Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A GOLDEN CIRCLE

Il Cerchio d’Oro are an Italian prog band from Savona, formed during the seventies, when they released some singles but had not the chance to release a full length album. The band reunited in 2006 with a line-up featuring veterans Franco Piccolini (piano, organ, keyboards, backing vocals), Gino Terribile (drums, percussion, vocals), Giuseppe Terribile (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), Piuccio Pradal (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Roberto Giordana (electric guitar, backing vocals). 


In 2008 they released what should be considered their real debut album for the independent label Black Widow. It’s a concept album inspired by the character of Cristopher Columbus, where the aim of the music and lyrics is to tell the story of a difficult journey full of hopes, deceptions, disappointments and fears that is also a metaphor of life where often the goal is just a new starting point for another journey. The overall sound of Il Cerchio d’Oro is clearly inspired by bands as Le Orme, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and I New Trolls (especially in the vocal parts), but the result is very good and the song-writing is not too derivative.

The dreamy instrumental opener “Ouverture” sets the musical atmosphere and leads to the beautiful, melancholic “Sognando la meta” (Dreaming the goal). The contrast between the electric guitar and organ underlines doubts and fears before an uncertain impending future. After many efforts Columbus is going to set off and dreams of his goal... “Now I know, I’ll make it / I must believe in the dream / I’m alone in the night, a thought startles me / I already see only one image in my mind / And the goal is nearer...”. 
 



On “Colombo” (Columbus) the rhythm takes off. In Italian Colombo means pigeon and it’s ironic that a sailor has the same name as a bird. Columbus reflects on this fact and would like to be able to fly... “What an envy for the wings of the seagulls / That can exploit every wind... Sometimes during the night I dream my ships / With great wings instead of cannons / Sailing over unknown lands like kites...”.

“I tre marinai” (The three sailors) begins with the sound of the waves and of an acoustic guitar, then the vocals soar. It’s a reflective, melancholic ballad. Three sailors talk about the reasons that pushed them to embark on this dangerous journey. The first was without money and without women and now has nothing to lose, the second lost his wife and children and now tries to forget his troubles while for the third the most important thing in life is drinking wine in good company... “Let’s keep on imagining that life can change / But let’s not get our hopes up / The viceroy will make no gifts...”.
 



“Ieri, oggi, ancora niente” (Yesterday, tomorrow, nothing yet) is a complex track featuring an intro with the vocals a cappella and many changes in rhythm and mood. After one month of sailing no land on the horizon yet. Hopes, disappointments, illusions and disillusions turn the mood up and down...

“Il silenzio rumoroso del mare” (The noisy silence of the sea) is tense and haunting. It’s a complex track where the music storms and suddenly calms down, broken by short, delicate melodic passages before taking off again... “I spend all my nights looking through the stars / Listening to the creaking of my ships... I’m losing my excitement and I’m beginning to despair... I feel that there’s nobody on board that I can trust / It’s more and more difficult to hope in the noisy silence of the sea...”.




“Preghiera al vento” (Prayer to the wind) is a short, simple acoustic track that recalls Lucio Battisti, especially the vocals. It’s a kind of pagan invocation to the wind... “Oh wind! At least you, stay by my side...”.

“Tre giorni (L’ammutinamento)” (Three days – The mutiny) starts in an aggressive way, with the electric guitar and rhythm section in the forefront, then the fury stops giving way to a more reflective part... The rage of the crew grows but the captain manages to restore calm by promising that if they do not find land in three days they will turn back... “I have promised them three days and they have agreed / Now it’s my time, time of bets...”.

“Tierra! Tierra!” (Land! Land!) is a desperate ride on the wings of hope while time is running short. After a fiery beginning rhythm slows down, time stands still... Suddenly enthusiastic shouts rise and land appears on the horizon... “Land! Land! Treasure lightened by the stars / A thrill passes through my skin / The same thrill that makes the sailors shout / Land! Land! My God, forgive me if I doubted / Thanks for this joy you gave me / I know you are right and you never deceive me...”.




“Cercando l’approdo” (Looking for a landing point) is a beautiful instrumental. The tension melts and a calm melody veils the horizon leading to a happy end... On “Conclusione (Il ritorno)” (Conclusion – The return) joyful acoustic guitar chords and relaxed melodic vocals greet the return and the end of the journey. But Columbus is not aware of the importance of his discovery and of its consequences... “The whole world is going to change now / New horizons for the humankind...”.

The album features also two nice bonus tracks, the two sides of a 1977 single, “Quattro mura” (Four walls) and “Futuro prossimo” (Near future). It’s strange but these songs do not sound at all old and they fit the mood and the atmosphere of this work perfectly... “Your colour is beautiful / It recalls the sea of lost times / I don’t care if you don’t like me / I can’t die hoping to come to life again and be better than now...”.

From the book Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction to Italian Progressive Rock

Il Cerchio d'Oro: Il viaggio di Colombo (2008). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Even if not exactly an innovative proposition, “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” comes across as a mature, well-structured album that manages to capture the listener’s attention through its skilful use of melody and painstaking build-up of emotions... This is essential listening for all lovers of vintage Italian prog, and a worthwhile purchase for progressive rock fans in general... (read the complete review HERE).

