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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Some Stories (3:07)
2. Dance of the Sun/The Remark/Dance of the Sun (Birth of the Light) (6:16)
3. The Withered Throne (7:22)
4. We All Stand in Our Broken Jars (5:32)
5. A Safe Haven (3:40)
6. Knight’s Vow (4:00)
7. Clumsy Grace (2:45)
8. Mellow Days (9:38)
9. ‘Til the Morning Came (4:54)
10. Some Stories (Reprise) (3:47)

LINEUP:
Valerio Smordoni – lead and backing vocals, Minimoog, keyboards, piano, harmonium, acoustic guitar, tambourine, Taurus pedal
Manolo D’Antonio – acoustic and 12-string guitars, electric guitar, classical guitar, ukulele, backing vocals
Marco Avallone – bass, bass synthesizer, Taurus pedal, percussion

With:
Francesco Favilli – drums, percussion
Carlo Enrico Macalli – flute
Andrea Bergamelli – cello
Eliseo Smordoni – bassoon
Giovanni Vigliar – violin

The Morning Choir: Valerio Smordoni, Manolo D’Antonio, Marco Chiappini, Marco Del Mastro, Francesco Macrì, Simone Giglio, Giovanni Peditto, Igi Tani.

One of the newest additions to the Fading Records subdivision of AltrOck Productions, Camelias Garden are also very much of an unknown quantity to most progressive rock fans  – and not only on account of the band members’ young age. Hailing from my own hometown of Rome, they originally started as vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Valerio Smordoni’s one-man project, and subsequently turned into a full-fledged band with the addition of guitarist Manolo D’Antonio, bassist Marco Avallone and drummer Walter Palombi. Their debut album, You Have a Chance, produced by Massimo Dolce of Gran Turismo Veloce, was released in March 2013.

Labeling themselves as “post-progressive”, Camelias Garden (who are quite active on the live front, even if most of their gigs happen outside recognized prog circles) cite such diverse influences as  Genesis (an essential reference point for practically every Italian prog band), The Beatles and Porcupine Tree, but also post-rock icons Explosions in the Sky and crossover hotshots Tame Impala. In fact, unlike most currently active Italian prog bands, Camelias Garden are firmly rooted in the English musical tradition – both progressive and vintage folk-rock – although echoes of some of the RPI greats of the past occasionally surface. Rather unusually for an Italian band, their grasp of the English language is outstanding, and Smordoni’s enunciation is nearly accentless.

On You Have a Chance, the three core members of the band (drummer Walter Palombi joined after the album had been recorded) are supplemented by a number of guest musicians. A look at the lineup will also reveal a prevalence of acoustic instruments – and, in fact, in Camelias Garden music the electric component is kept to a minimum. As hinted by the deceptively naïf cover artwork – with a slightly disturbing, surrealistic touch in the eyeballs replacing the flower centres – You Have a Chance, much in the way of Genesis’ early output, is not as airy-fairy as the band’s name might initially suggest; while the melancholy, somewhat world-weary lyrics have a late Romantic feel. With its circular structure, the album can be seen as a concept of sorts, and the tracks flow into one another without discernible breaks.

The short, sweet “Some Stories”, a delicate, pastoral vignette highlighting Smordoni’s harmonious, medieval-storyteller’s vocals, complemented by dreamy birdsong and gentle acoustic guitar, provides a fitting introduction for the album, its veiled melancholy enhanced by flute and the solemn drone of the cello. The mood picks up with the folksy, lively “Dance of the Sun” and its sweeping Moog sharply reminiscent of PFM’s iconic “Celebration” (and, occasionally, of vintage Genesis), culminating in a lively Celtic jig.

