Monday, 6 December 2021

METAL REFLECTIONS

Quasar H7 come from Isernia and took shape in 2012 on the initiative of Francesco Cipullo and Luigi Rinaldi. Their music is a brilliant mix of prog metal and jazz with reminiscences of classical music, sense of humour and passionate energy. After a hard work and some live performances on the local scene, in 2016 they self-released an excellent debut album entitled Nanodroids, recorded at Queen's Academy Studios in Isernia with a line up featuring Eleonora Moro (vocals), Francesco Cipullo (keyboards), Luigi Rinaldi (guitar), Michele Milano (drums) and Francesco Coja (bass). According to the band, it was conceived as a conceptual work with a fantasy plot half way between history and science fiction... Anyway, there’s no storyline to follow and the lyrics are used just to add colours to the musical canvas, as you can guess from the album cover...


 
The excellent opener “Nanodroids” is a kind of manifesto of the band’s approach to composition and blends prog metal with classical music and jazz with flamboyant energy and bold, original combinations. It starts by a spacey intro and heavy electric guitar riffs, then keyboards begin to weave classical arabesques alternating with electric guitar solos. As the rhythm calms down a classical piano solo passage follows and leads to an operatic choral part in a crescendo that ends... in a funny jazzy outro!

“Zantesuken” is another blow of energy and pyrotechnics with the voice of the jazz trained singer Eleonora Moro coming out of the dark and taking off to the sky for some vocal acrobatics and somersaults into the void without net... The following “Liquid Reflections” is an articulated track full of changes in rhythm and atmosphere. There are even short passages mixing prog metal with Broadway musical hints and hard rock riffs while the vocals evoke psychedelic visions emerging from the void of an inner world where dreams rule and you can fly with the black wings of a swan over an ocean of fire...
 

 
Next comes the evocative “Going Home”, a calm, dreamy piece where vocals are used just like a charming instrument... Then, the following “Embrature's Return” blends a strong jazz flavour with AC/DC electric impulses before veering elsewhere. Eleonora Moro showcases here her mastering of different vocal styles going from scat to heavy metal with an excellent theatrical approach...

“Vita Fugge (Caphemba)” starts by a sound of harpsichord, then mixes opera and heavy metal with the soprano vocals flying in the air over fiery guitar solos and punching rhythms, trying to stop the circling movement of the hands of a clock... The closer “Time Around The Clock” starts by mysterious Oriental flavours, then you can hear a bizarre quote from “Pop Corn” by La Strana Società that leads in another direction. There are operatic passages, classical piano solos smothered by aggressive electric guitar riffs and a sense of constant change hanging on until the end of the album...

On the whole, a very interesting debut work!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Sunday, 5 December 2021

DIVINE CHERRIES

Il pozzo dei giganti is the second album by Cherry Five and was released in 2015 on the independent label Black Widow Records by a new line up featuring, along with historic members Tony Tartarini (vocals) and Carlo Bordini (drums, percussion) who took over the old brand, the fresh energies of Ludovico Piccinini (guitars), Gianluca De Rossi (keyboards - from Taproban) and Pino Sallusti (bass). It’s an excellent work containing three long tracks, inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, in a symphonic prog style where vintage instruments are blended with more updated sounds. The beautiful artwork by Daniela Ventrone helps to understand the musical and lyrical content...


 
The long, complex opener “Il pozzo dei giganti (Inferno XXXI)” (The well of the giants) is a new, extended version of an instrumental piece included in the 2008 Musea - Colossus themed compilation Dante’s Inferno - The Divine Comedy Part I and credited to De Rossi & Bordini. It starts by obscure percussive sounds and disquieting organ chords, then the rhythm rises and Tony Tartarini voice plays the role of a damned giant evoking abysses of emotions, an inner raging fire and a violent, blinding lightning. The giant would like to be again the strong, scary giant he was when alive but he realizes that he’s not dreaming and that his current condition is everlasting. In a world crowded with thieves and scoundrels, where injustice reigns, there are too many fake giants that live on the shoulders of other people, too many coward giants hiding their feet of clay and too many crimes committed in the name of God and there’s no one who can save him, no one who can set his legs free, his legs crushed by pride and arrogance. As rage and hope fade out the rhythm calms down and the atmosphere becomes even darker... The giant feels little and helpless as he desperately looks around for help. The music and vocals express anguish and fear and there are some narrative vocals in Latin evoking Cerberus and the eternal pain of hell... Then the rhythm rises again as the giant warns you that nobody can escape from the divine judgement, but from his mouth what comes out is only a terrible rage. A masterful interpretation!

