This is the third album from the Italian musical project Archangel, founded by Gabriele Manzini (keyboards, flute and 'stun' guitar), known from the bands The Watch and Ubi Maior. I am only familiar with the debut album entitled The Akallabeth from 2009, I wrote the following about this release: "If you like heavy prog and keyboard- oriented melodic rock, I'm sure that especially the fans of Ayreon and Uriah Heep will be pleased with the sound of Archangel, an album to discover, because this music deserves more attention!".
To be honest, I needed a few listening sessions to get into the music on this new Archangel album. Not only because it is far away from the 70s symphonic rock sound of his former band The Watch and present band Ubi Maior. But also, because it is unlike the Heavy Prog on his first solo effort. To be more specific, in general Archangel delivers laidback prog, lots of atmospheres on the 8 compositions (between 3 and 11 minutes) are mellow. Especially Technological Anguish (slightly distorted vocals and tender piano runs, gradually more lush and dynamic with howling and heavy guitar work), Metal Into Brain (huge tension between dreamy and sumptuous parts, exciting organ solo in the end), The Last Days of Beauty (soundtrack-like music with wonderful work on piano , pretty hypnotizing), Circle Of Life (atmospheric with tender vocals and a slow and intense synthesizer solo in the end) and The End Of The World (passionate vocals, soaring keyboards and finally a crying guitar solo, goose bumps).
The other three tracks showcase the more dynamic side of Archangel, as a balance to the mellow side. Thesis starts with a bombastic keyboard sound, soon blended with melancholiac vocals, gradually the music shifts to a more dramatic sound, guitar riffs join, the final part contains a beautiful, very moving guitar solo. In the composition Storm Over St. Andrew's Churchyard you hear first a dreamy climate with piano and soaring keyboards. Gradually the music turns more lush, the contrast between the tender piano runs and the bombastic keyboard creates a huge tension. Then halfway a bombastic atmosphere featuring rock guitar and repeating piano runs, topped with a swirling Hammond organ solo. Finally, a slow rhythm with again a bombastic keyboard sound. That is what we are used to hearing from Gabrielle Manzini on his work in The Watch and Ubi Maior.
The captivating and exciting conclusion on this album is the epic composition When The Eagle Hung His Head, close to 11 minutes. It starts dreamy with wonderful interplay between a fragile guitar and a tender piano, blended with soaring keyboards. Then a slow rhythm and a more dynamic atmosphere featuring emotional vocals and again tender piano runs, embellished with a harder-edged, intense guitar solo with howling and biting runs. Now the music shifts to mellow with tender piano sounds. The dreamy vocals gradually turn very emotional, followed by sparkling piano work. Halfway again The Archangel succeeds to create a lot of tension in the music, now due to interplay between flute and rock guitar. After a dreamy part that contains flute, piano and melancholiac vocals Gabrielle Manzini treats us on powerful Hammond organ parts, dazzling synthesizer runs and majestic Mellotron violins. This is part of a compelling atmosphere, topped with a short howling guitar solo and emotional vocal, what a conclusion!
Gabrielle Manzini and his outstanding guest musicians have delivered a very fine album, embellished with wonderful, often intense work on guitar and keyboards, emphasizing the important element emotion on Third Warning.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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