Ornithos began life in Perugia in 1999 on the initiative of Diego Petrini and Federico Caprai. Both founder members later contribute to form another excellent band, Il Bacio della Medusa, and for some time Ornithos became just a kind of side project. So, it wasn't until 2007 that they started to work hard on a debut album that was finally released in 2012 on the independent label AMS/BTF with a line up featuring along with Diego Petrini (drums, percussion, Mellotron, organ, piano, vocals) and Federico Caprai (bass, vocals) another member of Il Bacio della Medusa, Eva Morelli (flute, sax), Antonello De Cesare (guitars, vocals), Simone Morelli (guitars) and Maria Giulia Carnevalini (vocals). The result of their efforts is a complex concept album, “La trasfigurazione” (The transfiguration), that tries to describe in music and words the cathartic path that a man has to walk to reach the highest level of his consciousness, purifying himself to live in harmony with the universe. The overall sound of the band is clearly influenced by bands such as Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and by the Italian prog masters of the seventies but there are many original ideas as well.
The concept is divided in three chapters. The first one, “Il trittico del tempo che fu” (The triptych of the past), takes you back in time for an inner trip as through a psychoanalytical session. The opener “L'orologio” (The clock) begins softly and you can hear the strikes of a clock... “Unrelenting, time passes by and everything changes... We change too...”. There are many changes in rhythm and mood, lively flute passages alternates with frenzied guitar solos drawing you in the vortex of time. The following track “La persistenza della memoria” (The persistence of memory), drives you towards obscure, invisibles cities and in such surroundings the mind loses its perspective as if it was lost in a limbo, “time and space become trivial and unreal, and echoes of a forgotten prehistoric past beat insistently upon the enthralled consciousness...” (well, this is quote from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft I was reading when listening for the first time to the album, The Tomb, from 1917). Past memories hanging on the heart of Time shine through dreamy atmospheres leading to “Somatizzando l'altare di fuoco” (Somatizing the altar of fire) that marks the beginning of a new awareness. Here Ennio Morricone comes to mind thanks to a sax solo evoking a “spaghetti western” scenario. The instrumental “Ipostasi” concludes the first chapter. It features tango and flamenco flavours and tries to describe the perpetual fight between sensuality and spirituality.
The second chapter, “Presa di coscienza del presente” (Awareness of the present) begins with the lively marching beat of the beautiful instrumental “Al torneo” (At the tournament). Fiery keyboards rides alternates with aggressive guitar solos evoking the eternal fight against false morals and media that try to manipulate your brain. The following “L'arrivo dell'orco – Fuga” (The arrival of the ogre – Fugue) is jazzier, darker. It's another excellent instrumental that tries to describe the fight of a man against discord and fear (allegorically impersonated by the character of the ogre). It leads to the dreamy “Nuvole e luce” (Clouds and light) where the clear voice of Maria Giulia Carnevalini evokes magic perfumes and bright colours. Time is sliding away, confused by sources of light. But hatred is always biding its time and the short “Ritorno al... (Reprise)”, a reprise of “Al torneo”, sounds like a warning suggesting that you can never relax and give up your fight. “Salamandra: regina di Psiche e Saggezza” (Salamander: queen of Psyche and Wisdom) concludes the second chapter with the lead vocals provided by Diego Petrini and Maria Giulia Carnevalini underlying the insecurity and uncertainty created by an inner conflict. Without pain and memory you can't understand the complexity of the world and you risk to become just like a giant of metal with the wings of a mosquito, a dummy with an arid, insensitive heart.
The last chapter “Quiete e redenzione del domani” (Quiet and redemption of the future) begins with “Nel crepuscolo” (At dusk). A drum roll and some hard guitar riffs soon give way to a calmer, dreamy passage and to some sax notes that seem glancing towards the sky. The sundown inspires reflections about a dying day while you are searching for your way that time hides. On the following track, “La notte” (The night), the rhythm rises again and shadows start dancing as witches in a black Sabbath. The wind shakes you and you have to fight your demons without regrets. The complex instrumental “L'alba del nuovo giorno” (Dawn of the new day) describes a desperate running along the path of knowledge and the rediscovery of life while the last track, “This is what we've got: the Flute Song” is sung in English and marks the palingenesis of your soul describing a kind of spiritual rebirth that makes you live in harmony with your ancestors... “In the theatre of life everything can become a tragedy... History rests chained in the past, and then reborn... And this is what we've got!”.
To be honest the lyrics are not the strength of this album and I find the concept not completely convincing. In my opinion the plot is a bit confused and your imagination has to fill all the gaps. Well, maybe the art cover by Federico Caprai describes the atmosphere of this album better than my words, anyway the music is really good and I think that this album really deserves a try!
Ornithos: La trasfigurazione (2012). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: This is music for lovers of the craft, not product for quick consumption. An adventure with emotional highs and lows. And that is where Ornithos ties back to Medusa...both take you on adventures... (read the complete review HERE).
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Eclecticism is the name of the game on La Trasfigurazione, an album that honours the golden age of Italian prog while at the same time searching for new avenues of expression... As is the case with most Italian progressive rock, La Trasfigurazione can be somewhat of an acquired taste, and definitely not for those who favour a minimalistic approach. Musically speaking, even if the album might command the controversial “retro” tag, there is also a sense of modernity in the band’s omnivorous approach which pushes Ornithos’ sound into the 21st century. True, the album occasionally comes across as a tad overambitious when it wants to cram too many ideas into a limited running time of 56 minutes. However, this is a band that possesses talent in spades, and La Trasfigurazione will make a strong impression on lovers of everything RPI – as well as providing a fine complement to Il Bacio della Medusa’s newly released third album, Deus Lo Vult... (read the complete review HERE).