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Dante - 2008 - "The Inner Circle"

(64:08, Dante)


******

Prolusion. The German band DANTE started out in 2006, when longtime friends Markus Maichel and Markus Berger started talking after a Dream Theater concert and decided to record some of their ideas in Berger's studio. They found out that their ideas sounded too good to be constrained to a private pet project only, and put together a working studio band to record their debut album "The Inner Circle". Since the recording of this CD, Dante has expanded to include bass player Dennis Neumeier as well, and due to that they are now a regular band, and not a studio project.

TRACK LIST:
                             
1.  Faded 10:46
2.  Ghost from the Past 8:38
3.  For I Am 3:24
4.  Not Like Myself 9:02
5.  More or Less a Man 9:06
6.  The Giving 4:21
7.  The Taking 18:24

LINEUP:

Markus Maichel  keyboards, piano
Markus Berger  guitars, bass
Christian Eichlinger  drums
Alexander Gohs  vocals

Analysis. It should come as no surprise that there is a distinct Dream Theater influence detectable on this album, when you take into account how the band started. What may surprise listeners is that there aren't more nods in the direction of the masters of the genre, actually. The touches of Dream Theater's music can mostly be found in the compositional structure of these tunes. All the songs are long, apart from the ballads, and the close to epic-length songs contain enough breaks, changes in style, pace, mood and atmosphere to give most listeners more than a handful to concentrate on. However, in sound and performance Dante seeks out if not new territory then at least one that hasn't been overly explored previously. First and foremost the vocalist has a calm, relaxed manner of singing, a bit deeper in timbre than what is often heard in a prog metal band, not as melodic, but still quite emotional. This is especially noticeable in the two short tracks on the album, For I Am and The Giving, both of which are mellow ballads. Here the vocals actually carry the tune, and in both instances add nerve and emotion to the performance. Skilled use of additional instrumentation besides vocals and piano sees to it that those songs in particular are stand-out tracks on this release. As for the more traditional prog metal tracks, you will find a few stereotypical Dream Theater moments there. Segments consisting of crunchy guitar riffs mixed with melodramatic and majestic keyboard layers are a prime example of just that. However, Dante has added quite a few levels of variation to the standard prog metal formula: mellow, lush and ambient textures are inserted, cinematic atmospheres too, and there's a great variety of different keyboard as well as guitar sounds used here. At one point a song can have a segment close to Deep Purple in sound, and a bit later the style explored is closer to Metallica. With a variety in styles ranging from classic hard rock and symphonic rock to techno thrash, and even some jazz-influenced moves, there's just more variety to the songs here than what you might find on most other prog metal releases. And, most times, the compositions come across as wholehearted consistent tunes as well; most often repetitions of certain themes and segments tie it all together, but also certain instrument sounds provide that consistency at times. In addition to this, the band is good at adding small details to the songs that are innovative. Eerie sounding synth layers, a slight extra distortion to the guitar riff at the end of a riff segment, keyboards adding a small fanfare to the soundscape at the end of a long tune: small subtle nuances not many other bands include in their compositions. When that is said, there are some flaws to this release, too. Some of the many breaks don't really gel with the themes as such, thus having a disruptive effect on the particular tune. The overall sound of the album also suggests some weakness in mix and production; some background vocals and keyboard layers are too hidden in the soundscape, at other times the guitars dominate a tad too much, and the overall sound seems to be just slightly muffled. All of these are minor matters though, but they do result in some songs not quite reaching their potential.

Conclusion. This is a strong debut album by a talented band and should be checked by fans of progressive metal in general, and in particular those who would like to sample a band that tries to add variations to a sound and a style that has been extensively explored for some years now.

OMB: Agst 17, 2008


Dante - 2008 - "The Inner Circle"

******

Analysis. While listening to The Inner Circle, the first release by German quartet DANTE, I often catch myself comparing it to Sacrums debut Cognition, occasionally experiencing even a kind of deja vu, despite knowing that the albums saw the light of day approximately at the same time and that the bands hail from different hemispheres. Well, I do realize that all those coincidences are grounded on real facts, as the ideas are in the air, and theres generally nothing new under the sun (lacking my own aphorisms on the matter, though as regards our beloved genre, I would say the ideas have been in the air since its golden age, if not since its first, formative years). Upon a balanced analysis, however, it becomes clear that in terms of identity these German aficionados of heavy progressive rock music are a bit more advanced than their Chilean brothers in style, being somewhat more successful in their (definitely calculated) efforts to avoid classic prog-metal canons. Okay, some exemplary citations those resembling Dream Theater in particular can be traced here also, but most of the music comes across as being materially alienated from the style, particularly as regards its main stream. At least as I see it, Dante lays special emphasis on accelerated, utilizing techno-thrash devices, progressive Doom Metal ornamented with bright symphonic as well as gothic colorations (due to which I sometimes call it Cathedral Metal). The five tracks that determine the basic sound of this long recording, Ghost from the Past, Not Like Myself, More or Less a Man, Faded and The Taking, cover seven eighths of its space, all teeming with various deviations, of which, however, theme and meter shifts dominate over major structurally-stylistic transformations, as only the last three of these songs find the group from time to time playing without the use of big guns: switching to art-rock-like and / or classically-inspired arrangements, to be more precise. Not the music as such, but the general architecture of the faster songs from the self-titled Abstract Algebra release (which, while strongly differing from Candlemass general output, is inseparably linked with that bands work) fairly frequently recurs to my memory when I listen to the basic material, more often on the first two of the said compositions. Besides, keyboardist Markus Maichel tends to prefer organ (not sure whether its real or emulated) to modern synthesizers, and while Alexander Gohs vocals are less powerful than Messiah Marcolins or Mats Levens either, his intonations can when demanded bear a kind of parsonic quality to them as well. As for the other three, there are also some distant echoes of both Steps and Uneven by Sieges Even, though one of that outfits songs, the violins-driven Change of Seasons from A Sense of Change, at times really comes to mind on each. The boundary and at the same time the longest tracks here, Faded (10:46) and The Taking (18:24), are both especially rich in classically-influenced moves, while the balladic For I Am is almost literally woven of those airy chamber-like fabrics that, well, favor the said resemblance, even though its only semi-acoustic in nature, unlike a couple of interludes on the disc opener, let alone their potential prototype. Involving only piano and vocals, the remaining track The Giving is a more conventional ballad, and yet is a tasty piece, with no distinct outside factors, just as everything in this Inner Circle.

Conclusion. I hope theres enough said above, so I think I can allow myself to take the line of least resistance here. The Inner Circle is one of the most convincing debuts Ive heard this year, so Dante is definitely a band to watch in the future. Highly recommended.

VM: Agst 17, 2008


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