Cherry Five, 2015

Next comes “Manfredi (Purgatorio III)”, an excellent suite divided into four parts and inspired by the character of Manfred, King of Sicily. The first part, “La forza del guerriero” (The strength of the warrior) conjures up in music and words the blue eyes and proud look of the warrior who was led to defeat by his ambition. Great is the injury on his face and many are the sins he committed during his life but in his heart there’s room for kindness and humility. His rage melts as hope creeps in and his pain fades out as hate disappears from his tormented soul... On the second part, “Il tempo del destino” (Time of destiny), the voice of Tony Tartarini goes from description to empathy and begins playing the role of Manfredi. His heart beats the rhythm of destiny and slowly that rhythm turns into the sound of the paces leading him to the meeting with history and death, mercy and repentance... The third part, “Terra rossa” (Red soil) is more aggressive and depicts the last battle of the warrior who can still remember the soil drenched in blood, the smell of death, the echoes of the fighting. Then the warrior turns his look to the poet and gives him a message for his daughter... The last part, “Un mondo tra noi due” (A world between us), calm and melodic, reveals the content of the message with all the love of a father for his daughter, the regrets for the time he spent away from her and the asking for a prayer...



The last track, “Dentro la cerchia antica (Paradiso XVI)” (Within the old city walls), was inspired by the meeting between Dante and his ancestor Cacciaguida. It starts by a medieval flavour evoking a pastoral, celestial landscape. Then rhythm rises while music and words deliver a heartfelt ranting against moral decadence and lack of justice, greediness and prevarication, corruption and richness. What can save us is the constant search for justice and truth in a merciless fight against evil. It’s better to stop for a while and reflect, trying to find again the right sense of a humanity that’s getting lost on account of its thirst of luxury and power... Eventually, a short reprise of the first track closes the circle and ends the album.

 
On the whole, an excellent work! By the way, I had the chance to see the band performing it live and the show was really good as well...

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Cherry Five: Il pozzo dei giganti (2015). Other opinions:
Michael “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: Released on the heavy Italian specialists Black Widow label, housed in gorgeous dark artwork (no-one does the mix of erotic and infernal quite like Daniela Ventrone), this vinyl-length return is a fine way to not only get reacquainted with Cherry Five, but witness the birth of a brand new version of the band with so much to offer. With ‘Il Pozzo dei Giganti’ they’ve delivered a confident, intelligent and lavish work that will equally appeal to vintage and modern RPI listeners, up there with the best Italian releases of 2015 from both modern and established older acts. Hopefully the band is inspired to continue on with more new works in the near future and we won’t have to wait another forty years for a follow-up!... (Read the complete review HERE)

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Saturday, 4 December 2021

DEEP RED CHERRIES

The eponymous debut album by Cherry Five was recorded in 1974 with a line up featuring Tony Tartarini (vocals), Claudio Simonetti (keyboards), Massimo Morante (guitar), Fabio Pignatelli (bass) and Carlo Bordini (drums). It’s a good work where the influence of British bands such as Yes or Genesis is apparent but the choice to sing in English was not a great idea, especially on the Italian record market of the seventies... In fact, this was supposed to be the first album by Goblin but it was put apart and released only after the band had reached the success in 1975 with Profondo Rosso and a different line up. As a consequence, the album was released in 1976 on the Cinevox label under the name Cherry Five to avoid confusion with the new Goblin’s course... 
 
 

 
The opener “Country Grave-Yard” starts by a frenzied, hurried pace. Then the rhythm slackens and darkness comes down... This piece tells the Gothic story of a wayfarer who, passing near a cemetery in the middle of the night, sees a fire above a cross and the ghost of a child creeping out from a grave, seeking for a breath of life. The fear takes hold of the unfortunate traveller as he begins to perceive a loathsome smell... 
 
