Layra were formed in Rome in 2005, influenced by Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Marillion, Porcupine Tree and Italian melody. Their début album, titled “Chiaroscuro”, was self-released in 2008 and, according to the band, all the songs have a common thread: the alternation of shadows and light. Despite the ambitious concept, I think that this is a still immature work featuring straightforward pieces of melodic rock veined by mild progressive influences. The potential of the musicians and their song-writing skills here are still unexpressed and they almost seem to look for a boldness that never comes as in “Un'altra luna” (a track inspired by the life of painter Vincent Van Gogh), “Nessun destino” (inspired by the film Donnie Darko) or “Il grande imbroglio” (inspired by what happened in New York on September 11, 2001). Of course, you can find here some good ideas that every now and again shine like lights in the dark but it's not enough and, on the whole, this album fails to strike a chord on me. Anyway, they will do better in the future!
In 2009 the band began to work on a new album with a line up featuring Massimiliano Ganci (bass), Fabio Vitale (guitars), Moreno Sangermano (vocals), Alessandro Aversano (drums) and Matteo Ferretti (keyboards) plus some guests: Stefano Renzi (flute), Stefano Sangermano (vocals) and Chiara Mercatali (vocals). The result of their efforts is a complex concept album, “Crono”, that was self-released in 2011, after three years of hard work. It's a great improvement if compared with Layra's previous work, the overall sound is very rich and varied while all the tracks are linked together as the chapters of a book and flow away as if in a long suite as the storyline unfolds. There are aggressive guitar riffs and dreamy piano passages, delicate melodies and nervous rhythms. The extended liner notes that you can find in the booklet help to understand the plot and are complementary to the music and lyrics. According to the band, Crono is based on a delirium: the obsessive attempt to understand the real border between free will and destiny. From the smallest daily action to the greatest decision at the international level, everything is decided by a balance between neurons... Well, literary works such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, La nuit des temps by René Barjavel or Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell could come to your mind.
The instrumental opener “Lumen et Umbra” sets the atmosphere. You can hear a sound of paces but you can't see anything. The protagonist of the story lies in a dark cell waiting for his execution. His name is Aryal and he's not sad, he's in peace with his conscience. Then old memories come back to him... The following “Ritmi d’inattività” (Rhythms of inactivity) takes us in the past, when Aryal was a successful man who worked in a TV chain. He was able to influence people, he could manipulate their choices thanks to the power of media but he was still unaware of being just a pawn in a greater game... “It's so easy to take away the dreams from destiny... They will never know the secret of flying without wings and never fall down...”. Next comes “Perla - Parte I” (Pearl – Part I) a romantic, dreamy piece that describes the meeting between the protagonist and his fiancée Felithia and their relationship... “It's not the end of the world trusting a dream / And look at it in the eyes...”.
“Entropia” (Entropy) marks a change in atmosphere. The mood is dark while the music and lyrics describe a tense dialogue between Kimins, a scientist in charge of secret project to control chaos, and Aryal. The protagonist finds out that he's nothing but a kind of guinea pig in this ambitious project called Crono and that his choices are just illusions since his genes have been programmed to follow a predetermined path. Aryal is shocked, his world crumbles and the following track, “Crono”, describes this sense of loss. Aryal feels empty, now he realizes that people walk around the world like spectres, like blind pawns in a game that just a few ones play... “They wait that time passes by / They sleep, hope... They will buy all they dreams and will sell their souls...”. Then tension rises on “Thanatos” that describes Aryal's tentative to commit suicide... “I think I hate the world / I continually curse life / I shout up my rage to the sky / Demon, take back your altar...”. Before the protagonist can jump down from a high building he's saved by his sweetheart Felithia and the short, touching ballad “Perla - Parte II” depicts this moment where the power of love prevail upon discouragement.
The beautiful instrumental “La fuga” (The escape) describes Aryal's decision to run away from his city with his woman. But his desire to find out more about the secret project is burning. On his old PC he discovers some hidden files and he can reach Crono's project headquarters. They lie under Antarctica's surface and the following “Quello che il sole non illumina” (What the sun can't lighten) depicts Aryal's arrival in the secret place... “It's a buried city / The Man's grave / The biggest cheat / This is the hidden city, the lost city / This is what the sun can't lighten... These are our shadows that are waiting for their death...”. Here Aryal meets Kimins again and kills him. The conclusive “Somnium Dei” takes us back to present and to Aryal's dark cell. It's a long, complex track divided into five parts that describes the last moments of Aryal's life, the last experiments on his body and mind and his last reflections before dying... “They dig inside my mind / They look for the source of thought / They will delete all the choices in the name of a faceless God...”. Well, on the whole an interesting concept and a very good album!
You can read an interview with the band HERE