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http://www.facebook.com/icdoro 
http://www.myspace.com/ilcerchiodoro 
 

Friday, 21 December 2012

DREAMING OF BACH

Il Rovescio della Medaglia were one of the many bands of the Italian prog scene of the early seventies. They were from Rome and after two albums in hard rock style, “La bibbia” and “Io come io”, in 1973 they collaborated with composer Luis Enriquez Bacalov and lyricist Sergio Bardotti for a third album in a more symphonic style. The result was a very particular concept album blending classical music and rock entitled “Contaminazione di alcune idee di certi preludi e fughe del Clavicembalo ben temperato di J.S. Bach” (Blend of some ideas from some preludes and fugues from the well-tempered clavier by J.S. Bach). The line-up on this album features Enzo Vita (guitars), Stefano Urso (bass), Gino Campoli (drums), Pino Ballarini (vocals, flute) and Franco di Sabbatini (keyboards) while in studio the band interacted with a baroque orchestra directed by the Maestro Luis Enriquez Bacalov himself with excellent results.


Il Rovescio della Medaglia 1971

The album tells the story of an imaginary character, a Scottish guitarist called Jim McCluskin who, back from a journey in Nepal, believes he is the “avatar” (the incarnation) of another imaginary character, a Scottish musician called Isaia Somerset, supposedly an illegitimate son of Johann Sebastian Bach who abandoned him during his stay in Britain. The guitarist is hospitalized in a psychiatric structure where he is haunted by his crazy musical dreams. The plot is ironic, all the tracks are linked together and the music flows continuously drawing a kind of well crafted “divertissement”.

Enzo Vita in the seventies


The opener, “Absent For This Consumed World” is a short instrumental introduction that leads with a drum roll to the ethereal, melancholic “Ora non ricordo più” (Now I can’t remember). “Now I can’t remember what kind of music I used to play / I saw white and I fell over / It’s the image of an image... I run after my music / My music is running forward, away from me / As dark never touches light / Where time comes to life and immediately dies / She is there and she’s waiting for me / She is calling me...”.

Next comes “Il suono del silenzio” (The sound of silence). Don’t worry, it’s not a cover of Simon & Garfunkel but an experimental track where classical passages of harpsichord, organ and violin are mixed with a vibrant, pulsating rhythm section. In the mind of the protagonist a question arises... “Maybe, am I the son of Bach?”.




“Mi sono svegliato e... Ho chiuso gli occhi” (I woke up and... I shut my eyes) tells of a sad awakening... “Why am I here? Why did they shut me here? Because for them I’m like a strange child...”. From a lullaby a desperate electric guitar solo in Jimi Hendrix style takes off... The protagonist wants to go back to the world of dreams... “I woke up this morning and... / I shut my eyes...”. Well, dreams can definitely be better than reality...

The short, frenzied “Lei sei tu: lei” (She is you: she) depicts a troubled dream where the music becomes a beautiful woman inviting the protagonist to follow her in another world where she is waiting. Next comes “La mia musica” (My music), a sweet, romantic love song dedicated to the charming woman that incarnates music... “She is there... And in the light of thought even the faintest souvenir becomes clear / I run after her when she runs away / To have her one more time... Sing on the roof / And I’ll call you swallow / Sing on the bank / And I’ll call you sea / I can hear thousands of voices / They sing the secrets hidden in the soul / They sing the thoughts of a free spirit / It’s for me that they are singing / It’s for you... Now she is here / Now she is mine...”.




The mad rock guitarist now believes he is Isaia Somerset, the illegitimate son of Bach and on “Johann” the contamination of styles is perfect. The interaction between rock band and baroque orchestra is absolutely brilliant... “Johann Sebastian Bach had twenty-one children / He loved twenty of them / But one was abandoned in Scotland...”.

“Scotland Machine” blends classical music and rock with Celtic echoes... When the protagonist awakes he’s driven into cell number 503 that now is free and all for him... “Cella 503” (Cell 503) is an instrumental where we find a particular Spanish flavour mixed with baroque music, then a rock part precedes a closing section featuring a powerful organ solo. Then comes “Contaminazione 1760”, another short instrumental featuring only flutes.




“Alzo un muro elettrico” is one of the best tracks on this work, where you can find tasteful reminiscences of Brazil... “I build an electric wall / A sky of organs is opening / She is there / Now I’m again myself...”. “Sweet Suite” begins with a church-like organ, then a short reprise of “Alzo un muro elettrico” follows... “Now I’m again myself!”. The fiery, passionate instrumental “La grande fuga” (The great fugue) is a perfect “gran finale” for this amazing album.

An English version of this album was also released for the international market, but I prefer the Italian one. A must have for every prog lover!


Read the interview with Enzo Vita at progarchives. Click HERE

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

LOVE AND MYTHS

“Neo”, the second studio album by La Torre dell’Alchimista, was released in 2007, six years after their beautiful debut eponymous work. The line-up is slightly changed and now it features Michele Mutti (keyboards), Michele Giardino (vocals), Davide Donadoni (bass) and Michelangelo Donadini (drums, percussion). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guest musicians that enriched the sound of the band providing guitars, sax, violin and flute and the result is really good. La Torre dell’Alchimista sound is definitely “keyboard driven” (Michele Mutti plays acoustic and electric piano, Hammond C3, Minimoog, organ, synth and Mellotron) and blends strong classical influences with prog-rock and Italian melody. Good also the art cover (painted by Michele Mutti) and the booklet containing some particular pictures and the lyrics. This work could recall bands as Le Orme, PFM and BMS but it’s not too derivative and it’s really worth listening to. “Neo” is conceived as a concept album describing the end of a love story in an original way, through a continuous parallelism between personal feelings and the images taken from ancient myths. The lyrics are not banal and it would be very unfair to define this work as just dealing with Greek mythology...


The opener “Dissimmetrie” (Asymmetry) condemns conformism and hypocrisy. Jumping keyboards and sax play joyfully around while the lyrics compare people who do not dare to fight for a change in their everyday life to the Golem, an artificial monster with the form of a man created from clay by magic charms or sacred words, an image taken from Jewish folklore. “You are like a shapeless drop of water / You are evanescent / Invisible fade-out / You don’t leave traces of yourself... You are just souls of clay / Who fly away without dignity / You are just souls of clay / Who live in hypocrisy... I look at you and I can see / The curtain of noise / That shelters you / From the external world / Sounds of plastic / Words and shouts...”. If you disregard the opinion of the hypocrites and their false smiles, you can dare and fall in love with a beautiful and dangerous woman... And find trouble!



The dreamy outro of the first track leads to “Medusa”, a complex piece in four parts (Faith, Fugue, Chorale, Samba V) that was inspired by the mythical character of an unfortunate woman raped by Neptune in Athena’s temple. After the rape, Medusa’s long hair was turned into snakes by the goddess and she was given the power to turn anyone who dared to look directly at her into stone. According to the myth, the head of Medusa was cut off by Perseus who looked at her through a mirror-like shield. Once cut off, the head maintained its power and was at last placed at the centre of Athena’s Aegis as a symbol of her power. The music perfectly fits the lyrics with well balanced changes in moods and rhythms that blend prog rock, classical music and melodic vocals... “You, who confound my thoughts / On the shield of knowledge / Reflected image, You don’t scare me / You, who confound my thoughts / You turn into stone the stupidity / Of the people who stare at you / The men who lived with you are stones now / The heart that loved you beats no more... I won’t follow you, I’m free now...”. Well, a complex, dangerous and charming woman indeed! One who can drive you crazy dancing samba and who could be very difficult to forget...

“Idra” (Hydra) is a short instrumental interlude for piano solo that leads you to the first part of the long, complex “Risveglio, Procreazione e Dubbio” (Awakening, Procreation and Doubt) where, after an amazing instrumental prelude, nice melodic vocals come in to change atmosphere. The lyrics depict some experiments to overcome the split-up where you can find shadows and wasted days fading out until your arms will fall and wings will take their place to let you fly on the horizon just before falling back with your doubts... “So I feel like the father of an unknown son, scared by these signs / If the giant rides the dwarf / How can his arms carry that weight?... Idra, Cerbero and Medusa were born from waking-hours not from sleep / And they devour the remnants of my greatness... And suddenly, I lose myself...”.


“L'Amore Diverso” (The Different Love) is another short instrumental for piano solo that leads to “Cerbero” (Cerberus), an intricate track in three parts (Promenade, The Three Heads, The War Against Hydrogenous). The sound of a piano leads you softly to the gates of madness... Cerberus is the name of the three-headed monster hound guarding the entrance to the Greek Underworld. No-one can enter or leave without getting past him... “Six eyes, six shouts, you are everywhere I turn my eyes / Six times you promise, but seven times you disappoint / You are blood, you are tears but no sweat!...”. The music is haunting, swinging from frenzied keyboard rides to calm, romantic violin melodies... Well, the nightmares that rise when a love story comes to an end can really haunt you like omnipresent ghosts. Trying to fight them could bring dangerous side-effects and for your soul it could be destructive as an atomic war... “It’s my rage, it’s your craziness / To win, to lose, what’s really important? / A hot wind blows now / My breath is dying / My way to think about the future is dying...”.

La Torre dell'Alchimista live in Trieste 2008

The last track “Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio Pt. II” is another beautiful complex piece in three parts (Epilogue, Coda, Farewell) where you can find a nice flute passage and even some echoes coming from “the court of the Crimson King”. The lyrics deal with the awareness of past errors and the condemnation of arrogance, haughtiness and pride... “Time that has joined us is already splitting us / But how slowly moves the time of the split-up! / Like a leaf in the wind / You are going away from here / Leaving my body naked / The image of your diversity remains / You are like a wave, you slowly wear out / You used to confound my thoughts / Now you’re going away / Leaving a void and a closed speech...”. A beautiful farewell for an excellent album!
La Torre dell’Alchimista: Neo (2007). Other opinions
Erik Neuteboom: La Torre Dell'Alchimista has made a lot of progress on their new album and especially the vintage keyboard aficionados will be delighted! (read the complete review HERE)

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FOR THE JAPANESE FRIENDS



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MAXOPHONE

Live in Milan

January 11, 2013

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A PSYCHEDELIC QUEST

Colster come from Bra, in the province of Cuneo, and began life as a duo on the initiative of Livio Cravero (guitars, bass, synthesizers) and Francesco Previotto (drums, percussion). Their influences range from Pink Floyd and psychedelia to progressive rock and jazz but they always try to be as much original as possible mixing music with their personal experiences without schemes or barriers. Colster's first eponymous album was recorded between 2008 and 2009 and finally released on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records in 2010. It's a completely instrumental album but in some way every track is linked to images or memories that the musicians tried to explain in the liner notes and with the help of some pictures that you can find in the booklet. 
 

