Sunday, 29 December 2013

A COLOURFUL SOUL

SoulenginE were formed in Milan in 2007 on the initiative of guitarist Ettore Salati (who is also a member of RedZen and of the Alex Carpani Band) and keyboardist Fabio Mancini who had just left their previous band, The Watch. Later the line up was completed by bassist Nando De Luca and drummer Giacomo Pacini and the band began to work on new compositions blending vintage sounds and new ideas with a wide range of influences going from progressive rock to jazz, from fusion to psychedelia. After a hard work, in 2012 they released their first full length album on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records, Mind Colours, featuring a nice art work by Davide Guidoni that in some way tries to catch the spirit of this work, a variegated mix of musical colours and dizzy reveries. The album is almost completely instrumental but never boring and the all the members of the band showcase a great musicianship.


The excellent opener “Polheim” begins softly with a strummed acoustic guitar pattern and a dark organ background, then the rhythm rises while keyboards and electric guitar begin to embroider charming melodic lines. Polheim (Home at the Pole) is the name that Roald Amundsen gave to his camp at the South Pole when he reached it with his expedition on December 14, 1911 but this piece was also used to comment Dante Alighieri's immortal poetry in the Musea's tribute to his Divine Comedy. In particular, this track is related to the verses of Purgatory – Canto VI, where the Sommo Poeta compares Italy to a vessel without a pilot in a storm, a country that has became savage and unmanageable on account of the greediness and selfishness of its political class. Anyway, close your eyes and let the music drive! You're embarking on an adventurous musical journey through time and space.


Next comes the dreamy “Third In Line” featuring delicate piano passages and a spicy flavoured finale, a kind of oriental delight. It leads to “Rain Flower”, sprinkled with Latin rock echoes that could recall Santana, then it's the turn of the calm, jazzy “On The Other Side”, an evocative piece full of soft nuances.


The atmosphere of the following “Down The Street” is nightmarish and tense. It depicts a personal crises and features English lyrics written by Ettore Salati and Ettore's brother Giorgio (a.k.a. Joe Sal) on vocals. It is linked to “No Way Out”, a nervous, short instrumental. Then comes the dark “No Rewarding”.

SoulenginE 2012

Asleep” is another piece featuring English lyrics and the guest vocalist Joe Sal. It's a reflective track that draws the imagine of a man who has to get out of his dreams to take his responsibilities... “I've been asleep / And I never thought how could it be / To be awake / See the light, feel the sounds...”. It leads to the beautiful conclusive track, “Challenge To An End”, a long, complex piece featuring another guest, Davide Gandino, on flute. Well, on the whole I think that this is very good album that it's really worth listening to. Have a try!

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

SoulenginE: Mind Colours (2012). Other opinions:
Thomas Szirmay: A magnificent and compelling debut, SoulenginE is a crew to follow, perhaps eschewing the microphone altogether and forging an all-instrumental future, proving once again the majestic artistic creativity emanating form the "boot". Perhaps the loveliest artwork cover in recent decades only adds to their charm... (read the complete review HERE)
Jerry Lucky: Mind Colours is a very well crafted set of tunes. SoulenginE can clearly play, and they play well together. Needless to say if you enjoy symphonic prog with an Italian flavor I strongly recommend you investigate SoulenginE. Mind Colours features some great music and some excellent playing... (read the complete review HERE)

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Friday, 27 December 2013

THE HIDDEN GARDEN

Camelias Garden come from Rome and began life in 2011 on the initiative of multi-instrumentalist and composer Valerio Smordoni. In 2013 they released a début album on the independent label Altr0ck/Fading Records, You Have A Chance, with a line up featuring Valerio Smordoni (vocals, MiniMoog, keyboards, piano, Harmonium, acoustic guitar, Tambourine, Taurus Pedal), Manolo D'Antonio (acoustic and electric guitar, classical guitar, ukulele, backing vocals and Marco Avallone (bass, percussions) plus some guests such as Francesco Favilli (drums, percussions), Carlo Enrico Macalli (flute), Andrea Bergamelli (cello), Eliseo Smordoni (bassoon) and Giovanni Vigliar (violin). Their influences range from pastoral, symphonic prog to modern folk and West Coast echoes, from Genesis and Camel to Fleet Foxes and Midlake. The artwork in some way describes the content of the album, a colourful musical watercolour dealing with the dreams and hopes of childhood.


