Tuesday, 24 January 2023

HEAVY WINGS

Wilson Project took form in 2015 in Acqui Terme, a town in the province of Alessandria, Piedmont. After some years spent honing their skills and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2022 they released an interesting debut album, entitled Il viaggio da farsi, on the independent Ma.Ra.Cash Records label with a line up featuring Annalisa Ghiazza (vocals), Giovanni Giordano (guitar), Andrea Protopapa (keyboards, backing vocals), Stefano Rapetti (bass) and Mattia Pastorino (drums, backing vocals). Producer Marcello Chiaraluce helped the musicians during the recording sessions in the studio and contributed to the song-writing while Daniele Cavallero’s Za! Factory, a design firm from the near town of Valenza, took charge of the art work. The overall sound of the band draws on many influences ranging from Italian prog masters of the seventies such as PFM or BMS to contemporary, heavier acts and the music perfectly fits the subject matter the musicians have chosen to develop in this work. In fact, this is a concept album that tells a story about a woman who leaves planet Earth and goes to Mars, a kind of space odyssey inspired by the launch of Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy... 


The short, spacey instrumental “Intro” sets the atmosphere and leads to “Non pensare vai” (Do not think, go) that describes in music and words the expectations and the doubts of the protagonist who is embarking on a spacecraft directed to Mars where she’ll start a new life. What she’s left behind is a broken relationship and some regrets, what lies ahead is the dream of better days to be reached on the wings of a heavy falcon...

“Come mi vuoi” (As you want me) deals with the nostalgia of real relationships and the choice of a virtual lover to replace them. The music and lyrics depict the protagonist trying to teach her new mechanical companion how to laugh with her and how to love. While she’s programming its artificial intelligence she goes through many errors but at last she seems to reach her goal...

Then it’s the turn of the bitter-sweet “Complice innocente” (Innocent accomplice) that describes the strange relationship between the protagonist and her new companion, a toy man docile and tireless... On “E’ stato un errore” (It was a mistake) the protagonist experiences doubts and regrets looking at the infinite space that surrounds her. She begins to realize that an aseptic, odourless virtual companion can’t really erase the deep sense of loneliness she feels in her silent Martian new home...
 
Wilson Project on stage, 2019

“Ingannando i miei sensi” (Deceiving my senses) describes in music and words the confusion of the protagonist whose memories come back and hit her senses almost leading her on the brink of madness... Imagination and reality almost melt together on “Quando cerchi di respirare” (When you try to breath). The protagonist, looking at the creature she shaped, keeps on thinking of her broken relationship and she almost fears her new virtual lover might let her down like her ex boy friend on Earth. She even think of keeping it closed in a glass box as it tries to breathe and behave like a human being...

The ethereal “Se solo avessi un’anima” (If only you had a soul) begins softly, then the music and lyrics depict the sense bewilderment of the protagonist in front of her new companion... What she misses more is the feeling of a real interaction in front of a creature without soul and heart, she would like to teach it to believe in God or to make it understand how important relationships with other human beings are. But something seems to go wrong... On “Un gioco” (A game) the machine in some way begins to feel human! It’s thunder, light and uproar but it tried to be good and what does it discover? It’s just a game. But it’s too late and it can’t stop what she has created, they’re both victims of a sterile world...

The last track, “Il viaggio da farsi” (The journey ahead) is open to various interpretations. The protagonist feels that her creature is just an extinguished fire, time is running out and hysteria prevails, the creature is about to die. The melancholic finale depicts the creature hanging in the room of her maker, swinging lightly. The protagonist, in her madness, feels a strong sense of guilt and becomes aware that there’s no way out to escape the spectre of silence and there’s no need of heavy suitcases nor ships for her next journey...

On the whole, a very interesting concept and an excellent work.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:

Monday, 23 January 2023

FLYING PAINTINGS

In 2008 Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno, one of the many one shot bands of the Italian progressive scene of the early seventies, came to life again on the initiative of singer and guitarist Luciano Regoli and in 2010 they released a new album on the independent label BTF, “Il pittore volante” (The flying painter). Along with Luciano Regoli the line-up on this work features the veterans Roberto Gardin (bass, guitar), Nanni Civitenga (bass, guitar, keyboards), Walter Martino (drums) and some prestigious guest musicians as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Lino Vairetti, Nicola Di Staso, Maurizio Pariotti and Carl Verheyen to name just a few. Anyway “Il pittore volante” is mainly the brainchild of Luciano Regoli who wrote the music and lyrics and conceived it as a concept album inspired by a book of the same title, a kind of travelogue that he wrote and published some years ago and that he dedicated to the late Iginio Gonni, a painter and a friend, who died in 2003. The basic idea was that of an old painter who flies and looks at his life from above. In the booklet you can find not only the lyrics but also a picture for every piece painted by Luciano Regoli himself. As for the music, the overall sound is not stuck in the seventies and in this work you can perceive even metal influences along with a more typical Italian progressive style. Well, during the nineties Luciano Regoli had been a member of the prog metal band DGM and he doesn’t disown this experience...



