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Not as heavy, just as consistent - 71%

TheWaltzer, December 7th, 2017

The French industrial groovers Dagoba belong to the group of bands that appeared in my playlist after seeing them live. These guys delivered a very energetic live show and I was prompted to check out their albums. Something about their no-bullshit kind of attitude just clicked with me and their best studio releases are no different. Their super-heavy and super-solid “Tales Of The Black Dawn” from 2015 surely ranks among their best. However, they have undergone a personal shake-up, replacing the drummer and guitarist to release “Black Nova”.

Something old, something new. It’s still Dagoba, so expect roaring vocals, a fair bit of sampling and electronica, as well meaty, chunky riffs that will wash away the bad taste the word “groove” has garnered. Also, the double-bass artillery can still bring some destruction, despite being a bit more restrained and less about the raw energy that Franky, Dagoba’s former drummer, delivered in heaps. It is clear that the bound is confident in the style they play and don’t want to make any big departures.

However, some things are a tad different this time around. In terms of guitars, the slight death metal influence, present on the previous record, is toned down (though still there), now swinging for a more Fear Factory style of riffage and guitar-drum interplay. “Black Nova” has dropped a bit of aggression of its predecessor - this is audible in the production job, which is a bit clearer and more balanced. In turn, you will find more industrial bits and melodic elements. And that applies to the vocals as well.

The voice of the band, Shawter, has always been a good growler. On “Black Nova”, he uses cleans a LOT more than he did two years ago, and the biggest surprise is that… they sound good. Even in clean refrains like the ones in “The Infinite Chase” or “Phoenix Et Corvus” (tasty guitar solo, by the way), Shawter can easily deliver a very good hook. The harsh to clean ration seems to be around 3:1 on the album, and for every other catchy moment, Dagoba tend to use samples or symphonics. This formula is reflected in the song order, as well, as they start off with the melodic single “Inner Sun”, step on the gas with “Legacy Of Ares”, then back to melody, then heavy again and so on. Sure, this makes the album a tad predictable, but since the band saves a couple of highlights for later (such as “Fire Dies”, featuring a couple of nifty death metal-tinged riffs and clever symphonic samples), this is a minor complaint.

It seems that Dagoba never set out to conquer the world. They found their style, have hit a good stride and are very comfortable with where they are musically. And kudos to them for shaking off line-up issues and coming up with an album like “Black Nova”. It’s a very listenable record that does a few things differently than its predecessor, yet is almost as good. More groovy, more industrial, less brutal, but still Dagoba.