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Dantesco is an epic doom act hailing from the verdant and mountainous Cayey region of Puerto Rico. Formed in 2003, Dantesco has amassed an impressive following in their homeland and have firmly established themselves as one of the forerunners in the Puerto Rican metal scene. We Don’t Fear Your God is the fourth full length album by Dantesco, following 2011’s Seven Years of Battle. If you’ve already listened to the band, you know what to expect, as this features the same kind of epic doom, heavy metal riffing and the soaring, charismatic vocals of Erico Morales.
Featuring the most solid production of their career, We Don't Fear Your God shows Dantesco at their strongest yet. My chief complaint with their earlier albums was that the production kept the drums and guitars from being as powerful as they should be. Here the guitar riffs have finally found their edge, as the production is clear but gives the guitars enough punch to stand out. Musically, Dantesco has two functions: one of epic doom along the lines of Candlemass an Doomsword and the other of classic heavy metal inspired by Mercyful Fate, Manowar and Manilla Road. Some tracks, like the title track and “A Brother Has Fallen” showcase the slow paced doom, with crawling drum beats and slow and simplistic chord progressions with melodic lead guitar overlays. On the other end of the spectrum, songs like “Betrayer” and “Burnt” show the band with mid-tempo, marching rhythms with enough power to knock over an army while “The Conqueror Worm” show a faster paced galloping that calls to mind the likes of Iron Maiden. Dantesco shows a solid mix of the faster and slower paces, as it's not all just crash and bash or doomy dreariness. The songwriting is solid and keeps from bogging down too often, as when things begin to trail towards stagnation a faster riff is thrown in or a tempo change creeps up. It's quite a feat that Dantesco manages to keep the well from running dry, as the album has a run time of almost seventy minutes.
Furthering the nods to some of heavy metal's greats, there are some awesome solos present, such as the fast paced Mercyful Fate inspired segments of “Of Darkness” or the moody sweeping during “At the Hill of the Ravens”. It would be a positive boon if the band would focus a little more on the superb lead guitars, but they're a nice facet the way they are. Perhaps Dantesco's most unique factor are the charismatic and operatic vocals of Erico Morales. Morales utilizes a deep operatic style that wouldn't sound out of place in an actual opera, but it really doesn't sound like any other metal bands. Yes, I know Haggard and Therion have used operatic vocals, but they tend to utilize operatic choir vocals rather than a single vocalist. Equally entering are Morales' frequent falsettos, which have an almost screechy, Tim “Ripper” Owens quality to them. The entire album is just opera vocals though, as Morales also showcases a gruff, 80's US power metal style at times, which gives those sections a much rougher edge. The rest of the musicians are definitely not slouches, but the performance of the day is given to Morales, as he gives Dantesco the distinct flair needed to stand out.
Dantesco's fourth full length album, We Don't Fear Your God, is a solid epic doom album with enough heavy metal riffing to keep things fresh. The soaring, operatic vocals of Morales are an acquired taste, but if you're willing to give it a shot the rewards are many. With this album, Dantesco firmly plant themselves at the front of the Puerto Rican metal scene. If you worship at the altar of Candlemass and Doomsword and want some serious doses of Mercyful Fate in you doom, then check this out. Seventy minutes of epic doom with operatic vocals... yes, please.
Written for The Metal Observer:
Dantesco is a very special band, not only for being Puerto Rico's most recognizable band, but also for being one of only a handful of doom outfits on the island. Their brand of epic doom metal blends the classic epic doom sound of Candlemass and Doomsword with the heavy and crunchy riffing of Mercyful Fate. To top this, you got a powerful vocalist whose operatic yet gruff voice can go very high and very low instantly, offering a nice vocal diversity that satisfies fans across the traditional metal spectrum. Not to mention, his imposing and blasphemous stage presence (dressing up like the Pope, with inverted cross of course). So this band is definitely a gem of the metal world, from a little Caribbean island that has a lot to offer.
Their newest album “We Don't Fear Your God” sees them successfully combining different aspects of the music they have been creating in their past albums. While “De la Mano de la Muerte” was mostly a straight classic doom affair, “Pagano” expanded on that sound further, being one of my favorite doom albums. Their third full length, “Seven Years Of Battle”, saw the band go into more classic metal territory, but never leaving aside the sinister chords and themes that are their staple. As a big fan of “Pagano”, I think “We Don’t Fear Your God” brings the band in many ways to its roots, while not doing away with the creative elements the band has developed over time. It is a fitful sequel to “Pagano”, taking into consideration that writing in different languages can pose challenges in how to arrange the vocalization. All in all, it’s the best album they have produced to date.
Before I talk about the music, I need to mention the album cover. It is one of the best album covers I have ever seen, and even though it has been technically “out there” since the 2009 single, this can't be said enough. The image of an Aztec atop a pyramid decapitating a Spanish conquistador and holding the head up to the sun is too metal for words (remember, the Aztecs venerated the sun). Artistically it is impressive, and the image of the clouds parting to the light of the sun has that sense of pagan foreboding that defines this album, starting with its intro.
