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Posts Tagged ‘Federico Caprai’

TRACKLISTING:
1. Invocazione alle Muse (2:02)
2. Indignatio (Infedeli in Terra Santa) (8:03)
3. Urbano II Bandisce la Prima Crociata (3:07)
4. Simplicio (4:27)
5. Deus Lo Vult (7:15)
6. Verso Casa (3:49)
7. La Beffa (Non un Trono, Non un Regno…Solo Sdegno) (5:10)

LINEUP:
Simone Cecchini – lead and backing vocals, acoustic 6- and 12-string guitar, harp
Diego Petrini – drums, percussion, mellotron, organ
Federico Caprai – bass
Simone Brozzetti – electric guitar
Eva Morelli – flute, piccolo, alto, soprano and tenor sax, theremin

Almost 7 years after their breakthrough second album, Discesa agli Inferi di Un Giovane Amante, and 10 years after their foundation, Il Bacio della Medusa have made their recording comeback with an album that is bound to  leave a lasting impression. Hailing from the beautiful medieval city of Perugia in central Italy, the band (now a quintet after the departure of violinist Daniele Rinchi) have also parted company with Genoa-based label Black Widow, in a bold move that is becoming increasingly common with new bands.  However, the quality of their product has not suffered one bit from dispensing with a label’s support.

Like side project Ornithos’ La Trasfigurazione, Deus Lo Vult  is a concept album, but, unlike the former, it places a strong emphasis on vocals and narration. In a drastic reversal of the current trend for endless, filler-packed releases, the album concentrates a lot in a mere 33 minutes (the average running time of a vinyl LP), and this rather unusual leanness protects it from the usual pitfalls of the concept format. Even though Deus Lo Vult has drawn some criticism on account of its supposedly “incomplete” feel, it is extremely refreshing to see a band managing to describe a complete story arch in barely over half an hour, without relying on the gimmicks that often give concept albums a bad name.

The band also strike a near-perfect balance between words (penned by lead vocalist Simone Cecchini) and music, avoiding an excess of wordiness and allowing the music to convey as much emotion as the vocals. All the members of Il Bacio della Medusa are superb instrumentalists, and the music (written by drummer Diego Petrini, also a member of Ornithos like reedist Eva Morelli and bassist Federico Caprai) runs the gamut from gentle, folk-tinged balladry to no-holds-barred heavy prog. Cecchini’s extremely versatile voice, firmly rooted in the great RPI tradition of charismatic singers such as Jumbo’s Alvaro Fella or Biglietto per l’Inferno’s Claudio Canali (to name but two), at times blends with the instruments, at others completely dominates them, performing two or more roles at once in thoroughly convincing fashion.

Lavishly packaged with striking, medieval-style cover artwork  and a very thorough 18-page booklet, Deus Lo Vult blends musical quality and visual appeal in true vintage prog fashion. As those well-versed in the history of the Western world will know, the album’s title (meaning “God wills it” in medieval Latin) refers to the rallying cry of the people when the first Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II at the end of the 11th century. However, rather than with the bigger picture, the album deals with the story of a young lordling, Simplicio (whose very name hints at a naïve, trusting nature), who joins the Crusade in search of fame and fortune – only to meet with bitter disappointment upon his return home.

In spite of Deus Lo Vult’s limited running time, none of the tracks sound alike. Opening with an homage to classical epic literature in the shape of an invocation to the Muses (“Invocazione alle Muse”) – a soothing, pastoral-sounding piece in which Cecchini’s melodic yet assertive voice is accompanied by acoustic guitar, mellotron and flute – the album immediately dives into the thick of things with its longest track, the 8-minute “Indignatio (Infedeli in Terra Santa”. Introduced by majestic mellotron and expressive flute (which reminded me of Delirium or Quella Vecchia Locanda rather than Jethro Tull), the song is driven by Diego Petrini’s imperious drums and Cecchini’s intense, theatrical vocal performance, paralleled by Eva Morelli frantically blaring sax and Simone Brozzetti’s searing lead guitar; the music reflects the tone of the lyrics – an invective against the Muslim presence in the Holy Land conveyed in almost visionary terms. The mphatic, march-like “Urbano II Bandisce la Prima Crociata”, with its trumpets, drums and martial chanting, strikes a half-serious, half-comical note, allowing Cecchini to interpret two different characters with deadpan effectiveness; while in the folksy ballad “Simplicio” Cecchini’s voice displays its melodic potential, well complemented by guitar and flute.

With the title-track, Il Bacio della Medusa deliver another showstopper. After a deceptively mellow, piccolo- and mellotron-led intro, a Gillan-like, banshee wail leads into a veritable hard rock feast that sounds like Iron Maiden jamming with Balletto di Bronzo, with no less than three blazing guitar solos, raging Hammond organ runs, aggressive sax and flute in the tradition of Jethro Tull’s heaviest episodes. “Verso Casa” relates Simplicio’s journey towards his home (where a nasty surprise awaits him) with a lively, waltz-like pace and very expressive, slightly histrionic vocals. The story reaches an unexpected climax in “La Beffa”, dominated by Cecchini’s suitably deranged vocals, then wrapped up by a galloping, exhilarating flute-guitar section, and ending with the ominous sound of a crackling fire.

Besides the outstanding quality of the music, which successfully blends a vintage feel with a thoroughly modern allure, Il Bacio della Medusa should be commended for the painstaking attention devoted to the lyrics – though, unfortunately, non-speakers of Italian are bound to miss out on this aspect, as even the best translation is unlikely to convey the stylistic subtlety of Simone Cecchini’s work. In any case, Deus Lo Vult  is undoubtedly  poised to become one of the standout Italian prog releases of this first part of the 21st century. Especially recommended to fans of bands at the heavier end of the RPI spectrum (such as Osanna and the already-mentioned Balletto di Bronzo and Biglietto per l’Inferno), this intense slice of top-notch musical skill and exquisitely Italian drama will probably be mentioned in many “best of 2012” lists at the end of the year.

Links:
http://www.ilbaciodellamedusa.com/

http://www.myspace.com/ilbaciodellamedusa

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TRACKLISTING:
Il Trittico del Tempo Che Fu:
 1. L’Orologio (5:43)
2. La Persistenza della Memoria (3:11)
3. Somatizzando l’Altare Di Fuoco (7:46)
4. L’Ipostasi (3:19)
Presa di Coscienza del Presente:
 5. Al Torneo (3:32)
6. L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga (4:34)
7. Nuvole e Luce (2:23)
8. Ritorno al… (Reprise) (1:47)
9. Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza (7:40)
Quiete e Redenzione del Domani:
 10. Nel Crepuscolo (3:49)
11. La Notte (4:05)
12. L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno (6:01)
13. This Is What We Got: The Flute Song (7:31)

LINEUP:
Diego Petrini – drums, organ, piano, mellotron, percussion, vocals
Eva Morelli – flute, alto, soprano and tenor sax
Federico Caprai – bass guitar, vocals
Antonello De Cesare – lead guitar, backing vocals
Simone Morelli – rhythm guitar
Maria Giulia Carnevalini – lead and backing vocals

Hailing from the beautiful central Italian region of Umbria, Ornithos (Greek for “bird”) features three members of Il Bacio della Medusa, one of the most interesting Italian progressive rock bands of  the past few years. However, Ornithos predates Il Bacio della Medusa by a few years, and was originally created by multi-instrumentalist Diego Petrini and bassist Federico Caprai in 1999. The two musicians were joined by Eva Morelli in 2007, and subsequently by the three remaining members, vocalist Maria Giulia Carnevalini and guitarists Antonello De Cesare and Simone Morelli La Trasfigurazione, their debut album, was completed in 2011 but released in the early months of 2012. The cover artwork by Federico Caprai features the band’s symbol, the ibis, which is a reference not only to their name, but also to Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time.

For a debut album, La Trasfigurazione is a very ambitious endeavour, bearing witness to the many years of work and dedication behind it. With 13 relatively short tracks arranged in three chapters, it is a concept that hinges on a man’s spiritual journey through the past, the present and the future. True to the Italian progressive tradition, it is also boasts dramatic flair, gorgeous yet occasionally intense melodies, and plenty of variety to keep the listener on their toes. However, unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Indeed, the majority of the tracks are instrumental, showcasing the amazing technical skill of the individual members, as well as very tight band dynamics and a remarkable ability in developing a narration without the use of too many words.

Eclecticism is the name of the game on La Trasfigurazione, an album that honours the golden age of Italian prog while at the same time searching for new avenues of expression. The lush  symphonic apparatus of mellotron and other keyboards is beefed up by a twin-guitar approach more typical of classic rock than prog, and the prominent role of Eva Morelli’s saxes lends a sleek, jazzy allure to the sound. While the synergy between flute and guitar, hovering between gentleness and aggression, inevitably evokes Jethro Tull (a big influence on many RPI bands, both old and new), Ornithos’ sound rests on a tightly woven web that relies on the contribution of each instrument, finely detailed yet part of a whole. The vocals, on the other hand, almost take a back seat, although the contrast between Diego Petrini’s low-pitched, almost gloomy delivery (sharply different from the quasi-operatic style favoured by many Italian prog singers) and Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soaring, blues-tinged tones deserves to be further exploited in the band’s future outings.

The sounds of tolling bells and a ticking clock lead into “L’Orologio”, whose brisk, dance-like pace introduces the album, illustrating the band’s modus operandi. The strong hard rock component of Ornithos’ sound emerges at the end, with a driving guitar solo propelled by high-energy drumming and supported by sax and organ. Petrini’s distinctive vocals make their entrance in the low-key “La Persistenza della Memoria”, and lend a somewhat ominous flavour to the first half of “Somatizzando l’Altare di Fuoco”, a cinematic number that blends echoes of Morricone’s iconic spaghetti-western soundtracks with a vintage hard-rock vibe and an unexpected, laid-back jazzy ending. The nostalgic tango of “L’Ipostasi” wraps up the first chapter.

Introduced by the upbeat “Al Torneo”, the second chapter develops in eclectic fashion with the blaring sax – almost in free-jazz mode – of “L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga”; then it takes a more mellow turn in the Canterbury-tinged “Nuvole e Luce”, which introduces Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soulful voice paralleled by melodic flute – before plunging deep into hard rock territory with the raging Hammond organ of “Ritorno al… (Reprise)”. “Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza”, probably the album’s climactic point, begins in subdued, almost mournful fashion, then soon unfolds into a dramatic, riff-laden jazz-meets-hard-rock workout that brings to mind the likes of Colosseum, Banco and even The Doors. The third chapter opens with the blues-rock suggestions of “Nel Crepuscolo”, while “La Notte” ’s slow-paced, riff-laden heaviness conjures echoes of Black Sabbath, compounded by a wild, distorted guitar solo and aggressive, almost harsh flute. Then the serene textures of “L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno”, with a lovely sax solo that made me think of the airy, jazz-tinged elegance of Delirium’s magnificent comeback album Il Nome del Vento, bring the main body of the album to a close. In fact, while the jazzy “This Is What We Got: The Flute Song” is undoubtedly a beautiful piece of music – showcasing Antonello De Cesare’s guitar skills in a great solo backed by organ and sax – it feels like an afterthought of sorts, especially on account of the English-language lyrics, which detract from the uniquely Italian character of the rest of the album.

As is the case with most Italian progressive rock, La Trasfigurazione can be somewhat of an acquired taste, and definitely not for those who favour a minimalistic approach. Musically speaking, even if the album might command the controversial “retro” tag, there is also a sense of modernity in the band’s omnivorous approach which pushes Ornithos’sound into the 21st century. True, the album occasionally comes across as a tad overambitious when it wants to cram too many ideas into a limited running time of 56 minutes. However, this is a band that possesses talent in spades, and La Trasfigurazione will make a strong impression on lovers of everything RPI – as well as providing a fine complement to Il Bacio della Medusa’s newly released third album, Deus Lo Vult.

Links:
http://www.ornithos.it/

http://www.myspace.com/ornithos

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

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