The following “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s novel of the same name. It starts by organ and an acoustic guitar arpeggio, the mood is dreamy but the dream ends when the music and lyrics conjure up the image of the protagonist stabbing his picture... For him the blade is like a key for safety, a way of seeking shelter, peace and rest into the depths of the earth, the last punishment for a damned man who lies now in a purple sheet of sins and shame... 
 
 

 
“The Swan Is A Murderer” is divided into two parts, probably just because of the length of the old vinyls. It closes the first side of the LP and opens the second one by telling the dark fairy tale of a beautiful, wicked swan that, having killed a prince leaving him in a pool of blood, is condemned to live alone and without love, hated by the other birds...

The long, complex “Oliver” depicts in music and words a strange character, a dandy who, to show his beauty and power, takes for a walk a lion on the leash through the streets of Paris ignoring the people laughing at him. Strange? All in all, French writer and poet Gérard de Nerval walked a lobster on a blue silk ribbon leash through the streets of Paris to make fun of middle-class pretension... “Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? Or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don’t bark, and they don’t gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn’t mad!” (Gérard de Nerval quoted by his friend, Théophile Gautier, in Portraits et souvenirs littéraires, 1875. In Théophile Gautier, My Fantoms, translated by Richard Holmes). By the way, Oliver was also the previous name of the band, then changed into Goblin...
 
 

 
The dreamy “My Little Cloud Land” ends the album by drawing in music and words visionary images that seem coming out from a Roger Dean’s picture. In a land that lies on a little cloud you can dream of camels wearing a crown, rabbits falling in love with pink butterflies, dancing sharks, speaking crocodiles, flying cats, boats floating on a lawn of daffodils... It’s a holy place, in which you can feel the breath of life and live forever listening to magic tunes (mainly inspired by Yes, I would say).
 
On the whole, this is a good album even if it doesn’t shine for its originality. Anyway, I’m sure that fans of bands such as Yes or Starcastle will appreciate it.
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
Cherry Five: Cherry Five (1976). Other opinions: 
Jim Russell: The music here is not looking to break any new ground but rather to have a great time and it succeeds there with boundless enthusiasm. A good album to be sure but recommended mostly to Italian fans and early Yes fans... (Read the complete review HERE)
 
 

Friday, 3 December 2021

A SACRED MARRIAGE

After a long period of hibernation (more than forty five years!), in 2019 Pholas Dactylus reappeared on the Italian prog scene horizon with a new album entitled Hieros Gamos. It was released on the independent label AMS with a line up featuring three original members, Paolo Carelli (vocals), Rinaldo Linati (bass, acoustic guitar) and Maurizio Pancotti (piano, keyboards) along with two new musicians, Csaba Papp (drums) and Tobias Winter (guitar). This album represents a bridge between the past and the present of a band that is still able to blend music and words with great personality and poetical force. The beautiful artwork by Tiziano Crisanti in some way tries to depict this concept... 
 

The album opens with the long, complex title track, “Hieros Gamos”. The title refers to Greek mythology and indicates a sacred marriage that plays out between a god and a goddess. It’s dedicated to the memory of original Pholas Dactylus’ drummer Giampiero Nava who passed away in 2014, as the band was planning the reunion and sound like a heartfelt, poetical elegy. The goes through many changes in mood and rhythm while the lyrics evoke images and memories of a lost friend and build a bridge that does not divide, a bridge over destiny, a bridge over a morning cloud that binds light and darkness, life and death... A wonderful track! 
 
 
The second part of the album, entitled “Ognuno da lande diverse” (Everyone from different lands) sees the separate contributes of the three historic members of Pholas Dactylus. The first two come from Rinaldo Linati that composed and played “A Personal Gift” and “Yellow And Blue” with his acoustic guitar in a style that might sound closer to that of Leo Kottke (but not up to that level) than to the Italian prog tradition. 
 
Then it’s the turn of four short tracks by keyboardist Maurizio Pancotti. The first one, “I Don’t Want...” features a bluesy piano solo with narrative vocals by Solange Menegale who recites one of her poems (half in English and half in Italian) dealing with a problematic relationship and the difficulty to express feelings with words and to comprehend each other. “Ogni volta che tocco il tuo viso” (Every time I touch your face) follow in the same vein with the narrative vocals of Solange Menegale reciting another romantic poem on a crepuscular piano background. The dreamy “Ninna nanna per Gianluca” (Lullaby for Gianluca) and the classical inspired piano solo “Une valse pour nous” close the space reserved to the pianist. 
 
