I never know when I am going to find a new classic album, but I must thank my colleague at heavymetal.about.com, Dan Marsciano as well as metal friend/Zelda freak/former bassist of Cormorant, Arthur Von Nagel, for collaborating on a piece about Italian Epic Metal band Dark Quarterer found here. It was there that I was introduced to the band’s self-titled debut, released in the year of my birth, 1987. This album was epic before the term was used as often, and it wasn’t appreciated nearly as much as the burgeoning death metal and black metal scenes that were coming together to the west in Scandinavia. This album may have been too late to be put in the same league as Wishbone Ash and Budgie, who were well known for their odd take on what was considered “progressive rock”(now referred to as “proto-metal”), it wasn’t quite the doom of Candlemass; what it was however was simply Dark Quarterer. Let’s find out what makes this band so special.
The album opens with “The Moonlight Sonata” and gives way to the first full track “Red Hot Gloves”. It should be quite apparent that this album sound is firmly rooted in 1970 as far as production and should serve as a great juxtaposition to fans of overly manipulated and perfected production that can ruin many releases. Possessing a unique voice and excellent bass playing skills, Gianni Nepi has a soaring voice much like Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass but with the odd timbre of Cirith Ungol‘s Tim Baker and Slough Feg’s Mike Scalzi. This combined with the excellent riffs that gleam through the muddy and rough production job works very much to the band’s benefit. The song has it’s ebbs and floes combined with excellent musicianship from a trio that would make Italy quite proud.
The album’s longest track follows this up in the form of the 10 minute “Colossus Of Argil” which has the guitar tone of many a doom metal song, with the plodding pace and emotion of a downtrodden person trying to make something of himself in the world. Fulberto Serena‘s majestic riffs swing and sway with Nepi’s powerful delivery to create the feeling of freedom fighting against oppression. Rebellion is a great focus for a band with the balls to call themselves “epic”; the music the band creates ascribes to that aesthetic quite well especially Nepi’s bass playing which is far from passive.
“Gates Of Hell” is a slow starter, however once it sets in Nepi’s vocal performance becomes the focal point and the music in the background merely a guide for the incredibly underrated front man of an oft-unnoticed band. Halfway through, the riffs become faster and really start to sound quite a bit more like heavy metal in its most classic of forms including a real barn burner of a guitar solo. The band lets loose an instrumental called “The Ambush” which most likely would not catch you by surprise since the previous 3 tracks should have told you “these dudes can play.” The drums of Paolo Ninci really pop here in cooperation with Serena’s guitar heroics as the band is able to show off a herculean effort in the form of a “YYZ”-styled Rush.
The blind following of a being in the sky is the focus of “The Entity” as Nepi’s references lyrically with “I’ve Taken Possession Of Your Entity It Has Corrupted All My Mind…Oh My Leader, My Possessor My Unknown Entity.” The centrepiece is a slow, but complex riff which is played repeatedly as well as serving for the backdrop to some epic “knowledge” imparted by the intelligent Italians. Progressive music is especially deadly when the bass takes precedence over the other instruments at times and Dark Quarterer are not afraid to let Nepi loose on your eardrums, as well as create wonderful progressive atmosphere and let the songs truly “sink in.”
The album’s title track closes things out and begins with it’s own level of grandiosity; one quite fitting for an album of this quality. The main riff and the drums move in a wonderfully special and head-banging way – and through the change in tempo from slow and sung, to brash and powerful riffing, the band keeps you constantly guessing as to what will come next. Dark Quarterer achieve great success in trumping the mindlessness and banality of much emptier music. The simplicity of the drums and the production add more charm than say the production job of …And Justice For All, and yet, Dark Quarterer had a production budget that was barely a fraction of that classic record – a great example showcasing how a band can get the most out of their money. With Metallica, not so much. Dark Quarterer is at full strength to the finish line and remains an incredibly strong effort by a band with an immeasurable amount of talent.
Epic heavy metal has most certainly made it’s way back into the zeitgeist of modern metal, what with my recent love of Slough Feg and Manilla Road; those would be reasons enough to make music like that for an eternity. For those of you who haven’t heard this album in it’s entirety Shadow Kingdom Records have reissued the album in its original form as well as the complete album re-recorded as a 2 CD set here. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. Make sure the flame for epic heavy metal never dies and make sure to listen to plenty more of it below.