Sunday, 29 December 2019

MAGIC AND ROSES

The Magic Park Of Dark Roses is the third album by Old Rock City Orchestra and was released in 2018 on the independent label Avanguardia Convention. In 2016 original bassist Giacomo Cocchiara left the band and the other members decided to continue as a trio. So, the line up on this work features just Cinzia Catalucci (vocals, keyboards, percussion), Raffaele Spanetta (acoustic and electric guitars, bass, vocals, additional keyboards) and Michele “Mike” Capriolo (drums, Glockenspiel, percussion) although during the recording sessions they were helped by some guests such as Laurence Cocchiara (violin) and Chiara Dragoni (flute). The atmospheres and the overall sound are darker than on their previous albums but this is due to the subject matter of the concept: a spiritual, metaphorical journey through a dystopic world drenched in esoteric symbolism and alchemical formulas... According to the liner notes, all the lyrics were inspired by some poems by Kalina Doncheva while the beautiful art work was provided by Lucy Ziniac and tries to describe the musical content with images and colours. 


The title track opens the album and lead us in a mysterious, magic park where the cold winds give way to an eternal springtime, a land out of time and space where dark roses grow, a kind of limbo that attracts everyone... Here the lyrics give us just a faint hint of the strange panorama. Organ passages, electric guitar riffs and calmer piano parts conjure up a psychedelic atmosphere and the soaring vocals of Cinzia Catalucci help us to stir the imagination and to draw a personal picture of the surreal, occult landscape…


The following “Abraxas” is a nervous track that depicts a man who has lost his way and asks for help. The title of this piece refers to a mystic word that was believed to have magical properties and was inscribed on ancient charms and amulets. The early Gnostics personified the word as their Supreme Deity and here the goddess is the one who shows the way to the magic park... Next comes the melancholic “The Fall”, a piece that describes the pain a man experiences for his broken dreams and failures at the end of his days. The music has a slow pace and strong Oriental flavours… Well, it’s a beautiful day and Bombay’s calling!


The Gothic “Visions” conjures up the image of a mysterious park in the night, full of stealing shadows and dangers. The protagonist seems like sleepwalking when suddenly the voice of a wizard shows him the way out and the light… Then the following “A Night In The Forest” tells us of another strange meeting in a dark forest, this time is the turn of a woman dressed in black who whispers to the protagonist that life is like a nightmare...


The short, frenzied “The Coachman” describes in music and words a carriage that takes the protagonist to the world of shadows. The coachman here is a kind of Charon, the mythological ferryman of Hades who carried the souls of the newly deceased across the rivers that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead... Then come the mysterious atmospheres of “A Smell Of Heart And Soul Entwined” a piece where dreams, temptations, spells and desires are evoked as in a magic ritual...


The disquieting “Thinkin’ ‘bout Fantasy” marks the meeting with a peculiar storyteller while the following “Soul Blues” is a bit lighter and tells about the importance of friendship and its healing power by describing the meeting with another mysterious character coming out of the blue. Then the beautiful instrumental “Golden Dawn” closes an album that is really worth listening to...

Even if the concept might be a bit hazy, the music is excellent and you can fill the gaps of the storyline with your own imagination. On the whole, I think that this is a very good work!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:

Friday, 20 December 2019

NIGHT TIME

Hailing from Milan, Frontecielo is the brainchild of two talented multi-instrumentalists, Donatella Basilico (keyboards, drums, percussion, lead vocals) and Piero Caniparo (electric and acoustic guitars, bass, guitar synth, backing vocals). Their project is an effort to blend different influences such as progressive rock, fusion, metal, pop, classical music and opera to express their feelings. After a long, painstaking work, in 2017 they self-released a debut album entitled Nights, a concept album sui generis where all the tracks follow a common thread, inspired by nocturnal experiences. In fact, according to their website, the album's title comes from the consideration that in some way each piece has some connection with the night. The art cover painted by Donatella Basilico tries to capture the mood of this work...


The long opener “The Light Now” starts softly with a dreamy atmosphere, then sharp electric guitar riffs break in… The music and lyrics try to describe that particular moment when a person is going to fall asleep, ready to forget the daily problems and the real world. It’s the moment when the doors of a deeper world open and something magic could happen, sudden and unexpected, when the dark wings of the night promise a sweet flight and everything starts to melt like colours on an enchanted canvas...