The opener “Searching Absolution fase 1” starts with a frenzied rhythm and tense guitar riffs. Some passages reminds me of Goblin and the music could be the perfect score for a thriller or a horror film by Dario Argento. According to the liner notes this piece tries to describe an ideal quest for purification, you have to forget past errors and search for an absolution to give a new sense to your life. 
 

“The First Wail” is more in psychedelic vein. The music takes you off on a kind of cosmic trip and you can even breathe the atmosphere of the dark side of the moon, but beware! The way is full of surprises. Next comes “Everyday Life” which describes the hectic rhythm of every day life, a rhythm that makes you forget what is really important. At the beginning there's a hard, pulsing beat, then the storm calms down and you get lost in your reflections. 
 

The following track “Island Asylum” describes an ephemeral, sensual refuge from the daily grind. The atmosphere is more relaxed here, you can dream and find new energies. The short “Mind Rejection” is darker and marks the moment when you have to leave your shelter. With “Searching Absolution fase 2 and fase 3” you're back on your cathartic quest but the way is difficult, a long drum solo evokes wild rides in the dark and uncertain paces, then an ethereal, dreamy atmosphere brings new hope and you can go on. 
 

On “Melancholy” some memories emerge from the past, surrounded by emptiness. This track features a heartfelt electric guitar solo and an ethereal atmosphere. It leads to the conclusive “See Through The Tears”, where you can contemplate the world through a veil of tears. Your sight is not clear now while the music conjures up surreal visions and blurred landscapes. The quest comes to an end and probably you couldn't find the absolution you were looking for. Anyway, even if you can't give a new sense to your life I'm pretty sure you will not regret the time spent listening to this album. At the moment the band is already working on a new album with two new members in the line up and I'm looking forward to listen to it.

Colster: Colster (2010). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: Colster succeeds at what I believe are one of their intentions, creating a sort of soundtrack for the thoughts and images of the listener, music that moves with you as you live. And yet it is important to reiterate that their succinct style is a strength. They improvise and dream musically of course, they take you places, but they keep the pieces reasonably brief and well paced, stretching the length out only as necessary. There is no overindulgence here where you are tortured by 16 minutes of feedback over breaking glass and barking dogs. Colster brings a lighter edge to psych/space and are capable of crossover should they choose to go there... (read the complete review HERE).  

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Il Bacio della Medusa come from Perugia and were formed in 2002 by Simone Cecchini (vocals, 6 & 12 acoustic guitar, mandolin, charango), Federico Caprai (bass) and Diego Petrini (drums, organ, keyboards, piano, vibraphone, percussion). Later the line up was completed by Simone Brozzetti (guitar) and Eva Morelli (flute) and in 2004 was released an eponymous debut album. “Discesa agl’inferi d’un giovane amante”, Il Bacio della Medusa's second album was recorded between 2005 and 2006 but it wasn’t released until 2008. On this album, the line-up features a new member, Daniele Rinchi (viola, violin) who joined the band in 2005 giving his contribution to the evolution of the band’s sound and song-writing, now more balanced, rich and “classically” oriented. Then, the deal with the independent label Black Widow Records gave the band the chance to work in tranquillity and the result is an excellent mix of classical influences and rock that perfectly fits the dark, poetical lyrics. Beautiful also the art cover painted, as in the eponymous debut, by one of the members of the band, Federico Caprai, who tries to describe in images and colours the mood of this work... 


“Discesa agl’inferi d’un giovane amante” (Descent to Hell of a young lover) is a concept album and the music flows away in a long suite for almost an hour without breaks with sudden changes in rhythm and atmosphere... It was inspired by the story of Paolo and Francesca, two clandestine lovers that were caught red handed and stabbed to death by Francesca’s husband (and Paolo’s brother) Gianciotto. The two characters were portrayed by the poet Dante Alighieri in his “Divina Commedia” but Dante’s poetry is only the starting point from where the band develops a very original musical and poetical journey...

The opener “Preludio: il trapasso” (Prelude: passing away) describes in music and words the moment when Paolo’s soul leaves his mortal body and begins the journey towards hell... “Look at my body / It lies bloodless on the ground... Heavy boats sail towards hell / The air is burning upon me / In the silence I’m looking for you...”. Delicate and expressive piano, flute and violin passages are the ideal background for Simone Cecchini’s passionate vocals evoking a love stronger than death and that sound even more dramatic in the following “Confessione d’un amante” (Confession of a lover). “In the crowd we’re looking for each other / But the dark is between us... Francesca I love you for this eternity / At length the light will come even into this dark caves / Let the trumpets blare / The beast is snarling upon us...”.


