domenica 28 settembre 2014

TO GREATER THINGS!

Ad Maiora began life in Milan in 2009 on the initiative of a bunch of experienced musicians with a different background but with the common goal of playing their own original compositions influenced by bands such as Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes, Pink Floyd, Premiata Forneria Marconi or Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, just to name but a few. After some line up changes and some live experiences on the local scene, in 2014 they self-released an interesting debut album, Ad Maiora!, with a line up featuring Enzo Giardina (drums), Flavio Carnovali (electric guitar), Moreno Piva (bass, classical guitar), Paolo Callioni (vocals) and Sergio Caleca (keyboards). The name of the band comes from a Latin expression that means to greater things and in some way describes the band's attitude and their wish to find a new way by combining vintage and modern sounds. The result of their efforts is very good and their first album is absolutely worth listening to.

art cover

The opener "Diatriba" (Argument) is a tantalizing instrumental piece filled with dark energy. Every now and again I'm reminded of Goblin and in my opinion this track might be a perfect score for a thriller movie. Then comes another charming instrumental, "Sugo Dance", a lively track with a strong Mediterranean flavour and a joyful pace.

The darker "Dream" is the third instrumental in a row and features some aggressive electric guitar riffs and sparse exotic touches that take you on a musical journey under the stars for one thousand and one Arabian Nights, along the Silk Road. It leads to "Eclissi Orientale" (Oriental Eclipse) where the music and lyrics depict the atmosphere and the colours of the bazaar in the city of Aqaba, a sunrise by the Red Sea and a sunset in the desert. Then you get lost in your dreams when the moon meets the sun and lies like a bride on him... By the way, despite the Italian title the track is sung in English and it's a real pity that the band didn't exploit more their native language.


Goblin's influence looms large also over the following "Nulla intenso" (Intense naught), another thrilling instrumental track that evokes nightmarish atmospheres and restless nights. It leads to the apparent calm of "Strange", a reflective, melancholic ballad where the music and lyrics depict a man haunted by crazy dreams and ghosts from his past that make difficult, even painful to him decide to change his way of life.

Next comes the long, complex instrumental "Menate" (the title could be approximately translated as little, silly problems), a nice mix of different moods and atmospheres that leads to the jazzy "Summertime", inspired by George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and featuring heartfelt vocals and a good electric guitar solo.

Ad Maiora on stage

"Corolla" is another excellent instrumental track blending rock and classical influences. Together, all of the petals of a flower are called a corolla... Well, in my opinion this piece evokes a joyful, colourful Celebration of springtime and makes me think of light birds with red feathers dancing a playful tarantella in the sky.

The conclusive "No More War" brings back Middle-Eastern atmospheres. Here the music and lyrics depict a sunny winter morning on the Cheekha Dar and a hot sunny afternoon by the Lake Hammar with children playing and nice green parrots flying. Then comes a quiet, starry night on the desert and you can see the children sleeping and forget for a moment the threatening shadows of the never ending war that still ravages the enchanted Iraqi landscapes...

Ad Maiora 2014

On the whole, I think that this is a very interesting work. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE

Ad Maiora: Ad Maiora! (2014). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": One of the most varied and unpredictable progressive albums to emerge from Italy in quite some time... Ad Maiora work in everything from symphonic prog, jazz, heavy rock, blues, the romantic prog styling of Camel, and even some of the classical sophistication of the proper RPI/Italian prog bands... `Ad Maiora!' gets the band off to a great start, already setting the bar very high for their future works... (read the complete review HERE)
Thomas Szirmay: This is a dazzling debut album, full of master craftsmanship, thematic creativity, totally memorable melodies and backing rhythms that once again prove vividly that Italian prog is fine and healthy, unlike their plodding economy, piss-poor politics and neurotic soccer team... (read the complete review HERE)


