La Maschera di Cera began life in Genoa in 2001 with a line up featuring Fabio Zuffanti (bass, acoustic guitar), Agostino Macor (piano, organ, mellotron, moog, harpsichord, synthesizer), Marco Cavani (drums, percussion), Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals) and Andrea Monetti (flute). Their aim was to re-discover the sounds and the dreamy atmospheres of the Italian progressive rock from the early seventies writing new original stuff with a vintage taste. In 2002 La Maschera di Cera released an eponymous debut album on the independent label Mellow Records with a beautiful art cover taken from a drawing by Jean Delville, a Belgian symbolist painter, writer and occultist. It's a concept album built upon a science-fiction plot: under the ruins of an ancient garden an archaeologist discovers a mysterious mask of wax dating back to 10.000 years B.C. Then, in a near catacomb he discovers a coat of armour...
|La Maschera di Cera 2002|
The opener, “La maschera di cera” (The wax mask) is a long suite divided into six sections. It begins softly, the atmosphere is dreamy and full of mystery... “Face of wax / I saw you in the wide garden / On the day of the beginning / I couldn't hear your voice / But there was something in you that was telling of a thousand hopes...”. The warm voice of Alessandro Corvaglia perfectly interprets the feelings of the protagonist at the astounding discovery of the ancient mask of wax and something magic happens... “Now I'm here / I'm walking on a tightrope suspended on the void / I can't go on...”. In the second part the rhythm rises, there's tension in the air. There's a kind of empathy between the archaeologist and the mask, he can learn from the mask something about his own life, he can see through it many things but he mistrusts these visions... “Your people wear strange masks / I look at them / I can hear them / I can feel them inside of me...”. The third part is more relaxed, in the dark silence of a catacomb the protagonist discovers a coat of tin armour. As if under a spell he can't wait, he has to step into his visions, in this new world... “I looked at my soul / I couldn't come back...”. The fourth part features an acoustic guitar arpeggio and a dreamy mood, the protagonist has made up his mind and at dusk an unknown peace permeates his heart... “I'm trying to learn / I'm trying to understand...”. Then the rhythm rises again, there are organ rides and fiery flute passages while the mysterious mask becomes the master of a new reality, a guide that the protagonist has to heed and trust to walk along the ways of this unreal dimension... “In your silence I chose something that does not exist / You will show me a new ego, a different world / But different from what?”. On the last part there's a reprise of the initial theme, the protagonist can't go on while burning dreams blend with reality... “I can clearly see your face / Now I know who are you / The future is in your hands...”.
“Del mio mondo che crolla” (Of my world that is crumbling) begins with a nervous, pulsing rhythm section and a swirling flute solo, then the synthesizers bring a sense of an uneasiness. The world of the protagonist is melting and what is left is nothing but the dark game of Death... “Everything has been written / Everything has been told / And I have lost your light...”. He's drawn in a fiery vortex of shadows and lights, he's in a nameless desert now, his heart becomes numb, he can hear the voice of the mask fading out, he does not recognize it any more, he feels like a nocturnal animal trapped in the house of the rising sun... “My wide wings have vanished / I want to see my fate...”.
“Del mio abisso e del vuoto" (Of my abyss and of void) is divided into three sections. It begins with bass and flute in the forefront, there's an electric calm all along and you can perceive an impending turn of events. The protagonist looks at the sundown, he can still feel the breath of the mask on him, he feels lost, tired, defeated. He has been looking for that lymph inside himself for years and now realizes that he has burnt his freedom in the wind, crying. On the second section the atmosphere becomes darker and you can imagine figures of bronze dancing in a game of shadows on a lost island while the protagonist falls down in the abyss. Here the female vocals provided by the guest Nadia Girardi add a touch of colour to some passages. Then the rhythm rises and brings back a bit of optimism. Suddenly the protagonist can see that the world is changing, the face of wax has melted and now it is shapeless, he can see a light in the dark, reflected in the eyes of some statues, something is shining down in a deep well and above him in the cosmos. Now he feels weightless and he's able to come back up from the abyss... “Maybe it's late / Maybe I've lost / Please, wait still for me / I can walk / I can see / I can fly...”.
The conclusive "Del mio volo" (Of my flight) begins with a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio and soaring flute notes... The atmosphere is dreamy and Alessandro Corvaglia's vocals seem to emerge from the early fogs of a September morning. The protagonist has wasted all of his words in pointless speeches, deceived by the flames of a false love but now he's ready for a new start... “A sudden light reveals the truth / I wake up as a little child / In a circle that will never be broken...”. Well, a magnificent album where the lyrics, art work and liner notes provide evocative imagery and the music flows away without weak moments compounding beautiful melodies and complex arrangements. Even if it's a throwback to early seventies Italian progressive rock I think that this work should be a must for every prog lover!
You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE
La Maschera di Cera: La Maschera di Cera (2002). Other opinions:
Conrad Leviston: The fact that La Maschera di Cera is a retro act that pays obvious homage to a number of classic Italian bands is going to make up a lot of people's mind about this album before they have heard a note. For me, however, it comes down to simple questions: are the references to other bands overdone? Is the quality of songwriting sufficient to support the concept? Fortunately for me, the answers come down as no and yes respectively. For all the allusions to other bands such as Il Balletto di Bronzo, the references tend to be about mood and instrumentation rather than yet another game of "Guess where we stole this riff from." The music also travels comfortably from the heavy, dense and atmospheric to the peaceful, melodic and uplifting... (read the complete review HERE)