The instrumental “La bestia ed il delirio” (The beast and the delirium) marks a change of mood, the rhythm rises and there is room for fiery organ solos, heavy guitar riffs and “infernal dances” led by violin and flute... Then a marching beat introduces “Recitativo: è nel buio che risplendono le stelle” (Recitative: it’s in the dark that stars shine) where the voice of Simone Cecchini describes an infernal landscape with bent trees dripping blood... “The scream of the man now lies defeated on the ground / All I can do is gather my shadow / Like an old worn, smelly coat fallen down behind me... Oblivion is the cancer of knowledge... It’s in the dark that lies the magic of every light / It’s in the dark that stars shine...”.

In “Ricordi del supplizio” (Memories of the torment) a flute “à la Jethro Tull” and a mellow rock sound underline the expression of rage against the murderer... “I remember the violence of my death / His breath upon my neck...”. Then “Nostalgia, pentimento e rabbia” (Nostalgia, repentance and rage) leads to the instrumental “Sudorazione a freddo sotto il chiaro di luna”, where “the blood runs cold under the moonlight...”.


In Melancolia (Melancholy) a soaring feeling of nostalgia comes on the wings of beautiful notes of flute veined by exotic echoes... “Once I caught a prohibited apple / A bite couldn’t assuage my hunger / I drank from a springing wine source / A sip couldn’t assuage my thirst... Why on earth when I thought to love / A day like another the blade of a dagger / Led me back into the ground...”.

The last tracks are almost completely instrumental and, in a crescendo of emotions, lead to an amazing, dramatic finale for this journey towards hell of a young lover, carried away by the hot wind that benumbs his limbs... “E fu allora che dalle fiamme mi sorprese una calda brezza celeste”, “Nosce te ipsum: la bestia ringhia in noi”, “Corale per messa da requiem” and “Epilogo: conclusione della discesa agl’inferi d’un giovane amante” are the perfect conclusion for a flawless album.
Il Bacio della Medusa: Discesa agl’inferi d’un giovane amante (2008). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: If you love hard '70s rock and/or classic period Italian progressive this album is an absolute sure thing. Fantastic. My only worry is that I can't imagine how they're going to top themselves next time. This is music without cynicism-birthed purely with sincere motivations of pleasing the music lover. When I recognize that certain authenticity in a band it always makes it special to me. And now I undertake the mission of spreading the word about this deserving band. I'll be picking up more copies of this CD as gifts for rock loving friends... (read the complete review HERE)
Paul Fowler: I'm certainly glad to have discovered this excellent Italian band and the album is currently receiving well deserved heavy playing on my cd player and almost certain to make my top ten of 2008. One to lay back, turn out the lights and get lost in... (read the complete review HERE)

Read the interview with the band at Progarchives.com. Click HERE  

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http://www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Bacio-della-Medusa/133459493379262

HUNTERS AND PREYS

Minstrel's debut album, “Faust”, in my opinion is a very interesting work but for the band it was very difficult to perform it on stage on account of the many characters and voices. So, after its release, the band started to work on a new opera but this time they decided to conceive it as a kind of monologue with the voice of the protagonist backed only by a choir. The new album, “Ahab”, was inspired by Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick and was released in 2009 with a line up featuring Mauro Ghilardini (lead and backing vocals, piano, keyboards), Michele Savoldelli (electric and acoustic guitars), Gianpaolo Pasini (drums) and Alberto Bigoni (bass). The overall sound here is sharper than on the previous album but the final result perfectly fits the storyline and Mauro Ghilardini’s operatic vocals are magnificent.


The opener “Vendetta” (Revenge) is full of dark energy. You can imagine the protagonist, Captain Ahab, pursuing his white obsession crossing a ghastly sea. He looks for revenge, he wants to kill the white whale that injured and humiliated him. He can’t give up his crazy dream... “Oh, My God, you know”! / I feel in my limbs blood, sweat, and tears / They devour my bones bent by memories...”.


The short instrumental “Presagio” (Omen) lead us to the departure of a wild, cursed hunt across the sea... On “Partenza” (Departure) we can hear the captain shouting his orders...
 Hey! Raise the anchor! / The wind will see us off! / Starbuck at the helm!/ Ishmael on the pontoon! You, on the lookout! And you, up there... And you, to the topmast! Go! Forward! Hey! Raise the anchor!”. Wind and sunlight now swell the sails and the land rapidly vanishes behind the ship while the call of the see resounds in the air. The adventure begins with a frenzied rhythm and a dark feeling...

“Oceano” (Ocean) is a long, complex instrumental track that describes the ship sailing across the sea. It begins calmly and the mood is dreamy, then the dream turns into a nightmare and aggressive electric guitar riffs announce a storm and a troubled night.
 

“Alba” (Dawn) is dreamy and melodic. As dawn breaks and the light shines through the clouds the voice of Mauro Ghilardini delicately soars from a calm piano pattern drawing hopes and doubts. Memories flows inside the protagonist as a river that looks for the sun. Then he makes a vow... “I will sail forever pursuing this dream / As long as I have strength and breath / I won’t forget this promise / And I’ll win this wager / And I’ll seek the knowledge / Until I’ll understand the true meaning of life...”. 