Most of the album, however, rests on muted, gentle melodies, its whimsical English folk matrix bolstered by the haunting presence of the mellotron, whose interplay with the acoustic guitar enhances the catchy ballad “The Withered Throne” (which reminded me a lot of The Decemberists), and lends classic prog appeal to the romantic instrumental “We All Stand in Our Broken Jars”, with its charming juxtaposition of the acoustic and the electric component. The album’s other instrumental, “A Safe Haven”, is a lovely, autumnal piano piece to which flute and mellotron add depth. Then, a couple of ethereal ballads, “Knight’s Vow” and “Clumsy Grace”, whose endearing folksiness gains prog credentials from Moog and Mellotron, introduce the album’s own mini-epic, the almost 10-minute “Mellow Days”, in which echoes of medieval music merge with a full-fledged early Genesis tribute: indeed, some of the keyboard parts will not fail to recall the iconic “Firth of Fifth”. The album comes full circle with “Some Stories (Reprise)”, a celebration of nostalgia in which the opening track is presented as a faint, scratchy recording on a backdrop of falling rain, in a fascinating sonic collage.

Clocking in at a sensible 49 minutes, There’s a Chance is obviously a labour of love, put together with painstaking care by a group of young, dedicated musicians. Although derivative in parts, and occasionally a tad repetitive, devoid of those sharper edges that might make it more attractive to fans of more experimental fare, its soothing, mainly acoustic nature will offer a lot of listening pleasure to those who like their melody untainted by overt mainstream pretensions. Blending nostalgia with a subtle touch of modernity, You Have a Chance is a solid first showcase for a band that shows a lot of promise for the future, and another intriguing find from the ever-reliable AltrOck team.

Links:
http://cameliasgarden.com/

http://cameliasgarden.bandcamp.com/

http://www.altrock.it

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fim_fiera_musica

 

On May 25-26, 2013, the Italian “prog hub” of Genoa and its surrounding region of Liguria will be the undisputed protagonist of an event of international scope targeted to anyone who is in the business of making and promoting music. The FIM (Fiera Internazionale della Musica), the largest event of its kind organized in Italy, will take place at the Ippodromo dei Fiori in the medieval hill town of Villanova d’Albenga. The town lies about 50 km (31 miles) west of Genoa, in the hinterland of the famed Riviera di Ponente, the western stretch of the Italian Riviera, curving towards the French border and following the route of the Via Aurelia, the longest of the original Roman roads.

Over two whole days, the event will offer a unique showcase to up-and-coming bands and artists from all over Italy. Four stages and other dedicated spaces will allow musicians to perform with their own instruments, and the participants will also have a wide range of workshops, seminars and other happenings to attend – all covered by a daily entrance fee of € 15.

One of the core events of the fair, the Riviera Prog Festival will host a total of 13 bands (as well as the symphonic orchestra of the neighbouring town of Sanremo, known internationally for its Festival della Canzone Italiana)  in the afternoon and evening of both days, starting from 3 p.m. The bands that will take turns on stage during this event-within-the-event represent some of the best that Italian progressive rock has to offer, with an eye to its glorious past and another to the thriving contemporary scene – an example that US organizers would do well to follow, instead of focusing on foreign acts to the detriment of homegrown talent.

Though most of the bands and artists on the lineup are based in Liguria, other parts of Italy have not been neglected: Goad and Le Porte Non Aperte hail from Tuscany, while Claudio Simonetti/Daemonia and Biglietto per l’Inferno  (both protagonists of the original RPI movement in the early Seventies) are based respectively in Rome and Milan. The local talent includes veterans such as The Trip (who counted one Ritchie Blackmore among its early members), Latte E Miele (who were slated to headline the sadly cancelled Farfest 2012), DeliriumGarybaldi and Il Cerchio d’Oro, and modern bands such as Il Tempio delle Clessidre (whose career-defining NEARfest appearance endeared them to the US prog community), G.C. Neri Band, La Coscienza di Zeno and newcomers Flower Flesh.

FIM has been sponsored by a number of local agencies, including the region of Liguria, and partnered by media outlets such as local radio and TV stations, as well as the association Centro Studi per il Progressive Italiano (CSPI), independent label Black Widow Records and recording studio Maia (all based in Genoa). The event’s website (unfortunately only in Italian, at least for the time being) contains detailed information on the event, including tips for anyone who would like to combine the pleasures of music with those of sightseeing.