The opener “Some Stories” is a dreamy, melancholic ballad based upon guitar and piano while violin and flute embroider delicate melodies all around the soaring vocals. It conjures up a sense of nostalgia for a lost innocence and leads to the beautiful mini suite “Dance of The Sun / The Remark / Dance of The Sun (Birth of The Light)” where dark and light colours are used to paint a strange musical tableau about the circle of life and a spiritual rebirth.


The music of the delicate, folksy “The Withered Throne” reminds me of tin men riding nameless horses through sunny deserts while the lyrics depict the end of a wondrous love story with its legacy of broken hopes and wasted flowers. The following “We All Stand In Our Broken Jars” is an instrumental piece that starts softly with a strummed acoustic guitar pattern and riches its climax with a nice finale in crescendo with vintage keyboards in the forefront.

Camelias Garden 2013

Next comes “A Safe Haven” a dreamy instrumental track for piano solo that leads to the light “Knight's Vow” that depicts the vows of an immature child who spends his time waiting for his dreams to come true by dreaming all day long. Then comes the acoustic “Clumsy Grace” that features some nice soaring harmony vocals and portrays the shy feelings of a little boy who falls in love with the immature beauty of a little girl.


The long, complex “Mellow Days” recalls Genesis and evokes cold winter days passed waiting for better times, rainbows in the sky and songs by the sea. The following “'Til The Morning Came” starts with vocals a cappella, then acoustic guitar and vocals draw flowing hopes escaping from a broken jar and a stream of growing thoughts. It leads to a reprise of the first track of the album that closes the circle. It's time to wake up... “Now boy, stop to chase the wind / Your life flows / You're hidden between the stories of someone across the stars / Some days you're fighting the evil / Some days you're begging a chance beyond the galaxies far away...”. Well, on the whole I think that this is a good album, although it didn't really strike a chord on me, but I'm sure that this band will do better in the future. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves...

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

Camelias Garden: You Have A Chance (2013). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Although derivative in parts, and occasionally a tad repetitive, devoid of those sharper edges that might make it more attractive to fans of more experimental fare, its soothing, mainly acoustic nature will offer a lot of listening pleasure to those who like their melody untainted by overt mainstream pretensions. Blending nostalgia with a subtle touch of modernity, You Have a Chance is a solid first showcase for a band that shows a lot of promise for the future, and another intriguing find from the ever-reliable AltrOck team... (read the complete review HERE)
Steven Reid: Quirky though it may be, the wonderful illustration on the cover of the debut album You Have A Chance from young Rome band Camelia's Garden suggests something gentle, involved, innocent, yet oddly sinister, and so this album proves... Camelia's Garden have put together an album full of captivating songs which have both an immediacy and a long lasting appeal, leading you to both want to play it repeatedly on initial acquaintance, while still drawing you back for more once that first impression has become something more familiar... (read the complete review HERE)

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Thursday, 26 December 2013

THE REBUS OF THE FAUN

Il Fauno di Marmo come from the province of Gorizia and began life in 2001 under the name of The Rebus. Since then the band have been very active in the local live scene, releasing two self-produced albums, The Rebus (2002) and Acroterius (2005). In 2012 they signed a deal with the independent label from Verona Andromeda Relix and changed their name into Il Fauno di Marmo, taking the place of another project of the same name bound to Andromeda Relix and formed by Erik Spedicato (drums), Roberto Vanni (guitar), Massimo Cavallari (keyboards) and Roberto Galli (bass) who split up after recording only one track, a Haikara's cover released in 2009 on a tribute album to Finnish Progressive Rock by Musea Records, Tuonen Tytar II. Well, the owner of the label, Gianni Della Cioppa, liked the name (inspired by an Italian TV miniseries from the seventies based upon the novel The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne) and, with the consent of all the people involved, gave it as a legacy to the band he had just enrolled that heartily accepted the new brand.

Il Fauno di Marmo 2013

Finally, in 2013 this new version of Il Fauno di Marmo (formerly known as The Rebus) released their first official album titled Canti, racconti e battaglie (Song, tales and battles) with a line up featuring Luca Sterle (vocals, flute), Valerio Colella (guitars, kazoo, backing vocals), Alberto Ballaré (bass, backing vocals), Francesco Bonavita (organ, piano, Moog, Mellotron, clavinet, bandoneon) and Luca Carboni (drums). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guests such as Simone D'Eusanio (violin), Alessandro Serravalle (guitar – from Garden Wall), Federica Sterle (vocals) and Andrea Tomasin (percussion) that contributed to enrich the sound and the result in my opinion is really good. The packaging features a nice artwork by Francesca Capone that in some way tries to capture the spirit of this work and represents a magical flower with a long stem and very deep roots. In fact, this album is the fruit of many years of hard work and musical passion and you can feel that passion from start to finish. Of course, the band's sources of inspiration are apparent and range from Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull to the old masters of the Italian progressive rock scene of the seventies but the song-writing is good and the band reveal a great personality.


The opener “Benvenuti al circo” (Welcome to the circus) comes from the repertoire of Il Treno degli Specchi, Luca and Federica Sterle's previous band that was active in the nineties but never had the chance to record an album. The music perfectly fits the lyrics and features many changes in rhythm and mood. It's about circus animals abuse... “You go to the circus and you're so happy / In your mind you have nothing but entertainment / But there's someone who's trembling in fear / Beaten, bloody and in pain... Welcome to the circus of horrors!...”. Well, animals aren’t actors or circus clowns. Yet this piece depicts a circus where the animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment and tremble at the sound of a whip. While going to the circus may be a favourite pastime for many adults and children, the harsh treatment of animals here is condemned without mercy.. “How many many people can understand that an animal can feel pain?... There's so much sadness in their heart / Man is just a vile traitor...”.

The following “Madre natura” (Mother Nature) is a joyful track that recalls Jethro Tull and depicts a timeless ritual dance in honour of Mother Nature. There are children playing and people dancing in a ring, hand in hand, while the music conjures up a strong sense of positivity. Sun rays break through the sky while incense smells soar and spread all around... “Mother Nature, listen to us if you can / Look at your children, they know what is hope...”. You can find a first version of this piece on The Rebus' eponymous album from 2002.


video


The long, complex epic “Hop Frog” is another track composed by Luca Sterle in the nineties that here comes to a new life thanks to the contribute of all the musicians involved. It was inspired by Hop-Frog, a tale by Edgar Allan Poe set in the court of an imaginary country. It tells about the vendetta of the king's fool, a deform dwarf called Hop Frog, who, during a masked ball, with his last jester's trick sets fire to the king and his ministers dressed up in ourang-outangs costumes... “Burn, burn vile king / Burn, burn into the fire / Burn, burn vile king / In Hop Frog's stake...”. “I now see distinctly.” he said, “what manner of people these maskers are. They are a great king and his seven privy-councillors, - a king who does not scruple to strike a defenceless girl and his seven councillors who abet him in the outrage. As from myself, I am simply Hop-Frog, the jester – And this is my last jest.


Magic Kazoo” is a psychedelic track featuring an exotic flavour. It invites you to take a trip on a very strang spaceship and set off on an interstellar musical journey, through dazzling star lights and asteroids dancing in a ring, towards a new reality... “Maybe it's just an imagine / A voice will call me back / Maybe it's nothing but an imagine / A voice will speak to me...”.

Next comes “Nova Res”, a beautiful instrumental piece that blends psychedelia, sweet melodic lines and Latin rock. It leads to “Non mollare mai” (Never give up), a bright track full of positive energy that invites you to fight for what is really important in your life, searching for a way out from the darkness of a personal crises by leaving behind false solutions such as booze or drugs.

video

La battaglia di Kosovo-Polje” (The battle of Kosovo-Polje) is a new version of a piece from The Rebus' previous album, Acroterius. It features strong ethnic influences and a martial atmosphere. It tells about the battle fought in 1389 between the Serbian army led by prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic and the invading troops of the Ottoman Empire. This battle is also known as the Battle of Blackbird's Field and is particularly important to Serbian history, tradition, and national identity... “Prince Lazar, what a silence! / Kosovo Polje cries for your people / The blackbirds are flying over the corpses / Dying men for the Motherland / Now the invaders have won / And the crescent moon is high in the sky...”.

