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Epic Doom With Essential Operatic Vocals. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 22nd, 2009

I’ve debated the use of the term “epic” when describing bands before and have come to the conclusion that it takes a number of special qualities for a band to sound as epic as the description would suggest and though these qualities vary from band to band, Puerto Rico’s Dantesco seem to have their own special take on the sub-genre of epic doom and what it means to sound epic. I’m not normally a fan of operatic vocalists, though I only usually come across operatic female vocalists in regards to metal. The gothic genre, for instance, is full of female vocalists who cease this style of singing and implement it into their own bands, usually with a contrasting male vocalist alongside them to provide a dual harmony, though it rarely ever works out that way. When I initially read that Dantesco have an operatic vocalist leading the line, I was a little apprehensive. Given my experience, I expected the vocalist to be female and I expected the band to provide symphonic influences across the board, generally heightened by a conjoining guitar and keyboard section. I suppose, in some ways, I stupidly expected this to be closer to bands from the gothic genre who have a tendency to go overboard with the symphonic touches.

Instead, Dantesco sound closer to fellow epic doom bands Doomsword and traditional doom band Candlemass. Though not normally a fan of this type of doom, as I prefer darker variations of metal for the most part, I do enjoy this debut, entitled ‘De La Mano De La Muerte’, though it is definitely something I can only listen to in the right context and providing my mood is right. I need to be feeling slightly upbeat and if I am, Dantesco will provide me with a feeling of invisibility through the mesmerising vocals, supplied with lots of entrancing melodies and a suitable range given the “epic” description. At times, vocalist Erico La Bestia makes me think I’m lost in a hybrid time warp as his vocals often remind me of higher pitched power metal vocalists (see ‘Mi Venganza’ for examples), or traditional heavy metal vocalist and alongside the expansive guitar play, the feeling I normally associate with the doom genre is lost behind a wall of technical ability and showmanship. I’m not sure whether the band use backing vocalists, or whether the operatic vocals are layered over one another, but I wouldn’t put it past La Bestia to provide all the vocals himself. He has a major presence and a big influence behind the bands music, establishing himself as a musician the band could not do without.

Unsurprisingly, La Bestia has provided vocals for heavy metal bands, including one which has only recently released their debut. Of course, with this being doom metal, in it’s purest form, the guitar layering does mean that a number of darker themes are explored in songs like ‘Mi Venganza’ providing an old school death metal feel similar to bands like Demigod. The darker riffs have an aquatic feel to them as they’re submerged beneath the more accessible layers of both clean instrumentation and generally lighter leads. Despite the technical abilities and expansive play between guitarists, of which there are three, though one provides a performance of the classical guitar, the bass is a lost entity. It doesn’t provide enough front for me. I’d like to hear more of an impact from it, but the appraisal of the guitarists, which is warranted, takes away much of the focus from the bassist who is lacklustre in comparison and rather lackadaisical in taking his opportunities to shine as he hides behind the performances of the guitarists in order to reap the rewards from critics.

With the types of technical solos that occur on this record, his performance was bound to go largely unnoticed since the bass is a back-up melody to the guitars and even the vocal melody, which acts as another instrument, providing an even lighter base to work from and emotional depth. There are even acoustic solos, featuring specifically well on songs like ‘Dantesco’. These, just like the vocals, provide an emotional depth that the guitars cannot reach and the bass fails to deliver. It would seem that the word “epic”, to Dantesco, means a layering of technical guitars, featuring numerous glorious solos and a unique style of vocals over the top - though unique only in the sense that operatic vocals rarely feature of doom metal records of this nature, not that they’re unique to the entire metal genre. I’d like to hear a bit more individuality from the bass and an all round tightening of the reigns. The song writing is good, including a number of terrific contrasts - as in between the darker style of production and lighter style of vocals - but it could include the bass in proceedings a little more.