The power metal streak I have been on is showing no signs of slowing down. But, lest you fear that I have forgotten my progressive roots, I’ve decided to splice it with more varied influences. Prog power is one of the most misunderstood genres, constantly at the bad end of the “will you stop creating more sub-genres” barrage. That’s unfortunate since it’s actually a perfect example of why classifications are important; its name perfectly encapsulates the style and how it sounds. Relying on the basic tenets of power metal, that is power, speed and melodrama, the sub-genre allows itself flights of musical fancy. Complexity and technicality are introduced while the inherently epic elements of progressive metal come out to play alongside their more pronounced power metal counterparts. It creates a heady mix that’s equal part depth, concept, sheer legend and unstoppable delivery.
At the forefront of this type of sound, Pagan’s Mind have always stood supreme. Founded in the crux of the nascent power metal of the early 2000’s, Pagan’s Mind have constantly supplied intricate and yet instantly approachable prog power, sweeping hearts and minds both by storm. Words cannot do much justice here so just scroll slightly down and hit play on the titular track from their 2007 God’s Equation. Arguably their most complete album, everything you need to know is right here: larger than life vocals are obviously the main feature, while evocative synths set the velvety background. But, listen closely; this isn’t your grandfather’s power metal. For starters, the main riff is much too broken up in its rhythmical approach, relying instead on a more intricate relationship with drums and bass. Nor are those drums standard stock. Their fills are a bit too full, a bit too 80’s.
The solos are also more fitting of a Rush track than anything else. It all coalesces into an insanely rich opening track, immediately displaying everything that this album has in store for us. But worry not. If it’s speed you’re craving and the head-on brutality of power metal, this album has plenty enough of that for you as well. Even the most avid, old school fan of power metal is unable to deny the power and sheer attack of the opening passages of “Atomic Firelight”. Featuring vocals alternating between effect laden screams, guttural mutterings and over the top screeches, this album is both aggressive and musically intriguing. The drums are also back to a more traditional role, relying on a powerful kick drum to keep the standard guitar riffs going forward. This track is Pagan’s Mind at their most direct, aiming straight for the overdrive button and hitting hard once they get there. Throw in a groovy chorus and some interesting bridges and you’re good to go.
If you need it even more straight-forward then that, skip directly to “Alien Kamikaze”. Here, the band go even more directly for the throat, channeling heavy metal influences and even some glam rock to create fast, furious dynamics. The location of this track, almost smack in the middle of the album, speaks to another admirable quality of this album: its structure is flawless. Expertly juggling between slower and faster tracks, constantly dancing along the line between its two main influences, God’s Equation nevertheless leaves you perfectly located and aware of what’s going on. For example, following on “Alien Kamikaze”‘s heels, comes “Painted Sky”. This track is straight up, early era progressive metal worship with its sonorous piano, massive main riffs and emotional, over the top chorus. Stock, signed, sealed and delivered. A classic progressive track to complement the classic power metal track that preceded it.
Did I mention there’s a David Bowie cover? And that it’s actually pretty damn good? “Hallo Spaceboy” gets a pretty straight forward treatment, already being one of Bowie’s heaviest tracks. And that’s exactly what it needed: without any frills, Pagan’s Mind version is simply good fun. Allocated once again perfectly, not too early in the album and not too late, it serves as a great closer to the first part of the album. In general, this is what this album is: fun but fun which was produced on the highest of levels, with attention to detail and execution. That also pretty much sums up prog power, with its fierce desire to still make simple, approachable music and its adamant refusal to settle on anything when making it. In that regard, God’s Equation is the quintessential prog power album, capturing all that’s great about the genre. Play it loud, roll down those windows and let the breeze take over. Space awaits.