Sunday, 24 August 2014

OVER THE WALL

Proteo were formed in Trieste in 1996 by Marco Paulica (rhythm guitars, vocals), Matteo Copetti (lead guitar, sax), Alessandro Surian (bass) and Fabio Gorza (drums, percussion) and along the years the line up has always remained the same. The name of the band refers to a small animal called olm or proteus (proteus anguinus) that lives in the caves of the Karst plateau and that is best known for its adaptations to a life of complete darkness in its underground habitat. In some way it reflects the style of the band, a curious mix of pop rock and progressive rock influences. 


After some demos and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2009 Proteo released a debut album on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records, Under A Red Polar Light, featuring eight well crafted original tracks where dreamy melodies and bright touches of musical colours unfurl avoiding banality. Although the overall sound every now and again draws on eighties atmospheres and could recall bands such as The Police, U2 or Talk Talk, the band successfully managed to blend these influences with a prog attitude and personal touch. 
 


The opener “Colors To Give” is a kaleidoscope of images and emotions that flashes out eighties atmospheres and walks on the moon while the following “Eternity” takes you up and down through time and space, between heart and mind, where the streets have no name and eternity fades away dancing on Latin rock rhythms. Then comes the dreamy “Australia”, that reminds me slightly of Men At Work or Crowded House and conjures up images from the Lucky Country. The title of the following “Tales From The Ocean” could recall Yes but here the tales from the ocean are not topographic at all and the waves move gently in a controlled flow while the music and lyrics evoke nights on a beach blessed by the moonlight.


Van Gogh” is another dreamy track that tries to take you a million miles away, under deep blue skies. As you can guess, it was inspired by the work of the famous post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh and leads to the spacey “Robota”, featuring short lyrics inspired by the work of Isaac Asimov. Then it's the turn of “I Wish I Could Fly”, a piece full of positive energy. The last track “Echoes Mankind (Part I)” is more complex and describes in music and words silent weapons in a time where war and peace seemed to play to hide and seek. Well, all in all this is a good album if you like AOR but the progressive influences here are mild and prog fans risk to be a bit disappointed...


Proteo's second album, “Republikflucht! …Facing East” was released in 2013 on Ma.Ra.Cash Records and in my opinion is more refined and mature if compared with its predecessor. Here the song-writing is bolder and the music, yet still rooted in eighties pop rock forms, perfectly fits the concept and helps to take you back in time. In fact, according to an interview with the band, this is a concept album inspired by books such as Anna Funder's C'era una volta la Ddr or Ryszard Kapuscinsky's Imperium, it's a reflection about the cold war and a way to look over the ruins of the Berlin Wall, facing East. A fatherland with a hand of fire and another hand of snow that hurts your heart when you try to embrace it, as sings Wolf Biermann in one of his best lieder. Well, here the music is a far cry from Wolf Biermann's but it successfully contributes to set the right atmosphere while the lyrics do not try to tell a story but just draw evocative images focusing on the hopes and feelings of the common people rather than on politics.


The opener “Echoes Mankind (Part II)” is a sequel of the last track on Proteo's debut album and depicts military plants and barbed wire along the border, a barrack-like homeland where people are kept as prisoners without consciousness, where bureaucracy rules but where there's still room for hope and where in spite of everything flowers can still break the ice. Next comes the long, complex “Berlin”, a surreal musical painting of a city that could resemble to a museum of modern art and where the free sky is blotted out by disquieting grey clouds. Then the dreamy “Eastern Fields” follows drawing images of a farmland on the edge of time where you risk to get lost in your thoughts, facing east, far away from home...


The lively “Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch” is the shortest track on the album and describes some innocent children merrily playing in a courtyard, unconscious of their destiny and scrutinized by men wearing uniforms. “Four-leaf Clover” is another long track dealing with feelings such as faith, hope and love under the iron curtain. “Republikflucht” concludes the album with a come back from this strange trip through time and space leading to mysterious and shadowy places, over fake theories and disused liturgies, underneath lost memories and black and white pictures.

All in all this is a very good album. Through the distillation of a myriad of influences Proteo have achieved a singular sound and if you like modern progressive rock with a melodic approach, you really have to check this album out.