Here's another example of a brand new band hitting a home run in their first major league plate appearance. Dante are a 4-piece progressive metal band from Germany, and their self-produced, self-financed debut The Inner Circle contains seven lengthy tracks (well, six actually, as the last one is a two-part epic) filled with plenty of metal bombast, symphonic prog, chops galore, and memorable melodies. In addition, the band has spared no expense on the lavish CD booklet, which is quite extensive and packed with great artwork, full lyrics, and photos.
As much time, care, and funds as it obviously took Dante to put together this package, the music is equally as reflective of their dedication to The Inner Circle. The first two tracks, "Faded" and "Ghost From the Past", show a band not afraid to take chances with extended song structures, taking their influences from bands like Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, as well as Genesis and Yes, and giving the listener not only pieces that wow from a musical perspective, but also steep them with catchy melodies that make you come back for more. The brief ballad (and shortest song here) "For I Am" is a haunting yet gorgeous little number featuring Alexander Gohs' tender vocals over a gentle bed of keyboards from Markus Malchel. This is a nice segue into the crushing prog-metal attack of "Not Like Myself", a song highlighted by beefy technical guitar riffs from Markus Berger (and a wild wah-wah solo!) and stabbing synth lines from Malchel. If you like bands like Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, Threshhold, and Circus Maximus, be sure to check this one out. "More Or Less A Man" follows suit, this one a bit more symphonic but still featuring plenty of guitar thunder, with Gohs once again showing his fine melodic vocals. One thing I like about this singer, he never tries to pretend he's something he's not by going way too high and adding in unnecessary screams. His more prog-rock tendencies really fit in well here, and add a melodic, at times calming effect, to these songs. The two-part epic "The Giving & The Taking" has hints of Porcupine Tree, Spock's Beard, ELP, Dream Theater, and Pink Floyd, with the first part "The Giving" featuring poignant vocals from Gohs over Malchel's majestic piano, while the second part "The Taking" returns to grand symphonic rock. Malchel really struts his stuff on this one, laying down all sorts of synth textures and firing off some fierce solos alongside Berger. Also check out the nimble drum work from Christian Eichlinger on this one, as it's obvious this guy has some serious jazz-fusion and old school prog chops up his sleeve.
Plain and simply, this is a very solid and exciting debut from a band that should be a force on the progressive scene for years to come. As of this moment they are basically a free-agent without a contract, so Sensory, InsideOut, ProgRock Records, Magna Carta, are you listening?
1) Faded (10:40 )
2) Ghost From The Past (8:30 )
3) For I Am (3:25 )
4) Not Like Myself (9:10 )
5) More Or Less A Man (9:05 )
The Giving & The Taking
6) Part I: The Giving (4:15 )
7) Part II: The Taking (17:50 )