Reviewed: November 2020
Released: 2020, Cruz Del Sur Music
Reviewer: Rossy Maguire
Prog-tinged epic metal from one of Italy’s most venerable acts! A concept album detailing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, DARK QUARTERER has crafted an album of high drama and impeccable musicianship with “Pompei”!
Playing original material was considered taboo in the early 1980s Italian metal scene. Clubs wouldn’t book acts who wrote their own material, prompting countless Italian metal bands to hone their craft playing other people’s songs. The domino effect was obvious: Without any bands releasing original material, the European metal scene overlooked Italy for years, all the while Germany became the dominant force. One such band who swam against the tide was Omega R, who, after growing restless playing just covers, changed their name to DARK QUARTERER in 1982 and started recording and releasing their own songs. It hasn’t always been easy for the band, who, thirty-eight years after the fact, are guided by founding members Gianni Nepi (bass/vocals) and Paolo “Nipa” Ninci (drums). During their halcyon years, venues for live music were scarce, forcing the band to retreat to their rehearsal room to work on their unique sound, one that has made DARK QUARTERER one of Italy’s most respected cult metal acts.
The new album opens with its first track Vesuvius to set the scene. Opening with eerie sounds featuring water bubbling/rubble moving creates this effect of the volcano living and breathing, preparing for its eventual destruction of Pompei. A heavy droning guitar is slowly faded into the track to introduce more musical elements and add to the ambience. This all changes around 5:03 when the tone changes to more prog metal with the introduction of fast, heavy down picked guitar riffs and faster drum patterns. This change could be symbolic of Vesuvius erupting and unleashing its chaos. However, the tone reverts to its original setting around 7:52 and lasts till the end of the track. For an opener to an album, this is already powerful and prepares the listener for what’s to come.
The second track Welcome to the Day of Death opens with more prog metal elements than the previous track, which could symbolise that the eruption of Vesuvius has happened – there is now an uncertain deadline as to when death will happen, except that it will be during that day.
This track is immediately proceeded by Panic, opening with the horrifying sounds of people screaming and buildings collapsing to help the listener visualise the chaos ensuing within Pompei. This is further supported by the doom metal instrumentals to create this destruction. Around 7:16, the outro is completed by a calmer piano, symbolising the volcano’s reign of terror has ended and lay dead are the 20,000 people.
This same imagery carries on throughout Plinius the Elder and Gladiator, detailing their points of view through the medium of doom/prog metal instrumentals.
Concluding the album is Forever which provides a powerful finisher to the musical journey the listener has taken to learn the chaos and destruction caused by Vesuvius, but also through the minds of DARK QUARTERER musical capabilities to bring a historical event to life!