REVIEW: Floor Jansen – Paragon

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More often than not, a solo album is a personal affair, either when it comes to its artistic creation or to the topics it deals with, or sometimes both. We have seen it with Tuomas Holopainen’s “Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge” (2014), Sharon den Adel’s 2017 project MY INDIGO, Charlotte Wessels’s “Tales from Six Feet Under,” and most recently with Ville Valo’s “Neon Noir.” All these examples are quite different from the artist’s main band. This is also the case with Floor Jansen’s “Paragon,” which was released independently on March 24th, 2023.

With a soundscape that melds pop-rock sensibilities with orchestral sounds, topped off by Jansen’s powerful and expressive vocals, “Paragon” offers quite an intriguing listening experience. The ten songs are softer, mellower, and almost ballad-y in nature, which is in sharp contrast to what she’s done before with AFTER FOREVER, REVAMP, NORTHWARD, AYREON, and NIGHTWISH. This is the aspect that raises a question in my mind – is it truly a personal record (like VV’s “Neon Noir”) or is it just an artistic endeavor in a different genre of music? Honestly, I am leaning more toward the latter. To be clear, I am not debating the fact that the lyrics are not personal or don’t come from experience (I think a track like “My Paragon” makes it clear that they are indeed personal), I am just nit-picking the artistic approach.  

Instead of following the flow of the music wherever it may have led, Jansen intentionally sought a distance from metal and rock. This choice led to her expressing her thoughts and emotions in a more stripped-down manner, which, in turn, made the end result feel constrained to a certain formula. Nonetheless, the songs range from gorgeous and ethereal to moody and passionate, with some emotional cuts in between. A heartfelt celebration of dreams that came true, “My Paragon” is so full of life and optimism, as a bouncy melody is carried by drums, synths, and subtle bass. By contrast, “Invincible” is a darker and moodier piece, with a more solid foundation of drums and guitars beneath soaring vocals and orchestral elements that enhance its dramatic feel. Piano-driven “Daydream” is a minimalist piece of music that is elevated by the introspective lyrics and a vocal delivery to match.    

Truth be told, “Paragon” soars on the strength of Jansen’s versatile vocals, the rest is just embellishments. Such cuts as vulnerable “Armoured Wings” and melodramatic “Storm,” with their intense crescendos that make them all the more dramatic and powerful, showcase her sensibility, while the higher notes in theatrical “Me Without You” gives it an emotional edge that is only intensified by the gentle instrumentation. “Hope” is a low-key affair where delicate vocals, acoustic strumming, and subdued percussion work in tandem to create a serene atmosphere. On the other hand, rockers “Come Full Circle” and “Fire” benefit from guitars and drums that merge with orchestral harmonies to create a fuller sound that complement Jansen’s vocals… only to be over way too soon.  

All things considered, “Paragon” is an intimate and beautiful affair that oozes emotion and sensibility. From an artistic perspective, this album is an important landmark in Jansen’s career, solidifying her status as a versatile performer and complete artist. However, I can’t help but think back to the track “Paragon” from NORTHWARD – her project with PAGAN’S MIND guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad – and the tumult of those lyrics, and make a parallel with the calmness of this album and the feel-good vibe of the title track. I guess in the meantime she found whatever it was she was looking for, which ultimately led to this album and these tracks. Funny how life works sometimes, no?

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

01. My Paragon
02. Daydream
03. Invincible
04. Hope
05. Come Full Circle
06. Storm
07. Me Without You
08. The Calm
09. Armoured Wings
10. Fire

Lineup

Floor Jansen

Label

Independent release

Links

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