Review: Aghast Afterglow – 'Imaging'

Could 2016 be the year that Italy’s burgeoning metal scene becomes a contender? From Destrage to Ufomammut to stalwarts Lacuna Coil successfully making strides internationally, it could become a reality.

Following in the footsteps of Christina Scabbia and co is gothic symphonic metallers Aghast Afterglow. The band’s nucleus of guitarist Denny di Motto and vocalist Lisa Lee met in 2010, officially forming the band in October of that year. Almost immediately, they began working on their debut album; however a severe case of perfectionism, and lack of permanent musicians, resulted in said album, ‘Imaging’ only being released on Revalve Records in May 2015. With bassist Carmelo Tommasino and drummer Giovanni ‘Vanni’ Rizzo firmly in place, the band are firing on all cylinders, ready to promote their long-awaited debut.

The album opens promisingly enough with ‘Angels Can’t Love’, all ponderous heaviness mixed with delicate piano sections. Lee’s vocals are somewhat unusual for this genre, as they’re less operatic/classical and more husky and soft; more akin to Evanescence’s Amy Lee than Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. She is joined on this track by DGM vocalist Mark Basile, whose vocal range is somewhat limited compared to Lee’s; however they harmonise well together. The song also scores extra points for its rampantly gothy synths.

The entire album is, truth be told, rather more goth metal than symphonic metal. There are certainly moments of symphonic, most notably in the Italian-sung ‘Muto Inconscio’, with its double-tracked harmonised vocals and pulsating beat, and lead single ‘There’s No Time’, which is also the heaviest track on the album, all tumbling beats intertwined with soft piano. It’s even there in the cinematic ‘When Winter Will Come Back’s juddering, skipping beat and lush strings.

However, the darkness of goth metal just nudges ahead: the moodiness of ‘Gaze My Sin’, the restrained beauty of ‘Stream of Awareness’, the commanding synth and snarling guitar work in album closer ‘You’re Killing Me From Inside’ (hell, even the latter’s title alone!). So, it’s a goth metal album – all well and good. There are a few issues however: at times the instruments all but drown out the subtler moments of Lee’s vocal performance, and the drums are almost inaudible and the synths too loud in places. The vocals also come across a bit muffled at times, too. Songwise, the aforementioned ‘Gaze My Sin’, although a glittery, pretty number, has no real structure or undulation – and the less said about the sexless, over-synthed cover of Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ the better.

All that aside, there is a definite seed of promise here. A little tightening up of the production and song flow…and perhaps a little more spontaneity? Attention to detail is certainly to be commended, but by spending over four years perfecting the album, it seems like a bit of whimsy and vitality has been stripped from the songs. There is work to be done (or undone?) here but there is undoubted talent within the ranks of Aghast Afterglow.

Review: Melaine Brehaut

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