Released: 2007, LMP / SPV
Reviewer: Robert Fortress Fortney
Norway's spirited and majestic Pagan's Mind returns with its fourth release of hopeful and superbly-executed heavy metal, GOD'S EQUATION. Following in the wake of 2005's brilliant ENIGMATIC: CALLING, the 11 songs that comprise this effort once again make a strong case for Pagan's Mind now besting one its main influences, Dream Theater, in the realm of epic and technically awe-inspiring progressive metal, and being a breath of fresh air after the stale winds of DT's recent output.
Pagan's Mind boasts two of the scene's hottest rising stars in vocalist Nils K. Rue (the vocalist on ex-Megadeth six-stringer Glen Drover's 2006 Eidolon offering, THE PARALLEL OTHERWORLD) and guitarist Jorn Viggo Lofstad (also: Beautiful Sin, Jorn). As if Nils' expressive vox, knack for a catchy melody, optimistic lyrics, and cloud-clearing choruses weren't enough to draw in listeners, Jorn's channeling of virtuosos such as Edward Van Halen and Steve Vai into a tasty stew of his own ought to do the trick. Here's a guy who has chops for miles, but plays for the song, keeping his fireworks for moments when such histrionics make musical sense. The other top-notch players are bassist Steinar Krokmo, keyboardist Ronny Tegner and drummer Stian Kristoffersen.
"The Conception", a short introduction, kicks things off in optimistic style, before launching into the title song, another first-rate record-starter from the band. Next comes "United Alliance" and first single "Atomic Firelight", for which a video has been shot. This one is a perfect example of the group's ability to build considerably heavy musical constructs, and then break into vivacious melodies that sticks in the brain and the heart.
Next is David Bowie classic "Hallo Spaceboy". Rue shows his uncanny ability to slip into another's shoes here, as he has done in the past with the killer cover of King Diamond's "At The Graves" on the 2004 reissue (and partial re-recording) of band debut INFINITY DIVINE and Eidolon's spot-on version of Mercyful Fate's "The Oath".
Swishy keyboard sounds set the stage for "Evolution Exceed", before eventually collapsing into staccato riffing and more infectious melody. The song is about mankind "exceeding" his intended intelligence and potential. Those familiar will know of Pagan's Mind's unique take on lyrical subject matter and...aliens. Yes, aliens. But they're nice aliens. For the most part. Here, it would seem, our "makers" need to make corrections to their design. Heck, not a bad idea.
"Alien Kamikaze" is a direct attack of a tune with aggressive vocals from Nils, while "Painted Skies" slows things down and lightens the mood with fantastical lyrics and an absolutely uplifting solo section that elevates the mood and encourages hope. A deep-album classic for sure. "Spirit Starcruiser" owns one of the album's best choruses (a big claim with this group). Upon first listen, at its conclusion, I was thinking, Man, this had better be the last tune on the record! The ending is that good and resolving. A more uplifting amalgamation of sound cannot be heard.But, as I was soon to discover, Mr. Lofstad and company had an even better ending cooked up. The second-to-last track, "Farewell", is a brief instrumental piece dedicated to late founding guitarist Thorstein Aaby, a dear friend of the band. He appeared on the first two efforts.
GOD'S EQUATION ends very strongly with "Osiris' Triumphant Return", a continuation of CELESTIAL ENTRANCE's "Through Osiris' Eyes". Now, remember that tasty ending of which I spoke? The song rides out of sight, and thus ends the album's brilliance, with quite possibly the greatest outro of all-time in progressive metal. We're talkin' goose-bump time, folks. It's so good I want to run through a wall every time I hear it in sheer joy. Alone it's worth the price of purchase. It starts at 6:32. Buckle in and feel the very essence of joy and hope. What is the magic of Pagan's Mind.
Advice: Seek out the two-disc version of GOD'S EQUATION. It comes in a slipcase and features six bonus songs on the second CD: "Shine Eternally" (unreleased), an epic number worthy of the Pagan's Mind catalogue, "Search For Life" (live), "The Seven Sacred Promises" (demo), "Prophecy Of Pleiades" (demo), "Of Epic Questions" (demo), and the demo version of the aforementioned "Through Osiris' Eyes". Also included is wallpapers and the video for "Atomic Firelight".