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Pagan's Mind - Infinity Divine CD (album) cover

INFINITY DIVINE

Pagan's Mind

 

Progressive Metal

3.24 | 68 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Norway may have been the epicenter for the explosion of black metal in the 90s, but the small nation of only 5.3 million inhabitants has had more than its share of stellar progressive metal bands emerge from within its borders as well. Of course the biggest contenders are Enslaved, Arcturus, Ved Buens Ende and even Leprous but another band that formed in Skien was PAGAN'S MIND who followed in the footsteps of the American band Watchtower and crafted an interesting sound that added plenty of technical wizardry along with the more melodic elements of band's like Dream Theater, early Queensryche and even the power metal bombast of Helloween.

Formed by Nils K. Rue (vocals), Thorstein Aaby (guitars) and Stian Kristoffersen (drums) in the year 2000 from the ashes of Silverspoon, the trio successful scouted the cream of the crop Norwegian metal musicians lurking in those fjords and found J'rn Viggo Lofstad (guitars), Steinar Krokmo (bass) and Ronny Tegner (keyboards) and wasted no time releasing their debut album INFINITY DIVINE which came out in the same year. The album was a success commercially and critically but the band was unhappy with the results and thus a new version emerged in 2004 with certain tracks re-recorded, a new spruced up mixing job and even a couple bonus tracks including a new version of 'Embracing Fear' as well as a killer cover of King Diamond's classic 'At The Graves.'

I have to admit that i am unfamiliar with the original version as i own the 2004 re-release so all comments and my rating is based on that version. Basically PAGAN'S MIND delivers a more technical style of progressive power metal. On the power metal side of the equation, certain tracks clearly bring early Helloween to mind with those classic backbeat drumming techniques and power guitar riffs but some of the slower acoustic parts are more reminiscent of Crimson Glory as well as Nils Rue's powerful vocal performances. There are also moments where he sounds like Geoff Tate in the early US power metal phase of early Queensryche which places him in the top taken category for his wide power range that spans many octaves.

On the progressive metal side of the fence, PAGAN'S MIND clearly did their homework studying Watchtower's two landmark albums from the 80s and while not as angular and jittery, the band borrows some of the thrash riffs as well as some of the jazz-infused compositional elements that give it that advanced musician's feel. Add to that there are clear references to Dream Theater especially in the keyboard department with crazy lightning fast keyboard solos as well as spaced out atmospheric embellishments however even the riffing often reminds me of stylistic approaches on 'Awake.' With all the aforementioned styles, PAGAN'S MIND flawlessly delivers an incessant rampage of high quality prog power metal without missing a beat. The band also delivers a creative mix of riffing styles, drumming patterns and Rue's vocal prowess takes everything to a ridiculously high level of coolness as well as keeping things from stagnating with interesting guitar tones, creative uses of pauses and dynamics.

Not sure about the 2000 version of this but i can highly recommend the 2004 re-release as the production is warm and inviting and the musicianship is as good as it gets without sacrificing any creative juices from flowing. You can think of this as a more accessible form of Watchtower or a proggier mix of Helloween, Queensryche and Crimson Glory but no matter how you slice it, PAGAN'S MIND stands out as one of the more gifted bands in the legion of prog metal bands that emerged after the success of Dream Theater's 90s run. Another reason to hunt down the 2004 version is that the King Diamond cover 'At The Graves' is worth the price of admission alone as it matches and exceeds the fiery passion that the original delivered with extra technicalities introduced without sacrificing the emotional connection of the original. It's good enough to make the King himself bow down in humility. That good.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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