The intro “Tambores de Guerra”, which means “Drums Of War” in Spanish, is a seemingly lighthearted piece with guitars and wind instruments that quickly turns into an ominous sounding piece, foreshadowing what is to come. The image that comes to mind is of a malón, which is a term that references not just a great Argentinian heavy metal band, but the raids of Mapuche guerrillas against colonizers (Mapuches being an indigenous people from Chile and Argentina). The piece is a little nightmarish even, its latin-american undertones setting the stage perfectly for “We Don't Fear Your God”, a dark tale of Aztec revenge against the Spanish. A very diverse and interesting song, it is a great opener because it tells you precisely what this album is about: multidimensional doom metal that grabs you with its sinister and crunchy riffing, brilliant solos and changing structures that don’t let up.
This album is effectively diverse, even within particular songs themselves. There are instances of repetition, but I think doom fans are used to that. But the song structures bombard you with chord changes and cymbal accentuations that keep songs flowing without stagnating. The result is fun songs that don’t become boring even when hitting the 8 minute mark. You got songs that start out being doomy, only to pick up the pace with heavy and medium speed riffing halfway, which is a common element in doom, but you also get the reverse: medium paced songs that become doomy at the middle. Not one song sounds the same, which is necessary for making a good album. The longest song, “Blood Of The Saints”, clocks in at over ten minutes. It is the “funeral doom” sounding song and I gotta say, it sounds positively satanic. Its horror movie chords, soft chanting in the background and other sound effects make for a very interesting listening experience. And by “horror movie” I mean really scary movies, and not cheesy slasher films.
Although a very long album (running for seventy minutes), it’s a well done album that goes somewhere: every song seems to push forward the project of giving you terrifying yet powerful music. For example, the instrumental parts on songs like “A Brother Has Fallen” and “Strange Fruit Sonata”, both from the second half of the album, feel like they have been a long time coming, as if the album has built up to those moments. That is definitely not an easy thing to make a listener feel, especially in such a long product. It shows something very important that comes through the music: these guys know what they are doing.
Like with “Seven Years Of Battle”, with “We Don't Fear Your God” we got an all English album from a band that considers itself primarily a Hispanic band. Here and there you may find hit and misses in the use of the language, but nothing distracting by any means. However, this is something that in no way diminishes the band's lyrical capacities, which I must say are very good in this album, especially for those of us who appreciate the paganism and anti-Christian Church laden imagery in our doom metal. Also, being as the best metal usually doesn't come from native English speaking countries, most native speakers would be used by now to other people using their language for expression (and international commercial viability).
But not everything is religious criticism. There are existential themes like desolation and loneliness, which is something that doom likes to talk about whatever the subject matter is. It has that ability to look everything from the point of view of that which is occult, not talked about and/or forgotten. The name of the band expresses this perfectly: everything is done from a Dantesque point of view.
Just like the music, the production is high quality and feels like the best of both worlds (“Pagan” and “Seven Years Of Battle”. Everything is professionally sounding, just like what you’d expect from a seasoned doom band. To me, doom needs to sound a specific way, between the traditional and the modern, and in this album that shows. The staple of Dantesco are the foreboding, terrifying leads (which for me always seemed like a contribution from ex-guitarrist Dennis Torres, who now plays in Solvo Animus and you can hear those chords), and the production here really brings that up. The balance of instruments and compositional elements have their intended effect: a sense of dread reminiscent of Mercyful Fate and the classic doom of Candlemass.
If there is something negative to say about this album, is a quirk I have with what I think albums should be. I really like when albums close in a big way, and I think this album does not close satisfactorily, at least not for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the closing song itself, called “The Conqueror Worm”, it being one of my favorites on the album…but I think “Strange Fruit Sonata” should have closed the album. Its epic scope speaks “last song to me”, while I feel that I should have listened to “Conqueror Worm” much earlier. Just a minor thing I guess, but it’s a criteria that is important to me. Another thing could have been that the song “Burnt” could have been structured differently. The middle could have been the beginning of the song, since it sounds more interesting. The beginning for me sounded too much like Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave”.
This is definitely an album to get if you are a doom fan. In days where most doom is done as hybrid (death/doom, goth/doom, etc.), keeping the torch of traditional doom may seem hard, but little by little we keep gaining ground. This album is definitely of traditional doom’s secret weapons.
Favorite songs: We Don’t Fear Your God, Of Darkness, Consolament, Strange Fruit Sonata, The Conqueror Worm
Special mentions: Betrayer, A Brother Has Fallen, Tambores de Guerra (yes, the intro!!)
Originally reviewed for METALURGIA (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Metalurgia-Radio-Huelga/213957288624946?fref=ts)