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(63:41, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. All My Life 12:12 2. Drifting 4:49 3. Last 6:10 4. Never Return 8:48 5. Maybe One Day 3:55 6. Modal Acousma 7:33 7. Vanessa 19:00 LINEUP: Markus Maichel keyboards Markus Berger guitar Dennis Neumeier bass Alexander Gohs vocals Christian Eichlinger drums
Prolusion. The German band DANTE was formed back in 2006, and was initially a project formed by band members Berger and Maichel, but slowly expanding to become a full fledged band. Their initial effort "The Inner Circle" from 2008 made quite an impact, and quite a few will have looked forward to their next effort. "Saturnine" is the name of it, and it was issued by Progrock Records in the summer of 2010.
Analysis. Progressive metal of the Dream Theater school is a genre extensively explored, and it is a great achievement by this German band to have crafted an album taking it into somewhat new territories. Following up such a creation is a daunting challenge, adding to the pressure in crafting what many will describe as the difficult second album. And while I have to admit that I found the predecessor of this venture to be more interesting overall, "Saturnine" is a pretty solid affair to the extent that it is an easy recommendation for Dante's existing fans. The most characteristic trait of the compositions this time around is variety. In particular, the longer tracks sport a series of themes and motifs that should keep the avid listener intently listening time and time again. Getting to know each individual song will take time; the sense of discovery, while listening to this disc, will remain intense for numerous replays. And carrying on the trend from their first effort, there are numerous differences in sound and arrangements too, with sparse instrumentation and mellow moods explored almost as intently as ones featuring rich arrangements and an overall heavier expression. Strings and organ are utilized just as extensively as fluctuating synth backdrops and keyboard soloing, and there's even room for a few up-tempo parts, featuring galloping guitar riffs closer to power metal in nature. Most sequences are of a slow- to mid-paced nature though, where dark, down-tuned guitar riffs are used as something of a red thread throughout, heavily distorted at times, on occasion to the extent that the reverberating elongated riff takes on a slight electronic tinge. There's a lot going on in each piece, but Dante tends to stay away from what is often described as challenging features on this production. Contrasting instruments, disharmonies and dissonances aren't overly much used, and while the difference between the dark guitar sound and the lighter keys and synths crafts tensions keeping the proceedings interesting, it is done in a dampened rather than polarized manner, which does result in a limited number of unique sounding motifs and themes, at least on the surface of things. The sheer variety in the number of these makes it challenging to pay minute attention to those details in the arrangements, and I do suspect that when giving this disc an additional 20 or so runs there might just be a number of finer details that will be unveiled as you gradually get to know this disc better. Good quality mix and production see to it that the technical side of matters won't distract any listeners, and much the same can be said for instrument and vocal performance throughout. Like the songs themselves, it all adds up to a solid album, well crafted, produced and performed.
Conclusion. Existing fans of Dante should find "Saturnine" to be a fine effort. Their brand of progressive metal of the Dream Theater variety stays away from the most obvious nods in the direction of the major veteran player, and while some may desire more of a virtuosic emphasis instrumentation-wise the sheer variety of themes and moods should keep most fans of the genre both happy and interested.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 10, 2010
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