Life itself frequently writes the best stories, and a band history as unusual as Dogma's is bound to result in an extremely independent and excellent act. Their career to date has been as colourful and exceptional as the music on their debut album, Black Roses, which sees the band from Italy mix traditional heavy metal with progressive elements and a touch of melancholia, giving their ten songs a contemporary and unusual flair with additional orchestra parts and electronic keyboard cascades. So what exactly has happened, what brought these five musicians and their diverse musical tastes together?
Was it coincidence or fate? Were there higher powers involved that ensured that these very different individualists got together? Guitarist Cosimo Binetti, for one, would certainly not be in a position to present as strong a debut album as Black Roses had he not met vocalist Daniele Santori at a friend's funeral, working at the cemetery. "Daniele saw how upset I was and wanted to cheer me up," Binetti remembers. "We got talking and discovered that we're both musicians, which led to the idea of trying to do something together." The concept gained momentum when Binetti met keyboarder Stefano Smeriglio at the police station in Ancona. "We were both in big trouble, were questioned by the police and soon became friends," the guitarist explains with a wink, adding: "If I feel treated unfairly I can get so angry that I end up getting into trouble with the boys in blue." Before this incident, he'd spent several months travelling from city to city, staying with friends, living from hand to mouth. In Ancona he had one of those fateful encounters that made Binetti, Santori and Smeriglio a composer team. They soon found the right drummer in Marco Bianchella, best skinsman in town. Bassist Steve Vawamas happened to be an old friend of Binetti's and completed the band that soon developed into a tight unit.
The Dogma played their first shows as early as summer 2001, followed by around 50 gigs which helped the young act gather the necessary maturity and experience to cut their first recording. 2002 saw the arrival of the first demo, which sold extremely well by mail order, particularly in Germany. So it is not surprising that The Dogma soon came to the attention of various record companies. They signed with Drakkar Entertainment, one of the reasons being that the musicians sensed from the beginning that Drakkar would provide the necessary professional support and passion for music. Drakkar sent the band to the Woodhouse Studios in Hagen, Germany, in summer 2005, where they recorded their first album with the assistance of Godfather of Sound, Siggi Bemm. The studio sessions threatened to fall through before the first day of recording when drummer Marco Bianchella injured his knee badly in a car accident. But the record company knew a way out, asking Mike Terrana (Rage, Malmsteen, Pell) for spontaneous support, and he arrived to cut the rhythmically demanding tracks in record time. "Marco laid down the basics for the grooves, but of course Mike was free to bring in his very own note," comments Binetti proudly on his collaboration with Terrana.
The ten tracks on Black Rose turn out to be diverse and surprisingly mature compositions, covering the whole range of modern metal from anthemnic through glowing to melancholy. The title track is a classic metal number, guitar and vocals providing the cherry on the cake of the brilliant rhythm work. 'Devil's Bride,' 'Julie No More' (with touching lyrics about a dead girl and her mourning husband-to-be, which refers to a true story) and 'Sands Of Time' with its oriental-sounding keyboards fall into the same category. 'Queen Of The Damned' and 'Wicked Angel' impress with their breathtaking speed, the awe-inspiringly fast double bass providing the foundation for amazing vocals. The album closes with 'Mary Ann,' a quiet number featuring acoustic guitars and orchestra parts. Talking of orchestras: two different ensembles provide the big atmospheres on Black Rose. The Indigo string quartet expertly added the finishing touches to the arrangements at the Woodhouse Studio, while in Ancona the Filarmonica Marchigiana contributed some haunting atmospheres. Then there were the ten-piece Choir Of Saint Cosma and background vocalist Erichetta Coli, who refines 'Sands Of Time' with her delicate voice.
Should we summarize the above? Is it actually possible to appraise a newcomer act at such an early stage? Yes it is, and we definitely should, especially in this case. It's been a long time since a new metal act has come across as mature and as convincing as The Dogma do on their debut, Black Roses. And best of all: this band has no problems translating its extravagance convincingly on stage. Daniele Santori, Cosimo Binetti, Stefano Smeriglio, Steve Vawamas and Marco Bianchella are scheduled to embark on their first European tour in spring 2006, and they are five musicians to bear in mind. Mind you, it would probably be easier to simply remember the band, because their name sets the course: THE DOGMA!