Wednesday, 4 May 2022

THE HUMAN CONDITION

Distillerie di Malto took shape in 1988 in Ortona, in the province of Chieti. After a long period spent playing covers, composing and honing their skills, in 2001 the band finally managed to self-release an interesting debut album entitled Il manuale dei piccoli discorsi (The handbook of the little speeches) with a line up featuring Fabrizio Pellicciaro (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, recorder), Fabiano Cudazzo (keyboards), Marco Angelone (electric and nylon-string guitar), Maurizio Di Tollo (drums, percussion, vocals) and Salvatore Marchesano (bass) plus the guest Luca Latini (flute). It’s a labour of love, largely influenced by seventies sounds but not without a touch of originality. The art cover, that in some way tries to depict the musical content, reproduces a famous tableau by René Magritte, La condition humaine, 1933, one of the painter’s earliest treatments of the theme of window painting and of painting within a painting...



The opener “Allegro con brio” starts with a dramatic crescendo that leads to a more dynamic part and ends with a short vocal part sung in English that conjures up the image of a young woman sitting on the legs of a stranger, still waiting to find the right man... Then comes the long, complex “Phoebus” that every now and again could recall Genesis and Gentle Giant. It’s sung in English and tells in music and words the dark story of a dwarf that kills for vengeance and runs away but, in my opinion, this track is heavily penalised by vocals that here are not completely up to the task...

The dreamy atmospheres of the instrumental “Melodia di fine autunno” (Melody of late autumn) lead to the reflective “Aria e vento” (Air and wind), an intricate piece that, as you can guess from the subtitle, is about the doubts you can experience when confronted with the disclosure of your own anxieties. Confess or not confess you sins? Can you trust other people and open your heart feeling a sense of freedom or is it better keeping your secrets well locked up in a tower without windows nor walls? Sometimes it’s a hard choice and maybe you’d better take it easy and follow your fate... This time the vocals are in Italian and succeed in delivering a strong emotional impact.
 



The last track, “5/5/1555”, is a suite that recalls Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and is divided into three parts. It stages an imaginary dialogue, set on May 5, 1955, between the duke of Parma and his son about the combined marriage with the daughter of the king of France. The young man is in love with another girl, but the father tries to push him to take a decision with his brain and not with his heart. The first part is subtitled “Mattina” (Morning) and here we can listen to the duke telling his son to bury his bravery and to keep quiet his pride. The son is bewildered, confused, he can’t think... The second part is subtitled “Pomeriggio” (Afternoon) and is completely instrumental, it’s up to the your imagination figuring out the troubles of the young man who has to choose between love and power... The third part is subtitled “Sera” (Evening) and it’s where the son makes up his mind: although he cries for a while, his love slowly fades away in the name of the reason of the state...

On the whole, a good album that deserves a try!

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Monday, 2 May 2022

UNCOMPROMISING NOTES

UR- is the fifth studio album by Accordo dei Contrari and was released in 2021 on the Cuneiform Records label with a confirmed line up featuring Marco Marzo Maracas (guitar), Stefano Radaelli (sax), Cristian Franchi (drums) and Giovanni Parmeggiani (Steinway piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, Minimoog). According to the liner notes, like the previous one, this work was recorded live at Le Dune studio in Riolo Terme, a small town in the province of Ravenna, with the help of some guests such as Alessando Bonetti (violin), Patrizia Urbani (vocals), Sergio Papajanni (bass), Carlo Facondini (electric guitar) and Francesco Guerri (cello). The recording sessions took only a few days (from January 30 to February 2, 2020), with some overdubs in 2020-21. The album conceptually deals with roots and was dedicated by keyboardist and composer Giovanni Parmeggiani to his ancestors and to his son. The particular, colourful artwork was provided by Dario D’Alessandro...
 

The title of the opener, “Tergeste”, refers to the ancient name of Trieste, a city where Giovanni Parmeggiani often had to commute by train when composing the music for the album. It’s a beautiful track that starts by a piano solo ostinato pattern and then goes through many changes in rhythm and mood. In my opinion, this piece might be a perfect score for a spy film set on the Orient Express...

“Così respirano gli incendi del tempo” (Thus they breathe, time’s fires) is a long, complex track that blends jazz rock and classical influences and every now and again reminds me of Area and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso while the following “Più limpida e chiara di ogni impressione vissuta (Parte III)” (More limpid and clearer than any lived impression - Part III) brings an emotional storm with its tense, frenzied passages and calmer parts...

