Monday, 10 May 2021

POPES AND KINGS

Twenty Flying Kings is the fourth studio album by Court, from Varese. It was recorded during several sessions that took place between 2007 and 2012 and finally released in 2012 on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records with the renewed line up featuring Marco Pedrini (vocals), Mosè Nodari (guitars, oboe, recorders, vocals), Jacopo Favrin (bass), Marco Strobel (guitar, mandolin, keyboards) and Francesco Vedani (drums, percussion, keyboards) plus some guests such as Luigi Bonacina (bass), Andrea Balliano (classical guitar), Giandomenico Fraschini (piano) and Andrea Cajelli (percussion). The album summarizes the history of the band, whose roots date back to 1990, and marks a new starting point. In fact, it features four pieces from their early period re-arranged by the new line up, two tracks originally released on the Colossus-Musea themed album The Divine Comedy Part I – Dante’s Inferno and one previously unreleased track... 

  
 

The opener “Cries” is a shortened, condensed but not less effective version of a piece from the 1993 debut album “And You'll Follow The Winds' Rush 'till Their Breath Dwells”, a heartfelt complaint against war and tyranny. There’s no glorious victory that can revive the dead nor heal the ruin left behind by the armies fighting in the name of their whimsical kings... 
 
The following “Anastasius’ Epitaph” and “The Great Bear Rising” are linked together and come from Dante’s Inferno. Their source of inspiration is the Canto XI of the Divine Comedy that describes the meeting between the sommo poeta and Pope Anastasius II. In a damned place where even spring has a strange smell words like heresy and betrayal hide an obscure meaning... 
 

 
“Sumptuous Moment” is an extended new version of the wonderful epic from Court’s second album Distances, where the band manage to develop some ideas and showcase great maturity and gusto. It’s a visionary celebration of the power of Mother Nature, inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, where a thunder storm combines the charms of winter and of hell... Here folk influences and classical flavours are combined with the energy of rock instruments to conjure up a dreamy atmosphere and bring to life wandering shadows lost in the woods under the moon... 
 
Court 2019

 
The first version of the melancholic “Lovers” was originally released on the debut album and here the band gives new life to the tragic story of a princess that preys night and day for the return of his beloved knight who is gone abroad, over the see, to fight in the name of the his king. When the army comes back without him she jumps down from the tower to fly away and meet her man... 
 
The short, delicate acoustic ballad “Dream Tale” is the only original track and tells of a child who dreams of being a brave knight in a fantastic world full of adventures... It takes to the re-arranged version of another long epic piece from the debut album, “Alviss’ Revenge”, inspired by Norse Mythology and Nordic sagas. It tells a bloody story of rings and vengeance, kings and Valkyries, robberies and murders and ends an album that is really worth listening to. 
 
 
Have a try! 
 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
 
More info:



 

Thursday, 6 May 2021

EERY FORESTS AND CASTLES

Wyrd is the third album by Roman project Ellesmere and was released in 2020 on the independent label AMS Records. To complete the line up and enrich the sound, this time composer and multi instrumentalist Roberto Vitelli (bass, guitar, Moog) gathered around him many prestigious guests such as Mattias Olsson (drums, from Anglagard, and White Willow), Tomas Bodin (keyboards, from The Flower Kings), David Cross (violin, from King Crimson), John Hackett (flute), David Jackson (sax, from Van Der Graaf Generator), Tony Pagliuca (keyboards, from Le Orme), Luciano Regoli (vocals, from Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno and DGM), Fabio Liberatori (keyboards, from Il Poliedro di Leonardo and the new line up of Reale Accademia di Musica), Fabio Bonuglia (keyboards, Mellotron, Hammond, Moog) and Giorgio Pizzala (vocals). The result is a good mix of vintage sounds, modern prog and jazz rock with a wide range of influences ranging from Yes, King Crimson or Kansas to Transatlantic, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard.

 


The wonderful artwork by Rodney Matthews recalls the style of Roger Dean and evokes wondrous stories and epic adventures in fantastic worlds and enchanted woods. The first three tracks are linked together and form an excellent suite. On “Challenge” you can hear the voice of a young warrior leaving his country for new territories crawling with tall tales, myths and stories of haunted spirits and goblins. He’s hiding under the cloak of his dreams as the wind blows... “The Eery Manor” is a sparkling instrumental section where John Hackett and David Jackson showcase all their great talent painting disquieting atmospheres and adding vivid touches of colours to the picture with saxes, flutes and other wind instruments. After a long ride through a dark forest on a strange horse among nymphs, friendly dwarves and lurking werewolves you’re in sight of a mysterious castle... “Endeavour” ends the first part of the album combining dreamy, pastoral parts and harder passages and could recall every now and again ELP or Van Der Graaf Generator. The warrior relies on his good luck to defy the fate and discover what’s hidden behind the walls of the castle...

 


The second part of the album (or the side B of the LP) begins with “Ajar” and a martial marching beat. Echoes of Delirium III could come to mind. Hardly any sunlight breaks through the dense tree tops of the forest, and the myths surrounding these woods are more fantastical than paranormal. You can imagine hunting Tarkus and other strange creatures all around... However, the only way to know for certain what monsters await around the next bend is to venture out into the darkness yourself...

