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Signum Draconis – The Divine Comedy Inferno

Signum Draconis
The Divine Comedy Inferno
by Oil Gonzalez at 10 January 2022, 7:07 AM

17 songs. Wow. Most bands would have divided so much material into 2, maybe even 3 albums. Here though, SIGNUM DRACONIS are clearly throwing all their eggs in one basket here with “The Divine Comedy Inferno”. The opera metal band from Italy have clearly made a statement and good impression on me from the get go! A very interesting opening to the album, “In the Midway of Life’s Journey”; a passage from Dante Alighieri’s epic The Inferno. It’s a shame that I don’t speak a word of Italian, but I can’t help but admire and feel the passion and power from this movement! Then the music begins. I’m immediately impressed with the power metal feel, the high production values, and Max’s operatic baritone vocals. The album takes a twist with “The Mission of Virgil”, beginning with a medieval style lute passage, alongside the introduction of a female vocalist. I love the soothing tone, yet I can really feel the emotion and sorrow behind every word she utters. Very moving! If that wasn’t enough, she ups the intensity with her classically trained soprano vocals. This may not be new in metal but still it’s an awesome sight to hear such talent and passion. She combines with Max’s lower voice later in the later song for a beauty and the beast style duet. I always love seeing this!

“Gates Of Hell” opens with some appropriately themed Latin chanting and equally pulse raising orchestral strings, almost as if a portal, or gate to hell is being opened! The hairs on the back of my arms stand to attention. Musically, some impressive guitar work is on display. Whether it’s the solid chugging rhythm or some demonic sounding sweep picking, I’m becoming invested in this album now. The album strays from what I’d consider a traditional power metal album during “The Borderland”, with the introduction of progressive elements. The combination of the guitars and keys locking in together with time signatures that couldn’t be further removed from 4/4 are combined with operative backing vocals. This shows that SIGNUM DRACONIS are here to make a statement and to put their mark on the metal world. The theme of Dante’s Inferno continues with “Whirlwind of Lovers” where the story continues in another spoken passage. The guitarist really is demonstrating his skill in this song too!

“Under Eternal Rain”  hits like a thunderbolt. Each note hammers down on my ear drums like the  rain hammering down on the earth in a thunderstorm.  We hear a different vocal style throughout this song, an almost half spoken/half distorted texture. Max shows off his versality with much higher operatic shrieks – bellissima! “To the Edge of Stygian Lagoon” opens with another passage from the story. This time, I hear the word ‘peseta’, referring to a payment required to ‘pass’ over to the afterlife. Here in the mortal realm, I can’t help but being drawn to the walking bassline which is heavily rooted in this song, as well as Max’s Bruce Dickinson style operatic shrieks! The highlight of “Regnum Dite” is no doubt the collective distorted vocalisations of a group of young girls, issuing a warning to the listener. That still rings in my ears now as I type this! This is quickly proceeded by an equally haunting choir segment reinforcing this. This really is the stuff of nightmares! Like something from The Shining or another classic horror movie. Other than this, there are no vocals per se and the music can do the talking in this instrumental.

SIGNUM DRACONIS keep the creative juices and innovation flowing with the Eastern string/sitar segment. With the groove laid down here, I was expecting the song to build to an explosive crescendo. The consistently groovy and rhythmic elements are equally aesthetic though. The slower opening to “Phlegethon (The Bloody River)” and the general reduced pace of the song is much welcome at this stage. The bassist get his token yet well-deserved bass fills in this song. Sometimes it’s nice to admire some complex and well written lyrics, lyrics to rival the classic works of literature. At other times, it’s nice to just sit back and sing along to a simple “Woah, woooo-ooh-ooh-ooh” vocal line, like in the chorus here. Overall, the song I feel is well placed here with its relative simplicity, to avoid listener burn out and let the listener recharge their batteries.

Again, the pace is much slower for the majority of “Forest of Suicides”. This is tactically leading to the awe inspiring solo towards the end. A solid climax. To be truthful, I was beginning to fatigue and struggling to stay engaged at this stage. That being said, “Firestorm” has a STRATOVARIUS edge to it, especially in the chorus with a simple yet effective line “fire, firestorm”. “Ten Moats of Damnation (Interlude The Ulysses' Chant)” is a 11minutes and 32 second progressive power metal sandwich, if there was ever such a thing. Interesting how the monologue in the middle of the song has now switched to a Scottish voice recalling the tale of Odysseus and the ancient Greek’s infamous voyage across the Mediterranean sea.

Sadly from here on, I found it very difficult to sustain my attention in this album. Which is a shame. I’ve listened to compilation albums that are around the 80minute mark, but they normally feature songs and artists across multiple metal sub genres. Asking listeners to listen to 90 minutes of power metal from the same artist may be a little too much to ask. Also, I’ve listened to other concept albums and it’s been very clear to me what the theme is. With this album, it seems to be classic literature and/or mythology, but I’m not 100% sure. I think the clarity in the concept and story telling is hindered by the vocals. As impressive as the vocals are at times, I do find the lyrics tricky to decipher at times. With this being said, I’ll lay it out plain and simple. This is an excellent album produced to a high standard with an equally high standard of musicianship. With this effort, the band have gone all in and come agonizingly close to producing a masterpiece!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship:8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. In the Midway of Life’s Journey
2. The Mission of Virgil
3. Gate of Hell (Arrival of Charon)
4. The Borderland
5. Whirlwind of Lovers
6. Under Eternal Rain
7. To the Edge of Stygian Lagoon
8. Regnum Dite
9. Burning Graves
10. Phlegethon (The Bloody River)
11. Forest of Suicides
12. Firestorm
13. On Geryon’s Back
14. Ten Moats of Damnation (Interlude The Ulysses' Chant)
15. In Hands of Titans
16. Cocytus (The Ice Terror)
17. Lucifer
Lineup:
Stefano - Bass
Francesco - Drums
Oscar - Guitar
Fillipo - Keyboard
Max Morelli – Vocals
Record Label: Rockshots Records
     


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