Monday, 23 April 2012

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

Obscura is an interesting Italian prog band from Mantova that was formed in 1996 with a line up featuring Massimo Tabai (keyboards), Matteo Cavallari (guitars), Matteo Pinfari (bass), Marcello Ricci (drums), Barbara Mazzola (flute) and Luca Palleschi (vocals). The recording sessions for their first work, “Le città invisibili” (Invisible Cities), took place in 1997 but before the album was finished Luca Pallaschi left the band to join Moongarden and was replaced by Davide Cagnata. The album was released by Mellow Records only ten years later, when the band was already on a long “hiatus”. The sound quality is not flawless, especially the vocal parts since the singer Davide Cagnata joined the band at the very last moment and had a very short time for rehearsals, but the overall result is not bad at all and the band managed to put together some good compositions, in part inspired by the portraits of imaginary cities depicted by the Italian writer Italo Calvino in his novel Invisible Cities. You can find here a very nice flute work and inspired piano passages with atmospheres that every now and again recall early Genesis, King Crimson and BMS.



The opener “Mondo 3” (World 3) starts with a threatening marching beat in the background and a dark mood. It’s a piece about the absurdity of war. Crazy politicians, powerful businessmen and generals lead starving people in war and lifeless dawns lighten the eyes of the fighters... “No angels in the sky / Their bloodstained wings are too heavy...”.

The next track, “Bersabea”, is a short instrumental for piano and flute that was inspired by an imaginary city suspended between the distorted ideas of Heaven and Hell. It leads to the first part of the dreamy “Limbo Cosmico” (Cosmic Limbo) where the nostalgia for the music of the past is evident and every now and again seems almost talking to the wind... “Slave of your freedom / Now I have no voice to dream anymore... As an ancient melody / Your breath sleeps in space...”.



The agoraphobic “Ombre tra la folla” (Shadows among the crowd) is heavier, with electric guitar riffs in the forefront. The lyrics deal with the secret thoughts of a man who walks in the crowd... “A thick fog surrounds me / It’s my shield against the world... I want to steal your thoughts... Crazy shadows surround me... Laughs, tears, they will never have me / Boredom, indifference, this is the reality / My name has no story / I’m your nothingness...”.   

“Ipazia” is another short instrumental break featuring just acoustic guitar and flute. The name of this track refers to an imaginary city where the language is extremely misleading for the strangers and deceives them in many unexpected ways. It’s a perfect introduction to the following track, the ethereal “La Città del Sole” (The City of the Sun), a piece inspired by the utopian city described in 1602 by the Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella... “Perhaps we can’t breathe the fate that calls us sons...Here slaves and kings eat the same bread / Hate and Love are nothing but poetry... We will fall here in an oneiric Autumn / Citizens of a new utopia...”.


Then comes the second part of “Limbo Cosmico” that brings back dreamy atmospheres and deep crimson colours... “Tired prophets pray the void / They fear the day of Hope / Like me... Now I wander through gloomy roads / New cities will welcome my God / My only friend is the cry of thunder...”. It’s followed by the beautiful instrumental “Zemrude” that tries to describe in music a city whose form depends on the mood of the people who look at it.

The excellent last track, “Guernica”, closes the album with sad memories of war and a message of hope. Guernica is the title of a famous tableau by Pablo Picasso painted in 1937 and inspired by a scene of the Spanish Civil War. The lyrics depict motionless bloodstained walls and suffering people, then a new day that can light even the darkest pages of history... “A new day that will never set / A new beginning of a new life...”.

Well, on the whole this album is not a masterpiece but the band had a very good potential and it’s a pity they had to give up their activity. Anyway, you never know, maybe a reunion is still possible.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Obscura: Le città invisibili (2007). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: The album covers quite a bit of musical territory with sections that are quite rocking with distorted metalized chugging guitars to mid-range parts featuring neo-sounding keys, there is mellotron for the tron fanatics, and then all the way to pastoral sections of piano, acoustic, and flute. Sometimes the transitions can be harrowing but this keeps the pace a bit unpredictable and exciting-this is truly an album that will throw some surprises at you... The band seems to excel on the more delicate material and these poignant moments are what make the album... (read the complete review HERE)


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