Un villaggio, un'illusione” (A village, an illusion) is a nice Quella Vecchia Locanda's cover that the band interpret here with passion. It leads to conclusive epic “Dorian Gray”, inspired by Oscar Wilde's novel of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The music and lyrics depict a troubled man who has sold his soul in exchange of eternal beauty. But Death and remorse haunt him... “If you look at your portrait / You are upset, Dorian Gray / It's like a spell that blurs reality / A damned soul is growing inside you / You innocence is lost / What way will you choose? / Diabulus ita est / Demoni vocant te / That's Death behind you...”. A wonderful finale for a very interesting album!


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Monday, 23 December 2013

THE EVIL TREE

L'Albero del Veleno began life in Florence in 2010 on the initiative of keyboardist and composer Nadin Petricelli and drummer Claudio Miniati with the aim to recreate the musical atmosphere of Italian horror and thriller soundtracks from the seventies. The name of the band means “The Poison Tree” and was inspired by an ancient Eastern myth, a kind of metaphor describing a beautiful entity hiding an evil nature. It tells about a tree which attracts people thanks to its fruits and to the peaceful shade of its branches but beware! The people who stop under the tree to take a rest will never wake up on account of the deathly power of its poison.


After some line up changes and a hard work, in 2013 the band released a début album, “Le radici del male” (The roots of evil), on the independent label Lizard Records. The renewed line up features Nadin Petricelli (keyboards, synth), Claudio Miniati (drums), Lorenzo Picchi (guitars), Michele Andreuccetti (bass), Francesco Catoni (viola) and Marco Brenzini (flute) and the result of their efforts is a surprisingly fresh blending of vintage sounds and new ideas. Of course, they could recall Goblin or the Swedish band Anima Morte but the band showcase a great musicianship and a touch of sparkling vitality.

L'Albero del Veleno 2013

The opener “Dove danzano le streghe” (Where the witches dance) begins softly, then the rhythm rises and the dance begins. The atmosphere is haunting and you can really breath tension and a strange kind of excitement where joy and fury are at war. The following “... e resta il respiro” (… and breathing remains) begins with an old, dark waltz coming from times out of mind, then the music lights like a fire casting uneasy, flickering shadows all around.

Presenze dal passato” (Appearances from the past) has a strong classical flavour and features delicate piano patterns and melancholic violin lines. It leads to the more aggressive “Un altro giorno di terrore” (Another day of terror) where feelings like fear and pain are painted with strong musical colours. For this tack the band shot a video that is included as a bonus on the CD.


Due anime nella notte” (Two souls in the night) is another dark, haunting piece where you can imagine two lost souls in the night dancing like moths around a fire, mesmerized. The last track, “Al di là del sogno... l'incubo riaffiora” (Beyond the dream... Nightmare comes back), is a tribute the films by director Lucio Fulci and to the music of Fabio Frizzi and it's a medley taken from four different scores Sette note in nero (The Psychic), Zombi 2, Paura nella città dei morti viventi (City of the Living Dead) e ... e tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà (The Beyond) The different parts are perfectly matched together and this long piece sounds like a wonderful suite that begins with the sound of a carillon and ends with a powerful crescendo. A delightful gran finale for an excellent work!

You can listen to the complete album in streaming. Click HERE

L'Albero del Veleno: Le radici del male (2013). Other opinions:
Michel “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: L'Albero del Veleno now joins the company of artists like Jacula/Antonius Rex, Devil Doll, Il Segno del Comando, and of course the mighty Goblin that inhabit the darker corners of the Italian progressive genre. Short but darkly sweet, their debut release gets them off to a fine start, and the sheer talent on display from the band, not only in their playing, but in the grand arrangements and their ambitions of creating films to complement and enhance their work suggests a band with many great ideas, that will see them further mature and develop their sound in the future. For now, `Le Radici del Male' is a perfect introduction, and surely just the beginning of a distinctive and promising new project... (read the complete review HERE)

Monday, 16 December 2013

ROOTS AND DREAMS

Alphataurus began life in Milan in the early seventies and in 1973 released an excellent eponymous début album on the independent label Magma Records. Unfortunately, soon after their first work was released and while they were working on a second album, they split up. The result of the unachieved recording sessions was released by Mellow Records in 1992, under the name Dietro l'uragano, but this can be hardly considered an official album. In fact, it wasn't until 2008 that two of the original members decided to have a new start and gathered a new line up to complete what they had begun long time before. In 2010 the band began playing live again and in 2012 released a new studio album on the independent label AMS/BTF, Attosecondo, with a line up featuring, along with the two veterans Pietro Pellegrini (organ, synth) and Guido Wasserman (guitars, keyboards, vocals), new members Fabio Rigamonti (bass, vocals), Claudio Falcone (vocals), Andrea Guizzetti (piano, synth, vocals) and Alessandro Rossi (drums, percussion). 