Links:
http://www.fimfiera.it/

http://cspigenova.blogspot.com/

http://www.blackwidow.it

http://www.maiagroup.it/maia/studio-di-registrazione

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Eclissi Pt. 1 – L’Occhio e la Maschera (8:23)
2. La Maschera della Visione (5:58)
3. Fantasia (8:58)
4. Nel Nulla Etereo Soggiogato dall’Ignoto la Mente Si Espande (7:01)
5. Purpurea (10:00)
6. Follia (19:12)
7. Eclissi Pt. 2 – La Genesi (9:36)

LINEUP:
Gabriele Marroni – guitars
Filippo Menconi – bass
Andrea Valerio – piano, synth
Raffaele Crezzini – drums, percussion
Diego Samo – keyboards, synth

With:
Paolo Carelli – narration
Michele Sanchini – cello
Matteo Canestri – bass
Lucio Pacchieri – drums
Giovanni Ferretti – piano, synth

A band name such as Labirinto Di Specchi (Maze of Mirrors) suggests purveyors of intricate, multilayered music, heavy on atmosphere and intensity rather than smoothly flowing melodies. Indeed, the young five-piece hailing from the beautiful Tuscan town of Montepulciano (a place well known to wine lovers) belong to the growing contingent of new Italian bands that have updated the blueprint for progressive rock set by the iconic bands of the Seventies, and produced an album packed full of the twists and turns implied by their name.

Labirinto Di Specchi have been together since 2005; their first recording effort, a demo titled La Maschera della Visione, attracted the attention of Lizard Records, an independent label with a proven record for modern prog releases of a consistently high standard. Hanblecheya (a word in the Native American Lakota language denoting a vision quest), the band’s full-length debut, contains reworked material from the demo, as well as new compositions .It also sees the participation of a number of guest artists – most remarkably, that of Paolo Carelli, former vocalist of Pholas Dactylus, a short-lived outfit that in 1973 released Concerto delle Menti, one of the cult albums of the original RPI movement.

Clocking in at almost 70 minutes, Hanblecheya is impressively ambitious, its seven lengthy compositions describing the experience of the titular vision quest through a very distinctive format. Though there is no actual singing involved,  Paolo Carelli’s solemn, deep-voiced narration is like a thread connecting the seven tracks to each other. While synthesizers and assorted electronics are definitely at the core of the band’s musical vision, the fluid, melodic touch of the piano and full-throated rumble of the organ provide an organic foil, further balanced by the autumnal drone of the cello and the pervasive presence of both acoustic and electric guitars.

Any album tagged as “Porcupine Tree meets Pholas Dactylus” sounds like a rather interesting proposition, and Hanblecheya does not disappoint expectations. Though clearly not an easy listening experience, it is also surprisingly mature in its treatment of the inevitable influences. The psychedelic/space component, firmly rooted in the use of a wide range of electronics, gains a harder edge from occasional bursts of riffing that suggest a prog metal inspiration (particularly evident in “La Maschera della Visione”, the shortest track of the album and possibly the most accessible); while entrancing Mediterranean and Eastern suggestion lurk in the two compositions bookending the album , with the heady, raga-inspired section in opener “Eclissi Pt.1 – L’Occhio e la Maschera” reprised in the second half of “Eclissi Pt. 2 – La Genesi”.

Not all of the many ideas thrown into Hanblecheya’s  melting pot of are successful: the classical-meets-electronic bent of  the second half of “Fantasia” borders dangerously on the cheesiness of those classical “rock” adaptations that were quite popular in the Eighties, and clashes with the wistful, atmospheric mood of the first part of the song.  On the other hand, the ominous post rock surge of “Purpurea” and the all-out experimentalism of “Nel Nulla Etereo Soggiogato dall’Ignoto la Mente Si Espande”, revolving around Carelli’s eerily effective narration (the most reminiscent of his Pholas Dactylus days), and wrapped up by a noisy industrial section (the whole bringing to mind label mates Runaway Totem at their most impenetrable) hold up to close scrutiny, in spite of their undeniably “difficult” nature. The album’s crowning achievement, however, comes with the 19-minute “Foll(i)a” (a title conflating the Italian words for “crowd” and “madness”), an intensely cinematic piece that, while paying homage to Steven Wilson’s signature style, manages to avoid blatant derivativeness.  A fresh take on the old “epic” warhorse, the track hinges on a “duel” between a whole array of electronic effects and the gentle ripple of the piano, ending in an exhilarating cascade of cymbals, piano and majestic synth washes.

