My usual modus operandi when I discover a new band is to send it off to my colleagues to for their input and opinion. When I came across the debut album Beyond Space and Time by the Italian progressive metal band Stargate, I heard one song and was off to Amazon to buy the download. By song two I was literally cheering in my hovel. Songs were shared with my colleagues, Jingle.boy and the Lady Herself. Their responses…
Jingle.boy- “Mother of God that was spectacular”
Lady Obscure- “OMG Stargate is brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!”
For the sake of good music journalism, and because this album is that damn good, my review will be much longer.
Created from the metal band Entropia in 2000, Stargate released their debut lp, The Power Within, in 2003, only to split up in 2004. A few years later, they re-organized, and with a set lineup in place by 2010, they began work on Beyond Space and Time, which saw its release on March 30, 2012. I myself found the album through my usual random searchings, a method which may seem innefective, but with some dillegence, can pay off handsomely, which it did with these guys.
The album opens with an instrumental piece, The Wonders of Nature, which at first seems to be a show off piece by guitarist Fabio Varalta, and would be effective at that. By the end of the album though, I realized he was just loosening the strings up for the ass beating he was about to deliver upon them. The instant the opener ends, the album jumps into high, and rarely lets up, a sheer assault upon the metal soul. With the exception of the one “ballad”, every song is done at an overly caffeinated pace, but in a textured and competently balanced way. This relentlessness is one of many highlights of this band, echoing earlier prog metal pioneers who paved the way. Led by the stellar work of Varalta and paced wonderfully by drummer Isacco Dalle Pezze, Stargate flies aggressivly through each number, darting around like a bunch of jackrabbits chasing each other, but always with purpose. It is this fine line they walked with such competence that I admired greatly, I never had a moment where I said to myself, shaking my head,”OK, now that’s just silly” like I often have with other prog acts that outstretch their talent. In other words, this is a very competent group of musicians, who play together very well, and it shows well in all of the instrumental sections of the album.
Stylistically, this is a prog metal album, that is the backbone that is blatantly apperant throughout the piece, but enough other elements are mixed in to give color to the work. For what is essentially a debut effort, the maturity in their playing is very clear, these guys are familiar with each others boundaries, and push them at every opportunity. Keyboards are done as a background, a pacesetting and harmonic element. Bass is a lead and a rhythm element, a resounding heartbeat. Drums carry the beat, but with enough flair on the side to really stand out in a fantastic fashion. Vocalist Flavio Caricasole fits the music wonderfully, lows are done at a subdued tone, and most high notes are pure, though there are one or two that should have been re-thought. His is a somewhat unique voice that really settles into the music perfectly, especially during the chorus of each peace. It says a lot that whatever song I stopped listening at, that was the chorus stuck in my head, each one is catchy and memorable.
The thematic elements are futuristic in nature, and seem to run along the lines of dark tranisition, but with a hopeful edge. Though not a concept album from my view, there is a common conceptual element that runs throughout. Songs such as Hysteria and Ground Zero are definitely painting a bleak picture of our future, but a light does exist throughout the work, showing well in The Power Within, as if saying were not quite screwed, and we do have it within ourselves to fix things, but we better start real fucking soon. Though a bit simplistic, it is a competent theme, and it runs with the music well.
I have been hesitant in making the Dream Theater connection all the while preparing this review, but that is the feeling this album gives me, not in style exactly, but in the vibe I got as I listened to it, reflecting back to listening to Images and Words, and wondering what the hell I had come across. The one thing this album bleeds above all else is promise. A solid group of musicians with great chemistry and a knack for creating searing licks and memorable catches, a passionate singer who runs with the music perfectly, a harmony in all the musical, lyrical, and vocal elements that is intelligent and well executed, these guys show some serious promise. If they can carry this brilliance onto the stage, I can only imagine a show of theirs leaving me as I am left after a night with a beautiful woman, sweaty, exhausted, and begging for more.