Adagio - Sanctus Ignis

Year of Release: 2001
Label: SPV
Catalog Number: SPV 085-41572
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:39:00

While I was at NEARfest this past June, one of the bands I heard folks talking about with excited tones was Adagio. I knew I had received a review copy of Sanctus Ignis, but it hadn't yet made it to my player. I was certainly curious to hear what all the excited tones were about. I mean, hearing that there was yet another progressive metal band with classical influences (ho hum) didn't surprise me. This is one the hot corners of the genre right now I think, and so there are bound to be a horde of "wannabees" looking for even a crumb of Symphony X's accolades (to name one major player in this genre). So, I was thinking, here we have yet another clone. Not that the band might not have chops, but were they up to the task of making something new and exciting out of the style that they had chosen. Would they choose to make their own statement with the same palette, or resort to imitation. Well, it took a while, but I did finally get this disk into my player, though I'm only now sharing my thoughts with you. SPV/Limb Music Products released the album this past May.

Adagio is based in France and is the project of "new guitar talent" Stephan Fort?, along with Elegy's Dirk Bruineberg on drums, Majestic's Richard Andersson on keyboards, Pink Cream 69's vocalist David Readman. A bassist isn't specifically mentioned, but as PC69's bassist Dennis Ward also produced the album, perhaps he filled that role here. Of course, the moment you hear Fort? play, you know that the "new" part of the quote above is a misnomer, as Fort? has certainly worked at perfecting his craft. But it is convention, of course, to refer a person or band as "new" once they start getting noticed.

Some quick comparisons can be made, though they are only surface readings: Symphony X (of course), Royal Hunt and Angra, and to a smaller extent Dream Theater, Kansas, and Arena, just to name the few that came to mind. It's more true to say that the music is more an amalgam of all those bands, with the classical elements turned up a notch. Vocalist Readman sounds like both past RH vocalist D C Cooper and current RH vocalist John West mainly, though occasionally LaBrie comes to mind as well (in parts of "The Stringless Violin", for example). There is some amazing performances on here -- stunning guitar work from Fort?, terrific vocals from Readman, who can both growl and hit the high notes with equal aplomb. There are impressive keyboard textures from Andersson that borrow equally from the classical as they do from the rock palettes, making this band seem bigger than just a quintet. It is the drumming of Bruineberg that helps keep this driving forward. The album itself is never boring, nor does it devolve into unnecessary self-indulgence. Fort? brought his guests in for a reason and it wasn't just attach names to a project. The arrangements allow for each performer to have the necessary space to play. And like the best progressive metal, the music isn't so close in that you feel claustrophobic. In fact, there's enough space to get comfortably lost in. My favourite piece is "In Nomine..." which begins in a Baroque manner with Andersson keyboards before shifting into thundering classical-metal mode. "The Stringless Violin" is another standout track for both Fort? and Andersson. The highlight track for the entire band is the 11-minute plus tour-de-force track "Seven Lands Of Sin" -- simply fantastic. The instrumental "Immigrant Song" has an adventurous, loping rhythm over which Fort? plays searing and soaring leads. A middle-eastern flavour creeps in as well with this track and it all comes across as quite muscular.[*] The title track is where the band really go for broke with thundering drums propelling the track forward. Because this track is a little heavy handed, though, with Readman stretching just a little bit, it is the least inspired track on the album. Though lesser bands would kill to have a track this good.

I have only scratched the surface here. Still, from my comparisons above, you might be thinking, "oh, just another well-done melodic progressive metal album," but this really is so much more. It's on par with the cream of the crop, and I say verily that Adagio is a band (if this line up persists) others will have to reckon with. Certainly Fort? is a guitarist that others will have to reckon with. Sanctus Ignis is so beautifully composes and wonderfully paced that it is very strong contender for my best of lists. This album is so damn good -- it's sublime, awe-inspiring, transcendent...gosh yes I had to go to the thesaurus just to find the best word that would sum up this album, as "wonderful" seemed woefully understated. And if that sounds like hyperbole, trust me, it's not. Listen to the buzz on this one folks, because it tells no lies.

[* August 2005: and duh, I should have also mentioned it's a cover of the classic Led Zep tune.]

Second Sight (6:07) / The Inner Road (5:45) / In Nomine... (5:04) / The Stringless Violin (7:00) / Seven Lands Of Sin (11:40) / Order Of Enlil (4:19) / Sanctus Ignis (4:07) / Panem Et Circences (5:21) / Immigrant Song (4:55) / Bonus track: Niflheim (4:05)

Stephan Fort? - guitars
Dirk Bruinenburg - drums
Richard Andersson - keyboards
David Readman - vocals
Franck Hermanny - bass

Sanctus Ignis (2001)
Underworld (2003)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal

Origin FR

Added: September 24th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2057
Language: english


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