Although, as suggested in the previous paragraphs, Hanblecheya is not for everyone, it has all it takes to attract those prog fans who like the genre to look forward without completely turning its back to its glorious past. Firmly anchored to the Italian progressive tradition by its keen sense of melody and the rivetingly dramatic tone of Paolo Carelli’s narration, yet unafraid to experiment with more radical musical directions, and skilled in combining the acoustic, the electric and the electronic component (though at times the slashing, whistling presence of synths can become a tad overwhelming), Labirinto Di Specchi are a band that adventurous listeners would do well to check out.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/labirintodispecchi

http://www.lizardrecords.it/

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Ordinary Li(f)e (8:00)
2. A Sea Without Shores (3:45)
3. In Circle (9:01)
4. Lying on a Pink  Cloud (12:38)
5. Acid Carousel (3:50)
6. Ashes (3:49)
7. Night Euphoria (6:27)
8. Outside the Rain (6:41)
9. Colliding  (7:00)
10. Starseeing on the Shore (8:53)

LINEUP:
Francesco Bassoli – guitars
Tiziano Cofanelli  – drums
Luca Guidobaldi – vocals
Luca Parca – bass
Claudio Stasi – piano, keyboards

Formed in 2006, when the four former members of a prog metal cover band called Kimaera  Project joined forces with vocalist Luca Guidobaldi, Rome- based quintet Seventh Will debuted in 2007 with the demo Pink Clouds and Heavy Rain. In the following years, they concentrated on the realization of their first full-length CD, an ambitious concept by the title of Ordinary Li(f)e, eventually released in 2010.

For many progressive rock fans, the Italian scene is almost automatically associated with the so-called “symphonic’ bands of the Seventies, all operatic vocals, sweeping keyboards and lush arrangements. However, in the second decade of the 21st century Italian prog does not seem to be stuck in a time warp, and bands such  as Seventh Will show that there the Seventies model is not the only blueprint for acts hailing from the boot-shaped peninsula. In fact, a first-time listener may notice that Ordinary Li(fe) does not sound typically Italian – and not only on account of the English-language lyrics. While quite a few contemporary Italian bands display that timeless sense of warmth and melody that is one of the hallmarks of Italian music, and that seems to complement progressive rock so well, Seventh Will have chosen to tread a different, more international-sounding path.

Ordinary Li(fe) is a very ambitious undertaking, based on an elaborate concept (one day in the life of Will, an archetypal “ordinary man”), illustrated in detail on the band’s blog. With a running time of 68 minutes, and most tracks over the 6-minute mark, it inevitably features some filler material that might have been left out without detriment to the album’s overall structure. Moreover, the longer tracks, particularly the 12-minute “Lying on a Pink Cloud”, occasionally suffer from lack of cohesion, sounding at times like a collection of separate passages strung together without an actual plan. Luca Guidobaldi’s high-pitched, vaguely plaintive vocals  belong to the Thom Yorke/Matt Bellamy school of singing – with a pinch of  Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s more aggressive tone thrown in – with only his accent giving his non-English origin away.

While the band’s previous prog metal matrix– represented mainly by sharp riffs and sudden accelerations – occasionally emerges, most evidently in the intense yet atmospheric “Colliding” (which made me think of Riverside circa Second Life Syndrome), on the whole the album comes across as a rather eclectic effort. Indeed, its basic Pink Floyd/Porcupine Tree inspiration is enhanced by nods to vintage hard rock (as in the title track, which opens the album with Hammond organ swirls offset by more subdued passages), or to more avant-garde acts such as The Mars Volta or Mr Bungle, complete with slightly dissonant passages (as in “Night Euphoria”). The band’s liberal use of quiet-loud dynamics indicates the band’s allegiance to the post-prog aesthetics embodied by most of the acts on the Kscope roster, including their fellow Italians Nosound. US band The Tea Club might also provide a useful term of comparison, especially on account of the similar vocal style and the use of slow build-up leading to powerful climaxes – as exemplified by “In Circle”.