The melancholic “Shining Dreams” depicts regrets and fragile hopes crumbling like castles made of sand while the following “The Path Of Mirages” is a beautiful instrumental piece that conjures up far, mysterious lands and oriental flavours… It leads to the caustic “Sand Man” that portrays a man who blindly follows fashions and habits without thinking, a man made of his own fears, a man threatened by the wind of change and that could be blown away by a simple breath of vitality...


The following “Fragments”, on the contrary, is a reflective piece that describe the feelings of a fugitive man who try to escape from the cage of the daily grind, exploring the darkest road of his soul to run after his dreams. Of his past there’s nothing left but fragments of crystal dreams that now he tries to pick up and put together. Here the music and the voice of Donatella Basilico every now and again remind me of Natalie Merchant… It leads to the melodic ballad “Heart Of Time” that drives you in an inner emotional world where past, present and future melt together. 

Then it’s the turn of the evocative instrumental “Edmondo”, influenced by Astor Piazzolla and the sounds of accordion... The ironic “Monsters & Regrets” ends the album. It starts by a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio before taking off like a vague Bohemian rhapsody and tells us that sometimes regrets could become like haunting monsters creeping out from our nightmares and following us everywhere we go, even in the subway…

On the whole, a nice work that deserves a try!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:


Wednesday, 18 December 2019

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

According to the official website, Braam Van Der Stock is not a rock band but a project, an experience that originates from the need to communicate, to launch messages, to express thoughts and moods through music. The name refers to one of the three prisoners of war who managed to break free from Stalag Luft III camp during World War II, in what is today remembered as the Great Escape, and the aim of the musicians is to pay tribute to this endeavour carried out with rudimentary and unusual means. The names of the artists involved in this project, based in a small town near Turin called Sangano, are not revealed in the booklet nor on the official website where they explain that as in the case of the Great Escape in which the tunnel to freedom was hidden under the name Harry, perhaps also the name "Braam Van Der Stock" hides something different… As for the music, for their self-released debut album, entitled Messa su strada (Mass on the road), they chose to interpret in a prog rock key the musical form of the Missa following the Catholic liturgical canons... 


The short instrumental opener “Introitus” starts by a solemn organ solo pattern, then the rhythm takes off and the music veers to hard rock territories. It leads to “Kyrie”, the first sung prayer in the Tridentine Mass, and usually part of any musical setting of the Mass. The Latin words sung on this track mean just Lord, have mercy...

Then it’s the turn of the long, complex “Gloria” that starts by a soaring choir. It’s a powerful piece where the Latin lyrics praise the Lord and the music alternates solemn, joyful passages to calmer, reflective parts… Glory be to God on high, and in earth peace, goodwill towards men...


This particular rock mass goes on with other two Latin prayers, the “Sanctus”, a hymn sung before the prayer of consecration of the bread and wine, and the “Agnus Dei”, a setting of the Lamb of God litany that here takes almost a bluesy pace before turning into a more solemn form.

The heartfelt “Padre (Il nocciolo della questione)” (Father - The heart of the matter) is the only track sung in Italian and tries to convey what’s the most important part of Braam Van Der Stock’s message with a personal interpretation of the prayer Pater Noster, an important part of the Catholic liturgy. In fact, according to the band, the heart of the matter, quoted in the album, is the proposal to look at our expectations toward our god, the claims we have and how we demand that he should accomplish them. From here the twisting of the message in the song Father; no longer Our Father who implicitly suggests the existence of a You or a Them left without a father. In this song the list of requests becomes a list of findings, a fact; a thank for what we have and therefore a spur for us to put effort in our lives… We are the ones who move the pawns.


The short “Ite Missa Est” ends the mass and an interesting album where you can find not only Latin prayers and theological themes but also a good interaction between organ and electric guitar backed by a pulsing rhythm section...

