The last we heard from the eccentric Italian progressive metal band Destrage was in 2019, with the brief but well-crafted The Chosen One hitting shelves partway through that year. Of course, lots has changed since given the literal global public health emergency that took place the very next year, on which I don’t think I really need to elaborate further (though it’s worth keeping in mind that Destrage’s native Italy was especially hard hit with the early waves of COVID in 2020). And that’s not to mention the overbearing nature of the daily news cycle throughout, which was already strained enough before the events of the last few years came to pass.
The ongoing (yes, ongoing) pandemic, more than anything else, feels like the driving force behind SO MUCH. too much. — itself somehow the sixth album from the Italian four-piece. Now, Destrage are no strangers to chaos in their music, with 2014’s breakthrough record Are You Kidding Me? No being perhaps one of the finest expressions of frenetic and complex progressive metal we’ve seen since SikTh. But this album feels different: it’s not as much tightly controlled pandemonium the way Are You Kidding Me? No did it as it is that style taken to a maximalist and sometimes disorienting extreme. Forget the streamlined sound of 2016’s A Means to No End and the tightly condensed hooks of The Chosen One. SO MUCH. too much. is erratic, dense, and very much a reflection of its title.
But then again, who better than Destrage to make an album like this in 2022? Take the excesses of single “Italian Boi”, whose plain title belies its ridiculous tonal shifts: from its dreamy intro refrain to the claustrophobic Car Bomb-like breakdown that caps it off (the freakish music video is well worth a watch, too — ideally sober). Or perhaps the phenomenal “Venice Has Sunk”, the raging verse of which could just as easily fit on The Dillinger Escape Plan’s furious One of Us is the Killer. Dillinger are a good comparison point here more broadly: if anything, the album feels like Destrage’s own Ire Works, as a chaotically paced record that often rapidly changes in tone and tempo from one track to another. But how better to reflect the utterly fragmented state of mind the last few years have left many of us in? Mathcore riffs set up shop next to calm interludes and punk rock intros — it’s just one absurd thing after another, the same way life in general has felt since 2020. Now, this does mean the album can be a bit difficult to get into and make sense of at first, but much like Ire Works, its tracks reward revisits as the details crammed in every corner start to eventually show themselves.
All thoughts on the stylistic choices at hand aside for a moment, there’s no denying the technical abilities of each member. Vocalist Paolo Colavolpe’s Greg Puciato impression remains on point, and his ability to switch between everything from thundering lows and soaring cleans is still a wonder to behold. The instrumentals are similarly top notch: Ralph Salati and Matteo Di Gioia remain two of the most underrated guitar players in all of progressive metal, matching the energy Colavolpe brings with aplomb. Finally, Federico Paulovich is a machine behind the kit as always, and although it’s unclear who’s responsible for the bass parts this time around (Gabriel Pignata seems to have left the band at some point along the way) it’s hard to find anything to complain about on that end.
Still, the star of the show often remains Colavolpe, and he delivers with finesse and effortless versatility every time the spotlight is on him. “An Imposter” is one of the catchiest tunes you’ll hear all year, and the chorus of “A Commercial Break that Lasts Forever” is equally hard to stop humming hours later. The hooks aren’t quite delivered on a platter the way they were on The Chosen One, but this is a more challenging album by design — look for said hooks enough and they, too, will present themselves. “Private Party” is another notable highlight here, with a solid sing-along chorus, although the brief Devin Townsend feature that closes it is a bit understated. Finally, the whiplash of “Unisex Unibrow” (what a title!) is equally memorable, switching between furious guitar work and a gentle synth-tinged vocal refrain on a dime.
Many fans have been clamoring for a return to the Are You Kidding Me? No sound for a while now, but SO MUCH. too much. almost eclipses that record in terms of sheer chaos at times. It might not be as cohesive as their recent releases, but this is an album that’s deliberately very uneven in tone and pacing, capturing the disarray of our day and age like few (if any) progressive metal albums have been able to since 2020. A new listener would do well to keep an open mind going in, but SO MUCH. too much. is well worth the time investment required to grasp its many twists and turns — and proves once more that Destrage are still as essential as ever, pandemic be damned.
Destrage’s SO MUCH. too much. is out September 16th via 3DOT Recordings and can be purchased here.