The long instrumental “Endless” closes the album. There are other surprises along the way that you might never expect to find deep in the woods and so it's no surprise that the surreal world depicted in the art cover could develop a reputation for spooky sounds and ghostly apparitions. Some cinematic passages could recall Ennio Morricone and stir the imagination of the listener and could be the perfect for a fantasy film score...

On the whole, a very good album. Especially recommended to symphonic prog lovers!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:

 



 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

THE SOUL GATE

 Alice’s Mirror were formed in 2016 in Ruvo di Puglia, a town in the province of Bari, with the aim of playing a personal kind of progressive rock merging influences from the past and modern sounds. After some time spent in composing original pieces and refining them playing gigs on the local scene, in 2018 the band released an interesting debut album entitled Through The Mirror on the independent label Hydra Music with a line up featuring Fulvio Bucci (vocals, bass), Eduardo Bucci (organ, piano, keyboards), Walter Antonio Lanotte (guitars, bouzouki, lap steel) and Michele Di Modugno (drums, pad). The album artwork by Francesco Pio Marcone reflects the musical content and in the pics you can find in the booklet you can also appreciate all the attention that the musicians pay to the visual aspect of their music, influenced by the novel of Lewis Carroll and the colourful, animated film by Walt Disney. According to the band, the mirror reflects what we are and it could be seen as a gate to enter the soul of a musician while Alice – the protagonist of a journey through a surreal, crazy world – represents a metaphor of the musical research of the band... 
 

 
The dreamy instrumental opener “Fake communication #1” starts softly by a spacey atmosphere and ends with an excerpt from the 1981 Italian comedy-drama film Sweet Dreams directed by Nanni Moretti where you can hear Nanni Moretti’s enraged voice repeat “I do not speak about things I don’t know!”. It’s the introduction to “Fake Communication” a committed, heartfelt reflection about the negative effects of social media on our way to communicate where words become just noise and too many people seem to speak up without anything to say, prisoners of the likes on their chats... 
 

 
An excerpt from the Italian version of Alice In Wonderland, the 1951 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions introduces the excellent instrumental piece “Alice's Dance” that blends echoes from the seventies and nervous heavy passages with electric guitar and organ in the forefront. It leads to “Ronin”, a kind of elegy for a lost friend that begins by a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio and a dreamy piano pattern. The mood is melancholic as the music and words depict pale clouds in a still sky and blossoming flowers in the fields... The springtime landscape is the sad set for the last goodbye to a wandering warrior, a samurai without lord nor land... This track features the backing vocals of the Corale Polifonica “Rubis Canto” directed by Maestro Nicola Bucci.
 
A short excerpt from a documentary about Johann Sebastian Bach that stigmatizes the bad temper of the famous composer introduces “Bachtown”, a sparkling exercise of style where the musicians showcase their talent and great musicianship blending rock and classical music, from Bach to Mozart and his Turkish March from the Piano Sonata in A Major n. 11...
 

 
“Merigold” is a nice folksy piece that deals with the issue of emigration. You have to face a problematic choice, are you really sure you’ll be happier if you leave behind and forget your homeland and roots to search for a better place where to live and make money? Is this the life you really want? All that glitters is not always gold... 
 

 
Two instrumental tracks close the album, the nervous “Jump The Step” and the long, dreamy “Arabian Carpet”, sprinkled with Oriental flavours and touches of psychedelia to conjure up a strong sense of mystery and where aggressive electric guitar riffs alternate with softer, acoustic passages. 
 
On the whole, a very good album although I think that it’s a pity that the band did not exploit more their mother language for lyrics and vocals. 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
More info:




Sunday, 2 May 2021

TALES FROM UTOPIA

 The roots of Utopia 239 date back to 1971 when in a village of the province of Vercelli called Lignana four friends formed a band to play covers and compose original stuff inspired by Italian canzone d’autore and progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd or Le Orme. During their early years the band never had the chance to properly record and release an album and they split up at the end of the seventies. It wasn’t until 2002 that some of the old members reunited and decided to rework on their early repertoire taking it back from oblivion. In 2015 they finally self-released a debut album entitled I giorni dell’utopia (The days of Utopia) with a renewed line up featuring along with the veterans Massimo Cagliero (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Ugo Giva Magnetti (guitar, vocals) and Fausto Garella (drums, percussion, vocals) also Fabrizio Gallina Sabarino (keyboards, synth), Enrico Barbano (electric and classical guitar), Fosca Zanone (vocals, classical guitar) and Alberto Bocchio (bass). 
 

