Monday, 15 June 2015

A STAIRWAY TO HELL


Biglietto per l’Inferno (the name of the band means A Ticket To Hell) began life in Lecco in 1972. The first line-up featured Claudio Canali (vocals, flute, flugelhorn), Marco Mainetti (guitar), Giuseppe “Baffo” Banfi (organ, moog), Giuseppe Cossa (piano, organ), Fausto Branchini (bass) and Mauro Gnecchi (drums). Their debut album is an amazing cocktail of spontaneous musical energies and poetry. You can hear here some echoes of Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and PFM but there’s no plagiarism and the musicians seem to have shaped their own style trying to capture the energy of their live acts. The song-writing of the singer and flutist Claudio Canali is excellent and the lyrics draw some bitter reflections about the hypocrisy of the world. There are many changes in rhythm and mood but all the tracks are in some way bound together as in a long suite, as in a long way down on a “stairway to hell”.


The opener “Ansia” (Anxiety) begins with a delicate sound of organ and guitar, then the rhythm becomes more varied and nervous; Claudio Canali’s vocals come in at the end of the track introducing the “subject” of the album... The lyrics describe the feeling of uneasiness and apprehension that comes up from a “sad and infamous life spent murdering and stealing” and the desperate quest for a saviour, for someone who can ease the pain and give hope... Charlatans, merchants, prophets or priests, it doesn’t matter... A good prologue to the next track!

The lyrics of “Confessione” (Confession) describe a dialogue between a killer and a friar. The music is full of energy and rage, with “shades of Deep Purple” melting into “tarantella” and passages with flutes “à la Jethro Tull”... The singing of Claudio Canali is really convincing and his voice seems almost trying to find a reason for the wind of violence that was blowing so strong in the Italy of the early seventies... “Listen to me, friar / I don’t know if I committed a sin / I killed a bastard who wanted cover his dirty past by means of his money / Trying in this way to cheat his fate... Listen to me, friar / And tell me if you call it a sin or a noble act / I stole some money from a rich gentleman / Just to give something to eat to a dying man...”. But on this album there’s not much room for hope and the verses with the answer of the friar are just a dark prelude to the tragic epilogue of the fifth track: “I can’t save you from the eternal fire / You have just a ticket to Hell”! This song is the trademark of the band...


A good organ work introduces “Una strana regina” (A strange Queen). The music is a blending of church-like music, Jethro Tull influences, hard rock and Italian folklore. Claudio Canali’s vocals seem to be drenched in pessimism while the dialogue between the killer and the friar continues... “A strange queen rules on Earth / She lives in castles formed by every street / She changes her dress every evening / Her name is hypocrisy... Let’s hope that our God from the hereafter can see and forgive us for our impiety...”.

Il nevare” (The Snowing) is another great track, with some almost “bluesy” passages and a soaring electric guitar in the forefront. It’s a kind of “lay prayer” and the lyrics seem to invite meditation and introspection suggesting that, even in a life where hypocrisy and evil rule, you can find joy just contemplating nature and the snow falling down... “Heavy snowflakes fell down that day / They wet my eyes / Lost in the light / Lost in the effort of knowing, of seeing / How much pure joy from a simple snowing... Far away a bell-tower reminded of a prayer / Over the roofs ancient shadows were celebrating the evening...”. In my opinion this is one of the best moments of the album...

Biglietto per l'Inferno on stage in the seventies

The long, complex “L’amico suicida” (The suicidal friend) is highly dramatic. The lyrics are autobiographical, inspired by the suicide of a Canali’s comrade-in-arms during their military service... “Around your body there’s a halo of death...”: Canali’s vocals are dark and full of emotion, the music flows powerful and melancholic for more than 13 intense minutes... “There was a long rumble of sound, and it seemed to him that he was falling down a vast, interminable stairway. And somewhere at the bottom he fell into darkness. That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know...”. Well, just a little quote from Jack London’s novel “Martin Eden” that in my opinion perfectly fits the conclusion of this “epic”. Before the end of the album, there’s still room for a nice short instrumental reprise of “Confessione”...

You can listen to the complete album HERE


More info about the band: