Archon Angel - Fallen

Archon Angel Fallen cover
Archon Angel
Frontiers Music srl
Frontiers has been getting quite a bit of flak for its inbreeding of the talent in its “stables” as more of them than not it leads to so-so, if not bad albums (Sweet Oblivion etc.), with the occasional exception (First couple of Allen Lande, Wet, Black Swan albums and so on).
Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), who did some vocal sessions for the latest Avalon/Timo Tolkki release, returns with an entire album written with him in mind from Aldo Lonobile, who was responsible for the production of that album as well. Also offering a hand with songwriting are 2 more of Frontiers usual producers, DGM’s Simone Mularoni and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline and others). This new project is dubbed Archon Angel and “Fallen” is their debut album.
The press release claims this material sounds like “Edge of Thorns” and “Gutter Ballet”, but that’s likely the overstatement of the century. They share the same vocalist (several decades later) but that’s about it.
While, I suppose, this is one of the better albums by a Sava Alumni (like the first C2C, the debut of Oliva’s Pain and maybe “Faces” by Chris Caffery), almost all of those projects/bands didn’t create sequels that felt worthy of their, inheritance. It’s not a big assumption to make that if you like Savatage, you’re likely to enjoy this album to a fair degree, but yo’‘ll just won’t lose your head. Obviously each and every of those projects is orders of magnitude better than the stale and million making TSO (a big covers orchestra that covers classics, does mediocre Broadway and performs a few of the more melodic Sava songs) that is probably what killed one of the most unique and beloved rock/metal bands… sad!
Despite being thrown into deep waters, Stevens was able to stand up to the task, back in the day and be an integral part of Savatage in their post Chris era. Here, while the first couple of songs, “Fallen” and “The Serpent” seem able to recreate similar moods to the classic more symphonic “Sava” sounds from Zak’s era, things quickly get somewhat stale… already by “Rise” that has a nice riff, the chorus leaves an impression that it doesn’t quite resolve, as well as the other songs did, despite the excellent build up.
“Under the Spell” offers even less, going through the motions and only impressing to a point due to Stevens nice inflections, while his voice has aged gracefully enough, both his vibrato as well as tone have somewhat diminished, but not to the point of that being a detriment to the songs. Here is the song that doesn’t offer anything exciting.
“Twilight” is like the eponymous movies, utterly boring. Well there’s a solo, I didn’t mind and a keyboard riff, but that’s not exactly enough to keep me focused.
“Faces of Innocence”, which plagiarizes a well-known riff, despite starting out in the same way has some softly sung opening lines (Stevens has some trouble delivering convincingly, with much of his old resonance gone and only the timbre reminiscing who it is), but at least he seems to “wake” up for some nice verses and pre-choruses where he belts things out, with aplomb, yet the chorus is not reaching the conclusion it should to make the song truly stand out, but it’s not bad. The solo is good. I mean this one is among the better song of the album and could have been one of the better ones that Stevens has done in a while, if the chorus was given a bit of more development.
“Hit the Wall” tries to up the ante and rock up things a bit, fair idea, as the constant lower to mid-tempo songs, weren’t exactly setting the world on fire, but neither does this song. It has okay verses that attempt to ape earlier than Zak’s era Sava and other melodic metal bands of their ilk, but doesn’t have the dynamics in the chorus to really impact (hits a wall then).
“Who’s on the Mirror” feels like a bastard child of Savatage and commercial era Mr.Big and it get things the other way around; the verses are not particularly interesting, but the melodies during the pre-chorus and chorus are damn solid and Stevens sings them, like he means them.
“Brought to the End” is a ballad and it doesn’t have any particularly interesting melodies. I’m sad to report, yet ZS, does his best to elevate the stale material he’s got to work with, managing to turn it into listenable fare at least.
“Return of the Storm” make reference of some Savatage melodies and the polyphony it features, I suppose is meant to be reminiscent of “Chance”… well, it’s a nice touch, but it’s nowhere near as brilliant. While there are some nice lines and moments in the seven minute composition and a fairly interesting solo, this doesn’t really hold up a candle to the real deal. It’s not that original and it just doesn’t have the same emotional depth and lyricism.
In the case of “Fallen”, the album, the chips are falling somewhere in the middle. It’s not terrible material, but it’s not brilliant either. The whole album feels edited and just doesn’t have the organic flow of a team effort. Only for Sava-fanatics.