On “Caccia” (Hunt) the rhythm rises again. It’s a piece full of energy that describes the ups and downs of an endless, cursed ride across the ocean looking for the white whale... “Go on, never stop! Go on and on, you’ll never lose your prey...Vile is the harpooner and vile is the captain if the blood of his prey doesn’t stain his hand!... My hand, you can’t fail / Take hold of the gleaming steel and strike... / Fury of the seas, listen to me / The time of revenge has come... Cruel fate, you turn us away from our course! But who seeks justice finds glory and renown...”.



“Rampone” (Harpoon) describes the inner conflict that is raging in the heart of the captain. The music is evocative and dark. Melodic passages alternates with fiery guitar riffs and “deep reed” colours. You can hear an infernal smith forging a magic, evil harpoon... “Forge the point in pagan blood / I want a harpoon in mortal temper / Baptismal blood, save the baleful iron that marks every inch of me...  Wind, renew my thoughts of violence! Rain, refresh my warrior instinct!... Following my mind, my fatal vow / I shall die, but I’ll be free...”.




“Tempesta” (Storm) is an evocative instrumental track featuring a sparkling electric guitar work that leads to “Delirio” (Madness), a monologue with narrative vocals and an orchestral background that describes the madness of the captain and the horror feelings he experiences when he looks at himself in a mirror. Eventually he comes back to consciousness for the tragic grand finale. 

The last track “Morte” (Death) is a long, complex epic. It begins with a heartfelt recitative part where the voice of Mauro Ghilardini is backed and counter-pointed by the powerful rhythm section. Wave after wave, memory after memory the captain realizes that his hunt for knowledge is useless and that the unknown is still an enigma for him, “a past overflowing with mystery that returns like a wave on the shores of the present, thence surrounded like valiant, naive men by the dark sky of hope that wraps bodies like a clean shroud...”. Ahab begins to feel guilty and his words sound like a lay prayer to Mother-Nature but it’s too late! 


Now the music describes the fighting between the men and the white monster... Then the struggle gives way to a calmer part and melodic, operatic vocals soar... This time there’s nothing more to say, there’s nothing but the sea, no harbour on the horizon, no time left to regret, no goal to reach... “It’s an everlasting trial... / An inner battle to discover / A doubt to abandon / A new faith to set off towards oceans of light / Immense but fragile expectations...”. The captain’s obsession leads him and his crew to perdition and death. When the sounds of the battle fade away we can hear a child playing and singing as a final message of hope. A dreamy, instrumental coda concludes this excellent work. On the whole a really good album featuring a beautiful packaging and a booklet full of drawing and images related to the plot. Do not miss it!

Minstrel: Ahab (2009). Other opinions:
Thomas Szirmay: Minstrel waited for 10 years before releasing their sophomore follow-up to the fabulous "Faust", an absolute shiny icon in my prog collection. That can be a ridiculous interval but so many prog musicians have day jobs and family obligations that one can only patiently wait, even though I must admit I was fearful of another one-shot wonder. Their lusty combination of operatic vocals, driving rhythm section and scorching guitar is a formula to die for, and it is maintained on Ahab in spades (and clubs and diamonds and hearts!)... (read the complete review HERE)

Read the interview with the band at progarchives. Click HERE

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BEYOND A DREAM

In 2011 Pandora released their sophomore work on AMS/BTF, “Sempre e ovunque oltre il sogno” (Always and everywhere beyond the dream), with the same line up of their debut album featuring Beppe Colombo (synth, organ, backing vocals), Claudio Colombo (drums, percussion, bass, acoustic guitar, synth), Corrado Grappeggia (vocals, synth, organ, piano) and Christian Dimasi (electric guitar, backing vocals). The overall sound of this second work is mellow and symphonic and every track is described in the booklet with a painting by the American artist Emoni Viruet (who now is Claudio Colombo’s wife), almost a ghost member of the band. She is also the author of the art cover while Beppe Colombo painted the inlay picture titled “Sempre e ovunque”.  

Pandora 2011

The instrumental opener “Il re degli scemi” (The king of fools) is a solo performance by Claudio Colombo who composed the piece and played keyboards and percussion. According to an interview with the band it was inspired by a short story that his wife wrote after a dream. It tells of a powerful king who could impress his people with magic but who didn’t know what’s real love. This track reminds me of the soundtracks of some films of a genre called Sword-and-sandal, Italian low budget imitations of Hollywood historical epics that were in fashion in the early sixties...

The short instrumental “L’altare del sacrificio” (The altar of sacrifice) and the following “L’incantesimo del Druido” (The spell of the Druid) tell the story of a fantasy character, a Druid called Chad-Bat, who with his rites and his magic helps a king and his army to defeat their enemies... “There’s no one like me / No one is greater than me...”. Well, when listening to this track try to imagine the busy wizard at work...


“Discesa attraverso lo Stige” (Descent through the Styx) and “Ade, sensazione di paura” (Hades, feeling of fear) are two long, complex instrumental tracks linked together that describe the story of a woman who crosses the waters of the river Styx and enters the secret world of Hades. Follow her and you will see fire and ice dancing together, lost souls and demons dancing with Death in the wide hall of immensity... Eventually, if you are lucky, you’ll find the way back!

“03.02.1974” (February 2, 1974) is about another kind of magic. The lyrics evoke the feelings and emotions provoked by a Genesis’ concert in the seventies... “It wasn’t just music that evening / It wasn’t just a show in that moment... It was a magic touch flying away... They weren’t just songs... Then The Knife broke in / Shouts, shivers, tears / It was the end for us... Even today I think of you / I can still feel the emotion and I cry...”.


