Gli Ingranaggi della Valle are a young prog band that was formed in Rome in 2010 on the initiative of Mattia Liberati and Fabio Gonnellini with the aim of reviving the atmospheres of Italian seventies prog. After some line up changes and a first demo recorded in 2011, in 2013 the band released their first full length album, In hoc signo, on the independent label Black Widow Records with a line up featuring Igor Leone (vocals), Mattia Liberati (keyboards, vocals), Flavio Gonnellini (guitars, vocals), Marco Gennarini (violin, vocals) and Shanti Colucci (drums, percussion) plus some guests such as Marco Bruno (bass), Edoardo Arrigo (bass, backing vocals), Simone Massimi (bass), Fabrizio Proietti (classical guitar), Beatrice Miglietta (backing vocals), Angelica Sauprel Scutti (backing vocals), Mattias Olsson (drums, percussion) and David Jackson (from Van Der Graaf Generator, sax and flute). In my opinion, the result of the hard work of all the musicians involved in this project is excellent. In hoc signo is a concept album inspired by the First Crusade but despite the vintage sounds and the subject matter this work appears always fresh and “authentic”...
|Ingranaggi della Valle 2013|
“What is authentic? Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit. Anything that is not controlled by corporations. Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape. But of course, nothing in the modern world is allowed to assume its own shape. The modern world is the equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect. Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic. Where, then, will people turn for the rare and desirable experience of authenticity? They will turn to the past. The past is unarguably authentic. The past is a world that already existed before Disney and Murdoch and Nissan and Sony and IBM and all the other shapers of the present day. The past was here before they were. The past rose and fell without their intrusion and moulding and selling. The past is real. It's authentic...”. Well, these words are taken from Michael Crichton's novel Timeline and in some way I think they could help to understand the spirit of this album, very rich in ideas although respectful of the tradition. But maybe the beautiful art cover by Marcello Toma describes the content of this work better than all my words...
The short opener “Introduzione” (Introduction) sets a dreamy atmosphere and leads to “Cavalcata” (Ride), a wonderful track that depicts a group of Norman knights riding through Italy directed to the port of Otranto. Their banners are waving like sails in the wind and you can hear prayers in Latin and toasts. There are many changes in rhythm and mood, there's a feeling of pride and hope but also a poignant sense of impending tragedy.
“Mare in tempesta” (Stormy sea) describes the departure of the ships carrying the Christian knights across the Adriatic Sea. It starts softly, the mood is dreamy. The crusaders look back at the Italian coastline, they think of their families and lands but they're ready to fight in the name of the Sacred Truth. Then the rhythm rises, the wind begins to blow stronger and stronger and the ships are battered by the waves.
“Via Egnatia” greets the landing of the Christian army on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. It's the calm after the storm, but other obstacles are waiting for the crusaders along their march to Byzantium such as a very cold winter and heretic cities to siege. The title refers to a road constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century BC running through territory that is now part of modern Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, and European Turkey.
The magnificent epic “L'assedio di Antiochia” (The siege of Antioch) is in some way the keystone of the album. It tells about the Siege of Antioch but this work is not a celebration of the Crusades and while listening to this album you've always to keep in mind that, as explained in the liner notes, this is the story of a few Norman knights that faced the development of a modern social conscience in a period dominated by a savage and intolerant individualism... a time that's not so far away. As the battle rages on, the lyrics swing from Italian to Latin to describe the slaughter of innocent women and children in the name of God... “Damnatio aeterna nobis! / Miserere nostras spathas! / Murky images envelop you, crusader / You loosen your grip on the hilt / Your hands drenched with tears can't hide your face from the judgement of God...”. Some knights are fed up, they realize that they have betrayed Christ in His name, in hoc signo, wearing the symbol of the sacred cross. So, they desert from the Christian army and run away from the Western world.
The instrumental “Fuga da Amman” (Escape from Amman) describes a desperate journey through sunny deserts and mysterious countries. There are many changes in rhythm and atmosphere, oriental flavours are mixed with frenzied jazz rock passages. It leads to “Kairuv'an” where a melancholic feeling of nostalgia for land and family is mixed with the colours and charms of the kingdom of Sheba... “Forgive me my love / I can't come back to you...”.
“Masqat” describes the next leg of this desperate journey through unknown countries. Our heroes get lost in the narrow alleys of an Arabic seaport city where they can smell exotic spices blending with the sea. On the following “Jangala Mem” the atmosphere becomes darker, almost mystical. The knights have come to India where they meet a wise old man in a temple who is sleeping upon the wind. He wakes up and smiling speaks to them...
Next comes the complex, ethereal “Il vento del tempo” (Wind of Time) where dream and reality blur and the future mirrors in the past. The lyrics describe strange visions, there are mystic temples facing the sea, ancient towers from where you can observe the flight of mysterious spaceships... “Let the future speak – tells the hermit / In his hands the wind of Time bends... Manticore! Proud, but not in the soul / The forest of tomorrow is its realm / Its throne has been built by servile monkeys / It lies on the cranes of rebel tigers / In its mocking laughter it hides the wish for power without honour nor justice...”.
The epic “Finale” tells about the end of the cathartic dream. The altars of sand of an era without reason crumble and the brave crusaders finally find their redemption. Now the evil belongs to their past and their long journey comes to an end. Finally they can come back to their families and land, they can love again and ride back to their sweethearts with a new hope... “Now I consecrate my sword to a better future / I must come back!...”.
On the whole, I think that this is an almost perfect album where music and lyrics perfectly fit the storyline. An authentic must for every prog lover!
Ingranaggi della Valle: In hoc signo (2013). Other opinions:
Michael “Aussie-Byrtd-Brother”: I was initially very intimidated attempting to review this album. Where to begin discussing an album that bridges the classic vintage defining releases from Italy with a modern sound so perfectly? This album kind of reminded me of Marsupilami's deranged `Arena' album, and although they were not an Italian band, that one headed in every direction at once with a spastic `take no prisoners, grab them by the throat' approach yet somehow still managed to hold together as a strong cohesive work. Maybe this opinion of mine is also swayed as I look at the battle scene depicted here on the front cover like that one too! Anyway, there's a focused confidence and a keen ear for sublime melodies weaving through the reckless, thrashing and fiery instrumental passages. Take the triumphant fanfares of P.F.M, the jazz/fusion precision of Arti e Mestieri in a more symphonic style (they get several mentions in this review!) and the traces of darkness and edge of Biglietto Per L'Inferno and you might get an idea where to begin... (read the complete review HERE)
Steven Reid: Especially for a debut effort, which In Hoc Signo is, what Ingranaggi Della Valle have achieved here is really pretty impressive and it's virtually impossible not to recommend this album to those who revel in the styles in which this band specialise... (read the complete review HERE)