Friday, 8 December 2017

PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA

Afasia were formed in Rome in 2011 on the initiative of guitarist and composer Francesco Lori who teamed up with Fabio Riccucci and Francesco De Santis to work on a new project inspired by bands such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, King Crimson but also newer ones like Opeth and Dream Theater just to name but a few. After a long, hard work and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2016 Afasia finally self-released a debut album entitled Nelle vesti del mio ego with a renewed line up featuring Francesco Lori (guitars), Fabio Riccucci (drums), Giuseppe Poveromo (keyboards), Damiano Lanciano (bass) and Marco Civilla (vocals). It’s a long, complex concept album that tells in music and words the story of a madman who escapes from a mental hospital and later arrested and sentenced to death for murder. The heartfelt, theatrical vocals play the characters and try to convey their feelings while the music underlines the storyline. There are many changes in mood and rhythm with aggressive passages influenced by metal sounds and calmer, dreamy ones… In my opinion this is an excellent work but beware! It could be hard to appreciate it if you can’t follow the plot…



The opener, “Nelle vesti del mio ego part I” (In the guise of my ego), starts softly on the notes of a carillon, then electric guitar and Gothic choirs bring a disquieting mood and evoke conflictual feelings. The music and lyrics depict a patient in a mental hospital: four walls separate him from reality, he has forged an imaginary armour to protect him for the curiosity of other people and in his personal inner-world he lives every day a new adventure that gives him strength. He feels different from anybody else and his soul walks on the thin thread of fate… The echoes of his screams flow and rebound on the walls of his cell, strange forces keep him blocked, evil eyes are staring at him… They tell him that he’ll be better soon and he is forced to relax, he feels like melting in a dark lake, his body gives up... Then consciousness comes back and gives shape to the pain, as the senses awake a furious rage wears him out from within in the guise of his ego...

“La grazia di Andromeda” (Andromeda’s grace) marks a change of mood. The atmosphere becomes calmer, almost romantic. It’s dark, through the open window the wind caresses the face of the protagonist of the story, the night comforts him. Then he sees a woman and her face shines like a beam of hope… Is she real? He calls her Andromeda. Her voice is like a melody, it’s like magic. She whispers to him that he’s not the only one who cries and suffers in this place and that she’s with him. He falls in love, her grace gives him strength...


The following “Grida dall’Ade” (Screams from Hades) begins softly but it’s just the calm before the storm. The protagonist can see the nurses coming in and deal with Andromeda. She’s shouting no! He can hear the echoes of her screams, he feels impotent, he would fight against those demons with a thousand weapons but he can’t, he’s crying for her… Her tears freeze him and his rage rises. He looks for vengeance… He binds his time and manages to steal some canisters when his guardians are distracted. His shrewdness and his rage allow him to knock down the torturers, in his mind even love is screaming for vengeance! So, he kills the nurses and escapes with Andromeda...

“Perseo” (Perseus) describes the breakthrough with emphatic, powerful tones mixing mythology and madness. Perseus is, in Greek mythology, the hero and slayer of monsters who saved Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. Here the protagonist experiences the feeling of being strong and invincible when running out of his prison with her beloved Andromeda… He prays Zeus to protect them along their way between hell and sea and dreams of a winged horse to ride away, free from the tyranny of the mental hospital. No Medusa nor Titans can stop them...


The long, complex “La valle delle ruote meccaniche” (The valley of the mechanical wheels) begins with dreamy atmospheres and pastel colours… Out of the hospital walls everything seems better and beautiful, the green of the fields contrasts with the blue of the sky on the horizon as the protagonists fly away, hand in hand with Andromeda. They go east, where there are signs of civilization, where they can hide in a city… But as the landscape changes, the smells become almost poisonous, there are endless streets, they can see strange, almost threatening skyscrapers in the dark… What kind of place is this? Metallic monsters are oozing grey vapours and their noises are driving the protagonist completely insane. He can see people inside strange talking boxes that seem feeding on brains… This is the real madness, his greatest phobia! He’s confused but realizes that he has committed an error, this is not freedom but just a cruel world where the thirst of power rules… His hopes die away in the valley of the mechanical wheels that turn men into slaves. As his dreams vanish the protagonist curses this merciless society made of incertitude and carelessness… Then someone captures him, Andromeda manages to run away but he’s caught and arrested as a criminal… He killed to protect his love and now the weight of his act is like a boulder that smashes him down… He falls down into an inner abyss, nightmares take over, finally they stun him… Now time flows slowly, fragile and tired… Without love nor wings!

