Anyone who’s ever eaten a bacon, nutella and mint sandwich can attest to the fact that just because all of the elements of a thing are good, doesn’t mean that the end product is going to be a tasty treat. It starts off innocently enough, but by the time you’ve realized you may have made a mistake it’s too late to stop, and that first bite leads to more bites thinking “surely it’s not like this all the way through”.
This is a somewhat harsh parallel to bring to this album. There are parts of Adagio’s Life that are genuinely enjoyable, very much the point where you can taste the bacon the most in the previous analogy. The guitar solos especially are genuinely very impressive – in their near decade between albums Adagio clearly, haven’t let their ability slip. To its credit, the album also manages to fill songs that are nearly 8 minutes long without getting too repetitive or simply making the already lengthy instrumental sections even longer. There are a few guitar and keyboard solos, in particular, that could have done with some trimming, ‘The Ladder‘ is one of the chief offenders here.
There are also some classy classical music sections, especially the intro which is possibly one of the best bits of the entire album. ‘The Grand Spirit Voyage‘ too, has a great build up in it, although here it would have been nice for it to lead to something more impactful than a prog instrumental section.
Here we start to delve into Life’s shortcomings. The contrast between the more prog-y or classic sections and the heavier, djent-y sections can be very jarring, and there are no points where the transition between the two feels seamless that doesn’t have a guitar solo placed tactically in the middle. Whilst modern tech-metal and classic prog are no strangers to each other, the latter has influenced the former in multitudes of ways when bands like TesseracT and Animals As Leaders combine the two it feels far more natural than when Adagio have done it here.
As is often the problem with classical, prog and djent albums too, this album is far too long. At nine tracks, all bar one of which are close to six minutes, the levels of endurance needed to get through Life are high. Though the blend of 80s rock, prog, djent and classical is in itself an interesting notion, we come back to the sandwich analogy: this is only going to be 100% enjoyable to a very small group of people.