A by product of going to a posh school many years ago where Latin and Ancient Greek were mandatory up to O level standard was that without resorting to online searches, or watching Clash of the Titans, I knew immediately that Tartarus is the mythological hell where the most evil of souls and the rivals of the gods, the Titans were banished. With titles like ‘Sysiphus’, ‘Titans’, and ‘Tantalus’, these new American prog-doomsters Dang are going back to pre-Christian fables to inspire their lyrics, and why not? If nothing else it’s a stiff middle finger up to the narrow minded nay-saying fundamental (with emphasis on the mental) religious types who think metal is all Satanism and devil worship!
The aforementioned ‘Sysiphus’ opens the album, the tale of an ancient Corinthian king who was cursed for all eternity to roll a boulder uphill that would then roll back down, a punishment for his deceit and evil, a tale that is matched by the equally relentless marching beat of the track, echoing the eternal trudging of the doomed sinner. Next is ‘Salmoneus’, dedicated to the brother of ‘Sysiphus’, a king who in his own vanity declared himself as Zeus, and suffered the wrath of that deity, being struck down along with his city, the song mirroring the title character’s hubris, but with a more progressive sound, the riffs and time changes being more complex then the first number, the beats reflecting the build up and then destruction and torture of the eponymous ruler.
Each song on this album represents and tells the tale of another denizen of The Darkest Realm of the deepest hell of ancient Greece, and as well as showing a deep knowledge of ancient mythology, the band demonstrates an influence from classic, albeit considerably more recent on a historical context, metal and rock. There are clearly Sabbathesque riffs throughout, and on ‘Ixion’, the drag and feedback of Saint Vitus’ own Dave Chandler is so apparent. This is contrasted to the gentle acoustic opening of ‘Danaides’, the soothing accompaniment of a running stream building into a jarring and sinister scream, when the story of the punishment of eternally carrying water in sieves is told.
Whilst the content of the album is clearly progressive, harking as it does to the sorts of tales that Peter Gabriel era Genesis told in ‘The Fountain of Salmacis’, Dang have a far harder and darker sound, their often well layered and hypnotic sound being reminiscent of Tool without the self obsession. The fact that the band are willing to mine the rich seams of Greek fable is to be congratulated, and if you’re worried that you might accidentally be educated by the lyrics, just enjoy the fine guitar work supported by a clearly well practised rhythm section.