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sabato 27 settembre 2014

THE BIG SLEEP

L'enigma della vita (The enigma of Life) is the third album by Logos, an Italian prog band from Verona that was formed in 1996. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Andromeda Relix with a renewed line up featuring Luca Zerman (organ, Mellotron, synthesizer, vocals), Fabio Gaspari (drums, bass), Claudio Antolini (piano, keyboards, synthesizer) and Massimo Maoli (guitar) plus some special guests as Alessandro Perbellini (drums), Simone Bistaffa (guitar), Simone Chiampan (drums) and Gianbattista Bodei (narrative vocals). A long time has passed from their previous work Asrava, from 2001, but during all these years the band never stopped and kept on working on the new compositions, refining them, recording them without pressure nor hurry, with care, determination and love. The result is an excellent concept album conceived as a long suite about the life, nature and time passing by, a mature work where the band showcase great musicianship and personality blending vintage sounds, poetry and new ideas. Well, the beautiful artwork by Luca Zerman and all the images that you can find in the booklet perfectly fit the poetical strength of the lyrics and the evocative power of the music: probably they can help you to understand the concept better than all my words... 

 
The dreamy opener “Antifona” is a short instrumental track that sets the atmosphere and fades in the following “Venivo da un lungo sonno” (I was awakening from a long sleep) where a pulsing rhythm conjures up the image of a night train running through dark shadows and ethereal, lunar landscapes. In a wagon a passenger wakes up at the noise provoked by a drought against the curtains. He emerges from a long sleep and can hear some people nearby speaking in a foreign, unknown language. It's still dark, the mysterious passenger has forgotten his destination and now he's on his way leading to nowhere, lost in the mist...

Logos 2014

Next comes the disquieting “In fuga” (Running away) where the music and lyrics draw the image of some soldiers in the snow. They're running away from the battlefield seeking for freedom. Their life is hanging on a thin rope while around them the storm is raging... The following “Alla fine dell'ultimo capitolo” (At the end of the last chapter) is filled with tension and dark visions and depicts an empty town where a fugitive man looks for a shelter from the storm. He walks alone among ruins and crumbling walls but he can feel something in the air, the streets seem haunted by strange presences. Suddenly he sees a dim light glimmering through the dust, a pale flame of life and hope. A ghost gets close to him and tells him to keep that flame burning...


N.A.S.” is a charming instrumental track that every now and again reminds me of Le Orme and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and makes me think of a glider taking off towards distant planets where there are rivers of lava and creatures generated by earth and electricity. It leads to the ethereal, reflective title track, “L'enigma della vita” (The enigma of life), where the music and lyrics raise questions about the origin of life: was it just the result of vibrating atoms clashing against each other at random or rather the mathematical product of a superior maker? The answer is hidden inside every man but we can't catch it, we keep on running after forces that we can't understand and we are always left in doubt, wandering in the dark and trying to learn how to overcome our ignorance, in vain...


In principio” (In the beginning) is a long, complex track about the mystery of creation and the relativity of time. It starts softly by an acoustic guitar arpeggio, then goes through many changes in mood and rhythm taking you on a mystical trip across the universe. Stars and planets come to life and die as the men who claim to be the masters of the universe. The wisdom of a superior hand carved and shaped indescribable forms and painted the deserts with infinite colours, gave life to rivers and human beings... In the beginning there was nothing, from nothing we came and we're bound to return to nought...


Completamente estranei” (Completely aliens) takes us back to Earth. This track starts by painting haunting notes in deep red colours and conveying a strong sense of tension... Here the music and lyrics depict a little tunnel that opens on a side-walk corner. It's the entrance to the hidden part of the city where live the homeless and the poor. The people who pass every day by that place never notice it, they can see distant stars and planets but not the unfortunate men and children in rags who live underground. For them they're nothing but transparent aliens coming from another world...


In quale luogo si ferma il mio tempo” (Where my time stops) is a melancholic, classically inspired instrumental track for piano solo that leads to the epic “Pioggia in campagna” (Rain in the country), a complex track that depicts in a very curious way the relationship between man and nature. The lyrics draw a parallelism between a man and a feather floating in the air that the first gust of wind will sweep away. He can hear what the leaves on the trees have to tell, he can see how the nature takes his revenge on the wrecks of old cars and trucks that are collapsing in a field, covered by grass and already half-swallowed by the marshy ground... No one can save men and their work from the imperceptible fury of time! The following “Il rumore dell'aria” (The noise of air) closes the circle. It's a short track featuring narrative vocals that takes you back to the starting point, to a man emerging from a long sleep. We can't say how long he had been sleeping, maybe centuries or millennia. We don't know where he fell asleep, maybe under an oak in springtime or on the bank of a river in winter. We can't say when time stopped, all we know is that it was the noise of the air to wake him up and that perhaps he had not been sleeping more than a minute...