 
The opener “Ouverture” is a short, ethereal instrumental track with the keyboards in the forefront that sets the atmosphere and leads to “Una borgata” (A township), a piece originally written in 1972 that tells about the formative years spent by a man in an old village between flowers and thorns with a mill, a church, an old inn and where memories are carried away by the wind... The pace is slow and the mood melancholic as the music and the poetical lyrics describe a little town and its hypocritical mentality, then the strong desire of looking for new horizons, leaving behind faded masks, broken dreams and false appearances. The following “Un povero cristo” (A poor man) is a short ballad that was clearly inspired by the style of Fabrizio De Andrè and Francesco Guccini and depicts the lonesome death, in a hospital bed, of an old poor villager. Then, the images of his funeral follow: few people, no flowers, no tears... Life goes on as usual as the memory of the solitary fades away. 
 

 
“Ho udito le megattere cantare” (I’ve heard the humpback whales singing) is a long instrumental track that could recall One Of These Days by Pink Floyd and leads to “9 febbraio, un giorno” (February the 9th, a day), a sad elegy that evokes broken illusions and the blood splattered on the asphalt as a consequence of an accident at work on a normal day in an impersonal, ungrateful metropolis that seems unaware of this kind of tragedies... Then it’s the turn of the long, complex “Il narratore delle storie degli inferi” (The teller of the hell’s stories) a dramatic piece dealing the issue of drug addiction where the lyrics unfold in the form of a dialogue between a “right-thinking” narrator and a damned junky drawn away across the dark infinite space by the white dust he holds in his hands... 
 
The short instrumental “La danza delle lucciole” (The dance of the fireflies) is a dreamy track that leads to the dramatic “Amore fragile” (Fragile love), a melancholic ballad about the first love and the loss of innocence. Then it’s the turn of the introspective, hermetic “Il bivio” (The crossroads) that tells about the torn choices a teenager girl has to make, uncertain about which way to follow between dreams and stability, dangerous paths or beaten tracks... 
 

 
According to the band, “Gloria in excelsis machina (Il confine)” is a piece conceived as a hymn to the human decadence. It tries to depict in music and words a dystopic future where, without the ability to experience or express feelings, humankind is pushed to the edges of the galaxies. Man is now the prisoner of a cage that he has built with his own hands, a cage that he will no longer be able to break down as his life plunges towards extinction on board of ghost spaceships lost into the mists of Andromeda... The following “Ritorno alle origini” (Back to the roots) is another track that tries to conjure up apocalyptic images and deals with the tendency to self-destruction of the human race. You can hear Mother’s nature lament in the day after of a nuclear war. There’s nothing but ruin all around the gloomy landscape. And yet, there’s still hope for a new start as a pale light breaks the veil of darkness... 
 
“Risveglio” is a short instrumental linked to the final track, “La morte e la fanciulla” (The Death and the maiden), that tells in a poetical way of the tragic death of a young girl. The girl is raped and murdered by a maniac killer, her body is found the day after in a suburban lawn. Here reality and dream melt and what is just another tragic crime news becomes a fairy tale... 
 
On the whole, an interesting album although it could be difficult to fully appreciate it without an adequate comprehension of the lyrics. 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
More info:
 




Sunday, 7 March 2021

MOON AND SUN

 Illusion Of Gravity took shape in Turin in 2013 on the initiative of keyboardist Umberto Alberto and drummer Davide Garofalo. After some line up changes and a first period spent performing cover versions of pieces by Pink Floyd, Genesis, PFM, Caravan or Porcupine Tree, they started to work on their own compositions with the aim of merging into a progressive rock core a combination of different musical genres. In 2020 they finally self released a debut album entitled Too Late with a line up featuring Umberto Alberto (keyboards), Davide Garofalo (drums), Federico Aluzzi (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Alessandro Cascella (lead guitar) and Gabriele Zuddas (bass). The final result is a good mix of modern and vintage sounds... 
 

 
The opener “Too Late” starts by a spacey crescendo that could recall Pink Floyd, then the dark, pulsing atmosphere gives way to a more melodic part where the music and lyrics evoke the regrets for some wrong choices made in the past but also the awareness of the need to go on. If you try, you might find that it’s not too late to redeem yourself learning from your errors but you have to fight hard to come out from the abyss of a personal crises and never stop to hope in better days to come... 
 
“Shining Bliss” blends eighties keyboard sounds and more aggressive parts with electric guitar riffs in the forefront to depict and criticize a false, hypocritical world where appearances rule and the value of a person is based only on his or her richness and bloodline... 
 

 
The dark “Strange Home” conjures up haunting presences and painful memories that keep you stuck in a house once familiar and now transformed in a kind of mental prison. The following “I Can” starts by a keyboard pattern with a strong new wave flavour, then the music takes another direction while the lyrics depict an effort to break through from a bleak reality getting lost in a psychedelic trip... 
 
The long, complex epic “Kua Fu” closes the album with fiery guitar riffs and other brilliant instrumental passages. The title refers to the name of a giant who wished to capture the Sun, a legend in Chinese mythology that the band tells through the voice of Kua Fu by interpreting his desperate, crazy effort to tame the light. There are many versions of this myth, here the Moon, queen of the night, has mercy of the protagonist and tries to save him from the burning power of the Sun... 
 
On the whole, a good album full of nuances but that needs several spins to be fully appreciated. 
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE
 
More info: