Friday, 26 December 2014

SCREAMING FLOWERS

Blocco Mentale was a band from Lazio that was formed in 1972 by Bernardo “Dino” Finocchi (vocals, sax, flute), Aldo Angeletti (vocals, bass), Gigi Bianchi “Roso” (guitar, vocals), Filippo Lazzari (keyboards, vocals, harmonica) and Michele Arena (drums, vocals). In 1973 they released an interesting album called “Πoa” (that in Greek means grass), featuring naive lyrics dealing with ecological subjects, in a style that could recall bands as Le Orme, I New Trolls and PFM. Although the album was good quality music, it was not at all successful and, after the release of a last single, Blocco Mentale disbanded. Later they reformed under another name, Limousine, playing in a more commercial, conventional way... What a pity! Blocco Mentale’s debut work is really worth listening to and the band definitely deserved more credit.


The opener “Capita” (It happens) starts with the sax in the forefront counter pointed by the other instruments, then an acoustic guitar comes in melting into the dark... It could happen that the scream of a flower penetrates your mind and wakes up your heart so that you can discover new colours while thousands of breaths in the wind carry away your flower and you can feel a new strength and the wish to run without a goal... “Hopes and illusions are floating lightly / Confused in the colour of that wine... You’re shaking and to pluck up courage / You give free play to cry / It seems that a voice is talking to you / All you have to do is listen...”.

The next track is “Aria e mele” (Air and Apples) where you can find clear influences of Nice and Gentle Giant and bucolic lyrics... “I’ve come into a village / I can listen to a choir / That is telling me / This is the happiest world...”.


Impressioni” (Impressions) is a long, beautiful acoustic ballad featuring good harmony vocals and a nice melody... “In awhile new sensations rise / The whole body shakes / Then I realize that a flower is born... I discovered it in that pool / It was born after a long while / My smiling image was smiling inside me...”.

Io e me” (Me and I) begins in a “bluesy” way, with acoustic guitar and harmonica. The harmony vocals here could recall I New Trolls... “What you can find under the blanket of leaves / That autumn spreads on the worn out paths? / Steps, only steps... My fear of the dark melts back / Now, even if I lose my way in the wood / I’m not alone / If the eyes are friendly fireflies / I can see in the dark...”.


In “La nuova forza” (The new strength) the start reminds me of Le Orme, then the rhythm becomes frenzied until acoustic guitar, flute and soaring dreamy vocals come in depicting a delirious rising morning where an ageless slow, tired wanderer tells stories and gives hope painting fantasies...

Ritorno” (Return) sets out to describe in music and words the return to a foggy city where the only green spot you can see is the traffic light, while in the last track “Verde” (Green) the wish of people longing for “green panoramas” soars light and melodic... “Big city, we’ll buy a lawn for you / On your side walks there will be the most beautiful grass...”.


You can listen to the complete album HERE

Monday, 22 December 2014

THE CYBERNETIC WITCH

Dances Of The Drastic Navels is the fifth album by Daal, a project that began life in 2008 on the initiative of composer and keyboardist from Bergamo Alfio Costa and Roman drummer Davide Guidoni. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Agla Records and confirms all the good qualities of Daal's previous works. During the recording sessions Alfio Costa and Davide Guidoni were helped by some guest musicians such as Ettore Salati (guitars), Bobo Aiolfi (bass), Tirill Mohn (vocals), Letizia Riccardi (violin) and Guglielmo Mariotti (vocals) and the final result is an interesting, well balanced mix of vintage sounds and electronica, classical influences and an experimentalism that never falls in the trap of self-indulgence and never loses touch with melody and rhythm.


The dark opener "Malleus Maleficarum" is a long epic that could recall Goblin or Antonius Rex. The title refers to The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”), one of the best known medieval treatises on witches whose main purpose was to challenge all arguments against the existence of witchcraft and to instruct magistrates on how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. Although officially banned by the Catholic Church, it soon became a kind of handbook for witch-hunters and Inquisitors throughout Late Medieval Europe. So you can imagine charms and spells, wicked monks and exorcisms conjured up by the music... This track is completely instrumental but for the murmured narrative vocals in Latin provided by Guglialmo Mariotti and it goes through many changes in rhythm and atmosphere. Anyway I can find in this piece also a pinch of light irony that every now and again makes me think of Good Omens, a funny novel written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the birth of the son of Satan and the coming of the End Times...