As written in the liner notes, the title of “UR-” refers to a prefix meaning “original”. This long, articulated piece begins by a nocturnal piano pattern and the soaring vocals of the guest Patrizia Urbani used as an instrument to to add tension and colours, then the rhythm gradually rises with a martial pace as sax and electric guitar draw disquieting shadows...




“Secolo breve” (The short century) could recall again Area, with its revolutionary rage and frenzied pace. The title refers to The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 a famous book by Eric Hobsbawm, published in 1994, where the author comments on what he sees as the disastrous failures of state socialism, capitalism, and nationalism and offers his sceptical view on the progress of the arts and changes in society in the latter half of the twentieth century...

“Contrari ad ogni accordo” (Opposed to any agreement) ends the album and begins by a calm, dreamy atmosphere with the piano and cello in the fore, then the rhythm section begins to pulse, sweeping away the dreams and introducing a more aggressive, uncompromising mood...

On the whole, an excellent work!

More info:
 
 

Saturday, 30 April 2022

DARK FRAGMENTS

Sensitività is the second album by La Coscienza di Zeno and was released in 2013 on the independent Altrock - Fading Records label with a renewed line up featuring Alessio Calandriello (vocals), Gabriele Guidi Colombi (bass), Andrea Orlando (drums, percussion), Stefano Agnini (synthesizers), Davide Serpico (guitars) and Luca Scherani (piano, synth, Mellotron, accordion, bouzuki) plus the guests Joanne Roan (flute), Sylvia Trabucco (violin), Melissa Del Lucchese (cello) and Rossano Villa (Mellotron). The musical palette is extremely rich and refined, inspired by seventies sounds but not stuck in the past. The overall atmosphere is a bit dark, as you can guess from the art cover by Paolo “Ske” Botta and the images that you find in the booklet...


 
The title of the opener “La città di Dite” (The city of Dite) refers to an imaginary infernal city described by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. According to the sommo poeta, Dite is the place where the heretics, buried in red-hot stone graves, pay for their sins. Here the music and words deal with the inner hell of the protagonist. The piece starts by a dramatic piano solo intro then the other instruments come in as the vocalist plays the role of a disturbed man, one who fears climbing the slippery stairs that lead from the heart to the brain. If you fall from that damned staircase you’ll land with your broken spine where the devil’s tail lies...

The long, complex, “Sensitività” (Sensitivity), is an amazing track that evokes in music and words the effort of transmuting and sublimating the energy of a person in an inner alchemy to improve the ability to feel, to have sensations, to perceive stimuli through the senses with the aim of finding the way towards truth and self-consciousness. Here the lyrics are like brush strokes of colour quoting holy scriptures and philosophical works, literature and obscure, esoteric rites focused on the reaffirmation of the human connection with the supernatural world...



Then comes the ethereal, melancholic “Tenue” (Tenuous). There are no liner notes to explain the lyrics of this track but they seem to be inspired by the life of Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, Russian astronaut known for being the first and youngest woman in space, having flown a solo mission on the Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. Later in her life she got involved in her country political life, when there was not much left of the Red Russia and its application of real socialism. The dreams and ideals of the old Soviet Union turn to ashes on the sounds of distant radio frequencies, fading away like memories soon destined for oblivion...

The following “Chiusa 1915” evokes a beautiful, dizzying landscape and memories of war soaring from the woods. This beautiful piece is about the construction of the Val Gardena Railway or Klausen-Plan, a narrow gauge railway operating in the Dolomites. It was constructed during the first World War, when the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The works begun in September 1915 and the line was completed and opened on 6 February 1916, thanks to the conscripted labour of some 6,000 Russian prisoners of war, here depicted as sad living shadows pushed by the steam of a crazy gear. The railway was 32.5 km long and was the highest line operated by the Italian Railways with a summit of 1,595m above sea level. It closed on 28 May 1960 and now a long section between Santa Cristina Val Gardena and Ortisei is a beautiful public footpath, the Val Gardena Railway Trail...