Pholas Dactylus, 2017

The poet Paolo Carelli ends the album with “Ballata di un mercante di sogni” (Ballad of a merchant of dreams), a piece that features just narrative vocals, sound effects, a drum roll and some touches of piano in the background. Of course, words have their rhythm, their evocative power, a visionary force that can stir your emotions and make you dream of unknown worlds… 
 
On the whole, an excellent album for the first part while the second one sound to my ears more like a filler and I fear it could be disappointing for prog fans. 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
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Thursday, 2 December 2021

A VERY STRANGE CONCERT

Pholas Dactylus came from the province of Milan and were formed in the early seventies. The band’s name was inspired by the scientific name of a shell and the line-up featured Paolo Carelli (vocals), Eleino Colladet (guitar), Valentino Galbusera (keyboards), Maurizio Pancotti (keyboards), Rinaldo Linati (bass) and Giampiero Nava (drums). They had a good live activity and in 1973 they released a very particular album for the independent label Magma, “Concerto delle menti” (Concert of the minds), a conceptual work based on a visionary, apocalyptic poem by Paolo Carnelli. Soon after the album was released the band split up and it’s a pity because their experimental verve deserved more credit. Pholas Dactylus’ sound is challenging, swinging from jazz rock to quiet, pastoral breaks, from hard rock guitar riffs to psychedelic rides. The album is conceived as a long suite and the music flows away without interruptions linking together the spoken parts. Here words are like notes and the music is a perfect background for evocative recitative vocals describing nightmarish landscapes and declaiming ominous prophecies...

 


The album opens with a spoken introduction that sets the atmosphere... “You are going to take a tramway, in awhile you’ll be on an old battered tramway-wagon looking like you after a black, empty, paranoiac day... For a while the speed will be the same as usual... You’ll touch the shoulder of the passenger on the seat beside you to ask him something... And you’ll realize with immense despair that he’s nothing but a heap of rags... You’ll call the driver and you’ll see nothing but the face of the mind’s death... Your only way out will run through the windows of the wagon but then you’ll realize that the usual panorama is slowly changing... Houses, cars and people will take the shapes, the colours and the smells that your mind will suggest... Your tramway will take off and will drive you through dimensional doors... At this point you’ll be ready to accept what Pholas Dactylus have already accepted long time ago... We are not alone in the universe!”.
 
Drum rolls, then the music starts taking a winding path featuring nervous jazz rock touches and leading to a calm piano pattern from where tense narrative vocals soar describing a world that is turning upside down, where flowers turn into seeds, insects turn into larvae... “The poet digs with iron claws in the sands of a sinking desert... In the throat of Moses all the words he spoke come back like smoke / Cain’s blade leaves the wound and Abel is resurrected from the dust / Pilate can’t find his tongue / Judas climbs on the tree where he was hanging / Lucifer flies away from the earth roaring / Christ falls back into his death / Adam’s rib is back while a woman is crying inside his hip... A melted sun in chains of greedy thirst feeds the first day with the last one...”.
 
Then the tension rises, the rhythm takes off and the vocals grow more and more passionate and intense while drawing strong images that seem to come out from a psychedelic trip... “Walking on the roofs of dead houses / I realize that my pockets are full of sand / Blue sand from a desert of amethyst / In my nostrils there are seeds of belladonna and cannabis... You, meaningless little men, half-buried by a rain of black tarantulas / You, who think you are all right over there / Tell me, why shouldn’t I travel beyond the doors of another dimension?... What can you understand if I tell you that a stone opens and a flower comes out from it?... I see a long queue of human beings, naked and faceless... I see trees with black leaves... I see buildings swinging on the ground... I see scarlet abysses, golden mountains... From the sea gigantic periscopes are coming up... But I’m feeling good... Yes, I’m fine and nothing else matters!”.
 
