By Jacob Brown
The Inner Circle is the debut album from the progressive band, Dante. Hailing from Germany, Dante plays a brand of music closer to progressive rock than anything actually resembling metal, although the guitar tone and some moments on the album make this a little heavier than standard prog rock. The band’s sound represents a unique blend of late 60s, early 70s prog like Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Yes with an infusion of current acts like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree.
There is definitely a strong technical edge to the band’s music in terms of both individual performances and arrangements. Like early Dream Theater, there is also a certain amount of emphasis placed on each of the member’s virtuosity to their respective instrument. This is paired nicely, however, with several mellow passages throughout the album where the focus is on the arrangement. Tracks like “For I Am” and “The Giving”, which are both slower, piano-driven songs, offer nothing for the band to hide behind and show that the band can write great songs without such over indulgence. Whether it is the crunchy guitar riffs or all of the technical solos, everything on the album has its counterpart and the overall sound is quite balanced. These changes in styles and dynamics also keep things interesting while never sounding odd or forced.
Most songs start with a rather linear structure (intro-verse-chorus) then veer off into an instrumental section before eventually coming full circle once again with the original melody. These arrangements cause many of the songs on the album to be quite expansive with five of the seven songs running over eight minutes and “The Taking” spanning nearly 19 minutes.
Keyboardist Marcus Maichel has a significant presence on the album ranging from subtle atmospheric textures to beautiful piano leads and dazzling solos. Guitarist Markus Berger does his fair share of work on the album, too. His playing makes the classic prog influences apparent with smooth, emotive solos and winding, melodic riffs. There are also some nice, crunchy riffs mixed into the fold as well. Despite the abundance of solos and leads, the keyboards and guitars share the spotlight nicely with nothing sounding jumbled and neither instrument overpowering the other.
Alexander Gohs has a unique voice with a very warm and gentle sound on most songs. This works exceptionally well with the mellow passages on the album, which are where his vocals are primarily featured. Also, because nearly each song contains a large instrumental section at some point, there are very few vocals actually on the album.
Tough, the whole sound is brought together by the excellent combination of bassist Dennis Neumeier and drummer Christian Eichlinger. Neumeier’s bass can be heard bubbling underneath the band’s soundscapes while Eichlinger makes great use of his kit filling up the bottom end with some excellent progressive drumming. In addition to his drumming duties, Eichlinger also brings some great orchestration to several songs, particularly on “Faded” and “The Taking”.
Overall, The Inner Circle is an excellent debut from a band that should be on every progressive music fan’s radar. This is definitely a band to watch for in the future. In the meantime, though, pick up the excellent The Inner Circle and support this very talented band.