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Pagan's Mind - "Heavenly Ecstasy" (CD)

Pagan's Mind - "Heavenly Ecstasy" CD cover image

"Heavenly Ecstasy" 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)

Reviewed by on May 20, 2011

"...Pagan’s Mind, at least on 'Heavenly Ecstasy,' crafts non-offensive prog metal that doesn’t really give us much outside of the standard prog tropes."

When reviewing albums, I always try to view each album in the larger context of overall heavy metal - the idea of an album appealing only to fans of specific bands or sub-genres doesn’t sit well with me. There must be crossover appeal to every album, and the key is parsing out what and where that crossover is. But increasingly that concept is growing a more common way for metal fans to find new music; if you like goregrind then you are going to like the new Aborted album (because really, who doesn’t love goregrind), and if you don’t like goregrind, then you won’t. This applies to Pagan’s Mind’s newest long-player because after listening to it a few dozen times over the past few weeks, I still don’t know how anyone but prog metal fans will enjoy this disc.

Pagan’s Mind has been around for a touch over a decade, releasing four studio albums and a live disc/DVD prior to this year’s “Heavenly Ecstasy.” The band’s members also participate in other metal projects; most notably vocalist Nils K. Rue handles the same function for the Drover Brother’s prog outfit Eidolon. So the pedigree and practice are there to make a notable album, but Pagan’s Mind, at least on “Heavenly Ecstasy,” crafts non-offensive prog metal that doesn’t really give us much outside of the standard prog tropes.

“Intermission” is the first song of note, and it swaps between Dream Theater key interludes and Satriani grooves and tapped solos. “Into the Aftermath” has Rue doing a pretty decent Ozzy impersonation while Ronny Tegner’s keyboards drive a tough-guy pace. “Revelation to the End” is the signature thrash piece on “Heavenly Ecstasy,” with riffs ripped straight from “Load.” “Live Your Life Like A Dream” is the blues cut, with guitarists Jorn Viggo Lofstad and Tegner (he does double duty) sleazing their way through the song like a suburban kid playing his Kenny Wayne Shepherd Stratocaster at the local Dairy Queen.

But this all leaves us unfulfilled. None of it is straight out bad - the songwriting is varied, the technicality is top-notch, the production is solid - but the songs don’t stick to your ribs. The chorus hook in the aforementioned “Live Your Life Like A Dream” should be a big fist-pumping number, but it is forgotten mere minutes later. “Eyes Of Fire” should be the big metal screamer that emphatically kicks the whole thing off, but comes around the bend like the aforementioned DQ-kid turning the volume up to 11.

Pagan’s Mind didn’t muster the muscle to really write prog metal that pushes boundaries for heaviness, melody, technicality, or emotion. There are some good moments that make us take notice - the end of the solo break on “Eyes of Fire” is fantastic, and “Never Walk Alone” has a great syncopated riff and some neat noodled guitar and bass interludes, among others - but overall those moments get buried in an avalanche of “eh.”

The great prog metal bands – Dream theater and Opeth make for good examples - draw emotion to the surface using flurries of notes as the bait; fantastic albums like “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” and “Ghost Reveries” combine compelling narratives and raw musical feelings with the plethora of musical elements to appeal to metal fans of all types and cross subgenres. But Pagan’s Mind combines some notes into some songs and stops there; as the (admittedly well done) outro solo on “Never Walk Alone” fades away I don’t feel anything at all. If you are into prog metal for prog metal’s sake, please have your fill of “Heavenly Ecstasy,” I won’t stop you. Otherwise, at least go find an album you hate, as that is more exciting than a whole lotta nothin’.

Highs: “Never Walk Alone” is the most complete song here, with a great riff and solo.

Lows: “When Angels Unite” is a throwaway lullaby.

Bottom line: Bland prog metal just for prog metal’s sake.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)