DGM – The Passage

0005478391_200DGM are a new band to me. That kinda shows just how much I live in the world of progressive metal / hard rock. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against progressive metal – bands such as Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Symphony X, Bigelf, Opeth and Queensrÿche are all bands that I hold very dear – it’s just that most of the progressive metal bands out there leaves cold, underwhelmed and / or passes my by unnoticed. So, no, I’m not a prog metal fan per se which means that most bands in that genre are bands I just can’t be arsed to follow or even bother with. I have probably heard the name DGM sometime somewhere, but I know for sure that I haven’t heard a note of them before and this album is number eleven in their discography, so there you go. DGM started way back in 1994 as an instrumental power metal band in Italy but with the release of their self-produced debut mini album Random Access Zone the band had turned into a progressive metal band instead. Since then, the band has gone through many line-up changes, in fact all the guys that gave their names to the band – Diego Reali (guitar), Gianfranco Tassella (drums) and Maurizio Pariotti (keyboards) – are all gone today. The members that are featured on their brand new opus are Simone Mularoni – guitars and keyboards,  Marco Basile – vocals, Andrea Arcangeli – bass, Fabio Costantino – drums, Emanuele Casali – keyboards. A quick google tells me that it was with album # 8, called Frame (2007), that DGM took the final step out of Italy and into the international world of prog metal and since then they have been working hard on moving the band forward. And maybe it’s with the multi-deal that they signed with Frontiers and their new album that they will take the final step into stardom.

The album opens with “The Secret Pt 1”, an epic, eight minute track. It’s a progressive melodic hard rock / metal track with a really big Symphony X influence. Although the song is less metal than Symphony X, it’s still very heavy, but we also get a really good melody and lots of different passages. “The Secret Pt 2” comes along without me even noticing that pt one had ended and pt two started. It’s not like pt 2 sounds exactly the same as pt 1, but it is a continuation and since the songs are tied together without any pause and the many musical passages makes the two songs feel like one 15 minute song. To be honest, I don’t really see the point in making two songs out of “The Secret” at all. Hey, this is progressive hard rock so a 15 minute track is okay. Both songs are really good, though. “Animal” is the first single and it’s easy to figure out why. The song goes in a more melodic hard rock way and sports a slightly commercial touch and a very catchy chorus that bears traces of AOR. I think the song is fantastic. “Ghost Of Insanity” is a dark, hard and somewhat melancholic progressive metal track with a big guitar riff.  Tom Englund of Evergrey lends his voice for a duet with Marco Basile on it and sometimes this sounds so much like Evergrey that one could suspect that Englund was a co-writer. The Symphony X influence is back as well and there are even some musical parts that had me thinking of King Diamond. How could anyone go wrong with that? Of course, it doesn’t go wrong at all – the song is magnificent. “Fallen” is an aggressive and heavy progressive metal track that takes on a faster pace with a double bass drum that runs amok. Again, Symphony X has to be mentioned as this song sounds so much like them it borders to cloning. That said, it’s a really good song. The title track is a melodic yet progressive hard rocker with a glimpse of metal here and there. It’s a more song oriented than a musical show-off and the melodies are very memorable, especially the chorus which is really damn catchy – great stuff.

“Disguise” is a short ballad with only piano and Basile’s brilliant vocals. It’s a good song but way too short – I would have liked it a little longer because it ends before you get the chance to really get into it properly. “Portrait” is a fast paced progressive metal piece with riffs that goes full on thrash metal, it actually borders to death metal. On top of that there’s a killer melody that is very melodic and a soft break in the middle. The mix is brilliant and gives the song character and dynamics. As a contrast “Daydreamer” follows, a song that is almost pop-metal and parts of it makes me think of a band like Europe mixed with the late 80’s/early 90’s Sunset Strip rock bands. The prog elements are there as well and traces of Evergrey, Dream Theater and Symphony X can be found. It’s a damn groovy song with a chorus catchy as Hell and there’s hit potential all over it. Single # 2? Guitarist Michael Romeo (Symphony X) guests on “Dogma” and it goes without saying that the tune is total Symphony X – fast, hard and aggressive but with a really strong melody – a really good song. The close the album with another ballad, “In Sorrow”. The song starts out as an acoustic piece with only guitar and vocals but soon turns into a full-blown progressive power ballad. There’s an Evergrey influenced melody over later day Dream Theater balladry, a mix that fits like a glove – a great way to end the album.

If I would point out the downside of this album it would be that the band’s influences are a bit too obvious, influences that they seem to wear proudly on their sleeves. Especially Symphony X seems to be a huge influence as that band shows up on almost every track. But since the guys (Simone Mularoni) has managed to write an album full of high quality songs, the lack of originality doesn’t really matter that much. Also, the production is really spot on which makes for a pleasant listening, all the musicians are top-notch and the band is more song oriented than the usual “widdely-diddely”  ‘musicians playing for musicians’ type that is common when it comes to progressive metal – and all that makes this album one of the best progressive heavy metal albums I have heard in a long, long time. Since I haven’t heard any of their earlier material I have nothing to compare this record to I just have to take it for what it is – a great prog metal record full of great songs and brilliant and committed musicians. Highly recommended.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. The Secret Part 1
2. The Secret Part 2
3. Animal
4. Ghosts Of Insanity
5. Fallen
6. The Passage
7. Disguise
8. Portrait
9. Daydreamer
10. Dogma
11. In Sorrow

Advertisements