Wednesday, 20 January 2021

SWORD AND SANDAL

The Delphic Prophecy is the third album by Gran Torino, an interesting prog band from Verona. It was released in 2020 on the French label Musea Records, seven years after their previous work Fate Of A Thousand Worlds (2013), with a renewed line up featuring the confirmed Alessio Pieri (keyboards), Gian Maria Roveda (drums) and Fabrizio Visentini (bass) with the prog veteran David Cremoni (guitars – from, among others, Moongarden and Submarine Silence) who took the place of Leonardo Freggi. According to the band, the album was conceived as a sort of soundtrack for an imaginary journey through Ancient Greek mythology and the art cover by Pablo Elices tries to depict the musical content...
 


The dreamy opener “Ondine” starts softly by a piano solo pattern, then the electric guitar takes the lead evoking dangerous, soulless creatures wandering slowly under the moon... The title refers to the water nymphs that appeared in the Aegean Sea under the form of beautiful women but in the booklet there are no liner notes with a guideline to follow, so the plot of this imaginary peplum film is up to your imagination! 
 
The mysterious “Faint Dimness” conjures up nocturnal landscapes and threatening shadows, then the disquieting “The Sibylline Oracle” evokes the feeling of an impending trick of the destiny. In the oracles the Sibyl predicts future events and here the priestess seems to prophesy disaster... 
 

 
The suggestive “From Lust To Shame” flows steadily through martial rhythms and exotic flavours while the following “A Gentle Soul” is reflective and dreamy. “After The Cure” is a piece with some echoes of new wave and a dark, Gothic sound that seems chiselled by a smith... 
 
Then the melancholic “Faded Elation” leads to title track and to the mysteries of the oracle of Delphi. “The Delphic Prophecy” is a wonderful track that every now and again recalls seventies atmospheres and black and white TV series... Then it’s the turn of the nervous “Ancient Labyrinth” where we can follow the thread of Arianna or admire Dedalo’s bold, clever plans to escape. “Ethereal Noise” closes the album with some nice soaring electric guitar parts and some hypnotic keyboard passages. 
 
On the whole, a good album, especially recommended if you like bands such as L’Ombra della Sera... 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
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Monday, 18 January 2021

SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENTS

Alias is a project that took shape in Naples in 2019 when some talented musicians, with previous experiences in bands such as Orchestra Multietnica Mediterranea and Napoli Centrale, teamed up to experiment an original kind of progressive ethno-rock blending different styles ranging from classical music and folk to jazz and classic rock. In 2020 the band self-released an interesting debut album entitled The Second Sun with a line up featuring Romilda Bocchetti (vocals, piano, keyboards, darbuka), Giovanni Guarrera (classical guitar, backing vocals), Ezio Felaco (bass) and Fredy Malfi (drums) plus the guest Max Fuschetto (oboe) on one track. Although among their sources of inspiration they mention King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Tangerine Dream or Terry Riley in my opinion these names could be misleading since the folk-jazz vein tends to prevail. The whole album is dedicated to the memory of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, so the art cover by painter, writer and poet Raffaele Bocchetti represnts a psychedelic version of the Wardenclyffe Tower, an early experimental wireless transmission station designed and built by Nikola Tesla on Long Island in 1901-1902... 
 

 
The instrumental opener “Red Six” sets the atmosphere. It’s a beautiful piece that blends classical music, melody and jazz and leads to the following “Pitch Black”, a complex track that tries to evoke in music and words the dreams and hopes of some migrants travelling on a fragile boat and looking for a better future in a foreign land. Soon dreams turn into nightmares in a black night on a raging sea that seems on the point to swallow them at any moment... What’s left is just a hint of regret and the need to breathe to survive. 
 

 
“Mediterraneo Prog” is a charming instrumental track blending jazz and Middle-Eastern influences. It starts softly by a piano solo passage, then the rhythm takes off and music veers to exotic territories: try to imagine a Cantalupe Island lost in the Mediterranean sea and let the notes show you the way... The following “Around The Universe” is a dreamy piece freely based upon a poem by Raffaele Bocchetti that tells of an oneiric journey through planets and stars in the sidereal silence while the instrumental “Danza dei due mondi” (Dance of the two worlds) is a wonderful celebration of Mediterranean colours that starts by a nylon string guitar solo pattern and gradually turns into a prog tarantella that could recall PFM... 
 