On “La formula finale di Chad-Bat” (The final formula of Chad-Bat) the busy Druid comes back to offer you his help. All in all there’s no one like him to conjure a magical dream...

“Sempre e ovunque” (Always and everywhere) is a long suite in eight parts that concludes the album. It begins with a nice instrumental overture, full of symphonic suggestions to stir your fantasy... “Here I am, my young prince / I’m just back from the past... I’m back to give you all what I gathered in all this time / I’m back to give you the keys of my coffer / My young prince, here you are / That’s the key of your empire...”. The coffer is full of dreams and emotions, the same dreams and emotions that a father would like to pass on to his son. Opening the coffer you shiver, understanding the real value of that treasure you could be overwhelmed by emotion... “I have lived to give you my world / Here I am, my young prince / Look at your empire / Look where the past comes from, where the future begins... Take up in your hands all my emotions / And keep them with you, always and everywhere...”. Now the son is the keeper of his father’s dreams... Progressive rock will live on! Well, a great finale for a very good album...

After the album was released Christian Dimasi left the band and now Pandora are a trio again but don’t worry, they won’t stop...

Pandora: Sempre e ovunque oltre il sogno (2011). Other opinions:
Paul Fowler: Sempre E Ovunque Oltre Il Sogno does not disappoint and is if anything a more adventurous and sophisticated piece of work than their debut... (read the complete review HERE).
Olav Martin Bjornsen: If you generally enjoy music branded as symphonic progressive rock, Pandora is a band that you most likely should check out, especially if your tastes are liberal to the extent that listening to a band that blends the retro-oriented strains of the genre with elements of a more modern origin, first and foremost in the shape of metal guitar riffs, sounds like an interesting experience. A fine and well made album overall, sporting some of the best quality drum work I have encountered for some time as an additional bonus... (read the complete review HERE).

Read the interview with the band at progarchives. Click HERE

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SHELTER FROM THE STORM

After the release of “Waterline” Alex Carpani recruited some experienced musicians to perform his music on stage and in 2010 released a sophomore album titled “The Sanctuary” on Cypher Arts and Ma.Ra,Cash Records. Here the line up features along with Alex Carpani (piano, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Moog, pads, lead and back vocals) also Gigi Cavalli Cocchi (drums, percussion), Ettore Salati (electric and acoustic guitars, dulcimer) and Fabiano Spiga (bass). “The Sanctuary” is a conceptual work built up on the idea of an imaginary, invisible shield protecting a man from the stress of the real life and the beautiful, surreal art work by Paul Whitehead gives this idea a shape. The overall sound draws unashamedly on the prog masters of the seventies, especially Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer, but the result is not too derivative and every track of the album seems almost timeless, suspended between past and present as in a dream.


The instrumental opener “Burning Braziers” sets the atmosphere. It starts softly, the mood is dreamy but you have to walk cautiously on your way to your sacred shelter. Then the rhythm rises, so hurry up! The dark shadows of the real life are following you...

“Spirit Of Decadence” recalls the music of Genesis. Crumbs of life emerge from a glorious past while as a bold archaeologist you look for the reminiscences of a powerful king and of his court, lost in time... “Opulence and well being, holiness and favour / Warriors on the path and guards protect the treasure...”.

“The Dance Of The Sacred Elves” is a lively instrumental track that recalls ELP. There’s a turntable hidden somewhere, echoes from the past come back from an old vinyl and magical creatures start to dance. If you pay attention you can even hear the needle of the turntable scraping the record...


“Entering The Sanctuary” begins with a solemn organ passage. You are now entering in a cathedral with walls and roof of glass, your personal sanctuary where you can listen to vintage sounds from an enormous turntable which lies in the place of the altar. Once you have found the way rush in and close the door behind you! “Inside this sanctuary I repent all my life sins / Drunk with harmony, enclosed in a cage where I’m safe and free... Deaf, I can hear / Dumb, I can speak...”.

The instrumental “Knights And Clergymen” and the following “Templars Dream” evoke dreamy rides on the wings of time while the vintage sounds conjure images floating through the waves of a sea of light...

“Memories Of A Wedding” begins with a romantic piano solo passage, then electric guitar riffs break in and the rhythm rises. You have to fight hard against the interferences of the outside world... “Now the elves are scurrying away, the pageant comes to an end / A wide frame grows on the wall, the scene appears like a dream... Now and then alien forces break that dream and desire / Folding hearts and resistance...”.
 

On the hypnotic instrumental “Master Of Ceremonies” the battle rages on and dreamy passages alternates with more aggressive, disquieting parts. A short flamenco guitar pattern leads to the following track, “Moonlight Through The Ruins”. An acoustic guitar arpeggio and soaring vocals seem to evoke ancient spirits wondering under the moon, through the ruins of your broken dreams... “I can make out the stones and vaults... Now the ruins are loving arms to embrace and... I can make out the people’s smile / No roof on my head, the stars...”.

It’s time to come back to reality but the healing effects of the time passed in harmony and peace remain. The amazing instrumental track “Leaving The Sanctuary” drives you in the real world with a new awareness and a feeling of self confidence concluding an excellent album...

