[18th June 2013]
01. When Winter…
02. The Realm Black
03. I, Reptile
04. Yes We Die
05. Kiss Me Kraken
07. The Great Wonder
08. The Day After The Apocalypse
09. Son Of A Ghost
10. Oblivion Is For The Living
11. By The Sword
Most of you that are reading this review have probably heard of a little band called Gojira. The French groove metal legends have been active for many years now, pumping out incredible albums about environmental issues and shining a light on just how messed up the world is. They’ve been a breath of fresh air in the metal industry as they have a particularly unique sound that they pioneered for themselves, which many try to emulate, but fail. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, if you cast your gaze to the French metal scene, you’ll find a few bands that have managed to take that template and move in a different direction with it.
Dagoba is one of those very acts. A groove metal band that (like much of the French metal scene) wear their Gojira influence on their sleeve, but contrast it with strong emphasis on industrial soundscapes and epic clean, hook laden choruses. Now, they’ve released their fifth album, Post Mortem Nihil Est, a time in a band’s career where their mettle is tested as to whether they are able to stand on their own two legs, or if they’re still stuck standing in their forefather’s monolithic shadow.
Dagoba have been active for thirteen years now, and managed to keep a relatively stable line-up, choosing to stick with one guitarist instead of two after their second left in the early formative years. Thus far, their albums have all been better than the last, showing a band that has grown with every subsequent release. However, there was some concern last year as founding guitarist Izakar left the band citing a disconnect with one particular member of the band. They quickly found a replacement, but that didn’t alleviate concern that Dagoba may have disrupted their momentum with this move.
Apparently there was no need to worry though as Post Mortem Nihil Est is their best yet. From the start it feels like a much more assured and focused effort, delivering a very memorable opening melody courtesy of “When Winter…“, before switching up to their trademark pounding groove and intensity. Dagoba have always managed to proudly straddle the line between the harsher, more extreme sonic templates synonymous with French groove giants Gojira, whilst also implementing more “poppy” hooks than an ocean fishing boat.
Speaking of boats, Dagoba have always been very obsessed with nautical themes that are constantly present within their music. These still exist, but are far less prevalent than what was found on their previous album, Poseidon. Lyrically the band can be a little shaky, but this can be attributed in part to the language barrier that is inherent with a band that doesn’t speak English as a first language. Speaking of Poseidon, there are moments on Post Mortem Nihil Est that mirror and improve upon certain parts of their previous album. “The Day After The Apocalypse” contains fragments of the groove from “I Sea Red” and the end of the song is even home to the same siren sound effect that made the chorus of the latter so memorable. Combine that with a song like “Yes We Die” that has a similar structure to “Shen Lung“, almost completely clean sung making them sister songs. It could certainly be extrapolated that this demonstrates a lack of originality by the band, but in actuality it is more synonymous to a band that are focused on refining and improving upon what has come before.
On their last album Dagoba felt out a more melodic sound and while successful, seemed a little unsure of themselves. Now, they’re tackling the same style again but with far greater confidence in their abilities and it shows.
As with their previous releases, the most impressive facets of Gojira’s sound is the incredibly punchy production and how it really augments their music by strengthening the better parts of their sound. Their sound has always been refined to a point where it sounds almost squeaky clean, but not enough to diminish any of the heaviness that they create with their music.
Dagoba are a band with two special weapons, their vocalist Shawter, who delivers extremely strong performances both in the realm of harsh and clean vocals; and Frank Costanza, their drummer, who blasts through with sure hands, augmented by some of the best drum production you’re likely to hear on a metal record this year. Post Mortem Nihil Est contains their best work yet, which is an impressive feat in itself.
It can always be a difficult time when bands experience unrest between members and can cause stagnation, while people were worried that the absence of Izakar would negatively affect the band, it seems to have done just the opposite. It’s clear that his removal from the equation and the introduction of fresh blood has reinvigorated the band and inspired the band to deliver their best effort to date – a tall monument and embodiment of the hallmarks of their sound thus far, but enhanced to such a degree that it makes the band feel young and new again.
Post Mortem Nihil Est is an achievement of balance more than anything, showcasing a band that have found a way to mix a dichotomy in tone by playing songs with a slightly poppier sound whilst not sacrificing any of the crushing brutality that they originally made their name on. The Dagoba legacy is safe and the band continue onwards with a renewed verve and energy that is palpable in their music. All in all this is one of the best groove metal albums you’re likely to hear this year.