The opener “Il cambiamento” (The change) tells of a spiritual metamorphosis. It starts softly with a mystical atmosphere, then hard guitar riffs and harmonica introduce the change... “It happened in those days / Something revolted inside me / Fast as a blizzard... Alone in that room I fell asleep / Dark dreams / Alone in that room I woke up in discomfort... Ah! I was changing and I didn’t want it / But I was coming to life again / Yes! I was coming to life again...”.

“Il vecchio” (The old man) begins with a piano solo introduction. It’s a tense, melancholic track depicting the meeting with an old friend who has just had a stroke... “They had cut off his hair / That old madman was trudging up the hill / Marked by the paralysis that had darkened his mind, his limbs, his fingers / I remember him just a few months before / Enormous, disdainful, with a magnificent beard...They had cut off his hair...”.

“Il fuoco” (The fire) features a duet with sweet, dreamy female vocals and an ethereal, suggestive nocturnal atmosphere. The lyrics and music depict fire as a metaphor of fear before a natural impending event, a fire burning false fairy tales, pains, fears, desires and thoughts... “The night was over there, in front of me / Some rocks were burning / Above me gentle wings were flying away / They were flying high, they moved the air with a dull noise / So I followed them, with the light behind my shoulders / Towards dark clouds...”.



“Eagle Mountain” is a long, complex track that tells about a journey through the desert in North America. A good acoustic guitar intro by Nicola Di Staso (former member of Libra and in the line-up of Daemonia) leads to new horizons and spectacular panoramas where two friends enjoy the quiet, strange atmosphere of the desert until, in the middle of a magnificent, silent landscape, they find an old truck. There’s a sudden change in mood. The truck stands still but the engine is running, the driver is naked and... dead! “He let us stare at him while the night was falling in us / The day after in a café people were whispering about him / But the air was clear / We went out / I switched the engine on...”.

“La mente” (The mind) features a dark, nervous mood. It’s a kind of dive into madness and the lyrics draw images that seem to come from a Stephen King novel. An enormous wasp trying to enter the room, an agoraphobic scene in the subway... “My God! What is happening to me? I’m alone, with my only enemy / I’m alone, with my ego...”.

“L’uomo nuovo” (The new man) is another beautiful track. It was arranged by Claudio Simonetti and it seems conceived as a thriller score. It is about fear, the fear that a man has to overcome to reach knowledge... “At the beginning of the tunnel, under the subway / That noise of water running, under the subway tunnel / I paid attention but I couldn’t understand the origin of that noise...”.



“Le anime” (The souls) features a slow pace and a haunting mood. It depicts a nocturnal landscape. It’s midnight on Elba Island and while the protagonist walks back home along a narrow street he can see the people that used to live there when he was a child and that now are nothing but shadows... “They can’t see me / But I recognize them all...”.

“Raoul” is set in Paris. It’s a complex piece that starts as a strange mix of hard rock and Italian melody (a particular blend between Aerosmith and Quartetto Cetra I dare say), then the rhythm calms down and the atmosphere becomes dramatic. The music and lyrics depict a drunken clochard that’s sleeping under cardboard... “What made him still appear as a man was just a name / That name tattooed on his wrist / Only that name, Raoul...”.

“La spiaggia” (The beach) is set in Portugal. It’s an amazing short ballad featuring a swirling flute and a vocal style that could recall the Italian minstrel Angelo Branduardi. It tells of a strange meeting on a solitary beach on the Atlantic Ocean with a threatening sea that seems like dog on a chain, desperately barking because it couldn’t go any further, blocked by the high cliffs... “I felt as if I couldn’t breathe on the beach / The rocks behind me and the thundering sea in front of me / All night long with that dull noise...”. A good finale for an excellent album.

From Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction to Italian Progressive Rock
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
La Nuova Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno: Il pittore volante (2010). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: A well rounded album which perhaps could be accused of trying to put too many ingredients in one dish, but I'm sure that some of these ideas have been percolating for years and restraint/minimalist considerations were not among the goals of the project. Thank goodness for that, as musical extroversion is usually put to great effect by RPI bands! "Il Pittore Volante" offers great variety, superb musicianship, and gorgeous packaging/artwork. This is one of the most interesting releases of 2010 and should make some end of year lists... (read the complete review HERE)
 

