Sunday, 6 June 2021

OF LOVE, SUN AND STARS

 And The Stars Above is the third album by Armonite, a project based in Pavia led by composer and keyboardist Paolo Fosso and violinist Jacopo Bigi with the aim of mixing rock and classical chamber music. It was released in 2018 on the independent label Cleopatra Records and recorded with the help of many prestigious guest musicians such as Alberto Fiorani (bass), Colin Edwin (bass), Giacomo Lampugnani (bass), Gianmarco Straniero (bass), Corrado Bertonazzi (drums), Emiliano Cava (drums), Jasper Barendregt (drums), Maria Chiara Montagnari (vocals) and Diletta Fosso (vocals). The album is almost completely instrumental and confirms all the good qualities of their previous works. The art cover by Lele Picà tries to capture the musical content and probably describes the album better than my words: the man who waits at a train platform with a balloon in his hand gives an idea of human activities and of their potential, of the horizontal dimension of life but also of its upward motion... In fact, according to the band, the album was conceived as an imaginary soundtrack for a spiritual journey in twelve legs, from the Earth to the stars...



The opener “The March Of The Stars” starts by violin, piano and soaring vocals singing the last verses from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, then the rhythm section comes in and a disquieting marching beat leads you to the sidereal horizons where Love moves the Sun and the other stars...

The dynamic “Next Ride” takes you further in the infinite space while the following “District Red” blends classical music and rock with a touch of exoticism. Then it’s the turn of “Plaza de España” that begins by a delicate, dreamy piano pattern and slowly develops into a surreal bolero...

 


Clouds Collide” is a nice, romantic song interpreted by Maria Chiara Montagnari and dealing with childhood memories and the loss of innocence where different feelings, dreams and notes roll in the sky like clouds clashing into each other and marking Time with a fragrance of Love...

The nervous “Blue Curaçao” follows and leads to “By Heart” that combines acoustic atmospheres and a touch of electronica. “Freaks” starts by a soft piano pattern before turning into more experimental territories while “By The Waters Of Babylon” is a melancholic, acoustic piece with a mysterious atmosphere...

 

Armonite 2018

The Usual Drink” is a short, delicate piece for piano and violin with a particular Mid-European flavour that contrasts with the frenzied mood of the following “What's The Rush?”. The evocative “Ghosts” closes the journey while the last two pieces, “A Playful Day (for Strings Quartet)” and “The Fire Dancer (for Piano Solo)” are considered bonus tracks.

On the whole, I enjoyed the album and I think that it’s a really good work.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:

 



Friday, 14 May 2021

MAD PRESSURE

 The second album by Mad Fellaz is entitled Mad Fellaz II and was self-released in 2016 with a renewed line up featuring Paolo Busatto (guitar), Marco Busatto (drums), Jason Nealy (guitar), Carlo Passuello (bass), Enrico Brunelli (keyboards), Rudy Zilio (flute, clarinet), Lorenzo Todesco (percussion) and Anna Farronato (vocals) plus some guests such as Flavio Brun (sax), Alessandro Brunetta (sax) and Sean Lucarello (trumpet). The artwork by Maria Todesco perfectly fits the musical content, a magic brew of different influences ranging from jazz to classical music, from Santana to Jethro Tull and many more...
 

 
The long opener “Hollow Shell” is a good mix of exoticism, jazz, folk and psychedelia evoking a dream world where time passes by through dangerous love affairs, ephemeral feelings and vain efforts to fill a life that could be perceived as empty when you get lost in a constant search for pleasure without the project to form a family or other goals...
 
The following “Blood Pressure” is a long suite divided into two parts that starts softly. In the first part the mood is relaxed, then the rhythm section begins to pump up the pressure, the tension rises and the stroke is just behind the corner as your heart seems on the verge of explosion trying to keep up the pace...
 
Mad Fellaz 2015

 
“Me Gusta” is a nice instrumental track where fiery Latin rhythm patterns are combined with hard rock, jazz and oriental flavours. Then it’s the turn of “O.V.O. (Of Virtual Omniscience)”, another long piece where you can find many changes in atmosphere and mood taking you on winding, endless roads across oneiric realms... 
 

 
Two instrumental tracks close the album. “Moslem Sabbath”, as you can guess from the title, combines hard rock and Middle-Eastern influences. After a heavy start marked by powerful electric guitar riffs and a sudden change in rhythm, it veers to more peaceful passages and represents a very strange call for a day of rest and prayer while the following “Meet The Gooroo” takes off like a glider and tries to lead you towards an inspirational source revealing the meaning of life... 
 

 
On the whole a very good work, even if the jazz trained vocals every now and again could sound a bit out of place. Anyway, have a try and judge for yourselves... 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
Mad Fellaz: Mad Fellaz II (2016). Other opinions: 
Michael “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: The addition of vocals (and English ones at that) to much of what was a thrilling instrumental act is going to be a difficult thing to accept for some earlier listeners of Mad Fellaz, particularly when the group was doing so well already with the kind of music they were offering on their debut. However, if you pay proper attention, all the same instrumental skill and flair of the first album is always present here, just that it's sometimes in the background behind the vocals, or taking prominence in and out around the voice. Perhaps the group might have considered releasing a two-CD version of the album that included a purely instrumental mix of the main album, or even adopting a different name for this vocal-driven project… (read the complete review HERE) 
 

Monday, 10 May 2021

POPES AND KINGS

Twenty Flying Kings is the fourth studio album by Court, from Varese. It was recorded during several sessions that took place between 2007 and 2012 and finally released in 2012 on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records with the renewed line up featuring Marco Pedrini (vocals), Mosè Nodari (guitars, oboe, recorders, vocals), Jacopo Favrin (bass), Marco Strobel (guitar, mandolin, keyboards) and Francesco Vedani (drums, percussion, keyboards) plus some guests such as Luigi Bonacina (bass), Andrea Balliano (classical guitar), Giandomenico Fraschini (piano) and Andrea Cajelli (percussion). The album summarizes the history of the band, whose roots date back to 1990, and marks a new starting point. In fact, it features four pieces from their early period re-arranged by the new line up, two tracks originally released on the Colossus-Musea themed album The Divine Comedy Part I – Dante’s Inferno and one previously unreleased track... 

