[March 26th 2013]
01. Reason (feat. Russell Allen)
07. Chaos (feat. Jørn Viggo Lofstad)
Aside from a couple of exceptions, metal is not generally known for being an ‘ironic’ genre. However, when it comes to examining DGM‘s latest offering, the entire album is packed with irony; from the influences and execution right down to the band’s name (DGM being Diego, Gianfranco, Maurizio, none of whom have been in the band post-2006). Putting aside the irony for just a second, however, reveals a wealth of progressive-power metal to delve into, and more than one convention of Italian metal successfully revoked in their eighth album Momentum.
The most obvious convention, and most frequent bone to pick with Italian metal, lies in the vocals. Most famous Italian metal singers are renowned for being at least somewhat strongly accented to a degree (Fabio Lione being a prominent example), and for those more vocally-inclined this can be a real barrier to enjoying the tracks as a whole. Auspiciously, the relatively new Mark Basile has a fantastic set of pipes on him that, while certainly not an Americlone, doesn’t suffer from his Romantic origins. On a technical basis, his smooth mid-range has an instant catchiness and emotionality to enhance those all-important choruses (cf. “Trust”, “Pages”), although the tougher edge that crept in on previous release FrAme seems absent here. Regardless, I find very little fault in his work; even the ballad performance of “Repay” is well-wrought. He also works well in tandem with the inimitable Russell Allen (Symphony X), as the pair pull out a monster of an opening track in “Reason”, although he is certainly no slacker when on his own.
Speaking of a lack of slacking, the rest of DGM have one monumentally strong and yet flexible blend of genres on their hands. While “Reason” sounds quite familiar to any Symphony X fan, the rest of the album branches out in other directions. Usually I am skeptical of the term ‘prog’ metal, being accustomed to it referring either to relentless spotlight-soloing (or more recently a substitute for that popular buzzword “djent”), but the tracks on Momentum left me pleasantly surprised. From the orchestral-led thundering intro of “Universe” to the groove-abundant “Numb”, each track made sure to imprint something a little unique, without sounding like an understirred and lumpy melting pot. The one time this falters is during the penultimate number “Void”, which inexplicably treads dangerously close to trite pop-metal and does not sit well between the solo-overloaded “Overload” and mid-paced stomp of closer “Blame”.
Regarding technical aspects, one would assume correctly that, this being prog metal, the musicians are a little bit good at their instruments. However, DGM go beyond simple technical wizardry; yes, the solos from Simone Mularoni and Emanuele Casali (on guitar and keyboards respectively) are flashy and smell quite a bit of the infamous Romeo/Pinnella duo (Symphony X), but they don’t feel shoe-horned or cut-&-pasted in like in other prog metal bands. Rebuking another pet peeve, the verses don’t suffer from creativity-lacking chug either. There are riffs aplenty to enjoy, like in “Remembrance”, showing these guys to be very well-rounded indeed. This doesn’t always work out to their advantage though; the guest solo appearance from Jørn Viggo Lofstad of Pagan’s Mind in “Chaos” remains in danger of being swallowed by the competence of the other members, and his solo passes almost without notice.
But where is the irony, I hear you ask? Well, the irony lies mostly in “Reason” and “Chaos”, for those two tracks with guest performances are the tracks that most closely resemble the guests’ bands; “Reason” in particular would not sound out of place on either of Symphony X’s last two albums. DGM also have a close encounter with Kamelot (“Universe”), although other such conspicuous influences are mercifully absent from the rest of the tracks. But aside from these close shaves and the misstep that is “Void”, DGM manage to maintain ‘Momentum’ (you must have seen that coming!) every time this album is spun.
Influence-baiting aside, it seems near-miraculous that a band manage to circumvent many a grievance of prog-metal detractors without completely inverting the genre on its head, but DGM do the trick with self-assurance. Although I cannot say whether this stacks up against their previous outings, if this is the level that has been set, then the rest of their back catalog will be my next port of call. If a blend of the above-mentioned influences makes you perk your ears up, then Momentum should be yours.