Pagan’s Mind [Norway]
Pagan’s Mind has a special place on my playlist, being one of the first real metal band that I chanced upon during my initial foray into metal. The album that managed to grab my attention and blew me away was 2005’s Enigmatic: Calling, which led to high expectations (and then subsequent disappointment) for 2007’s God’s Equation.
However, with 2011 seeing the announcement of Heavenly Ecstasy, the interest in the band was reignited. The first thing that struck me was that unlike previous releases, the band has chosen to give up the blue hues that are utilised on all their other artworks, and has chosen for a fiery orange artwork, potentially marking a shift in musical direction of the band. Fortunately, as the music eventually goes to prove, this could very well be a return to form for one of the best progressive metal bands in existence right now.
Similar to previous albums, Heavenly Ecstasy opens with an ambient/futuristic sounding introduction on Contact, with instruments slowly fading into the song, building up the climax and setting the atmosphere for the songs that are to come in the next tracks on the album. The introductory keyboards on Eyes of Fire continue the futuristic feel of the music, before the guitars come into the music and then the powerful vocals of Nils. While the power of the vocals of Nils are not fully displayed initially, as the album progresses his vocal range and skills are slowly tested, proving to the listener that he is still on form, such as on Into the Aftermath.
Like all other songs of Pagan’s Mind that I enjoy, one other thing that managed to capture my attention are the guitars of Jorn. The tone is nicely balanced (somewhat reminding me of Firewind‘s Gus G’s tone on The Premonition at times, especially towards the end of Intermission), with a strong presence in the music yet somehow not drowning out any of the other instruments present at all. The guitar solos unleashed by Jorn also display his versatility, from the wailing lead guitar lines towards the end of Eyes of Fire to full on face-ripping shredding. The keyboards are yet another highlight, being more than just another rhythm instrument as keyboardist Ronny shares lead duties with Jorn, often having lead spots on songs to enhance the experience of Heavenly Ecstasy, such as on Follow Your Way (which also happens to begin with drum beats that remind me of The Celestine Prophecy).
The music also somehow manages to give listeners a sense of hope, such as the uplifting melody on Intermission. They are also able to make what would usually be deemed as cliched/cheesy acoustic passages interweave smoothly on their songs. Songs such as Into the Aftermath provide good moments for headbanging with the chugging section. Speed is also not the only thing that the band emphasises, evident from the usage of slower tracks such as Revelation to the End with the heaviness in the music making up for the lack of speed. Live Your Life Like a Dream is a track that is almost like a ballad, though cheesy as fuck, manages to provide an uplifting mood into the listener that most other such tracks that attempt to do so fail to. The guitar solo sounds like it could pass off as one of those Neil Zaza tracks, with the soaring tone and the emotional notes that Jorn pulls out from the strings. The only letdown of the album is the closing track, the ballad When Angels Unite, that provides a weak ending to the album, and would have been better placed perhaps in the middle of the album.
Typical of progressive albums, Heavenly Ecstasy lasts around 1 hour, yet Pagan’s Mind has managed to ensure that not one minute is spent wasted. If one thinks that Dream Theater is the hallmark of progressive metal, listen to Heavenly Ecstasy (or any Pagan’s Mind material, for that matter), and think again.