REVIEW: DGM – “The Passage”
Italy’s DGM are set to release their eighth studio album, ‘The Passage’, which is a very fitting title when looking at the seemingly ongoing journey of fire and water appearing on the cover. Admittedly, I was not familiar with DGM before sitting down with ‘The Passage’, but within the first minute and a half, I knew exactly what I was dealing with: the Italian Symphony X. And it doesn’t help that a member of said band makes an appearance on one of the tracks. Although usually labeled as a form of power-prog metal, I would say that the only thing even remotely progressive about this particular album is that it sounds like a lot of the other 80s-infused, “prog metal” bands that fans seem to lap up, despite the fact that the sound isn’t actually progressing anywhere anymore. But I digress.
As I enjoyed the heavier aspects of ‘The Passage’ — especially on tracks such as “Ghost Of Insanity” and “Fallen” — I often found myself wishing that that was all there was to it and I was listening to yet another generic “djent” band, but the vocals always kicked in, followed by the predictable guitar and keyboard solos. Not to take away from DGM’s talent and capability, but there can only be so many vocalists who sound like they are pretending to battle dragons atop mountains with the help of their sidekick keyboard wizard before my brain kind of shuts down.
It must be said, however, that the first two tracks on ‘The Passage’ actually grew on me. “The Secret” Parts 1 and 2 are epic and triumphant, with heavy instrumental sections and impressive solos. Part 2 in particular is the highlight of the album, encompassing thick opening bass over ambient keys, leading into a catchy guitar riff. It is also frontman Marco Basile’s best performance, between the use of a lower octave, a few harmonies here and there, and the powerfully projected melodies that sit nicely over top of the other instruments. And let us not forget the beautiful little piano segment in 7/8 timing, as well as the really great Middle East-themed ending.
The initial twenty seconds of “Animal” are intriguing, like a creative spin on an AC/DC lick, but the remaining five minutes do not impress. The title track, “The Passage”, is similar in that sense, as the instrumental sections are the only redeeming parts among the power vocals and even more keyboard and guitar solos. A soft break comes in the form of “Disguise”, which is easily the shortest track, featuring gentle piano beneath the vocals. Immediately following that is “Portrait”, its intense speed providing a nice contrast.
As hinted previously, there are guest appearances on ‘The Passage’: Michael Romeo of Symphony X offering his guitar skills on “Dogma”, and Evergrey’s Tom Englund adding some rougher vocals to “Ghost of Insanity”.
Overall, fans of DGM will surely enjoy ‘The Passage’, as it does possess that fusion of classic metal and distinct modern distortion that many have come to love. While all the members are talented, guitarist Simone Mularoni specifically stands out, the excessiveness of his shredding solos notwithstanding. Basile’s power metal vocals are too much for my taste, but of course that also means that he has an admirable high register. However, the lyrics come off cheesy at times, the 80s keyboards could have been cut in half (or at least performed on a piano), and as I always say, the bass should not be so buried in the mix.
So, while ‘The Passage’ is a good balance of light and heavy, it is more or less made for those who want another new Dream Theater album.