After a short instrumental break the vocals come back, full of caustic rage... “The idiots are looking at us and they don’t know what to do... An enormous terror will grow and gas will spread everywhere... The planets of our galaxy have melted into a single block, into a single cluster of fire...”. The music becomes hypnotic, almost mystic featuring frenzied guitar riffs and spacey keyboards... “How many lives cut off, meaningless lives... And in the sky an executioner with his court of pretty women is looking below and laughing at the people who think that is possible to escape just by purchasing another brain...”. 
 
 
Then the rhythm calms down while the vocals take a prophetical tone and describe the apocalyptical advent of six iron angels coming down from the sky. The angels can’t speak, see or hear because they’re without mouths, eyes and ears... The first one will spread his limbs on the ocean that will become black while needles of sun will puncture the breasts of the earth provoking putrefaction and death... The second one will put his roots into desert lands becoming the tree of trees... The third one will go down into the abysmal ditches slaughtering the monsters of an imaginary sea... The fourth one will use a straw of alabaster and will suck up every kind of drugs... The fifth one will prevent the awakening of the colossus with feet of clay and the sky will be obscured by ships of platinum while millions of animals of every kind will be absorbed by the solar well and each one of them will be sent to a different star... The sixth angel will rebuild the Atlantic tower and finally on earth only one language will be spoken... “Then He will come down like rain on the streets / And there will be peace on earth until the disappearance of the planets... He will rule, that’s what I say to you!... And the fate of followers of Baal will be doomed!”. 
 
After a calm, pastoral instrumental interlude the recitative vocals resume their prophetic tone and say that what has been narrated earlier is nothing but the start of a new walk... “Our goal will be joining forever with the peoples who are already waiting for us / And dipping with them into the universe of the universes, into the dimension of the untouchables / And once arrived we will arise and die again and again in different forms / Since the body could be one, ten, hundred, thousand, billions... but the mind is only one!”. 
 
Spacey sounds and hints of a fiery tarantella lead to a spectacular accident... One of the ships of the sands is wrecked on the blue dunes and electric guitar and jazzy piano passages describe the scene... Masked men and women drown in the sand and then fade away into an orange cloud that turns black, then the thunder of Death... “A death that is not death because there was no life before...”.
 
The music stops for a moment, then a sound of sea waves... The music starts up again and the rhythm becomes frenzied... You can listen to people shouting “I buy and sell second-hand brains!”, then a new vision comes out from the mist... Tiny sea creatures were weaving on your body a soft carpet swarming of life, life that was slowly leaving your limbs and your lungs... when, suddenly, a faint light rose at the bottom of the black maelstrom of fear and a white shining lily blind your consciousness and someone throws you into a desert of black pearls... “Time and space have disappeared!”.
 
The music flows with sudden changes in mood and rhythm while the vocals depict other nightmarish visions... On the shoreline a bearded man collects rubbish while the sea stinks of oil, there’s no wind and the sea is full of dirty wrecks and useless objects... A red monk is preaching and a green little girl is dancing to the rhythm of the sea... A little boy of stone with a broken arm tells of a slaughter of white doves and of human skins stretched under the sun to dry... “And at the same time His eye / Above the cells full of larvae kills! Kills! Kills! Merciless He kills... Then He picks up the corpses and throws them into a burning abyss... Then new lives, new bodies, new minds will fill the earth... Then demons dressed in white will spread a new light, light coming from new worlds... Damned souls of the cosmos, forever impressed on the front of...”. 
 
The last word is cut off, the vision is suddenly interrupted and the album comes abruptly to an end. Apocalyptic visions dealing with nuclear disasters, pollution, war... Science fiction or poetry? You can like or dislike this work, but it’s undeniable that it’s definitely unique and original...


 

You can listen to the complete album HERE
 

Pholas Dactylus: Concerto delle menti (1973). Other opinions: 
Jim Russell: Daring and truly original in a genre often wrongly accused of simply following the lead of others, this album is a must for Italian fans and will likely move onto my top 25 Italian list. For its ability to merge controlled tension with borderline chaos, to merge a heavy darkness with other section of pure musical fun... I believe it would easily appreciated by fans of Osanna, Cervello, or RRR, also Gentle Giant, maybe Zappa and Gong fans as well... (Read the complete review HERE)