 
The long, complex “The Second Sun” tries to evoke in music and words the visionary experiments of Nikola Tesla. There’s a subtle aura of mystery, dark notes reflect the light as tension rises and time stands still, then you get lost in a labyrinth of magnetic fields with thousand echoes thundering in your mind at the dawn of a second sun... The instrumental “Samsara” every now and again reminds me of Noa and Gil Dor and closes the album with a burst of positive energy. The title refers to the endless cycle of life through birth, death and rebirth and the music flows cheerfully, blending prog and folkloric influences... 
 
On the whole, a successful experiment! 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
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Sunday, 10 January 2021

FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON

 Avocado Moon Experiment is a project from Turin started in 2016 with the aim of composing a sci-fi rock opera blending progressive rock and metal. The project took a more definite form in 2020 and on the 30th of December of the same year the band digitally self-released a promising debut album entitled Darrell's Journal 2116 with a line up featuring composer and multi-instrumentalist Giuseppe Floridia (guitar, keyboards, bass, vocals) along with Marco Benigno (vocals), Giulia Valerin (vocals), Luca Ragusa (guitar, bass) and Luca Zanon (drums) plus the guests Jacopo Albini (clarinet), Madalina Smocov (flute), Maria Beatrice Venanzi (violin) and Giuseppe Vizzini (flute). The album was recorded and mixed by Giuseppe Floridia in his Floryd Sounds Studio and collects the first five chapters of what is meant as a work in progress telling a long story set in a dystopic future... 
 

 
The nervous opener “Chapter 1: Dawn In Salem” sets the atmosphere and introduces the subject matter. In 2116, in a dreamless world, after a restless night the protagonist, a man called Darrell who lives in the city of Salem, volunteers for a project named Avocado Moon Experiment. The A.M.E. project was launched by the firm Avocado Industries that after the construction of a city on the moon named Jera, now looks for some people to send there to experience a new utopia: a life where money and work are not necessary in a place where everything is in charge to the machines... 
 

 
In “Chapter 2: The Spacewhale”, on a steady marching pace we can follow the journey from the earth to the moon through Darrell’s journal. The following “Chapter 3: Beyond The Clouds” begins by a guitar arpeggio and soaring, dreamy notes of flute in the forefront backed by the rhythm section and the organ. Three months after the arrival in Jera life goes on lazy and peaceful but the protagonist feels that something is missing and his sense of nostalgia and confusion is strong. Then Darrell begins a relationship with a woman called Scarlett and they find mutual understanding and comfort... 
 
Avocado Moon Experiment, 2020

 
Next comes “Chapter 4: Innocence” that tells of the doubts and regrets of Darrell and Scarlett. They wonder where’s gone the inner fire that can stir desires and emotions and, between instinct and reason, they realize that something is lost while memories come back and the awareness of a new responsibility emerges... The last track, “Chapter 5: The Star Rover”, features some excellent, classical inspired, instrumental passages and welcomes the birth of the son of Darrell and Scarlett, Charles the Star Rover, who will learn to travel through space and time... 
 

 
On the whole, this is a good album with an interesting concept, nice melodies, a good interaction between theatrical male and female vocals and some beautiful instrumental passages. Waiting for the next chapters of the story, we have here a work of more than 32 minutes of music that is really worth listening to... 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
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Monday, 4 January 2021

GIVE AND TAKE

 UT New Trolls are just one of the many offshoots of historic Genoese New Trolls (like Ibis, New Trolls Atomic System and Tritons in the seventies and later La Storia dei New Trolls, Il Mito dei New Tolls, Il Cuore dei New Trolls, La Leggenda dei New Trolls...), all featuring some of the old members claiming the heritage of the original band. This project took off in 2011 under the name Uno Tempore on the initiative of New Trolls’ historic members Gianni Belleno and Maurizio Salvi who gathered around them a bunch of talented musicians with the aim of reviving the “prog soul” of New Trolls, in particular performing live pieces from the 1972 album Ut and other material from the early seventies. In 2012 a live album entitled Live In Milano was released under the name Uno Tempore New Trolls and in 2013 the band with the name shortened to UT New Trolls released a brand new studio work entitled Do Ut Des on the independent label Immaginifica with a renewed line up featuring Gianni Belleno (drums, vocals), Maurizio Salvi (keyboards, piano, Hammond), Alessandro Del Vecchio (keyboards, piano, vocals), Claudio Cinquegrana (electric and acoustic guitar) and Anna Portalupi (bass). Despite the good intentions, I have to say that for a prog fan the fruits of their work could have a bitter taste since the prog soul of the band here seems to be smothered by the prevailing pop, melodic vein that is also part of New Trolls’ DNA... 
 