Next comes "Elektra (An Evening With...)", an eerie instrumental piece that, according to Alfio Costa, was inspired by the memory of a dear friend of the night who's not with us any longer. It features an exotic, disquieting atmosphere and alternates calm passages to sudden surges of electric rage. The title and the music could recall Elektra, a 2005 Canadian-American superhero film directed by Rob Bowman... It leads to the following "Lilith", a short, delicate track filled with a nice sense of ethereal romanticism. According to Alfio Costa, it's an hypnotic lullaby that was inspired by the carving on a tree...

Davide Guidoni and Alfio Costa

"The Dance Of The Drastic Navels" is a long, complex suite that in some way summarizes, develops and concludes the story begun on Daal's debut album Disorganicorigami and its sequel on the following Destruktive Actions Affect Livings. It's the story of a man from the future bewitched by a strange, beautiful creature half-woman and half-robot. Eventually the unfortunate man becomes just a toy boy in the hands of the cybernetic witch but most of the narrative is up to your imagination that the music just tries to inspire and stir... On the conclusive track, "Inside You", Tirill Mohn's suggestive vocals in some way give shape to the witch, a dark angel in a dream that becomes nightmare, a magic dancer able to drive you insane and to damn your soul... "We'll never be the same / We'll never see this light / Your sun will fall in my dark sea / And my drastic navel will dance over your soul...".


Well, probably the beautiful art work by Davide Guidoni describes better than all my words the spirit of this excellent album. Anyway, have try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE

Daal: Dances Of The Drastic Navels (2014). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": With it's sinister and unsettling cover artwork to the Gothic inspired creeping suspense with the music itself, DAAL's fascination with real mood and black atmosphere ensures the album is their most cultivated and mature work so far. Those who find darker Italian prog artists, as well as the poetic sadness of bands like My Dying Bride will very much relate to this one, and even more adventurous metal and Gothic fans will find plenty to interest them here... (read the complete review HERE)

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

LEARNING TO FLY

Laviàntica come from Rome and their origins date back to the late eighties when was formed Alterego, a band influenced by the neo progressive sounds of Marillion, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon, Ezra Winston and Leviathan. Later the band changed the original name into Laviàntica (which, according to their website, is a contraction of the words "La Via Antica" that can be translated as "The Old Way") to underline their choice to play in a retro style. Anyway, it wasn't until 2013 that the band, after many years of hard work and various problems, managed to self-release a full length debut album with a consolidated line up featuring Marco Palma (electric guitar), Paolo Perilli (bass, vocals), Luciano Stendardi (piano, keyboards), Paolo Musolino (keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Andrea Schiappelli (drums). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guest musicians such as Alice pelle (vocals), Andrea Bongiovanni (drums) and Laura Senatore (violin) who contributed to enrich the sound and the result is a nice, introspective concept album about the relativity of time entitled Clessidra (Hourglass). The band's melodic vein tends to prevail upon an overtly challenging, adventurous musical approach, but this is not a cheesy album and lovers of neo prog bands from the eighties will undoubtedly appreciate it.

album cover

The opener is the short instrumental "Intro" that sets the atmosphere. The mood is dreamy and the music conjures up a peaceful springtime landscape... "Nel vento" (In the wind) describes in music and words a day stolen from the daily grind and spent in the country. There's an open field covered with dancing flowers and colourful butterflies flying all around. Your hands lightly touch the grass, you can hear the sound of the shaking leaves of a near tree and breathe fresh air. Suddenly you begin to move your hands, maybe you're dreaming to fly, you're taking off... Live and never stop!


Next comes "Sole" (Sun) where the rhythm rises and the music flows with a flapping of wings. The soaring vocals warn you that the horizon is just an illusion and that you have to follow your inner light. A free man is ageless, everyone has a leading soul and a different fate... Then the sound of thunders and pouring rain introduce the following "La pioggia" (The rain), where the music and lyrics invite you to think about the secret messages that the rain can write carving the rock, drop after drop for millennia. From above you can see shining shadows moving in the puddles along the streets, there are people invoking the rain and others fearing its force but who can really understand what the rain has to say?


Then comes the melodic, dreaming "Finché il giorno non finisce" (Until the end of the day) where the music and lyrics invite you to savour every single moment of the day, every instant of your life. Now you can relax and look at a wonderful landscape from a lookout on the seashore but Time is always on the run and it never comes back, your thoughts and feelings soon will become just memories... The following "Icaro" (Icarus) is another nice ballad that celebrates the freedom to fly high toward the sun running after your dreams. Even if you know that you have to come back, for a free heart the desire to fly can never fade...


On "Tempo" (Time) the atmosphere becomes a bit darker. Your beautiful day is coming to an end. Make use of your time because life is short, so try to gather speed and run after your time... Carpe diem! The following "Clessidra" (Hourglass) is light and melancholic. The wheel of time is still in spin, there are shadows and dust clouds running down a metaphorical hourglass in the sky. A night train takes you home but the evening breeze is still carrying thoughts and smells waiting for the moonshine that will reflect them. The long, complex instrumental "Laviantica" (The old way) concludes the album with a solemn pace and a strange atmosphere filled with dreams and memories. 