Alex Carpani: The Sanctuary (2010). Other opinions:
Olav Martin Bjørnsen: The Sanctuary is a good example of an album that should have a strong appeal among fans of 70's progressive rock of the symphonic variety. In sound and expression those familiar with the giants of the genre will find many recognizable details, while the overall sound and arrangements also incorporate elements of a more contemporary nature... (read the complete review HERE).

Read the interview with Alex Carpani at progarchives. Click HERE

More info:

Monday, 17 December 2012

PHILORHYTMICAL PASSAGES

Filoritmia are an Italian prog band from Milan that have been active since 1993. The current line-up features Roberto Riccardi (guitars), Matteo Scarparo (bass), Angelo D’Ariano (keyboards), Antonio Mazzucchelli (drums) and Giorgio Mele (vocals). “Passaggi” (Passages) is their second full length album, after the excellent eponymous debut work released in 2000. Filoritmia’s music is complex and features a wide range of sources of inspiration (from classic prog bands like PFM to hard rock and jazz) but the band managed to shape a fresh and original sound. All the tracks are in some way challenging and need more than one listening to be fully appreciated but in my opinion at length I’m sure you will enjoy the experience.


The album opens with a sudden burst of energy. “Colla e gesso” (Glue and chalk) is a complex “hard rocking” track full of whipping rhythms that invites you to make up your mind, to choose what’s right, to look for you own way of life and to follow your dreams... “I’ve got the fantasy / I believe in what’s fair / I can saw storms with the hardness of the thunder / And the skilfulness of a blind acrobat / Who laughs smelling the smile of astonished children / I choose because to stand still is like dying...”.

“Senza sale” (Without salt) is a long track in four parts that tries to describe in music and words a troubled relationship between a man and a woman. It starts softly in a sweet, romantic mood, then come misunderstandings, incomprehension and rising tensions until the final split-up...

“Non è festa” (This is not Celebration) is a tribute to PFM. Instead of playing just a cover of a song of the Italianprog masters, Filoritmia tried to elaborate a new, personal track starting from the melodic lines and rhythms of PFM’s evergreen “E’ festa” (also known as “Celebration” in the English version). The result is great! 


“L’uomo che torna” (The man who comes back) is another sinuous track about a troubled relationship between a man and a woman. Sometimes we choose the wrong moments to express our feelings and words turn around without reach their goal, what’s right for one person could be wrong for another and vice versa, so all we can do is to try one more time and come back to find the light again.

“Godo” (I’m enjoying myself) is like a long shower of energy. Electric guitar riffs and fiery bass lines drive the rhythm while suggestive vocals invite you to take your time and to enjoy life overcoming bad dreams.

“Il sogno del fotografo” (The photographer’s dream) starts with intricate rhythm patterns, then comes a dreamy interlude that melts into a solemn marching beat... The song is about the artist’s dream to capture reality and to shape it through his skilfulness. But the artist has to live in a dream to be creative and to express his talent... “I’m the god of light / I’m the alchemist of the picture / You will live forever on this photo paper / I’m the master of your eternal youth / This is the dream...”. 


“Questo” (This) is hard and sharp, it tries to depict a sudden breakthrough from everyday life, an escape from reality on the wings of imagination... “You know, it’s not easy to live without fairy tales...”.

The final long, complex “Manifesto” is about mass media and consumerism... The smiles of anchormen are like the teeth of wild animals ready to bite you while radios kill any fantasy. What can we do? Change the radio before it changes you and play your own music to resist...

This is one of my favourite albums of 2009. Check it out, you can listen to the whole album from the official website, legally download it and then, if you like it, you can buy the “hard copy” in a beautiful fivefold digipack. The art cover features eight pictures, one for each track... Click HERE
Filoritmia: Passaggi (2009). Other opinions:
Paul Fowler: What I can say is I'm very impressed with this Milanese five piece; enough to consider tracking down a copy of their debut. Strong vocals sung in Italian are complimented by very competent musicianship from all players involved and mature songwriting. From the powerful opening track, Colla e Gesso it would appear we're in for a heavy rock, seventies style album with its powerful guitar riffing, pleasing Hammond organ and solid rhythm section. It doesn't take long however to realise that Filoritmia have more up their sleeves as they move through varying themes while maintaining the overall power of the song... (read the complete review  HERE).
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: A surprisingly mature, multi-faceted album, “Passaggi” will equally appeal to lovers of classic heavy progressive rock in the Deep Purple/Uriah Heep/Atomic Rooster mould, and to the ever-increasing contingent of Italian prog fans. Successfully reconciling vintage sounds with more contemporary sensibilities, Filoritmia would deserve a lot more exposure outside their native Italy – provided they do not keep us waiting another nine years for their next album... (read the complete review HERE).
Alex Torres: I would say that Passaggi is guitar driven – at times it sounds like a straight rock record – but just when you think that it is descending into banality, out come the keyboards, the Hammond, the piano; out comes a divine sung melody; out come the structural changes that keep you hooked and keep you tuning back in again. It's an appealing sound, without ever really taking off in a major way... (read the complete review HERE).

Read the interview with Filoritmia at progarchives. Click HERE