“Nelle vesti del mio ego part II” describes the sad epilogue. The doors of the court of justice are going to be opened and we can hear the reflections of the protagonist about his behaviour before the trial. He’s aware that soon he’ll pass away, sentenced to death, but leaving this world eventually could mean that his soul will be set free, his memories will be erased and he will find a place in new dimensions, maybe in another world where prejudice does not rule and where he could finally meet with Andromeda again… At the moment of the trial the music turns to sarcastic tones evoking a kind of circus where the protagonist is treated like a beast, a human scum, a public enemy, a dangerous, mad murderer. Of course, he is found guilty and sentenced to death… Then the music evokes the return to naught and every now and again it makes me think of the final track of Le Orme’s Felona e Sorona. At last the protagonist feels he’s melting in a dark lake and his body gives up… He’s going to meet the creator in a dream without awakening where a new utopia will cradle him in the sky, forever and ever…

All in all I think that this is a really good album. The songwriting is good and the music perfectly fits the storyline even if it could be difficult appreciate it at the very first spin. Anyway, have a try! You can listen to the complete album on deezer or spotify…


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Sunday, 12 November 2017

FROM AN ISLAND

Island Tales is the first full length album by La Rua Catalana, a band from Benevento formed in 2009. It was released in 2015 on the independent label Octopus Records with a line up featuring Leonardo De Stasio (vocals, guitars), Corrado Ciervo (violin, guitars, keyboards, synth, backing vocals), Vittorio Coviello (flute, backing vocals), Marco Coviello (drums, cajon, percussion, didgeridoo) and Carlo Ciervo (bass). After two EP and a good live activity on the local scene, the band had the chance to spend some time in the old monastery of Zungoli, near Avellino, to work on their compositions and the peaceful atmosphere and the good vibrations of this unusual location contributed to shape the overall sound of the album, influenced by bands such as The Beatles, Jethro Tull and many others...


After the pre-production, for the recording sessions in the studio they were helped by some guest musicians such as Daniele Pescatore (keyboards), Valentina Acca (backing vocals), Fabio Cesare (sax), Luigi De Cicco (guitar) and a string quartet, the Arechi Quartet featuring Lorenza Maio (violin), Federica Paduano (violin), Federica Bibbo’ (viola) and Alessandra Ercolani (cello). The result of their efforts is good, although at times I would have preferred they had used their native language instead of English...

La Rua Catalana 2015

According to the band, the title of the album, Island Tales, refers to a metaphorical island, a kind of shelter from the storms of life where time stands still and you can live your dreams. The music is not overtly complex but always well refined and the simple melodies are enhanced by intriguing parts of flute and strings. The opener, “Moon's Joke” is a dynamic ballad dedicated to the people in search for happiness that every now and again recalls Jethro Tull, then comes the jazzy “The Island” that tells of lost dreams and shining smiles opposed to a bleak reality...

The caustic “The Colonel” was inspired by the fictional character of Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, portrayed by Marlon Brando, while the following, bitter-sweet “The clown” tells of a sad man who has to make people laugh for a living. Then comes “Song For Jeff”, inspired by the death of Jeff Buckley and musically a bit in debt with George Harrison…


The swinging, careless “Dreamland” is about an escape from reality, a visionary daydream where you can find an ideal world. Next come the cover of a Tunng’s song, “Bullets”, and the melodic, light “Escape! (Break!)”. The new romantic waves of the folksy ballad “Goodbye” bring other dreams under the moonlight while the following “Slow Down” is more complex and tells about the need to take a pause from the daily grind.

The nervous “And I'll Never Know” (about a difficult relationship) and the delicate, melancholic “Gold And Silver Wings” (about a solitary man who tries to escape from the gilded cage of his routine) close an album full of interesting ideas and light melodies that is worth listening to...

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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