All in all, this is a really good work that deserves some attention. Have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE. By the way, the download version is slightly different from the CD, without the intro and the sounds that bind all the single tracks together... If you buy the physical copy you'll get both!

Laviàntica: Clessidra (2013). Other opinions:
Steven Reid: For some this album's resistance to stepping up the pace will result in gentle disengagement, but dig below the surface of the (ironically) mid-paced "Tempo", or the long meander of the song from which this band take their name and a real depth and substance can be found, with violins taking up themes and vocals often twisting and turning ideas into new outlooks. It may be a bit depressing that a band whose ideals are firmly stuck in the eighties, can now be seen as traversing the "old ways", but if it results in music as engaging as this, then I don't mind admitting that I must be an old foggie... (read the complete review HERE)


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Saturday, 13 December 2014

THE WHITE SHIP

Nous is the fourth album by Nodo Gordiano, an Italian prog band based in Rome whose roots date back to 1994. It was released in 2014 on the independent label AMS/Btf with a renewed line up featuring founder member Andrea De Luca (bass, guitar, synthesizers) along with Carlo Fattorini (drums, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel) and Fabrizio Santoro (electric guitar, synthesizers, bass). Some guest musicians such as Silvia Scozzi (vocals), Gianluca Cottarelli (electric piano) and Valerio Di Giovanni (guitar) took part to the recording sessions and helped the band to enrich their sound. The result is this excellent concept album sui generis where the musicians managed to shape a very personal blend of tradition and new ideas. The artwork, music and lyrics draw dreamy landscapes and beckon you to embark on a voyage for fair unknown shores...

art cover

The opener "Portonovo" begins by a calm, dreamy acoustic passage that reminds me of Francesco Guccini's L'isola non trovata. Soaring vocals conjure up the image of a ship and invite you to casting off and set sail at dawn. You fatherland is over there and your fantasy is already gliding on the sea. Then the rhythm rises, the wind begins to blow and you're carried away by the waves... Well, in some way this track makes me think of a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, The White Ship..."Out of the South it was that the White Ship used to come when the moon was full and high in the heavens. Out of the South it would glide very smoothly and silently over the sea. And whether the sea was rough or calm, and whether the wind was friendly or adverse, it would always glide smoothly and silently, its sails distant and its long strange tiers of oars moving rhythmically...".


"Aion" is a beautiful instrumental track that every now and again recalls Pink Floyd. The image chosen to describe it in the booklet is an ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail that usually symbolizes something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return. It features spacey, psychedelic atmospheres and dark energies running like hell all along the band's particular wall of sound. Then comes "Apologia del Nolano", a celebration of musical freedom that reminds me slightly of bands such as Area and BMS. The music and lyrics here evoke infinite spaces, nomadic songs breaking free from their prisons, kingdoms of unreachable echoes, uncountable worlds and distant lands where the people speak different languages that you can't understand and where the free breath of your soul can shine brightly.


The ethereal "Nous" is a long, complex instrumental piece full of psychedelic nuances. The image the band chose to describe it in the booklet represents an old, surreal world map... It leads to the dreamy "Officina" where you get lost at dawn on the limit between reveries and reality. Then you enter into a strange, magic workshop where you can exercise your crafts... Next comes the beautiful, alchemical "Arturiana", a charming instrumental track with a mysterious atmosphere described with the image of a sword in a circle and where you can almost perceive the ghosts of King Arthur and his knights of the round table riding through clouds and enchanted woods.

Nodo Gordiano on stage 2014

The closer "Stella Maris" is depicted by a ship sailing across a storming sea. It's another beautiful instrumental piece where the female vocals of Siliva Schiozzi are used as an instrument and seem to evoke the hypnotic singing of a mermaid... "I walked out over the waters to the White Ship on a bridge of moonbeams. The man who had beckoned now spoke a welcome to me in a soft language I seemed to know well, and the hours were filled with soft songs of the oarsmen as we glided away into a mysterious South, golden with the glow of that full, mellow moon..." (H.P. Lovecraft, The White Ship).

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album, an essential one for every Italianprog collector. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves!

