Released: 2007, Self Distributed
Reviewer: The Crimson King
When it comes to certain types of metal, such as power or symphonic, those of here in the states have a hard time finding a large quantity of home grown potential. Similar to buying electronics, we must look overseas to find quality product. That being the case, I was highly interested to hear of a new symphonic/ operatic metal act that popped up out of Michigan named Archaic Revival. The band, masterminded by guitarist/songwriter/composer Derek Cvengros, follows closely in the footsteps of acts such as Therion and Nightwish, and it is upon these influences that their debut album PAGAN EVOLUTION is built.
While, since the release of the album in Nov of 2007, Cvengros has managed to pull together an entire band, the studio personnel present on the release consists of just Cvengros, (who is credited with all of the music on the release) and vocalist Alexandria Clark. The album kicks off with a minute long intro entitled “Rise of the Gods” which transitions directly into the song “Son to the Fallen”. The track starts with an atmospheric keyboard and drum section that cuts out almost immediately allowing for a scorching metal riff to take its place. The song builds upon this riff as the pounding drum track enters, and layers upon layers of music begin to be placed atop. While the track is extremely diverse and multi-faceted, it never manages to lose the foundation of head banging tempo upon which it began, and proves to be one of the highlights of the album. Additional stand out tracks are the melodic ballad “Unsung Hero”, “Vendetta” which begins with a dark, pounding riff that is eerily reminiscent of “God of Thunder” by Kiss, and “Black Magick” which may be the closest thing to a straight forward metal track on the album (and includes eerie spoken word sections by Cvengros, which immediately brought to mind “Double Agent” by Rush).
Musically the album is highly impressive. Cvengros shows a true vision and craft in his songwriting, incorporating not only the expected trappings of the aforementioned Therion and Nightwish, but also influences of folk (Blackmore’s Night), metal (Metallica), and classical scoring a la Howard Shore. That being said, at times the album does fall somewhat flat melodically. Clark, who clearly has some sort of professional opera training, at times does not provide enough variance in tone and pitch within the songs, making some sections drone on a bit. Clark also falls into the pit trap of too often having the melody follow the music to a tee, which can also add a level of monotony to what are musically highly diverse and challenging tracks. It should be mentioned here that since the recording of this album Clark has been replaced with a new vocalist, Stefanie Stauffer, and this may rectify the minor quips that I have with, what is otherwise, a quality album within this genre of metal.
For a self-made, self-produced, debut, PAGAN EVOLUTION is quite lavish in its scope. Cvengros shows himself to be a songwriter of great potential, and given the proper supporting cast, has the ability to really make his mark within the metal community. For fans of this type of music, PAGAN EVOUTION is an album worth checking out. By doing so you may just be getting in on the proverbial ‘ground floor” of an artist and act that has the potential to really take off.