Val Gardena Railway Trail

Then it’s the turn of “Tensegrità” (Tensegrity), a reflection about child abuse and the way the monsters of childhood contribute to shape a mature person with the floating compression of his emotions and feelings. This piece ends with an invocation to Hecate, a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology with domains in sky, earth, and sea that is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, witchcraft and more. The protagonist, to have his real nature revealed prays the goddess to take him with her in a long journey across the three worlds...

The title of the following “Pauvre Misère” refers to a 1953 song by French singer-songwriter Georges Brassens evoking the situation of agricultural workers and small landowners who toil on small farms and go on, modestly, without complaint. Here the music and lyrics update the concept and draw a bleak tableau of urban desolation conjuring up the image of a country that devours his inhabitants, a city full of lights and fake smiles where a poor man, an underclass worker, can only look at the show of consumerism. The face of Che Guevara printed on the tight tee-shirt of a young woman, stretched under her bosom, becomes the symbol of a faded revolution turning into something else...

The long, complex “La temperanza” (The temperance) ends the album and refers to the fourteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. Temperance is usually depicted as a winged angel pouring liquid from one cup into another to represent the dilution of wine with water, a symbol of moderation. Here the music and the hermetic lyrics draw disquieting images where you can find obscure symbolism and floating memories to describe the fragments of a life spent with too much moderation and without enthusiasm...

On the whole, and excellent work that grows spin after spin!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

La Coscienza di Zeno: Sensitività (2013). Other opinions:

Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: While sounding thoroughly modern thanks to Udi Koomran’s priceless mastering work, Sensitività is also firmly rooted in the great Italian prog tradition of the Seventies. Although, as I previously hinted, at times the synth sounds may be a bit too reminiscent of neo-prog modes, the Italian flair for exquisite melodies and dramatic yet remarkably un-cheesy atmospheres shines through the album, and makes it essential listening for any self-respecting RPI fan. A supremely classy work, Sensitività is a grower, and even fans of more left-field fare may find a lot to appreciate in it... (read the complete review HERE)

Saturday, 23 April 2022

BEHIND THE FENCE

Divide et Impera is Røsenkreütz's second studio album and was released in 2020 on the independent Andromeda Relix label with a renewed line up featuring Fabio Serra (guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals), Gianni Brunelli (drums, percussion), Gianni Sabbioni (bass, Chapman Stick), Massimo Piubelli (vocals), Carlo Soliman (piano, keyboards) and Eva Impellizzeri (vocals, keyboards). It confirms all the good qualities of the band’s debut work, Back To The Stars, with its excellent blend of melody, AOR and more complex passages that every now and again could recall Kansas or The Spock's Beard. All the pieces seem to have a common thread as they in some way describe the subtle line between what we perceive and what’s real and, in my opinion, the beautiful art work by Christophe Dessaigne gives a good idea of the album’s content...


The opener “Freefall” starts with a jump into eighties soundscapes, then takes a different direction maintaining a strong melodic approach. The music and lyrics tell about a dangerous descent into a vortex of desires, mislead by cheating smiles and kind words. Sometimes a particular glance can change the balance between the things you really need and what you feel necessary and make you fall into a dangerous, deceitful daydream, cradled by the sound of little, seducing lies...

The sarcastic “Imaginary Friend” every now and again could recall Queen and is an excellent piece about religious ideals that turn into business and terrorism. The imaginary friend of the title is a kind of hand tailored, bloodthirsty god created by merciless pseudo-religious leaders and exalted preachers to rip you off and make you kill other people with the joy in your heart... 
 
 

Then comes “The Candle In The Glass”, a disquieting melodic ballad depicting a wicked game where the protagonist falls under the spell of the images he can see in a looking glass lighted by the flickering flame of a candle. The refined arrangement features a string quartet (the guests Evequartett) that add a touch of romantic colour to the crepuscular tableaux...

“I Know I Know” is an aggressive, nervous track that features even a short passage with rap vocals delivered by the guest Flamma. It evokes an inner demon taking the lead, a dream driving you insane as reality becomes more and more blurred... Next comes “Aurelia”, where the rhythm slackens and eerie melodies soar from nocturnal passages and nightmarish atmospheres. It tells a dark story of love and betrayal, murder and regret, a story where the perfect life of a glamorous woman suddenly turns into madness... 
 
