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What a strange little something this is! Bizarro Italian progressive metal recorded on some faulty, magical device that pre-dates Mussolini’s upside down corpse by several decades, and it was only ever used once before to record a fascist jazz trio (possible song titles: ‘Corfu Incident in B flat minor’). Smoky, weird and arcane; I’m not sure there’s much out there like Dark Quarterer.
Certainly, you’ll hear some of this album’s heavy, jangle in retro bands like Witchcraft – but then again Dark Quarterer were already retro in 1987, making them more retrograde than retro or something. It certainly gets more stranger on this album than ‘Red Hot Gloves’ but it still comes across as progressive metal (not in its synchronic meaning, but rather 70s metal meets 70s prog), but in a way far more fully realised than the NWOBHM movement’s attempts in the shape of bands like Witchfynde. Also, its lyrics are certainly somewhat of an anomaly – dwelling on the nature of music itself rather than just stomping around shouting “Metal!”, but I’ll be damned if I actually as to what the ‘Red Hot Gloves’ are in reference to. Surely, it's a song for all of us who have ever sat in wonder at just why music can make us feel such a way. But my usual lines of comparison to bands with 'witch' in their names doesn't really do this full justice, as there’s some strangeness that I can’t really describe; it’s as if the band were hidden in some cave deep in Northern Italy and had to sustain themselves solely on their music and passing mountain goats…
Honestly, stuff like this makes Cirith Ungol seem plain as day; even if they do share guitarists with a curious sense of melody and a penchant for gargantuan, Sabbatharian riffs. But there’s other epic stuff as well, on ‘Gates of Hell’ Gianni Nepi reins himself in and bellows like a less confident Eric Adams, which, along with the rather prominent bass, comes across like something that wouldn’t sound too astray on Into Glory Ride (and we all know that Into Glory Ride is a fucking epic album!) Hell, I’m sure if Manowar quested during the 80s – and surely they must have at some point – they would have encountered Dark Quarterer as some ancient wizard warning them not to fight the dragon for its blood would surely curse them with one-thousand-thousand cheesy Euro-metal anthems.
As I said previously there’s something wonderfully brittle about the production here, it’s got more in common with a Darkthrone production than what one would normally expect from a ‘progressive’ metal album (quotations marks because I’m not too sure awkward time signatures actually equates progress). It’s rustic, a tad uneven in places, but overall it’s fierce. Mellower passages are given a fragile beauty by this flaky, decrepit sound, and yet at its most viscous and forceful the production makes everything feel twice as heavy as if a marble ceiling has just fallen on you leaving your corpse to be nibbled at by rodents with progressive tendencies. Overall it gives a sense of uneasiness and mysticism to the record that is so often lacking in progressive metal. I’d say there’s more Atomic Rooster than Fates Warning here. In fact, Dark Quarterer sound so very much like a child of the seventies that it wouldn’t surprise me if this was recorded in 1975, and then simply left in a cold, damp place for 12 years.
The band’s eponymous number is a heady brew; it succeeds in being both the album’s most disquieting yet assuring number. Nepi proves himself once again as very versatile vocalist; at times he seems like a siren wailing sailors towards the rocks, but by the song’s conclusion he’s powerful in ways that his shaky voice can barely contain. It’s got a wonderful juxtaposition between the meekness of the verses and a heavy metal fire that just burns so bright in the chorus…
Yes! Expose Rush for the fair-weather rap band they really are!
Roll its bones, usher in dust from a thousand centuries ago, as tonight we live again! And when all is resolved and settled, the outro comes and you’re left with a cold uneasiness that you can’t fully comprehend – but it’s just shocking; a startling exercise in suspense and tension. I love albums that end like this.
What is it about self-titled songs? Why do they always rule? I still don't think a Quarterer is a real thing, though.
“…let the evil be my food…”
And from the dusty and abstruse darkness of the late ‘70s shambles this mysteriously-monikered Italian three-piece, self-proclaimed as pioneers of epic progressive metal; a title that would likely hold more water if this had been released earlier, but since these six tracks had been recorded in ’84 and ’86 and the band itself had been breathing as early as ’74, I won’t begrudge them their skip through the spotlight.
Musically we have a further exploration of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road while shouting ‘land ho’ with the discovery of Saint Vitus and even Nemesis/Epicus-era Candlemass, a good part of this thing tormented by doom’s ultimate presence, a stubborn aura that lumbers fully frontal or crushes a song’s backdrop with equal provision. The rest is a tumbling of traditional Euro flavor that’s slightly manhandled by semi-graceful hands, beating a rough, almost proletarian bumpiness into the thing, but that doesn’t sway it from striding through some majestic musical corridors. While opener “Red Hot Gloves” is the most traditional and least inventive of the tracks, demiurgic “Colossus of Argil”, melancholy “Gates of Hell”, and moody “The Entity” fill the mold Dark Quarterer shaped with a dear regard for heroism. Solos are lengthy, generous and unafraid, making up much of the colossal length (and whatever progressiveness) of “Colossus of Argil” and cool instrumental “The Ambush”, and with its somewhat muffled and far away-recorded sound, the record haunts with a ghostly, backwoods presence.
The vocals of Giuliani Nepi are usually pain-wracked, at times soaring shakily into the hemisphere just above the cloud cover of a normal tenor, at times red-eyed and untamed, but are less outlandish and rakish than those of Tim Baker/Cirith Ungol and are strengthened with an Ape De Martini/Oz-resonant security. Then for “Dark Quarterer” they’re all silk n’ butter, like most eras of Yes with an Italian accent, its tracts of serenity smooth yet trembling in diffidence.
Then there’s the progressive angle. Honestly, whether this record musters what passes for progressive is something to be judged by the individual listener, ‘cause with the prefix having careened into power metal, thrash, death, and much of the genre in general, progressive doom is a bit of a misnomer, and I just don’t find it all that advanced compared to what I feel the sub-style should enthrall with.
It all boils to a sound that is in fact grandiose and challenging to listen to, epic in dark places that may have already been conquered, but stands as a laudable attempt from most ambush angles. But when you’re listening to this and thinking by ’87 it’s a little tardy for the times, just remember a 1984 philosophy may have something to do with that.