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

Logos: L'enigma della vita (2014). Other opinions:
Michael "Aussie-Byrd-Brother": To have the musical skill and confidence to successfully pull of a perfect mix of both vintage influences and modern styles is utterly inspiring, and those who want to experience everything they cherish about Italian progressive music now know one of the best bands that carries on that proud tradition... (read the complete review HERE)


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sabato 20 settembre 2014

ON THE EDGE OF HEAVEN

Røsenkreütz is mainly the brainchild of an experienced multi-instrumentalist and producer from Verona, Fabio Serra. In 2006 he gathered around him a bunch of talented musicians to refine some of his old demos and work on new compositions. In 2014, after a long, hard work, Røsenkreütz's debut album, Back To The Stars, was finally completed and released on the independent label Andromeda Relix with a line up featuring Fabio Serra (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Gianni Brunelli (drums, percussions), Gianni Sabbioni (bass) and Massimo Piubelli (vocals). In the studio they were helped by some guests musicians such as Angela Merlin (vocals), Carlo Soliman (grand-piano), Luca Nardon (percussion), Gabriele Amadei (violin) and Cristiano Roversi (from Moongarden, Submarine Silence and Mangala Vallis - Chapman stick) who contributed to enrich the sound and the final result is an excellent crossover formula that, without being too derivative, I'm sure will appeal to fans of Toto, Kansas or The Spock's Beard.


The dark, nervous opener “Signals In The Water” is a disquieting reflection about life and afterlife where time stops for a moment while a man dives into the water from a high cliff with suicidal intentions. It's like a riddle where sneaky shadows blot out reality and you get lost in a nightmare where you are drowning in your old lies...

Then comes “Sitting On The Edge Of Heaven”, a wonderful track full of spirituality and positive feelings where you can find a perfect blending between powerful rock energy and delicate, classical inspired passages. The music and lyrics are about the need to take your time and choose your own way to heaven, a way you'll never regret. The short passage a cappella is a real treat!


Conditioning” features synthetic sounds and melodic vocals warning you about the risks of the virtual reality you live on your computer, hiding your face behind a screen, loosing your innocence, feeding the appetite of an evil, technological idol. It leads to the romantic “Nothing More In You” where the music and lyrics tell of a relationship between a man and a woman that is going through a period of deep crises, a love that is fading away between empty shadows and misplaced feelings.

Next comes the jumping “Childish Reaction” that reminds me of Van Halen and is overflowing with good feelings and positive energy, then it's the turn of a tribute to The Beatles, a nice cover of “I Am The Walrus”.


The title track, “Back To The Stars”, closes the album. It's a long suite divided into seven parts, an over 17 minute epic that starts by a charming piano solo pattern and then grows going through many changes in mood and rhythm. The music and lyrics depict the feelings of an astronaut floating in a crimson dusk, suspended between heaven and hell, tore apart by the contrast between the wish to go back home and the fear to loose his celestial peace... Well, in my opinion this is by far the best track of the album and a perfect conclusion for this interesting work.

Røsenkreütz: Back To The Stars (2014). Other opinions:
Michael “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: Some may find the lack of a clear sound or direction a little confusing, but it's really a band trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and tick a number of boxes. The album is full of strong compositions, slick playing and skillful vocals with a modern polished production, and the band is proudly unashamed of aiming to catch the ear of more accessible music listeners. Røsenkreütz are a very promising band to watch in the future, and `Back to the Stars' is a near-perfect example of how good crossover bands can be when they get that balance of progressive technicality with melodic commercial appeal just right - no easy feat!... (read the complete review HERE)
Jason Spencer: This album is flashy, somewhat cheesy, but rich musically and serious where it counts. It explores both the deep and shallow end of the prog pool, but I think it comes out a winner in the end... (read the complet review HERE)