Stargate – Beyond Space And Time
Beyond Space And Time
Behold, the might of the Apennine Peninsula! The Italians have been collectively kicking the asses of power and prog metal fans all over the world in 2012. I never got around to reviewing Stargate’s Beyond Space And Time after its release at the end of March, but it deserves a place next to some of the finer releases of the year.
Stargate’s debut album sees five lads from Verona finally landing their first full-length after an (apparently) 11 year tenure in the underground. These fellows play an interesting amalgam of power and progressive metal which I’ll examine in more detail later. Regardless of just how I end up classifying them, this is some great, slightly cosmic, and highly engaging material. The introductory instrumental track sounds like something out of a primordial dream of creation to me. Largely tender and emotive, there is more than a small hint of foreboding (thank the percussive rattles for this) that accurately foreshadows the grandness of the album as a whole. “Save The World” delivers aptly on that promise with an outpouring of creativity and absolutely captivates.
The blistering salvo of the first track is somewhat short-lived, though not unpleasantly so. Stargate quickly proves with the sweeping “Sands Of Time” and the more adventurous and anthemic “Nothing’s Forever” that they’re well capable of serving up an eclectic platter of prog/power delights. Between optimistic choruses about eagles and promised lands, and complex passages of prog guitar cannon fire, I can see the average listener being rather confused about what precisely is going on here. Like countrymen Wind Rose (with this year’s debut Shadows Over Lothadruin), Stargate seems at first to be presenting us with a somewhat traditional delivery of Italian power metal. Unlike their countrymen however, the comparison to power metal lasts beyond just the cover.
The easiest way for me to explain it is thusly: a solid platform of progressive metal in the style of Dream Theater (but not as frivolous, instrumentally) and perhaps Vanishing Point (but without the sheer melodic shimmer), but with choruses and frenetic energy that are more typical of power metal. As the album goes on, I find that the album embraces prog more and more thoroughly (See “Hysteria”, wherein there is precious little indication of this band handling power), so this tendency is the most noticeable in the first five or six songs.
Singer Flavio Caricasole is no disappointment. He suffers a bit from the typical Italian accent, but this is nothing like early Thy Majestie. His voice is a bit unique- very clear in the upper register, while often coming across as intentionally reserved and subdued in the lower reaches- something that I feel fits the music of Stargate very well. Part of the other reason that I feel the need to classify this as melodic prog/power metal is the pure emphasis placed upon the vocal lines. Guitar lines are diverse and seamless, and the drumming is commanding, but Stargate’s focus is clearly upon their choruses and vocal melodies.
All of this out of the way, Beyond Space And Time is a cracking album. It’s not as spacey as the cover and the prog label might have you believe, but it’s definitely got nods in that direction. The only thing more difficult to decipher than the band’s stylistic direction is how it all works so well. This album boasts some of the finest debut work of 2012, and is most definitely going to end up on some year-end lists (foreshadowing). Recommended with gusto to fans of melo-prog and Italian prog/power alike.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5