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)




venerdì 19 settembre 2014

A NEO-GOTHIC LEGEND

The Legend Of The Holy Circle is the second album by Three Monks, an instrumental project from Arezzo led by composer and organist Paolo “Julius” Lazzari and bassist Maurizio “Bozorius” Bozzi. As on the previous album, during the recording sessions they were helped by Claudio “Ursinius” Cuseri and Roberto “Placidus” Bichi who, in turns, took charge of drums. In my opinion, this work, released in 2013 on Black Widow Records, confirms all the good qualities of its predecessor and goes even further with the musicians trying elaborate a real storyline through their music: in fact, according to an interview with the band, this is a concept album, a kind of score for a film that you have to build up. Anyway, there are no liner notes to explain the plot and there's nothing but the music, the art cover by Margherita Zanotti, some pictures and the titles of the tracks to suggest how the story unfurls. All the rest is left to the sensibility and imagination of the listener...


The opener “The Holy Circle” sets the atmosphere with dark pipe organ rides and frenzied bass lines. Traditionally, circles were believed by ritual magicians to form a protective barrier between themselves and what they summoned and the Holy Circle is supposed to be the main line of defence against the forces of the Outside. On the art cover you can see three mysterious characters with their hands stretched out on a strange sphere where shines the light of a dangerous, powerful force while here the music evokes esoteric practices and infernal dances...

The following “Into Mystery” begins by threatening, obsessive bass lines and a hypnotic marching beat, then solemn church-like organ notes soar taking you across dark places where strange rituals are celebrated. It could be the perfect background for the reading of the works of H. P. Lovecraft or Gustav Meyrink...


The Battle Of Marduk” is even tenser. It seems to describe a raging battle against the devils summoned from the other-world. What kind of devils? Well, Marduk is the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia associated with water, vegetation, judgement, and magic... Scenes from films like The Mummy or The Scorpion King could come to mind while listening to the different passages of this complex track full of dark energy.

The Rest Of The Sacred Swarm” comes like the calm after the storm. It's a beautiful adagio for pipe organ solo that draws you between the desert aisles of a Gothic cathedral. It leads to “Rieger” where you can experience a breathtaking mystical experience surrounded by strong smells of incense. Th title of this track refers to the Austrian master organ-builder from the XIX century Franz Rieger and in the inner sleeve you can admire a picture of a sumptuous pipe organ in Prague Cathedral...


Next comes the long, complex epic “The Strife Of Souls”, a magnificent track that every now and again reminds me of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and drives you through the many different moods and situations of a terrible conflict between Good and Evil, with angels and demons fighting all around. The brilliant “Toccata Neogotica #5 (Epilogue)” closes the circle evoking the immense force of destiny and waking you up from your uneasy dreams... On the whole a great album that everyone is free to interpret as he likes but that is absolutely worth listening to!

Three Monks: The Legend Of The Holy Circle (2013). Other opinions:
Kev Rowland: This is very much a band, all pulling together in the same direction, showing just how powerful a pipe organ can be in the hands of someone who really knows what he is doing... This is an incredible example of keyboard based progressive rock, and fans of this style definitely need to seek this out... (read the complete review HERE)
Mark Johnson: Sit back and revel in this unique opportunity to emerse yourself in prophetic church organ symphonies without vocals. After all, words would only detract from the music. Thankfully there are still musicians inspired by this form of music still creating... If you like the keyboards playing a primary role in the music you enjoy, then this album is definitely not to be missed... (read the complete review HERE)


lunedì 15 settembre 2014

EYE IN THE SKY

Locus Amoenus began life in 2010 in San Michele di Serino, a small town in the province of Avellino, in an area called Irpinia. The name of the band comes from a literary quote that refers to an ideal place where you can reflect about life and reality: an imaginary, beautiful spot and a real source of inspiration for the mind. After a hard work and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2013 the band self-released an excellent debut album, “Clessidra” (Hourglass), with a line up featuring Alessio Vito (vocals, guitar, flute), Raffaele Purgante (electric guitar), Antonio Di Filippo (sax), Alessandro Ragano (bass) and Mauro Cefalo (drums). The overall sound draws on many sources of inspiration ranging from classical music to jazz, from folk to metal, but the members of the band managed to add a good deal of original ideas, personality and freshness. The result is pretty good and even if on the album you can hear echoes from the seventies you can feel that this is not a clone act at all and, in my opinion, the music is really worth listening to from start to finish with an open mind.

art cover

The opener “Tra la mente e gli infiniti inverni dell'anima (Preludio)” (Between the mind and he infinite winters of the soul) sets the atmosphere of this work. It's a beautiful instrumental piece that starts at the sound of a bell and features many changes in mood and rhythm. The title is in some way related to the art cover by Davide Panarella that, according to an interview with the band, tries to capture the spirit of the whole album representing a glance through the soul's eye over an arid, cold reality.

Then comes the long, complex “Inverno” (Winter) that every now and again recalls bands such as Osanna, Van der Graaf Generator and Jethro Tull, with a good interaction between sax and flute. The music and lyrics depict an eye in the sky observing the bitter destiny of the earth: it looks at the earth's defeat from above while a tear wets its hermitage, sweeping away its malignity. Cold winds blow shaking the dry branches of a tree, then the tree drops its fruits and disquieting instrumental passages evoke a never ending winter. Clouds of smoke cover the sky and the light gets lost into the darkness while the tired eye keeps on looking at the gloomy landscape below, crying...


The following “Il suono di Lei” (Her sound) is another long, complex track. The mood is lighter, here the music and lyrics try to conjure up a mystical character, a goddess who can breath a new life into a bleak reality, waking up the senses with her singing. It's almost a parable about the cathartic power of music: there's no hope without the charming sounds coming out from some mysterious, enchanted woods... Only those sounds can break the chains of the daily grind!

Lettera di un folle” (Letter from a madman) begins by the sound of a quill writing frantically on paper and a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio, then the rhythm rises. There are many changes in rhythm and mood, some soft passages remind me of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, some others are wilder and remind me of Area and Il Balletto di Bronzo. The music and lyrics depict a man halfway between lucidity and folly who's drawing some images taken from a blurred reality that Time is blotting out. The words are moving on the paper like leafs falling from a tree: tired, they get lost along the way, in an eternal quest for a Love that whips the heart...

Locus Amoenus on stage

At over six minutes in length, “Amleto” (Hamlet) is the shortest track on the whole album but it's not not an easy listening one. In fact, this is an experimental piece featuring a free jazzy approach and confused voices in the background declaiming some verses from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The atmosphere is dark, suspended between dream and nightmare...

Next comes the melancholic “Anima” (Soul), a bitter-sweet reflection about life and afterlife where for a moment your soul breaks through and your mind begins to fly across a crying sky, over dreams and illusions, over hopes and disappointments, towards a fairy land where there's no room for pain. The come back to reality is hard when the parallel world you were dreaming of suddenly clashes with the usual routine of a life where everything is normal and boring.


The dreamy “I segni del Mio tempo” (The signs of My time) closes the album with a touching reflection about the effects of consumerism. In a world where materialism and money rule without mercy there's no room for real beauty and feelings. Music dies and poetry fades away while freedom fails... Well, after a silent pause there's still time for a sudden, hidden burst of rage and indignation!

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album where the poetical lyrics perfectly fit the music drawing melancholic, beautiful wintry landscapes suspended between dream and reality. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves!

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

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