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Dialogia – Nostrum

by Matt Bozenda at 13 November 2020, 10:47 AM

Duality is the driving force of life, at least that’s what the Tao Te-Ching basically says. A certain pair of Heavy Metal prophets may have summed it up perfectly when one said to the other, “But Beavis, if everything was cool, you wouldn’t know if anything sucked.” And that’s true, isn’t it? How would you know you’re watching a main event match if there weren’t an undercard to lead into it? How does anyone headline the main stage without a second stage to precede it?

Well, even a second stage is a lot more prestigious than most bands ever get to play and some can even take up a legendary status from underneath to pave their own path to the top. One such contender is DIALOGIA, based in Maryland by way of Bolivia, with their darkly progressive debut, "Nostrum". In line with Prog tradition, it is in fact a concept album, with a tale being told of impossible ambition over nine of the ten tracks. The band goes so far as to label it a ‘cipher’ rather than a tale.

For those of us with little concept, of course, the important aspect of an album is the music. The band claims to have a sound evolved from the influences that came before them, but songs like "Earth" and "Metalurgia" have a familiar feeling to them, as does "The Gleaming Fracture". In particular, the middle tracks of "Conundrum" and "Legulus" almost come off like progressive retreads; serviceable, useful, but not new.

Lucky enough, this album is saved by the back end, starting at "Stratagem", which undeniably benefits from the contribution of guest soloist Barre Gambling of DAYLIGHT DIES. It begins rather like the others, but during and after the solo, the album very much shifts from sizzle to steak. The next track, "Sacrosanctum", doesn’t have any features, only the core trio, and this is definitely where the band steps up for their own hit, and lends one to the all-2020 playlist.

The album’s longest track is "FearBlack RedEscape" at just under eleven minutes, an epic typical of the genre with a variety of changes and segues which manage to make it stand on its own, helped along with an angelic backing vocalist and a contribution from Florida metal legend Bobby Koelble. The cipher complete, the outro track, "Unlocked", is an instrumental with choral undertones that simply sails off, leaving the listener waiting at port.

Overall, this is a good debut, if not the strongest. For most of the album, DIALOGIA proves that they have the chops for the music, but (with the exception of "Aletheia") they simply don’t stand out in the crowd until the last four tracks. It’s a win though, as they recruited a lot of quality guests to appear and everyone did precisely what they needed to do, but it may be a pyrrhic victory in the end. It feels like they left it all out there for every track, which means they’ll need to find even more for the sophomore album, and where are they going to get it from?

"Nostrum" is a late-bloomer which does bloom beautifully. It’s worth a spin for any metalhead sampling worthy offerings from this most unworthy year, but it will leave the listener wanting more. DIALOGIA left themselves room to grow, and expectations will be high for album number two. There’s little doubt they can accomplish it.

Musicianship: 7
Songwriting: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Earth
2. The Gleaming Fracture
3. Aletheia
4. Metalurgia
5. Conundrum
6. Legulus
7. Stratagem
8. Sacrosanctum
9. FearBlack RedEscape
10. Unlocked
Alejandro Nogales – Vocals, guitars, bass, keys
Bobby Tufino – Guitars, backing vocals
Jasper Barendregt – Drums
Guthrie Iddings – Guest vocals (tracks 2, 8, 9)
Marisa Frantz – Guest vocals (tracks 1, 9)
Gina Ellen – Voice of Aletheia (track 4)
Johannes Zetterberg – Guest fretless bass (tracks 5, 7)
Laura Morrell – Choir (track 5)
Barre Gambling – Guest solo (track 7)
Bobby Koelble – Guest solo (track 9)
Maria Grigoryeva – Viola (track 10)
Samantha Hegre – Cello (track 10)
Record Label: Independent


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