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Agarthic - The Inner Side

The Inner Side
by Mike Peacock at 28 February 2022, 3:47 PM

As the sun rises on the not-so distant horizon, you embark on an epic musical quest to explore the magic of nature, ancient legends, and the mysteries of humanity. With great anticipation (and great trepidation) you saunter forth into mystical lands, inspired by the wonder of your ethereal surroundings and the great unknown.  And so, begins your symphonic journey, with an uplifting and blood-pumping soundtrack provided by Italian Progressive Metallers AGARTHIC in the form of their debut album, “The Inner Side,” released on October 21, 2021 via “Frontiers Music SRL.”

To say that this album is epic would be an understatement. There’s so much going on here that it’s actually quite overwhelming. Quite literally, this entire album feels like it belongs in a movie. Referring to the individual tracks simply as songs only serves to do them injustice. These are not simply songs. They’re compositions. Scores. Soundtracks. Stories. Fables. And with each successive playthrough, you reveal more and more of the greater story.

Conceptually, the lyrical content takes a decidedly fantasy-inspired approach, though with a mature perspective. Says vocalist Valeriano De Zordo: “For several years, I’ve been interested in knowing all the ancient legends and mysteries about the forgotten history of our planet, especially theories about the hollow earth. I’ve always been fascinated by it. When the chance to make an album was offered, the task was easy; all I had to do was combine my two major passions and turn these themes into music!” Bassist and co-composer Mattia Gosetti adds “My greatest passion is to write musical stories, to create soundtracks for romantic adventures and fascinating places.”

To that end, I’d say: “mission accomplished.” As a listener, you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of an epic story, a character in a movie, or someone about to embark on a great quest. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a concept album, as the songs themselves don’t necessarily relate to each other in a truly narrative fashion. But the overall feel is very cohesive, and you feel like you’re being prepared for something.

Sonically, the overall feel is uplifting and inspirational. It urges you to push forth. The opening track, “The Beginning of All,” sets the tone immediately and prepares you for the journey ahead. Though it’s the shortest song on the album, it’s hugely dynamic and gives you a taste of what’s to come.
The backbone of the band’s sound is rooted in powerful melodic rock, with some elements that at times take it into metal territory. De Zordo’s voice is powerful and commanding, even when he’s engaging in smoother passages. His range in outstanding, as is his vocal control. Transitions from smooth to gritty are seamless, though he never gets into growling or screaming territory. I’m at times reminded of James LaBrie. There are quite a bit of things that actually remind me of DREAM THEATER, though it’s more subtle elements such as the way they chug on songs like “The Ancient Secret Scroll” and “Journey to the End of the World.”

As I’m a huge fan of guitar-driven music, I was surprised to see that AGARTHIC have taken a step back with the guitars and not used them as the driving force. Their secret weapon is, in fact, the orchestral keyboards provided by Gosetti. Not only do they serve to set the overall sound and feel of every composition, but they’re used effectively and at the forefront. Often times, bands with keyboards use them as an accent or a backdrop. Not here. Two great examples of this besides the aforementioned opening track are “Heaven Inside this Earth” and “Through the Mystical Forest.”  The varied sounds provided here give a truly cinematic feel to the songs, and I would be curious to see how the band handles those elements in a live setting.

The bass and drums also stand out equally well in the mix, and it’s evident that every part is meticulously crafted and intentional. There is no excessive musical wankery here. Even the guitar solos, which are awesome, never quite feel like “shredding-for-shredding’s sake.”  Each instrument is a character with a role to play of equal importance. The absolutely stellar production ensures that each piece is heard clearly and contributes to the overall success of the compositions. That being said, the orchestrational elements and De Zordo’s powerful vocal operatics are clearly the most noticeable elements.

The album’s closer, “Illuminati’s Reign,” further illustrates the musical diversity with a
Latin-inspired choral chant and some dark foreboding lyrics that intentionally leave you with more questions than answers and serves as a cliffhanger of sorts.

Considering that AGARTHIC has only been a band for a relatively short amount of time (since 2019 or so), this album is a remarkable piece of musical craftsmanship and I’m surprised that it came together in such a short amount of time considering the complexity of the songs. There are a multitude of elements, including some very cool ethnic, folk, and regional sounds that are no doubt inspired by the Dolomite Mountains and the legends of far-off lands. And while the level of musicianship here is no doubt unrivaled, this is a hugely challenging album to get into. Simply put, in order to truly appreciate “The Inner Side,” you must dedicate several hours to it. Clocking it at 60 minutes, it’s no small undertaking for one playthrough. And with so many elements, at times it becomes hard to discern the high points. You probably won’t walk away from the first playthrough singing any of the choruses or humming the guitar melodies because they’re buried so deep in structure. It took me about 3 full playthroughs before I felt comfortable writing this, plus having it play as I wrote. As a result, I feel that no individual song really stands out. Rather, this album must be treated as a soundtrack, with all of the individual tracks contributing to the overall feel of the complete body of work. Only then will you begin to appreciate its true strength, which is leaving the listener with a feeling of accomplishment and inspiration to take on the next set of life’s challenges and mysteries!

Symphonic/Orchestral Metal and Rock bands are nothing new. There’s nothing completely innovative that hasn’t been done before, though AGARTHIC definitely makes its mark on the genre with top tier musicianship and production. Fans of DREAM THEATER, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, NIGHTWISH, EPICA, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, VISION DIVINE, and TWILIGHT FORCE should be compelled to give this a listen.

Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. The Beginning of All
2. The Ancient Secret Scroll
3. A Journey to the End of the World
4. A Heaven Inside This Earth
5. Through the Mystical Forest
6. Message from the Gods
7. Back Home
8. Negotiations Failed
9. Escape to Antarctica
10. Last Journey
11. Illuminati’s Reign
Valeriano De Zordo – Vocals
Mattia Gosetti – Bass/Orchestral Synthesizers
Jesai Fiabane – guitars
Denis Novello – Drums
Record Label: Frontiers Music SRL


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