Resenkreutz on stage, 2022

 
The catchy “True Lies” could recall Toto and is about the dangerous, deceiving power of media, fake news and television preachers, overwhelming advertisement policies and true lies running over and over the screen making of you just a kind of fool to exploit while the following “Sorry And...” describes in music and words a very hard letter to write and evokes suicidal thoughts under the moonlight, when autumn turns into winter and hell seems a welcoming place...

Then the long, complex “The Collector” ends the album by telling the story of a psychotic collector of human eyes, an insane serial killer that eventually realizes what he’s done and takes off his own eyes to complete his macabre collection. Well, his story is long but it’s worth listening to...

On the whole, a very good work!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Røsenkreütz: Divide et Impera (2020). Other opinions:
Peter Skov: "Divide et Impera" doesn't have that incredible pinnacle that was the title track of the first album, but I feel the thrills on the album are more consistent and frequent. If you're interested in a heavy prog album with strong eighties influences and synthesizers plus excellent vocal melodies and some great examples of action-packed progressive rock flair, head on over to Bandcamp and have a listen to Rosenkreutz's "Divide at Impera"! (read the complete review HERE)

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Thursday, 21 April 2022

DIAMONDS IN THE RAIN

Diamanti is the second album by Mad Crayon and was released in 1999 on the independent Mellow Records label with a renewed line up featuring Alessandro Di Benedetti (keyboards, piano, vocals), Daniele Agostinelli (keyboards, vocals), Federico Tetti (electric guitars, sax), Daniele Vitalone (bass, electric guitar), Luca Cleri (acoustic and electric guitar) plus Stefano Crudele (drums), Simone Durante (Hammond organ), Monica Ward (vocals) and Eleonora Ricci (vocals). In my opinion, it confirms all the good qualities of the debut work and even marks a step forward for the band. This time all the lyrics are in Italian and the vocal parts sound more confident while the music tries to explore new territories with original compositions, a great sense of melody and fresh ideas... 
 

The nervous opener “La ballata dell'uomo nudo” (The ballad of the naked man) describes in music and words the feelings you can experience in a restless night where darkness steals your breaths, unveils your silences, turns up your cards and undresses your soul without mercy, leaving you in front of a light that shows your nakedness. All you have to do is heeding the call of fantasy and follow its course heading up towards the sky...

The reflective, melancholic “Deserti” (Deserts) tells in music and words about an inner desert that the protagonist carries inside him everywhere he goes and evokes distant voices dancing on the horizon, mirages of love and painful memories... 
 



Then it’s the turn of the beautiful instrumental “Glorioso destino” (Glorious destiny), a dynamic piece full of positive energy that leads to the dreamy “Pioggia di fiori” (Rain of flowers) where delicate acoustic guitar arpeggios and soaring melodies invite you to leave behind fake smiles and ephemeral pleasures to embark on a boat and sail through a calm sea, over the clouds, under a soft rain of flowers. An old man smiles at you... Welcome on board!

The excellent instrumental title track, “Diamanti” (Diamonds), blends romantic atmospheres and more aggressive passages and leads to “L'allegra brigata” (The merry brigade), a long, complex piece dedicated to all the friends of the band. It starts softly as the story comes to life from the ashes of reality and takes off on the wings of fantasy while the music and lyrics conjure up a fantastic voyage on a ship sailing across an unknown sea in search for the treasures of youth with a merry crew always open to adventure... 
 
Mad Crayon, 1999

 
“Principe delle maree” (Prince of the tides) is a kind of celebration of the power of music and the healing force of singing. You have to set your heart free and follow the rhythm of the tide, then you’ll take off on an imaginary flight across mysterious lands and Oriental landscapes leaving behind the daily problems of a hostile reality... The short, evocative “Alchimia di una leggenda” (Alchemy of a legend) ends the album with a kind of tribute of the art of cinema. Narrative female vocals raise questions about the greatness and the righteousness of a man who conceives kingdoms of death and boasts his victories in front of those who cry, a man under the rain looks for shelter... Director, do not stop, please!

On the whole, a very good album full of melody and dreamy atmospheres.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Mad Crayon: Diamanti (1999). Other opinions:
Erik Neuteboom: On this CD Mad Crayon sounds tight, fluent and convincing, their compositions are tasteful featuring lots of pleasant changing climates, from dreamy to bombastic... The progrock from Mad Crayon doesn't sound original or complex but they deliver very melodic, harmonic and pleasant music... (Read the complete review HERE)

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