REVIEW: Dagoba – By Night

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One of the perks of writing for a metal magazine is that you are bound to come across bands you never heard of before, and probably never would have if not for the promos and press releases. For me, one such case is the French modern metal act DAGOBA. The band have been around since 1997, have eight studio albums, and have toured with the likes of METALLICA, MACHINE HEAD, and IN FLAMES. However, this is my first time listening to their music as their latest record, “By Night,” was released on February 18th, 2022, via Napalm Records.

When it comes to modern metal, it is always interesting to discover how each band that is labeled as such actually crafts its sounds. In DAGOBA’s case, groove-infused guitars, pounding drums, and multifaceted vocals are offset by electronic flourishes that give a nice nod to the 1980s while also adding textured ambiance and depth to the songs. Given that these are the main pillars of the sound, one can expect melodic passages that juxtapose intense breakdowns without being disappointed, as this is the formula that DAGOBA implements on this album with rather good results. On the downside, the electronic elements may be a bit too much in some cases, overshadowing the rest of the instrumentals and being the ones that drive the songs forward instead of the guitars or vocals.

Singles “The Hunt” and “The Last Crossing” feature aggressive harsh vocals underpinned by melodic yet heavy guitars and electro elements, while “On the Run” showcases a more approachable sound by displaying their trademark elements. In between just these three songs, one can already tell how infectious their music is, as the band have a great balance between melody and heaviness. Among the heftier cuts, “Sunfall” and “Bellflower Drive” invite listeners to a serious headbanging session; “Sunfall” with double bass and blast beats from drummer Theo Gendron, which are softened by clean vocals, while “Bellflower Drive” has Shawter’s wicked deep growls at its center and a fair amount of melodic groove. Emotive and glossy track “On the Run” benefits from female vocals that complement Shawter’s raspy cleans, a simple piano melody, and an addictive chorus that make it a standout moment on the album.

Melodic rocker “City Light” pretty much mirrors “On the Run” in terms of nuanced ambiance, huge chorus, and clean raspy vocals but with some drum accents and guitar melodies that make the track feel bigger and more robust. The way this album is put together is interesting as the most melodic songs are nestled in between the heavier tracks, making the listening experience feel like it comes full circle. As such, “Nightclub” and “Summer’s Gone” ramp up the aggression factor little by little with more preeminent guitars from Richard De Mello and massive sounding drums until it explodes in the energetic “The Last Crossing,” whose chunky riffs and hefty chorus make it another standout track. Instrumental “Stellar” closes the album with more lush electronic soundscapes and a dark, brooding ambiance, falling in line with the rest of the music on “By Night.”

All-in-all, “By Night” is an album that checks all the boxes from modern touches, diversity of sound, and dynamic instrumentals, all the way to versatile vocals and electronic elements that make the album feel cohesive and connected throughout all the tracks. For all the heaviness and aggression displayed in the soundscape, the album is quite melodic and smooth in its transitions from one song to the next, offering a musical rollercoaster ride. DAGOBA have pushed the boundaries of straightforward melodic metal by experimenting and combining different styles and genres with ease. So, if you’re looking for something that is groovy, intense, and drenched in electronic sounds, then give DAGOBA’s “By Night” a listen, as chances are you are going to like what you hear.  

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

1    Neons
2    The Hunt
3    Sunfall
4    Bellflower Drive
5    On the Run
6    Break
7    City Lights
8    Nightclub
9    Summer’s Gone
10    The Last Crossing
11    Stellar

Lineup

Shawter – Vocals / Machines
Richard De Mello – Guitar
Kawa Koshigero – Bass
Theo Gendron – Drums

Label

Napalm Records

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