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

Nodo Gordiano: Nous (2014). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: Adventure, mystery, and a willingness to dive down any possible rabbit hole with a big hearted grin. If prog-rock is about fun and adventure and you don't mind forgoing the "easily accessible" on occasion, then you're likely to enjoy this one... (read the complete review HERE)
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": Although predominantly a space rock album, the band still work in classic vintage RPI/Italian prog traits, psych flavours and progressive-electronic traditions, driven by raging electric and ragged acoustic guitar, droning electronics and plentiful use of the mighty Mellotron! With cover art that suggests exploration and uncharted courses of an earthly kind, what the band really delivers aims straight for the furthest reaches of deep space... (read the complete review HERE)



Tuesday, 9 December 2014

IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR

The roots of Entity date back to 1994 when Gigi Longu and Mauro Mulas, two skilled musicians based in Cagliari, formed the original nucleus of the band. After many years of hard work, personnel changes, some demos and a good live activity, in 2013 the band finally released an official full length album on the independent label Lizard Records with a consolidated line up featuring Mauro Mulas (keyboards), Gigi Longu (bass, guitar), Marco Panzino (drums), Marcello Mulas (guitars) and Sergio Calafiura (vocals). It's titled Il falso centro (The false centre) and is a conceptual work about an identity crisis based upon some introspective poems written by Yuri Deriu, an old friend of the band, that form a kind of screenplay that the musicians interpret with passion and enthusiasm. The music is rich in ideas, the influences range from classical music to jazz, from the Italian prog masters of the seventies to more recent sounds and the final result is excellent. If you like bands such as Le Orme or Il Banco del Mutuo Soccorso I'm sure you'll enjoy this album as well.

album cover

The opener "Davanti allo specchio" (In front of the mirror) is a charming instrumental piece that sets the atmosphere. It starts by an oblique waltz, you can imagine a kind of ghastly dance in front of a mirror where you can have a close look at your face and try to dig in your hidden thoughts. It's a perfect introduction to the following "Il desiderio" (Desire), a long, complex track where melancholia and desire run one after each other on a dangerous path leading nowhere. Are you really what you appear to be? Now you're nothing but an empty shape, drawn away by a vortex of passions, unable to break through the protective shell where you are trapped. Your desires are a continuous renewal of old wounds, they are burning you out but you can't help it, you are not able to stop, to come back from a labyrinth with no exit door... The music is powerful and evocative, the heartfelt vocal parts convey emotions and feelings... A great track!

"Il tempo" (Time) is a dark, melancholic piece about time passing by. The atmosphere is ethereal and perfectly fits the poetical force of the lyrics. Time is a great deceiver and too often it doesn't keep its promises, so you beg useless delays, lost in an endless waiting. You keep your memories in your heart, you keep your head down, you're always busy but you know that this is nothing but an alibi. It's like if you were flying into the glass of a window like a fly while the days inexorably fall from your hands like sand in an hourglass...


The music of the beautiful "Il trip dell'ego" (Ego trip) recalls Le Orme and their brilliant counterpoints while the short vocal part evokes the loss of the sense of identity and a lack of direction. Then comes the romantic "ANT", a piece dealing with ideal, eternal love and the alchemy of feelings. It begins by a beautiful piano pattern, then Procol Harum could come to mind while the music and lyrics paint deep emotional landscapes, dreams carried away by liquid sentences and getting drowned in a lake of words, poisoned by troubled thoughts and desire.

The disquieting "L'armatura" (The armour) opens with grazing electric guitar riffs and dark organ waves conjuring up a nightmarish atmosphere. Your sweet-hart, your idealized love is gone and you feel the need of a shield to protect you from a falling sky, you feel like a trunk after a shipwreck, you're floating on the waves of life thanks to natural laws and not because of your will. But your armour is melting, you can't run away from your faults, you can't deceive yourself anymore, now you look in the mirror and for the first time you begin to perceive your real face...

Entity on stage 2010

The delicate, cathartic "La notte oscura dell'anima" (The dark night of the soul) concludes the album and comes like the calm after the storm, on the notes of a nocturnal piano passage. Finally, in a dark winter night you feel empty and distant from everything. Now you wear no armour but you feel lighter without the weight of your ego: a part of you is dead but you can start a new life with a new awareness...

Well, on he whole I think that this is a really good album, full of musical nuances and poetical strength: a must-have for very Italianprog collection!


Entity: Il falso centro (2014). Other opinions:
Uwe Zickel "Rivertree": Well, currently there's a lot going on, speaking of the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre. While offering fine melodies and an entertaining flow ENTITY turns out to be a real shooting star, this album certainly belongs to the Crème de la Crème... (read the complete review HERE)
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": 'Il Falso Centro' is simply one of the most self-assured, confident and downright bombastic Italian debuts of recent years, and the band perform with truly envious power and skill gained from the almost twenty years of honing their craft leading up to this work... (read the complete review HERE)

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