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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