Friday, 20 January 2023

HOLY TRIBE

Tribal Domestic is a studio album that was released by historic Roman band Il Rovescio della Medaglia in 2016 on the Cramps - Sony Music label with a line up featuring founder member and main composer Enzo Vita (guitar) along with John Macaluso (drums), Cristiano Micalizzi (drums), Gianluca Catalani (drums), Fernando Petry (bass), Nalle Pahlsson (bass), Rino Amato (keyboards), Vivien Lalu (synth), Chris Catena (vocals), Pino Ballarini (vocals), Jannes Stark (guitar) and the Orchestra Filarmonica Calabrese directed by Alexander Frey. This work mainly comes from the initiative of Enzo Vita, as can be guessed from the art cover where he’s portrayed in the forefront with is guitar ready for action while in the background you can see many gears and wheels turning to support him. It marks the return of Il Rovescio della Medaglia to the complex structures of the band’s heyday after the disappointing pop rock oriented 2011 album Microstorie...



The opener “Tribal Domestic Suite” is a long, complex piece divided into nine parts respectively subtitled “Le note degli idoli” (The idol’s notes), “Tributo agli dei” (Tribute to the gods), “Raduno dei vecchi” (Gathering of the old men), “L’ultimo dei sogni” (The last of dreams), “La notizia” (The news), “Il diario” (The diary), “Simbiosi” (Symbiosis), “La chiave inglese” (The wrench) and “Il crepuscolo delle illusioni” (The twilight of illusions). In my opinion, it’s an excellent piece, composed by Enzo Vita and arranged with the help of Rino Amato, where the guitarist and his group of rock musicians perfectly interact with the orchestra. The music flows without drops in tension as the lyrics, well interpreted by Chris Catena, conjure up images halfway between a confused stream of consciousness and divertissement. Shocking, alarming articles about a world where solidarity and freedom crumble provoking rash reactions, the sad reflections of a man on the brink of a personal crises leading to madness, the search for balance and the refuge in an inner-self able to create its own world, regret and bewilderment and finally the image of a man running barefoot in the evening without the tools to fix up his life...

“L’origine” (The origin) is another beautiful track where orchestra and rock instruments interact. The mysterious incipit sets the atmosphere, then the music and lyrics take us on inner journey to the origin of life. Birth is a big bang for everyone, it’s the moment of the perception of the whole, a truth we progressively forget giving names to things and identities to persons...



On the instrumental “Mutazione X” (Mutation X) Enzo Vita’s guitar is in the forefront and takes the listener on a fiery ride through the hard rocks of Sodom and Gomorrah and to the atmospheres of Il Rovescio della Medaglia 1971 debut album, La bibbia, although with an updated sound. Then it’s the turn “La sacra eternità” (The holy eternity) explicitly inspired by La bibbia, in particular by its last two tracks, “Il giudizio” (Judgement day) and Il diluvio (The flood). Here, introduced by a dark marching beat and a hint of liturgical choir, the music and lyrics describe the protagonist’s soul entering the afterlife where it joins the whole, beyond good and evil. It’s a place where there’s no one to judge, no measure or need to invent anything, here come those who have the dignity of looking straight in the face their own oblivion, beyond the sky and the sea, because the eternity is holy...

“L’apocalisse” (The apocalypse) is the only track featuring the vocals of Il Rovescio della Medaglia old singer Pino Ballarini. It’s an ironic piece that blends hard rock, classical influences and a touch of operetta evoking a daily, raging apocalypse in a world where media confusion rules. In a story containing many other stories, restlessness carries away the protagonist, on the wings of madness, towards a place where he can enjoy a panoramic view on his memories and regrets... Last comes the sparkling instrumental “Proclama II” (Proclamation II) that concludes the album with a lively beat and electric guitar fireworks.

On the whole, an excellent work that marks a rediscovered creativity for Enzo Vita and his new and old companions.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info: 

Saturday, 14 January 2023

UNEXPECTED CHANGES OF DIRECTION

Paths And Crossroads is the second album by Endless Season and was self-released in 2022 with a renewed line up featuring original members Lorenzo Di Prima (bass) and Paolo Busatto (guitar) along with Andrea Cecchetto (drums), Luca Ardini (sax) and Francesco Pollon (keyboards). According to the band, the title of the album refers to its particular brew of different genres and musical influences and reflects the idea behind the album’s music, which follows defined paths but at the same time crosses different instances and genres, with sudden and unexpected changes of direction. The colourful art work by Alcide Sartori tries to give an idea of the musical content... 
 
 

The opener “No Excuses” starts by an elaborated drum pattern, then the other instruments come in and the rhythm takes off. The music goes through many changes in atmosphere, there are some delicate, dreamy passages and there are frenzied rides across exotic territories but the wide and varied range of influences the band mixed together perfectly flow without weak moments in a coherent way...

