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Pagan's Mind: Heavenly Ecstasy

Pagan's Mind, one of Norway's most famous progressive power metal acts, has been slowly shedding away their progressive past in favor of a more straightforward melodic power metal approach. Heavenly Ecstasy, the band's fifth studio album, shows this trend continuing and essentially reaching "full circle" - this is a catchy, memorable, and easily accessible melodic power metal album... but with a twist. Rather than coming across as cheesy or relying too heavily on hooks, Pagan's Mind still manages to create intricate compositions that don't lose their luster even after repeated listens. If you're a fan of mildly progressive power metal, Heavenly Ecstasy should prove to be one of the best albums 2011 has to offer. This is a well-played, well-composed, and irresistible album that has consistently left me impressed after every spin!

The music here is melodic power metal with a few progressive touches. The only song I'd really consider a full-blown prog metal track is "Revelation to the End", but even that's a borderline case. Most songs are characterized by Ronny Tegner's synth work; people who are allergic to heavy layers of keyboards may have an issue with that aspect of the album. I happen to think his playing is extremely tasteful and it is a very big part of what makes Heavenly Ecstasy so great. Most of the songs are extremely memorable and "grab you" from the very first listen. Although music this accessible often tends to warrant very few replays, Heavenly Ecstasy contains enough variation to still impress after many spins. This is an album that is just overflowing with memorable and high-quality compositions, and the execution is equally superb. The production was initially a bit of an issue for me (especially the effects done to Nils K. Rue's vocals), but I've grown to enjoy it more over time. And, of course, the musicianship is top-notch across the board.

Similarly to Evergrey's 2011 album, Heavenly Ecstasy may very well alienate the progressive-minded section of Pagan's Mind's fanbase. Pagan's Mind seems to have left behind much of their progressive metal influence in favor of a melodic power metal sound - although this may be a bad thing for some, these Norwegian veterans deliver the sound so professionally and memorably that it's difficult not to be impressed. If you're somebody who enjoys the European power metal scene, Heavenly Ecstasy isn't something to miss out on. 4 stars are well-deserved.

Track Listing:
1. Contact (0:48)
2. Eyes Of Fire (5:48)
3. Intermission (5:41)
4. Into The Aftermath (5:18)
5. Walk Away In Silence (5:08)
6. Revelation To The End (8:32)
7. Follow Your Way (5:18)
8. Live Your Life Like A Dream (5:55)
9. The Master's Voice (5:16)
10. When Angels Unite (2:03)
11. Never Walk Alone (6:09)
Total Time 55:56

Added: June 2nd 2011
Reviewer: Jeff B
Related Link: Pagan's Mind Official Website
Hits: 7166
Language: english

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Pagan's Mind: Heavenly Ecstasy
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-01 14:16:09
My Score:

Chances are the majority of Pagan's Minds' fans discovered the band either with their brilliant melodic prog metal album, Celestial Entrance, or its follow-up, Enigmatic: Calling. If your introduction to them was with 2007's God's Equation, however, then you will be pleasantly surprised by Heavenly Ecstasy.

No -- the new album does not revisit the band's more progressive side of music found on their second and third albums. Actually, on the contrary, it sees them removing themselves from any progressive tendencies that permeated their prior work. Its strength lies in reestablishing their identity with a stronger focus on melodic songwriting, smoother chord progressions, tighter arrangements, and vocals exhibiting more clarity. In this respect, one can argue that the album is an improvement over its predecessor. On Heavenly Ecstasy, the songs are composed and produced better. They mostly spin on the axis of Ronny Tegner's keyboard work. Though keyboards have always been an integral part of Pagan's Mind's music, on prior releases, they were often counterveiled by intricate fretwork and longer instrumental passages. Here, they define the character of the songs more powerfully -- tracks like "Into the Aftermath" and "Follow Your Way" boast dense synth lines strung across thick bass patterns and processed vocal segments.

Speaking of processed vocals, there are plenty of them on the album. Almost every song is imbued with effect-laden vocal bits by Nils K. Rue. The band has obviously employed this technique to allow Rue's smoother clean singing to shine more brightly. Rue is simply a fantastic vocalist. The clarity on his singing on the album opener "Eyes of Fire" was never achieved on earlier albums. Likewise, the bass-centric "Intermission" features diverse vocalizations -- he has certainly branched off more on this album. From low whispers to clean and 'computerized' vocal bits (as well as impressive leads by Jorn Viggo Lofstad), his performance commands the listener's attention. On "Revelation to the End," the album's only progressively tinged number, Rue utilizes some shriek-like aggressive parts for extra texture. This is easily the centrepiece of the album with its intricate arrangement, anthemic chorus, and mind-bending unison solo.

Steinar Krokmo's bass work on the album is top-notch. Ever since I heard him on the first and only Trivial Act disc, I have been a fan of his playing. He distills a strong vibe of groove into each piece: sometimes it's just a single bass line accentuating the song's shifting mood or a wicked solo piece carrying the entire passage. It is Krokmo who defines the direction of "The Master's Voice" or "Never Walk Alone." The run-out lead of the former is simply sick. The band also delves into Mindcrime territory on "Walk Away in Silence." Being a midtempo track, the nuances come out more prominently on this one. The synths are put in the back for a change, as the band tries its hand at more traditional composition with frenetic riff work and stunning melodies.

The production of the album is terrific, especially the vocals. However, the drum tone leaves me a bit confused at times. I am not fully convinced by the dry, thin drum sound that is quite audible in some parts of the mix. Also, there are a few sub par tracks on the disc, such as the bland acoustic ballad "When Angels Unite" or the TNT-inspired "Live Your Life Like a Dream." I would have preferred the bonus tracks to these, particularly "Create Your Destiny," which is complete with a dexterous instrumental section, shredding guitars, and the occasional symphonic element.

All things considered, Heavenly Ecstasy is an excellent melodic metal album with some of the finest vocals you will ever hear. At this point, the band does not aim to transcend this feat having admitted to toning down on the progressive spectrum themselves, so don't expect anything more than that.

Pagan's Mind: Heavenly Ecstasy
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-05-17 14:46:53
My Score:

What happens if you blend melodic hard rock in the vein of TNT, with the keyboard infused power metal of the likes of Scar Symmetry, the prog metal of Seventh Wonder and the grandiose themes of Arjen Lucassen's Star One? Well it would appear the answer is Heavenly Ecstasy! Starting out as a progressive power metal band, Pagan's Mind have evolved into one of the best examples of just how accessible this genre really can be to those not normally enthralled by broiling riffs and bombastic themes. Yes both those elements are still strongly in evidence on this album however they are now equally infused with gloriously pumping layers of keyboards and bags of melody. In fact after my first few listens to this album I just couldn't believe how catchy and memorable the hook fuelled choruses on Heavenly Ecstasy really are. Hopefully that aspect of what Pagan's Mind have put together here will entice listeners from other genre to jump on board with this album, although the consequence may just be that a few of the band's longer term fans decide this is the time to move on.

As mentioned, the highlights of this album are the stunning choruses to songs like "Eyes On Fire" and "Into The Aftermath", which just refuse to leave your mind for days after hearing them, but the real strength of this release is that it doesn't rely on any one aspect of the songs to impress. The guitars spit our riff after riff, Ronny Tegner's keyboards inject melody and drama at every turn and Nils K.Rue provides a stunning vocal to bring it all into focus. The true skill comes in combining all those different elements into not only coherent songs, but ones that grow in intensity and scope with every listen as the double kick-fest of "Follow Your Way" and the more overtly prog metal "Never Walk Alone" most certainly do. Pagan's Mind also know how to mix things up, with the deep intensity of "Live Your Life Like A Dream" being a more introspective moment where the guitars take a back seat, while "Revelation To The End" sees the riffing and stunning six string solos of Jorn Viggo Lofstad leading the battle from the front. That gargantuan gallop is always matched by the power and precision of Steiner Krokmo on bass and drummer Stain Kristofferson who continually manage to impress with their dexterity, while never cluttering up the melodic force of the songs. To add to the breadth of sound on this album, Rue's vocals are often dripping with effects, sometime to add oomph and on other occasions to smooth out his delivery, but his voice is captivating and the banks of backing vocals also add to the huge atmosphere on the album.

Bringing together all the disparate influences and idea on this album really could have been a tricky business, but with Heavenly Ecstasy Pagan's Mind really have made it look easy and delivered an album that just cries out to be listened to again and again.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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