The art cover was painted by the old friend Adriano Marangoni, the same painter who was in charge of the wonderful art cover of their début album. It tries to catch the spirit of this new work, rooted in the past and projected towards the future with a sense of rebirth and perpetual change. The album was produced with the help of the off-stage Alphataurus' member Gianpaolo Santandrea who also contributed to the song-writing of two tracks. In my opinion the result is excellent, the overall sound perfectly blends vintage instruments and new technologies, good musicianship and genuine feelings.


The opener “Progressiva-mente” (Progressive Mind / Progressively) is a kind of manifesto of Alphataurus' new deal and invites you to look for new rules and to leave behind the old clichés and the ideas that someone else chose for you. The music alternates some aggressive parts with delicate, dreamy passages and a strong sense of melody. If you can avoid all the thoughts that can make you feel uncomfortable you might overcome obstacles such as false ideologies and religions and you will be able to climb up on you personal stairway to heaven... “It is not easy, it never will / Just live it at the right speed... Progressively you'll become aware / Suddenly you'll recognize yourself... Progressive mind, open mind that creates, imagines, improvises...”.

The following “Gocce” (Drops) deals with environmental issues. It draws in music and words an apocalyptic picture featuring dark colours and some touches of hope. You're lying under a starry sky and you feel helpless in front of the immense power of nature, you have never felt so small before and you reflect about the merciless greediness of the human race. Melodic vocals soar like a prayer... “Mother earth, sooner or later you will collapse under the blows of your children / We are drops in the sea of immensity, the wasted sweat of civilizations / We are the blood of a world that doesn't have a soul any more...”. To overcome this sense of loss you have to fight. But now it could be too late and perhaps you would have better to think of leaving this planet and embark on an interstellar journey through the stars to find a new source of life, a stream that would make you strong.


Next comes “Ripensando e...” (Rethinking and...), a beautiful instrumental track, a bright collage of musical colours and classical evocations that takes you back to the seventies on the footsteps of the days when it was originally composed. It leads to “Claudette”, a long, complex track describes in music and words a dialogue between an old man and a little child. It begins softly, the mood is dreamy and melancholic... “I would like to be like you, go back to your age / A clean mind that sees everything for what it is / But life will forcefully change us / If I could save you from the truth!...”. But you can never go back in time, you have to grow up quickly while the contrary winds of life rage on you. The rhythm rises while the music underlines how ever changing is everything on this earth. You have to deal with all the challenges of life while the ideal world of the fairy-tales crumbles around you. You have to learn, you have to study, everyday you become more and more conscious of what reality is. Finally you'll understand that you can't change a destiny already written and you'll follow the mercilessly rules of power. But even then, you would had better to remember the purity of your childhood.


The music of the last track, “Valigie di terra” (Suitcases of land), tells in music and words the need to set off following a dream to live, the need to move on breaking the borders of a unsatisfying reality looking for a new life and a spiritual rebirth. Now you're on the road again with nothing but a few suitcases containing your past, land for your roots. But you might have to buy other suitcases along your journey because you know that the future will give you better things to care for... “I won't stay here / I made up my mind, this is not my reality / I will follow the way that will stir my emotions / So I will come to a new life...”. Well, a great conclusion for an excellent album!

Alphataurus: Attosecondo (2012). Other opinions:
Conor Fynes: Alphataurus tend to stick to the predetermined instruments and tricks of Italian prog, and they're able to do this while keeping the emotions fresh and evocative. It builds proudly upon an already-excellent Italian progressive tradition, and while it may never have the same far- reaching influence within the scene as the eponymous debut, "AttosecondO" still rates as one of the strongest RPI records to come out in a while. Their age regardless, Alphataurus have proven that their sound- and by extension, the sound of Italian progressive rock- is timeless, and that is quite an accomplishment in of itself... (read the complete review HERE)

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