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:


Monday, 9 December 2019

UNDER THE ASHES

Il fuoco sotto la cenere is the third album by the Savonese band Il Cerchio d’Oro and was released in 2017 on the independent label Black Widow Records with a renewed line up featuring Franco Piccolini (keyboards), Giuseppe Terribile (bass, guitar, vocals), Gino Terribile (drums, percussion, vocals), Piuccio Pradal (acoustic guitar, vocals), Massimo Spica (guitar) and Simone Piccolini (keyboards, backing vocals). During the recording sessions some prestigious guests such as Pino Ballarini (vocals, from Il Rovescio della Medaglia), Paolo Siani (drums, from Nuova Idea) and Giorgio Usai (organ and vocals, from Nuova Idea and New Trolls) gave their contribute to enrich the overall sound, firmly rooted in the past without losing touch with the present, and the final result confirms all the good qualities of the band’s previous works. The art cover by Stefano Scagni is clearly inspired by the music and lyrics and contains many, more or less hidden, hints to the tracks of this complex, intriguing work where all the pieces deal, one way or another, with the same subject: fire!


The long opener, “Il fuoco sotto la cenere” (The fire under the ashes), begins softly, with the sound of a burning fire in the background and a piano pattern that could recall Goblin... This piece describes in music and words the hidden sense of rage that slowly grows in everyone and sooner or later can burst out eluding the control of human reason. The music follow this thread, going through calm passages and sudden surges of rhythm leading to a beautiful finale in crescendo with an excellent interaction between electric guitar and keyboards. 

The second track, “Thomas” is another long, epic piece. The title refers to Thomas Farriner, a baker in 17th century London whose shop in Pudding Lane was the source point for the Great Fire of London on 2 September 1666. The music and lyrics evoke the smell of bread and the daily work at the bakery, then the raging fire, the flames spreading out, the clouds of dust in the air, the crumbling buildings and the smoking ruins under a dark sky… But Thomas Farriner managed to escape the fire and, in the end, under the ashes there’s still room for hope, there’s the will to start again and rebuild what was burnt off…


The following “Per sempre qui” (Forever here) deals with the hidden fire of nostalgia that burns in the heart of a successful immigrant. The music alternates lively passages that could recall PFM to calm, reflective sections. That’s to mark the contrast between the hectic life of the protagonist in his new homeland and the happy memories of the far village of his childhood...

“I due poli” (The two poles) begins by a dreamy piano section, then the  rhythm rises and the atmosphere becomes tense... This piece tells about a man who, looking in a mirror, can see the duplicity of his personality and feels his inner conflict emerge. Someone calls this character a clown but inside him it’s like if fire and ice were constantly fighting each other to take control over his actions. So, he feels like a flame living under the ashes...


The melancholic “Il fuoco nel bicchiere” (The fire in the glass) deals with alcohol addiction. It begins by a delicate piano solo intro, then the heartfelt vocals interpret the feelings of a lonely, desperate man who every night goes back home staggering on his feet, drunk and lost. His life is nothing but a broken dream to drink up and he feels the fire inside while the irresistible call of alcohol draws him on his way to an infernal place from where there’s no comeback...

The ironic “Il rock e l’inferno” (Rock and hell) describes in music and words a strange dream. A man falls asleep in his armchair in a house near a cane thicket in a rainy, windy night. From the sounds around him a music rises, starting from Brazilian rhythms and exotic flavours it changes into  rock’n’roll. As the man suddenly wakes up the house is on fire and he realizes that rock’n’roll and hell are almost like Siamese brothers...

The last track is the cover of a 1979 song by Ivan Graziani from the album Agnese dolce Agnese, “Fuoco sulla collina” (Fire on the hill). It’s a beautiful piece where music and words describe the dreams of a boy that clash against reality. In fact, in a summer night the boy dreams of joining a battle on the hill, he can even see the fires of the guns and hear the shots. But a man wakes him up from his reveries and points out that what he sees are nothing but the lights of the harvesting farm tractors...

On the whole, I think that this is really a great album where the band successfully blend vintage atmospheres and original ideas.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Il Cerchio d'Oro: Il fuoco sotto la cenere (2017). Other opinions:
Andrew Cottrell: While there may not be much new here and it could be argued that the band play it relatively safe, it would be churlish to overlook how far this band has come and congratulate them on their fresh sounding, energetic approach. This fire has surely burst out from its ashen covers… (read the complete review HERE)

More info: