“Neo”, the second studio album by La Torre dell’Alchimista, was released in 2007, six years after their beautiful debut eponymous work. The line-up is slightly changed and now it features Michele Mutti (keyboards), Michele Giardino (vocals), Davide Donadoni (bass) and Michelangelo Donadini (drums, percussion). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guest musicians that enriched the sound of the band providing guitars, sax, violin and flute and the result is really good. La Torre dell’Alchimista sound is definitely “keyboard driven” (Michele Mutti plays acoustic and electric piano, Hammond C3, Minimoog, organ, synth and Mellotron) and blends strong classical influences with prog-rock and Italian melody. Good also the art cover (painted by Michele Mutti) and the booklet containing some particular pictures and the lyrics. This work could recall bands as Le Orme, PFM and BMS but it’s not too derivative and it’s really worth listening to. “Neo” is conceived as a concept album describing the end of a love story in an original way, through a continuous parallelism between personal feelings and the images taken from ancient myths. The lyrics are not banal and it would be very unfair to define this work as just dealing with Greek mythology...
The dreamy outro of the first track leads to “Medusa”, a complex piece in four parts (Faith, Fugue, Chorale, Samba V) that was inspired by the mythical character of an unfortunate woman raped by Neptune in Athena’s temple. After the rape, Medusa’s long hair was turned into snakes by the goddess and she was given the power to turn anyone who dared to look directly at her into stone. According to the myth, the head of Medusa was cut off by Perseus who looked at her through a mirror-like shield. Once cut off, the head maintained its power and was at last placed at the centre of Athena’s Aegis as a symbol of her power. The music perfectly fits the lyrics with well balanced changes in moods and rhythms that blend prog rock, classical music and melodic vocals... “You, who confound my thoughts / On the shield of knowledge / Reflected image, You don’t scare me / You, who confound my thoughts / You turn into stone the stupidity / Of the people who stare at you / The men who lived with you are stones now / The heart that loved you beats no more... I won’t follow you, I’m free now...”. Well, a complex, dangerous and charming woman indeed! One who can drive you crazy dancing samba and who could be very difficult to forget...
“Idra” (Hydra) is a short instrumental interlude for piano solo that leads you to the first part of the long, complex “Risveglio, Procreazione e Dubbio” (Awakening, Procreation and Doubt) where, after an amazing instrumental prelude, nice melodic vocals come in to change atmosphere. The lyrics depict some experiments to overcome the split-up where you can find shadows and wasted days fading out until your arms will fall and wings will take their place to let you fly on the horizon just before falling back with your doubts... “So I feel like the father of an unknown son, scared by these signs / If the giant rides the dwarf / How can his arms carry that weight?... Idra, Cerbero and Medusa were born from waking-hours not from sleep / And they devour the remnants of my greatness... And suddenly, I lose myself...”.
“L'Amore Diverso” (The Different Love) is another short instrumental for piano solo that leads to “Cerbero” (Cerberus), an intricate track in three parts (Promenade, The Three Heads, The War Against Hydrogenous). The sound of a piano leads you softly to the gates of madness... Cerberus is the name of the three-headed monster hound guarding the entrance to the Greek Underworld. No-one can enter or leave without getting past him... “Six eyes, six shouts, you are everywhere I turn my eyes / Six times you promise, but seven times you disappoint / You are blood, you are tears but no sweat!...”. The music is haunting, swinging from frenzied keyboard rides to calm, romantic violin melodies... Well, the nightmares that rise when a love story comes to an end can really haunt you like omnipresent ghosts. Trying to fight them could bring dangerous side-effects and for your soul it could be destructive as an atomic war... “It’s my rage, it’s your craziness / To win, to lose, what’s really important? / A hot wind blows now / My breath is dying / My way to think about the future is dying...”.
The last track “Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio Pt. II” is another beautiful complex piece in three parts (Epilogue, Coda, Farewell) where you can find a nice flute passage and even some echoes coming from “the court of the Crimson King”. The lyrics deal with the awareness of past errors and the condemnation of arrogance, haughtiness and pride... “Time that has joined us is already splitting us / But how slowly moves the time of the split-up! / Like a leaf in the wind / You are going away from here / Leaving my body naked / The image of your diversity remains / You are like a wave, you slowly wear out / You used to confound my thoughts / Now you’re going away / Leaving a void and a closed speech...”. A beautiful farewell for an excellent album!
La Torre dell’Alchimista: Neo (2007). Other opinions
Erik Neuteboom: La Torre Dell'Alchimista has made a lot of progress on their new album and especially the vintage keyboard aficionados will be delighted! (read the complete review HERE)