Released: 2007, Scarlet Records
Names are funny things. Sometimes they apply perfectly, and sometimes they don't apply at all. Take Italian power-progressive group DGM, for example...the band name stands for "Diego, Gianfranco, Maurizio," the names of the three members who initially founded the band in 1994 as an all-instrumental outfit. Over the years, in the course of writing, recording, and releasing of an EP and five albums on the Italian labels Elevate and Scarlet, all three of the original members left the band, meaning the moniker no longer makes any sense. But the title of DGM's sixth and so-far-best full-length effort, DIFFERENT SHAPES, could not be more appropriate for the new platter of varied and superb material.
DGM has been heralded as the "Italian answer to Dream Theater and Symphony X," and the comparison is actually realtively close to being valid, for their sound falls somewhere in between the "more prog than metal" of the former and the "more metal than prog" of the latter, with less tendancy to go off on long instrumental passages than either. DIFFERENT SHAPES clocks in at about fifty-two and a half minutes and most songs are in the four and a half to five minute range, so those who are turned off by excessive progressive noodling can rest assured you won't be overly inundated with solo-overdosing. The leads you will hear, however, are just plain amazing. New guitarist Simone Mularoni is a shredder of the first order, executing flat-out terrifying runs and melodic lines with equal bombast and skill. Vocalist Titta Tani...who, oddly, also plays drums for death metal outfits Necrophagia and Daemonia...is another standout in the band, possessing the capability to sing in a clear midrange fairly similar to that of Angra's Edu Falaschi as well as the ability to go for a more aggressive, raw-sounding tone when the situation calls for it, at times sounding a bit like Symphony X's Russell Allen when he does so. For those of you who may have heard their 2005 release MISPLACED and were disappointed by its generic power metal direction, you'll be pleased to note that DIFFERENT SHAPES is a return to the more broad-minded form the band had on 2003's HIDDEN PLACE album.
Production is sharp, clear, and punchy all throughout. Opening cut "New Life" starts off with a series of effects that sound reminiscent of segments of Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON album before launching into a speedy double-bass-driven power metal tune reminiscent of a more aggressive Angra with a great, catchy chorus, excellent melodic breakdown, and a cool guitar/keyboard lead tradeoff section. Following track "The Alliance" opens with some industrial-tinged riffing but quickly segues into a well-done Dream Theater-esque tune with choruses that could have easily appeared on the SCENES FROM A MEMORY album, Kevin Moore-ish keyboard passages, and Petrucci-style guitar leads...though the closeout lead snippet is closer to Steve Vai. Before you can call DGM a clone, though, the next track, "Some Day, One Day" comes in with a catchy 70's-prog-influenced tune sounding like a heavier blend of Porcupine Tree, Yes, and Queen. That's not the end of the variety, though - "The Fallen Angel" is a great piano-laden power ballad that calls to mind a bit of Savatage and a more metallized version of any number of the 80's borderline metal/AOR hair bands (for some reason, I hear Bon Jovi specifically) while "Peace Of Mind" alternates between near-thrash-stomp deathgrowled verses and Euro-melodic power-metal choruses, sounding a bit like some sort of unholy marriage of Testament and Stratovarius...different shapes indeed! You really can't pick a bad or even "average" track on the album, as the remaining songs are well-done power/prog mixtures ranging in tempo and aggressiveness but all delivered with class, conviction, and a knack for combining extreme technical skill and melodic accessibility. If there was a weakness to be pointed out, it would be that none of what the band's doing is truly original - you've heard something similar to just about everything here before from various other groups, and at times you may find yourself thinking "this sounds a little too much like Band X or Band Y." A good example would be some of the keyboard solos by new member Emanuele Casali, which are damn good but sure sound like they were cribbed from the Book Of Sonatavarius.
This is an excellent release and fans of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Angra, Sonata Arctica, and the like should definitely add DIFFERENT SHAPES to their list of must-haves. Also recommended for anyone else looking for music that blurs the line between power and prog with lots of melody and plenty of energy.