  
 

The opener “Cries” is a shortened, condensed but not less effective version of a piece from the 1993 debut album “And You'll Follow The Winds' Rush 'till Their Breath Dwells”, a heartfelt complaint against war and tyranny. There’s no glorious victory that can revive the dead nor heal the ruin left behind by the armies fighting in the name of their whimsical kings... 
 
The following “Anastasius’ Epitaph” and “The Great Bear Rising” are linked together and come from Dante’s Inferno. Their source of inspiration is the Canto XI of the Divine Comedy that describes the meeting between the sommo poeta and Pope Anastasius II. In a damned place where even spring has a strange smell words like heresy and betrayal hide an obscure meaning... 
 

 
“Sumptuous Moment” is an extended new version of the wonderful epic from Court’s second album Distances, where the band manage to develop some ideas and showcase great maturity and gusto. It’s a visionary celebration of the power of Mother Nature, inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, where a thunder storm combines the charms of winter and of hell... Here folk influences and classical flavours are combined with the energy of rock instruments to conjure up a dreamy atmosphere and bring to life wandering shadows lost in the woods under the moon... 
 
Court 2019

 
The first version of the melancholic “Lovers” was originally released on the debut album and here the band gives new life to the tragic story of a princess that preys night and day for the return of his beloved knight who is gone abroad, over the see, to fight in the name of the his king. When the army comes back without him she jumps down from the tower to fly away and meet her man... 
 
The short, delicate acoustic ballad “Dream Tale” is the only original track and tells of a child who dreams of being a brave knight in a fantastic world full of adventures... It takes to the re-arranged version of another long epic piece from the debut album, “Alviss’ Revenge”, inspired by Norse Mythology and Nordic sagas. It tells a bloody story of rings and vengeance, kings and Valkyries, robberies and murders and ends an album that is really worth listening to. 
 
 
Have a try! 
 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
 
More info:



 

Thursday, 6 May 2021

EERY FORESTS AND CASTLES

Wyrd is the third album by Roman project Ellesmere and was released in 2020 on the independent label AMS Records. To complete the line up and enrich the sound, this time composer and multi instrumentalist Roberto Vitelli (bass, guitar, Moog) gathered around him many prestigious guests such as Mattias Olsson (drums, from Anglagard, and White Willow), Tomas Bodin (keyboards, from The Flower Kings), David Cross (violin, from King Crimson), John Hackett (flute), David Jackson (sax, from Van Der Graaf Generator), Tony Pagliuca (keyboards, from Le Orme), Luciano Regoli (vocals, from Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno and DGM), Fabio Liberatori (keyboards, from Il Poliedro di Leonardo and the new line up of Reale Accademia di Musica), Fabio Bonuglia (keyboards, Mellotron, Hammond, Moog) and Giorgio Pizzala (vocals). The result is a good mix of vintage sounds, modern prog and jazz rock with a wide range of influences ranging from Yes, King Crimson or Kansas to Transatlantic, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard.

 


The wonderful artwork by Rodney Matthews recalls the style of Roger Dean and evokes wondrous stories and epic adventures in fantastic worlds and enchanted woods. The first three tracks are linked together and form an excellent suite. On “Challenge” you can hear the voice of a young warrior leaving his country for new territories crawling with tall tales, myths and stories of haunted spirits and goblins. He’s hiding under the cloak of his dreams as the wind blows... “The Eery Manor” is a sparkling instrumental section where John Hackett and David Jackson showcase all their great talent painting disquieting atmospheres and adding vivid touches of colours to the picture with saxes, flutes and other wind instruments. After a long ride through a dark forest on a strange horse among nymphs, friendly dwarves and lurking werewolves you’re in sight of a mysterious castle... “Endeavour” ends the first part of the album combining dreamy, pastoral parts and harder passages and could recall every now and again ELP or Van Der Graaf Generator. The warrior relies on his good luck to defy the fate and discover what’s hidden behind the walls of the castle...

 


The second part of the album (or the side B of the LP) begins with “Ajar” and a martial marching beat. Echoes of Delirium III could come to mind. Hardly any sunlight breaks through the dense tree tops of the forest, and the myths surrounding these woods are more fantastical than paranormal. You can imagine hunting Tarkus and other strange creatures all around... However, the only way to know for certain what monsters await around the next bend is to venture out into the darkness yourself...

The long instrumental “Endless” closes the album. There are other surprises along the way that you might never expect to find deep in the woods and so it's no surprise that the surreal world depicted in the art cover could develop a reputation for spooky sounds and ghostly apparitions. Some cinematic passages could recall Ennio Morricone and stir the imagination of the listener and could be the perfect for a fantasy film score...

On the whole, a very good album. Especially recommended to symphonic prog lovers!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info: