Wednesday, October 12, 2016

review: DGM

review by Matt Spall
Artist: DGM
Album Title: The Passage
Label: Frontiers Records
Date Of Release: 26 August 2016
This review comes a little after the release date but under the circumstances, I make no apologies for this. The reason for my tardiness is that I was not initially very struck by this, the ninth album from Italian melodic prog band DGM. This may have been down to the fact that it was vying for my attention alongside some other big hitting releases but actually, I just think it needed a touch more time in my ears to create the biggest impact upon me.
I’m still not saying it is blowing me away in the same manner as other records this year but I am enjoying the record a lot more than I did in the beginning and I feel better able to offer my considered and objective thoughts on it.
By way of background, it’s worth noting that the band has changed significantly over the years. No original members now remain with the founding trio of guitarist Diego Reali, keyboardist Maurizio Pariotti and drummer Gianfranco Tassella, after whom the band was named, all having departed. Regardless of this though, speaking as someone who somehow owns the entire back catalogue without ever calling myself much of a fan, I have to say that this is arguably DGM’s best recording to date. The fact that I didn’t realise I had the entire catalogue maybe speaks volumes as to how I generally regard the DGM discography to date.
‘The Passage’ is undeniably very slick and very professional, topped off with a muscular, clear production. The album contains some good performances all-round but for me, even now, there either needs to be a bit more of an overt prog feel throughout or alternatively, it needs to go all-out and provide melodies that more frequently give me the chills. As it is, my mind does wander occasionally as the disc develops.
But enough Of The criticism, let’s focus on the positives, of which there are a decent number to be fair.
To begin with, there’s ‘The Secret Part 1’. Unquestionably, it is one of the best tracks on the album, bursting into life with a groove heavy riff after a brief quiet intro. The riffs, courtesy of Simone Mularoni are great; fast and heavy, with plenty of chops as well, reminiscent a little bit of Symphony X. The chorus bridge is glorious with a melodic hard rock feel before a hook laden chorus kicks in to great effect. The composition also features a lovely quieter segment before the crunching riffs and melodies return powerfully. The keyboards of Emanuele Casali play a prominent part throughout, and the overall vibe of this track is instant and accessible prog metal meets AOR.
Coupled with ‘Part 2’, this opening salvo extends beyond 15 minutes in length, delivering the longer more epic composition that many fans have been wanting for some time. ‘The Secret Part 2’ takes up where ‘Part 1’ left off but with slightly more emphasis on atmospheres and the more progressive side of the band’s songwriting. As such, the keys are more overt, there are more pronounced dynamics and there’s a slightly darker vibe all round.
‘Animal’ is a wonderfully upbeat track that benefits from an unashamed swaggering hard rock vibe, complete with hook-laden chorus. Those flamboyant guitars are all over the song and it’s hard not to succumb to the feel-good flavour of this track.
With a guest appearance from one of my all-time favourite metal vocalists, Evergrey’s Tom Englund, ‘Ghost Of Insanity’ is an inspired track that pushes the opener all the way in terms of quality and enjoyment. The duo of regular vocalist Mark Basile with Englund works really well, both complimenting each other and adding different ingredients to the composition. However, with a dark prog feel, properly chunky riffs and a bruising menance, not to mention a cracking chorus, it was always going to be a winner regardless of who was behind the mic.
‘Daydreamer’ is slower-paced but soars thanks to a huge performance from Basile in the chorus. ‘Dogma’ on the other hand, is heavy and fast. It is perhaps the most aggressive song on the album, albeit not without the ubiquitous instrumental flamboyance and a great rhythmic spine thanks to drummer Fabio Costantino and bassist Andrea Arcangeli.
In direct contrast are ‘Disguise’ and ‘In Sorrow’. The former is a gorgeous 90 second interlude that features a rich piano melody and emotive vocals from Basile. The latter begins with a guitar tome that vaguely recalls Metallica’s ‘Fade To Black’, but is a closing ballad that once again showcases the talents of the vocalist, pushing his softer side to the fore.
In between these tracks are a few that still fail to raise much interest and don’t quite match the quality elsewhere. It’s a shame because ‘The Passage’ demonstrates that when they get it right, DGM are a force to be reckoned with. And, with a little more consistency, this could have been vying for a place in my end of year ‘best of’ list. As it is, I’m afraid it just misses out. Worth checking out nonetheless though, as I seem to be in the minority that’s not smitten…
The Score Of Much Metal: 7.75
DGM - "Animal" (Official Music Video)
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