Whilst it is true to say that Poland has more than its fair share of brutal metal acts, an oft overlooked facet of the Polish music scene is the vast array of excellent progressive acts the country can field, with bands such as Riverside, Hipgnosis, Armia and Osada Vida all having made excellent progressive albums in recent years. Adding to that illustrious group, Archangelica’s ‘like a drug’ highlights a more pastoral take on progressive music than the aforementioned bands, drawing comparisons to Genesis and Yes as well as Arjen Lucassen’s more metallic progressive vision Stream of passion. An often fascinating album, ‘like a drug’ will undoubtedly impress those looking for an album that is comfortably progressive without having to add the ‘metal’ tag, and which boasts a stunning sound that comes close to challenging the recent Sound Of Contact album for both warmth and depth.
Opening with the understated beauty of ‘into unknown’, an instrumental track, the band set the tone – serene, rich guitar leads, wordless vocalisations and the distant thunder of percussion all combining to suggest the calm before the storm. It sets a dreamy, ethereal tone and then fades out, making way for the crunchy percussion of the title track which adds throbbing bass and crunchy, rhythm guitars to the mix. Driven, but not heavy, it suggests elements of Stream of passion, A perfect circle and Genesis with melody firmly at the fore and Krzysiek Salapa’s rich vocals pitched somewhere between David Gilmour and Geddy Lee. ‘Confession’ opens on a dreamy note, adding a jazzy tone to the guitars, before the more gritty sound returns for the verse all of which leads to a richly rewarding closing section complete with beautifully phrased guitar solos at the climax. Continuing their intimate voyage into the forgiving darkness, ‘night passage’ evokes memories of Anathema’s more recent material, the guitars drifting from the speakers as the multi-tracked vocals slowly work their way into the depths of your soul. It is beautifully constructed music, with plenty of depth and whist reference points are easy to find, it is crucial that Archangelica have developed their own sound, playing to their strengths rather than playing to the crowd, meaning that you will want to return to the album regularly.
With the listener firmly drawn into the heart of the album, Archangelica pull a surprisingly pop-infused track out of the bag in the form of ‘midnight train’, a clear contender for single with its simple melody and atmospheric keyboard flourishes doing much to recall the sound of latter-day Genesis. ‘Cathedral’, in contrast, is an adventurous and powerful piece of music that neatly contrasts hymnal keyboards with raging guitars to great effect. ‘The journey’ calms things down with a soothing, David Gilmour-esque piece of guitar work that comes close to matching the intro riff to ‘us and them’ in terms of gentle beauty before edging itself into scratchier, minor-key territory that sits somewhere between the Cure and tool in terms of mood and atmosphere before hitting a soaring chorus that will stuck with you for days after listening to the record. ‘Let me stay with the trees’ showcases the understated but complex rhythms of which Piotr Brzezicki is capable and offers some of the album’s fieriest guitar work, not to mention stunning backing vocals from Natalia Matuszek. The album closes with ‘when all is gone’, a stately finale to an album that offers much in the variety, but which never feels like anything less than a carefully structured and cohesive whole designed to be taken as a complete work. With a staccato keyboard part and rich, over-driven guitars adding depth to the perfectly phrased vocal work, it sees the album out on a high and hints at great things to come in the future.
With progressive rock featuring something of a revival of late thanks to the tender ministrations of long-standing acts such as Neal Morse, Spock’s beard and Dream Theater, as well as stunning efforts from the likes of Haken, Devin Townsend and Sound of Contact, Archangelica’s similarly awe-inspiring album has appeared at just the right time. An eclectic, beautiful musical piece of work, this will undoubtedly appeal to those music fans who appreciate heart-felt, honest and intelligent music and comes highly recommended.