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(30:30, ‘Dog Drama’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Citta Sera 1:39 2. Sultan 4:37 3. Western 5:24 4. Sicilia 6:31 5. Border 5:00 6. Frangistan 5:07 7. Citta Notte 2:11 LINEUP: Unknown
Prolusion. “Soundgraphia” is the second CD by Russia’s DOG DRAMA, according to a brief letter that I received along with it. To my surprise, neither its booklet nor the letter featured any info on the outfit’s lineup. It may well be that it’s a creation of a one-man ‘band’, but since the album’s sound suggests there are three musicians behind it, I will view it from this perspective.
Analysis. There are seven tracks here, and almost all of the longer ones have a full-band sound, bringing to mind a guitar trio which uses overdubs of another guitar. After the first listening to those I had the impression that Dog Drama sounds much like an all-instrumental take on Rush circa “Roll the Bones”, combining classic guitar Art-Rock and moderately progressive Hard Rock as well as Metal. The second spin of the disc confirmed my suspicions, especially from the guitar and drums. To give it credit, however, the Russian outfit has managed to incorporate the better qualities of Rush without sounding derivative (although, of course, the implying period is by far not a peak of the legend’s creative work). Two of the pieces, Sultan and Frangistan, are particularly representative in this respect, almost strictly alternating softer and harder moves, guitar licks-driven ones included. On Sicilia Dog Drama now echoes ‘70s Rush, now goes along the lines of a more conventional Hard Rock/Metal, delivering atmospheric quasi art-rock landscapes within the last two segments of the piece. Yes, it’s somewhat less varied than the above two, but contains contrasts between upbeat and gloomier moments, whilst otherwise the music is always either dramatic or dark in mood. Western is more in the experimental vein. A real standout, it brings together the more aggressive side of Rush and the more melodic side of (yet another Canadian musical heavyweight) Voivod, circa “The Outer Limits”. There are plenty of progressive workouts on the piece to keep the listener intrigued, its second half containing some brilliant, truly unique, banjo-driven moves, the instrument used within the prog rock context the most innovative as well as resourceful way I’ve ever met with. Otherwise, it’s a guitar that dominates the arrangements, and the man who plays it is quite masterful when either soloing or riffing. The drummer is adept in moving between complex metal and more straightforward rock, often with little time delay. The bass player doesn’t so much add melodic counterpoint to the proceedings as hold down the low end. Speaking of the other tracks, they’re not as compelling as the above four. Only deploying some electronic devices and guitar solos, the 5-minute Border is space rock-inspired e-music, melancholically-meditative in nature, evoking a cross between Porcupine Tree and Ozric Tentacles at their most reflective. The sounds are used sparingly, so the piece appears to be somewhat overextended. To really impress me, it should’ve been as short in length as ‘Planets’ from Tiamat’s “Wildhoney”, with which it has something in common as well. As for the first and the last track on the album, Citta Sera and Citta Notte respectively, they are little sketches, variations on the same theme, only featuring passages of semi-acoustic guitar. Finally, I’d like to note that although the band considers “Soundgraphia” a concept album, it’s not even a semi-concept one. You see, three of its seven tracks are titled in English, three in Italian, and one in a fictitious language, Frangistan, arousing associations with a Central Asian country (that doesn’t exist in fact). However, neither this piece nor Sultan contains elements of oriental music, in spite of what their titles suggest. All of the other tracks seem to be also called arbitrarily, as there is no vivid connection between their titles and their contents, either.
Conclusion. Overall, “Soundgraphia” is a fairly good album, although its creators could certainly go further, developing all of the tracks with a full-band sound in the manner of Western. As it is, it comes recommended mainly to those who still enjoy Rush’s “Roll the Bones” and “Presto”.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: January 14, 2012
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