Yup, he has one of those kind of voices. But before you think I'm going to dismiss Pagan's Mind and yet another DT/QR clone, I'm not. Oh, yes, there are elements of their sound in the music -- though since QR has abandoned their signature sound, perhaps its good that someone has stepped in to take it on and do something different with it (the QR factor appears strongest in "Entrance: Stargate" easily flows from an easy, laidback arrangement to a heavy, chunky arrangement. With this track, and elsewhere, we can also mention Ayreon.

Pagan's Mind have actually absorbed a lot of influences, mainly stylistically, and have been able to distill these elements into something that sounds fresh. Those familiar elements become touchstones, anchors to a style. I mean, the album opens with the hard progressive rock sound of "Through Osiris' Eyes" (a la Arena, and a harder Flower Kings comes to mind), but mix in some effect laden vocals that give the piece a different character of thrash metal, though musically it remains in the progressive power metal realm. "...Of Epic Questsions" brings in black metal elements (though used here as an effect, an element to tell the story, they work just fine).

But I'm not going to go through each track and play "spot the influence." Nope, let me just tell you in broader strokes what you can expect to find on Celestial Entrance, the second album from this sextet -- Stain L Kristofferson (drums/percussion), Steinar Krokmo (bass), Ronny Tegner (keys and atmosphere), Thorstein Aaby (guitars), and J?rn Viggo Lofstad (lead guitars). If you read that line up carefully, you'll count three guitarists - that certainly a rarity in any kind of music (California Guitar Trio come to mind, however; and, coincidently, Secret Sphere, also reviewed this month). If you like crystalline, yet distorted guitar leads, lots of parping keys, chugging bass, taut drums and soaring vocals, then Pagan's Mind are your band. These are lengthy pieces with plenty of room for soloing, though there isn't too much rampant wankery on display here. So rather than being a five minute solo and one minute song, everything flows together beautifully. Of course, some the well-known bands that have inspired them also knew a thing or two about balance, so this shouldn't come as any surprise. There's also the teriffic instrumental "Back To The Magic Of Childhood," told in two parts. "Part 1 - Conception" brings in some very nice acoustic guitar elements and keyboards in a piece that has very faint echoes of Rush's "Closer To The Heart" - note or two here and there. But it does become electrified, both instrumentally and compositionally. "Part 2 - Exploring Life" is the chugging, darker aspect, where guitars also churn, while at times very parpy keys are lain over the top.

There's quite a bit going on in each piece, each being nearly short stories in themselves; it becomes quite a bit to absorb. And, it makes it hard to say "this song is the 'x' on the album, and this is the 'y'." It's all really good stuff... maybe it's the artwork, but the word crytalline keeps coming to mind. Not that there aren't distorted guitar, chugging, etc. that is associated with this genre, but there is a cleanness about the production that makes the whole affair crystalline. Kudos to production go to the band and to Fredrik Nordstr?rm (guitarist in Dream Evil, producer of other bands).

Their concept is, as they say in the liner notes, "inspired by some of the theories of Erich Von Daniken, the search for extra-tesstrial intelligence, the mystic parallel of the four religions and ideas launched by certain open-minded scientists throughout the world." They have taken the idea that early Egyptian gods might have been, in fact, aliens that visited earth eons ago. Which was the premise behind the Stargate movies as well, if I recall correctly.

Celestial Entrance is really good stuff and I look forward to seeing/hearing more stuff from this band. I think they will be able to inject some new energy in a corner of the progressive/power metal world that is flaccid from too many bands trying to be Queensryche or Dream Theater or Fates Warning. Homage is great, but do something with it! And Pagan's Mind do. It's a great album, but there may be just a tad too much going on. The band still have their masterpiece ahead of them.

[On July 24, 2007 Thorstein Aaby passed away after a long illness; he was 35 -ed.]

Approaching (2:48) / Through Osiris Eyes (6:09) / Entrance: Stargate (6:01) / Of Epic Questions (6:10) / Dimensions Of Fire (7:29) / Dreamscape Lucidity (6:40) / The Seven Sacred Promises (6:29) / Back To The Magic Of Childhood: Part 1 - Conception (2:46) / Part 2 - Exploring Life (9:18) / In Brilliant White Light (2:45) / Aegean Shores (5:14) / The Prophecy Of Pleiades (9:53)

Stian Kristoffersen - drums
Steinar Krokmo - bass
Ronny Tegner - keyboards
Thorstein Aaby - guitars
J?rn Viggo Lofstad - guitars
Nils K. Rue - vocals

Infinity Divine (2000/2004)
Celestial Entrance (2002)
Enigmatic: Calling (2005)
God's Equation (2007)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin NO

Added: September 8th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1140
Language: english


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