“Paradox” is another good piece where you can find fiery funky rhythms and calmer parts with a soaring electric guitar that could recall Santana... The following “47” begins with a jazzy piano solo, then evolves into something different that every now and again reminds me of Area while a further calmer part with a beautiful acoustic guitar solo reminds me of Al Di Meola...

On “Moonlight Promenade” the delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio intro takes you through nocturnal landscapes of intense beauty where dreaming piano passages and soaring sax melodies fill the air... Then it’s the turn of “Do You Wanna Play With Me?” where the musicians seem to invite you to join them for a carefree and joyful jam session mixing jazz and blues...
 

For the lively “Squaring The Circle” the band shot a curious video where, with lightness and self-irony, they showcase all their musicianship and the fun they have playing together... 
 
Next comes “Exhalations” that opens with a disquieting, dark electric guitar arpeggio. Here the pace is slow and the atmosphere is that of a gathering storm. This piece is linked to “Deep Surface” that follows in the same vein and where the sax notes draw melancholic, jazzy melodic lines... After a pause, the short coda “Outro: Remembering” ends the album in an unexpected way with its poppish suggestions...

On the whole, a good album that deserves a try.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Endless Season: Paths And Crossroads (2022). Other opinions:
Basil Francis: So there you have it, six excellent slices of delightful fusion followed by a disappointing finale. I cannot think what made Endless Season decide to turn away from the promising style they so eagerly showcased in the first three-quarters of the album. You shouldn’t let the bad ending dissuade you from the charms of the rest of the album, however, because this is some of the most accessible fusion music I’ve heard that is still satisfyingly complex in its execution. If you suggest this for the playlist at your next gathering, no one can dismiss it as ‘ghastly prog music’; there are no excuses... (read the complete review HERE)

More info:

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

ELECTRIC KARMA

Neon Karma are a kind of supergroup based in Milan that gathers four talented musicians such as Marco Sfogli (guitar), Lorenzo Feliciati (bass), Guido Block (vocals) and Roberto Gualdi (drums) all also involved in other bands and projects. Their first collaboration dates back to 2012 but it wasn’t until 2022 that they managed to self-release an eponymous debut album with their own original compositions. Their music, difficult to pigeonhole, crosses many styles and draws on many influences ranging from prog metal to AOR, from hard rock to touches of Mediterranean folklore...



The title of the opener, “The Frog”, refers to a famous German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812, The Frog Prince. It’s a good piece full of desperate energy where the music and lyrics evoke the thaumaturgic power of love. The protagonist is a man who’s going through a deep personal crises that somehow turned him into a frog, but this is no fairy tale and he’s not a prince. What he needs to get out of this situation is a kiss from a woman in love, a kiss to set him free from despair. After the short, dreamy middle section, the tension rises again and we don’t know if the protagonist succeeds...

“Rain” is a bitter-sweet ballad about a particularly painful relationship where love comes like pouring rain and makes you bleed... Then it’s the turn of “Megapolis” that starts with pulsing bass lines and a funky rhythm. It’s a good piece about urban alienation where the protagonist feels alone in the midst of millions of people, fed up with noises, smells and empty fashions. As the music gets more aggressive, he yells “no!” to conformism, fake colours, plastic sounds, pollution and deafening chatters. To break free you have to speak up...



“Run Into The Sun” deals with environmental issues and starts softly. The music and lyrics evoke dark omens for the future of humankind. Man seems incapable to learn his lessons, he can’t understand what makes the world so precious. The countdown to ruin runs faster and faster, soon the point of no return will be reached and the silent rays of death will dry out everyone. We’re recklessly running into the sun and eventually the heat will burn everything to the ground...

“Enemy Gate” is an almost completely instrumental piece. It starts by a nervous electric guitar riff while a voice in the background invites you to pay attention because you’re approaching the enemy gate. The following electric guitar solos bring some Middle eastern flavours, the atmosphere is tense, the rhythm section thundering and threatening...

Neon Karma 2022
 
“Lullaby” is a very melancholic ballad. This is not a lullaby for a little child who can’t sleep but for someone who will never wake up again and who is on his way for the afterlife. Everything is temporary and maybe death doesn’t mean the end of an emotional relationship. All around everything is so silent that you could even hear the sound of the snowflakes falling on the ground under the moonlight...

“Time Is Cruel” every now and again could recall Yes and is about time passing by. The protagonist seems to be crushed by his daily grind, for him every day is worse than the other. Maybe one day or another a beautiful day will come, but when? No clue, time is merciless and cruel...

The closer “The Cavern” is an excellent track veined of Gothic shades and open to multiple interpretations. The music and lyrics conjure up the image of a man inviting you to visit the beautiful, comfortable cavern where he lives alone, surrounded by bats that he calls friends. The cavern is a safe shelter for him, a den to hide from the world and heal his wounds. There you might even see that peculiar man cry...

On the whole, a good work that deserves a try.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info: