Archon Angel - Fallen
Frontiers Records
Heavy Metal
10 songs (49'53")
Release year: 2020
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Alex

I may have said on these pages before that my wife loves Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO). So, the last few Christmases, pretty faithfully, she managed to drag out our whole family to attend TSO’s Ghosts of Christmas Eve show (if you have not gone to see it, at least once, you should). I always look forward to the second part of the show when TSO revisits history and plays some of the old Savatage tracks. One year it was Gutter Ballet sung by a female singer, and two years ago it was Chance with Zak Stevens at the mic. Man, was I excited to see that, when the rest of the crowd wilted slightly from the heaviness, my 15yr old son started headbanging some, enjoying the riffs and asked me about my old Savatage CDs to listen to on the way home. I must’ve taught something right to the boy. Older and a little pudgier from his earlier years Zak Stevens sounded very lively that night, so I was really excited to see that his career in heavy metal continues with his new project Archon Angel, where he joined forces with Secret Sphere guitarist Aldo Lonobile. Fallen is Archon Angel debut.

Maybe it is me, but when a famous high profile singer starts frontmanning a new band I inevitably compare the old and the new. Archon Angel is no difference and I have to report that the band cannot escape its vocalist’s identity, and in the case of Fallen it is a good thing. From the first keyboard chord of the title track, everything breathes Savatage circa Handful of Rain. This is classic mid-tempo Savatage, after the band changed direction from their earlier edgier heavy metal to more progressive tendencies, with powerful manly vocals, keyboard arrangements, home hitting riffs, everything here breathes tribute to Paul O’Neill and Oliva brothers. If you are not a fan of that Savatage period, Archon Angel may not be for you, but Stevens/Lonobile team stirred a lot of memories for me.

The first half of Fallen hits many good spots. The Serpent is an Omeny track with a slight dark symphonic orchestration and nutty solo. Under the Spell goes in a similar direction, maybe less symphonic and more modern Evergrey in terms of its harmonies, and Zak Stevens sounds particularly great here. Rise and Twilight vary speed from up tempo/driving to choppy/stop-and-go riffs, respectively. Combination of riffs and symphonics (Twilight) or welcoming bridge and chorus, as in classic heavy metal, (Rise) shows Archon Angel span a wide metal coverage.

The second, let’s call it a B-, side of Fallen didn’t buoy me as much. Faces of Innocence is a softer AOR tune (glad they didn’t lead with this), Hit the Wall is heavier, yes, but sounds like a less descript and non-inspired track from Edge of Thorns searching for identity. Who’s in the Mirror has a cool soaring chorus, but Brought to the Edge descends into a meandering acoustic of which the aforementioned Edge of Thorns had a few. The band basically ran out the clock to close with a powerful and energetic Return of the Storm. The track is quite moving, from the opening dark piano and Stevens’ trademark polyphony, to double bass stored energy, jazzy prog middle and sing along chorus. A good way to close and to leave a positive impression, especially if you are a fan of Brainstorm or Evergrey.

I do not always find myself on the same page with Frontiers softer sounding rock and AOR type of bands (although I respect the label immensely), so their foray into progressive/classic heavy metal side of things with Archon Angel is very welcome indeed, and it is absolutely wonderful to know that the man 4 years my senior can still sing so strong and lively losing little from when I first heard him more than 25 years ago.

Killing Songs :
Fallen, Rise, Under the Spell, Twilight, Return of the Storm
Alex quoted 82 / 100
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