1. In the Hands of a Siren 2. Between two Parallels 3. Remembrances 4. Density 5. Going to Nowhere 6. One Thousand Nothing 7. Connecting 8. The Big Show
Dynamic Lights are a five-piece progressive metal band from Italy, and Shape is their first full-length release. If you’ve read my article on Italian metal, you’ll know that I tend to find a high level of structure, complexity, and melody in the music of most Italian metal bands. Dynamic Lights do not diverge from this characteristic, as their music is both extremely melodious and many-layered. It’s not the heaviest of stuff, and at sometimes sounds more like progressive rock than anything – similar in a way to, say, Subterranean Masquerade, but not as avant-garde.
Shape kicks off with a track titled “In the Hands of a Siren,” one of the stronger tracks on the album. Here we first see that the keyboard, usually just playing a piano part, is a very important factor in driving the music. In addition, vocalist Matteo Infante sings a wonderful duet for most of the song with a guest female vocalist, giving the song a majestic and beautiful feeling. This is followed up by Between Two Parallels, a song which isn’t very heavy and has a lot of what I like to call “empty space” in prog metal, where, frankly, not much is going on instrument or vocal wise. Ultra prog buffs will disagree with me here, but I find these moments sort of pointless and unnecessary. Some may say they’re essential for a progressive song, but there are plenty of wonderful prog metal songs out there that do not employ this tactic.
Track three, “Rememberances,” also has a few dull moments like this, but on the other hand, it features quite an interesting melody and a groovy, fun bass line. Additionally, at about four and a half minutes into the song we find one of those wonderful guitar solos typical of progressive metal – very long and drawn out but also highly inventive and creative, all courtesy of Marco Poderi. This is followed by an almost jazzy second half of the song, which totally threw me off but at the same time provided a much-needed change of pace. Once this ends we find “Density,” a very nice (albeit short) piano-only track that conveys a serene and peaceful feeling. Then, without warning, a pretty good album totally comes into its own.
Right off the bat, I knew “Going to Nowhere” was going to be the best song on the album as well as one of my favorite progressive metal songs of all time. If anywhere a Dream Theater comparison is appropriate (as they are generally overused when it comes to newer prog bands) it is here – I was instantly reminded of some of their earlier works, possibly off of Images and Words. On this track, the keyboard effects are coordinated perfectly with the guitar, which is at its heaviest up to this point on the album. This track and this track alone automatically makes this album a keeper – but the fun doesn’t stop here. After these six minutes of bliss is over, the song entitled “One Thousand Nothings” begins. It’s the longest track on the album, at eleven and a half minutes. Much too often are super long songs in a genre like this boring and repetitive – but this is not the case here. Despite the previous track being my favorite on the album, this one is the most creative. After a fantastic introduction I sort of expected the song to mellow out, but all four instruments charged ahead at full speed and really surprised me with something I’d never quite heard before. This section of the song has the heaviness of a typical heavy metal song, but also the extreme artsy aspect we often find in the progressive genre, a feat that is often achieved in the same song but not necessarily at the same exact time. These first few minutes are by far the best of the song, but it’s consistently solid over the next eight minutes or so.
We’re given another short track on “Connecting,” which features not only keyboard atmosphere but some very nice acoustic guitars and soft vocals. Here I realized for the first time how pleasant Matteo Infante’s voice really is – he can hit the high notes when needed but doesn’t get whiny or thin-voiced as some other prog vocalists sometimes do. It’s very reminiscent of Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlow. I also can catch a little hint of an Italian accent when he sings here, which adds a little to the authenticity and passion of the song. To close this one out is “The Big Show,” and appropriately named song where there’s a whole lot going on. The best thing I can say about this one is that there really isn’t any “empty space,” although nothing about it stands out as particularly brilliant – it’s fair enough to say it’s a solid way to finish off the album.
After several listens, Shape really will grow on you. At first it seems a little lacking in some departments, but overall the album has a great vibe to it. Putting the little bit of inconsistency aside (there are several moments of sheer brilliance but also some very boring sections) Dynamic Lights have a very well-constructed album to their name. It’s interesting, thought-provoking, and once it’s over it feels just like ending a difficult yet fulfilling journey. It’s a must have for all progressive metal fans!
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details