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Dismal biography
DISMAL are a progressive metal band from Turin, Italy, formed in 1995. They play a very doomy, gothic, melancholy breed of metal combined with strong operatic and orchestral elements. Adding a permanent violinist and much back-and-forth male and female vocals and DISMAL will appeal heavily to similar depressing doom bands like MY DYING BRIDE and MIRROR OF DECEPTION.

Bio by NecronCommander

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DISMAL discography

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DISMAL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Fiaba Lacrimevole
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Rubino Liquido
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Miele Dal Salice
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Giostra di Vapore
2.61 | 3 ratings
Quinta Essentia

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DISMAL Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Quinta Essentia by DISMAL album cover Studio Album, 2020
2.61 | 3 ratings

Quinta Essentia
Dismal Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

2 stars Dismal is an Italian gothic band formed in 1995. Their debut album was released in November 1998 for Pagan Moon Records, 'Fiaba Lacrimevole', and this resulted in Dismal signing to Aural Music Group. Together they formed a new division of Aural Music, Dreamcell11, to promote the band artistically and commercially and Dismal have stayed there to this day. Over the years there have been line-up changes and these days they comprise Rossana Landi (vocals, double bass), Bradac (piano, synths, orchestrations, percussion), Daniel Porfido (8-string electric guitar, classic guitar) and Lautaro Acosta (violin). This is their sixth album in 25 years, and Dismal claim to have combined all their previous works in this one place, keeping their signature Gothic and theatrical sound constant while the lyrics are developed on cultural, philosophical, and alchemical themes.

To my ears they are mixing symphonic metal with doom and also combining darkwave, neofolk, waltz, electronic and theatrical elements with classical vocals which bring in elements of Björk and Kate Bush. In other words, this is something which should be right up my musical street, and when I saw the artwork and read the press release, I was excited to give it a listen, but it did not take long for my illusions to be shattered. There are bits I really enjoy, such as the clips from films discussing philosophy, and there are some wonderful performances from all involved, yet when it comes together it becomes messy and hard to listen to. The separate elements do not come together as they should, and instead one finds far more fault than joy. The production is wonderful, with real clarity of sound, but there is little here which works well when combined with all the other elements. Some of the vocals are in Italian, others in English, and it is when they keep it at its simplest such as on the introduction for "Alma Mater (Alchimia della Natura)" that the beauty of the album shines through, and for me if they had kept it more like this then it would have been a far more interesting release. But when they open it up it loses the impact and feels far more like a dark stage show which needs the visual elements to keep the audience involved. For fans only.

 Quinta Essentia by DISMAL album cover Studio Album, 2020
2.61 | 3 ratings

Quinta Essentia
Dismal Progressive Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars Just when I thought I was ready to wrap up my top-30 list of 2020 metal releases, Italian symphonic gothic/doom metallers Dismal drop a stunning album that can seriously challenge the top-half positions. Quinta Essentia is Dismal's fifth album in a career that spans over 25 years, and is one of the most beautiful troves of my 2020, certainly very different from everything else I listened to this year. Combining classical music, gothic, doom, jazz, alt-rock, dark ambient, progressive rock, sampled vocals, recitations, and operatic female vocals, Quinta Essentia is an infernal cauldron that could have easily spun out of control, but that, instead, miraculously works out and stands tall in a league of its own. Granted, it's not an easy listen and certainly not for everyone, but if you are into weird genre mash-ups or into adventurous bands like The 3rd and the Mortal, In The Woods, Beyond Dawn and Ulver (circa Themes from William Blake...) - chances are that you will lap this up in a heartbeat.

The combination of classical string arrangements and gothic/doom metal won't come as a surprise to many people in 2020. From doom-masters My Dying Bride to symphonic gothic pioneers Theatre of Tragedy and Tristania, any metal fan can name at least a couple of bands that have resorted to violins and cellos as a way to add tension to the most dramatic passages of their music. Few bands, however, have dared push things as far as Dismal do on Quinta Essentia. Typically, in most bands the orchestrations are used as an embellishment to compositions that are firmly rooted in metal aesthetics. In contrast, Dismal put them at the very center of their music, and it's the metal that acts as an embellishment. It's a spectacular turn of events, and one that makes Dismal's music hard to pigeonhole or compare to other bands (Therion and Haggard come to mind, but Dismal are way more adventurous and experimental).

The 9 tracks of Quinta Essentia are built around violins, double-bass, synths and orchestrations and have a strong classical music feel to them, both in terms of instrumentation and in terms of free-form structures. There is indeed very little in the way of standard verse/chorus structures on the album. Instead, most songs twist and turn, incessantly developing their themes and motifs through continuous time changes and multi-part compositions that often exceed the 6 minutes. Yet, omnipresent drums sway things decidedly towards rock/metal territories, and raw, distorted guitar chords add a strong doom element to the music. It's a beautiful, dramatic contrast, somewhat reminiscent of the 'beauty and the beast' approach of some of the bands mentioned earlier, minus the growls and with a much more modern feel to it.

On this hybrid foundation, Dismal add a myriad of other elements and influences. There is a strong theatrical component. Sampled voices from movies and sound effects lend a soundtrack quality to the music. Narrations and recitations are also used extensively, often as an integral part of the song, like for example on 'Alma Mater' that starts with a poetry reading accompanied by a melancholic piano and violin before developing into a splendid cross between doom and Italian singer-songwriter tradition. Jazz influences surface on the superb three-part piece 'Turin Black Light Act I, II, III' as well as on the more alt-rock-leaning 'Pale Blue Dot', which features a beautiful sax solo. 'Beyond the Matter' contains instead some interesting Arabic melodies. All these influences are filtered through tasteful rock aesthetics, which keeps the final product fresh and current and at the same time gives the whole album a coherent identity.

Meanwhile, Rossana Landi's splendid and polyhedric vocal performance elevates the music to new heights. Her beautiful voice morphs effortlessly from operatic bel canto, to earthier pop-rock wails, to theatrical narrations, to Arabic singing. With lyrics in English, Italian and Latin - often within the same song -, her histrionic and dramatic performance is simply mesmerizing and undoubtedly one of the highlights of the album. Male vocals are also used in the compositions, albeit more sparingly and most often in the form of spoken words.

It's a fascinating mixture that does not cease to hypnotize me every time I spin the album. There are so many layers, shades and subtleties in Quinta Essentia that the album is a field day for those listeners who are more progressively inclined. Centered on weighty themes of philosophy and alchemy (several of the spoken parts are taken from the movie 'Wittgenstein', based on the life and thinking of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein), Quinta Essentia is not a light album, musically or thematically, and requires some significant time investment on the part of the listener. But it is absolutely worth it because Dismal have truly delivered a captivating and compelling album that is at the same time fearlessly experimental and beautifully artistic.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

Thanks to bonnek for the artist addition.

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