Dante’s Inferno. It’s a classic. If not the 700 year old piece of mostly unintelligible (to the modern reader) “poetry”, then Iced Earth’s massive ass show stopper from 1995 that retold the ages old poem in metallic form. Many have tried of course, Hell being a fairly popular theme in metal, but none really managed to capture the depth, darkness and massive epicity like Iced Earth did way back then. Colossal. I guess that’s the word to best describe Signum Draconis’s debut album. Based on, and titled, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, the album is a 95 minute behemoth journeying through the darkest reaches of symphonic power metal the Italian (of course) five piece retell this first part of Alighieri’s trilogy in 17 tracks and over 90 minutes of music. The scope can probably best be described as epic. The album flows extremely well. Unlike most concept albums it has that cohesive feel and that underlying pull that makes every song come together to a whole. The style progresses throughout the runtime.
The sheer magnitude and length makes it hard to get through in a single sitting, but while there is some stuff that might well have been left on the cutting room floor the majority of the album is called for. A lot of songs on here are a tad overlong; especially given the entire runtime, a few of the songs could easily drop a minute or two. Firestorm, coming toward the end of the album, is a manic beast that has all the trappings of a modern power metal classic, hindered only by its six minute runtime - though it’s still a great ass song, don’t get me wrong! Thing of course is that each track still needs to pull its weight as standalone tracks, and in a way that’s where Signum Draconis kinda fail. While plenty of the material is phenomenal, some of it could do well with a trim. Toward the end Ten Moats of Damnation (Interlude: The Ulysses' Chant) shows up with said chant acting as an interlude. The atmosphere is there, but it drags on just a tad too long, and then instead the eleven minute track doesn’t actually end up anywhere significant. Unfortunately the same kind of goes for the entire last part of the album, the final two tracks - Cocytus (The Ice Terror) and Lucifer - dragging on too long.
This album is so long and so hard to digest, it could well have been split in twain, though it is of course understandable a new outfit would wish to release its entire arsenal in one swoop - especially given the quality Signum Draconis present. The production is flawless, and the musicianship equal to the task. The guys pull neat tricks all over the place, managing that dark, hellish atmosphere throughout the album; Phlegethon (The Bloody River) pulls them gothic keyboards, while Gate of Hell approaches with cathedral like orchestras. The guitars throughout are phenomenal, plenty of great riffing abound, and Max Morelli handles the task of leading the way through the nine planes expertly; his voice somewhere around Rob Lundgren’s gruffness and Fabio Lione’s theatricality, taking the best from both worlds; Whirlwind of Lovers sees him duet with Ksenia Glonty, and it’s a highlight. Here’s hoping they don’t pull a Starbynary and follow up with Inferno’s actual sequels, because honestly, can you really say you give two hoots about Purgatory and Paradise? No. But if they can trim some of the excess next time there’s no way The Divine Comedy: Inferno is the last we’ve heard from Signum Draconis.
Standout tracks: Gate of Hell, Whirlwind of Lovers, Firestorm