 
The album opens with promising short instrumental “Paganini”, then comes “Per ogni lacrima” (For every tear), a piece about the healing power of friendship and love that starts with a sparkling, classical inspired, organ passage. Unfortunately, after a minute the music veers to AOR and could remind of New Trolls’ albums like Aldebaran rather than Ut. 
 
“La luce di Vermeer” (Vermeer’s light) combines melodic vocal parts and bolder instrumental passages. It’s a good piece where the lyrics invite you to look in a different way at people who serve time in prison because not all of them took deliberately the career of evil but some where just doomed by an ill fate and a difficult social condition. Even those branded with the sign of Cain should deserve another chance and bit of respect... 
 

 
The following “Oltre il cielo” (Beyond the sky) is just a melodic ballad dealing with the need to overcome the consequences of the traumatic end of a relationship while “Rispettare può salvare” (Respecting can save) is a reflection about the never ending conflicts in the Middle East and the troubled situation in Palestine. The softer parts evoke a comet over Bethlehem and the hope that sooner or later men will learn the mutual respect and live in peace...
 
“Do Ut Des” (Give and take) is a beautiful piece, featuring many brilliant classical inspired passages and lyrics inspired by an absolute love for Music. Next comes “Sarà per noi” (It will be for us) a touching, romantic ballad with beautiful harmony vocals. Then the dreamy “Siamo ancora qui” (We’re still here) tries to express the feelings and the emotion of the musicians on stage, even after many years of career... 
 

 
The swinging “Sporca politica” (Dirty politics) is a kind of ranting against the politicians who waste the money collected with taxes in their games of power but in my opinion the committed lyrics and the carefree music are neither here nor there and this is probably the weakest point of the album. The closer “Can’t Go On” could be considered as a bonus track since it’s just the English version of “Oltre il cielo” sung by the special guest Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen from Toto. 
 
On the whole, in my opinion this is a good AOR album with some hints of prog that should be of interest for fans of bands such as Toto but that is not essential in a prog collection.
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
 
 



Friday, 1 January 2021

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

 Ages is an Ep that was released by Anabasi Road in 2016, two years after their eponymous full length album. The line up is the same of their previous work and features Andrea Giberti (vocals, harmonica), Massimiliano Braglia (electric and acoustic guitar), Alessio Gambarelli (guitar, flute, backing vocals), Riccardo Vecchi (bass, backing vocals), Luca Orlandini (keyboards, organ, piano, synth) and Nicholas Corradini (drums, guitar, backing vocals) but a string quartet contributed to enrich the sound during the recording sessions with good results. The overall sound is a mix of vintage prog, hard rock, classical influences and blues expressed with enthusiasm and passion. The beautiful drawings by Giulia Tubertini for the art cover and booklet try to give you an idea of the colourful musical content...
 

In fact, all the tracks of this EP are linked together and form a long suite divided into four parts where the music and lyrics tell of a personal crises with its traumas, doubts and hopes depicted with vivid colours and surreal images. The first part, “What Does It Mean?”, describes the point of no return with the deterioration of the family routine and the desire to escape and experience a new way of life. For this section of the suite the band shot a video that you can find on YT or as a bonus on the CD. 
 

 
Bridge To Another Rainbow, Part I: Sunset Prelude is an instrumental section with the string quartet in the forefront and melancholic, evocative passages melting into the tormented “Bridge To Another Rainbow, Part II: Morning Comes” that describes a time of difficult choices and challenges where fears and forgotten hopes emerge and you have to look deeply into your soul to break free and find again your self-esteem... The powerful, reassuring section entitled “The Dream Machine” is about the daily fight to affirm your ideals and personality and ends the suite with its positive energy. 
 
On the whole, a nice work that deserves a try. 
 
You can listen to the complete EP HERE
 
More info: