By Colonel Angus

DARK QUARTERER has been around since the early 80s and hail from Italy.  I can’t say that I have ever run across them or their albums and I have collected music since the mid-70s.  I was an avid reader of the metal mags coming out of Europe (the ones written in English) but I don’t recall a lot of bands emerging from Italy which is a shame because DARK QUARTERER seem to be an overlooked group by yours truly.

I have always been fascinated with Pompei and the stories of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius so when I was given the chance to review a metal band’s concept record about those events, well, to say I was enthusiastic is an understatement.  While I like certain concept records, not all of them resonate with me (i.e. "The Elder" by KISS) so while I wanted to get my hands on the album, I was also worried that the concept would be either overblown or really not much of a concept with only some loosely based lyrics for cohesion.  After the first listen, I was relieved that it was neither.  The concept runs through the whole record but the story is told from different points of view.  The volcano is even humanized by getting a point of view within the story.  Overall, a healthy dose of concept without making the listener follow along like they were reading a book.

Musically, if you are a prog metal fan, there is a lot to like on "Pompei".  It consists of only six tracks but each one is a mini epic in itself starting with “Vesuvius” all the way to “Forever”.  Each piece contains elements of prog metal, power metal, and symphonic metal.  They even manage to add a little jazz interlude in “Plinius the Elder” which somehow sits perfectly alongside power prog metal in the vein of DREAM THEATER.  I also hear YES influences throughout the disk which often show up in the lighter material.  Material like “Panic” really paints that backdrop of the eruption and adds so much drama both musically and lyrically.  Since each track has many parts and things flow so organically, if you’re like me, you will find yourself listening to whole disk each time because it works best as a whole record.

The band consists of players who know their way around their respective instruments.  Gianni Nepi supplies the bass and vocals and while admit, his vocals can be unique at times, I find that his performance really adds the drama needed to tell this story.  The guitars come courtesy of Francesco Sozzi and if you need any convincing of his mastery of the six strings, just listen to the guitar work at the end of “Forever”.  His soloing is almost like a song within a song.  I often listen in amazement to prog drummers as they shift from part to part wondering how they manage to keep all that music in their heads.  Paolo Ninci’s performance is spot on throughout and he incorporates solid beats while still being able to switch gears and go full on power metal.  Last, but certainly not least, Francesco Longhi shows off his keyboard prowess all overt his record with jazzy piano all the way to that Hammond organ sound.

DARK QUARTERER’s "Pompei" release stands up there with other great prog metal albums.  The band can rest easy that they have produced a record that I believe will stand the test of time and be enjoyed by prog metal fans across the globe.  Maybe it’s time I check out their other disks since this one fits nicely alongside my other prog metal favorites.