On the other hand, a couple of contiguous pieces, “Acid Carousel” and “Ashes”, draw upon Pink Floyd’s late Seventies heyday – the former echoing the theatrical scope of The Wall (hard not to be reminded of Roger Waters’ commanding performance in “The Trial”); the latter patterned on melancholy acoustic pieces such as “Wish You Were Here”. Album closer “Starseeing on the Shore” offers a sonic rendition of the lovely cover image with a slow-burning, atmospheric ballad driven by acoustic guitar, piano and vocals, and synth effects evoking the sound of the surf.

Though, as is very often the case with debut albums, Ordinary Li(fe) is still very much of a “work in progress”, and inevitably derivative in parts, it also points to a promising band that is trying to break free of the  “retro-prog”  mould. It is to be hoped that they will adopt a more streamlined approach to songwriting in their next recording effort. In any case, the album is likely to appeal to fans of modern progressive rock, with particular regard to Steven Wilson’s numerous projects and most of Kscope’s output.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/seventhwill

http://seventhwill.blogspot.com/

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Iperbole (6:21)
2. Butterfly Song (8:31)
3. Trasfiguratofunky (7:31)
4. Negative (7:03)
5. Just Cannot Forget (2:25)
6. Flash (5:23)
7. Clamores Horrendos Ad Sidera Tollit (6:49)
8. Vacuum Fluctuation (8:04)
9. Re-Awakening (8:03)
10. Isterectomia (7.26)

LINEUP:
Alessandro Seravalle – vocals, electric, acoustic, e-bow & 12-string guitars, synths, keyboards, samples
Raffaello Indri – electric guitar
William Toson – fretted & fretless bass guitars
Ivan Moni Bidin – drums
Gianpietro Seravalle – electronic percussion, soundscapes

With:
Simone D’Eusanio – violin (1, 2, 8)
Cristian Rigano – synth solos (3)
Giorgio Pacorig – keyboards (3)
Pietro Sponton – congas (3), vibraphone (4)
Flavia Quass – vocals (4)
Andrea Fontana – percussion (4)
Davide Casali – bass clarinet (5)
Jacques Centonze – percussion (8)
Carlo Franceschinis – double bass (8)
Alessandro Bertoni – piano (9)
Mariano Bulligan – cellos (9)
Massimo De Mattia – flute (9, 10), bass flute (10)

In spite of a name referencing one of Genesis’ most popular songs and a “progressive metal” tag, Italian band Garden Wall are neither one of the many followers of the “retro-prog” trend, nor a bunch of Opeth or Dream Theater devotees. Hailing from the north-eastern Italian region of Friuli, the band was put together by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Seravalle in the late Eighties, and released their debut album in 1993. Assurdo, their eight album, forms the third and final chapter of the trilogy begun in 2002 with Forget the Colours, and continued with 2004’s Towards the Silence. It is also their first release with Lizard Records  (one of the most rolific independent labels for modern progressive rock), and – unlike their 2008 album, Aliena(c)tion – contains completely new material.

Now a quintet, with only Seravalle and guitarist Raffaello Indri left of the original lineup, Garden Wall have pulled out all the stops for their recording comeback. Not being familiar with their previous output, and misled by the “prog-metal” tag, when I first heard the album I was confronted with something that was almost impossible to label. Moreover, while most of my reviews include comparisons with other bands or artists (something that readers generally appreciate), this time I was hard put to find any suitable frame of reference within the progressive rock spectrum.

If I had to use a single adjective to define Assurdo, I would call it unpredictable. While far too many albums and individual songs seem to endlessly reproduce the same structure, the 10 compositions featured on Garden Wall’s eight CD take the listener on a veritable rollercoaster ride that will leave all but the most open-minded rather bewildered, as well as drained. To say that Assurdo is not an easy listen would be an understatement: spanning a wide range of influences and moods, each song conceived as a mini-suite in many different movements, and providing a canvas for Alessandro Seravalle’s amazing vocal gymnastics, the album is an exercise in deconstruction rather than a showcase for cohesive compositional standards.

Obviously, this is not meant as criticism: though Assurdo is clearly a daunting prospect for anyone not used to more challenging fare than the average “mainstream prog” release, it can also be immensely rewarding for those who will invest time and patience in  trying to “unlock” it. Its densely woven texture, made of so many different layers, its deeply literate nature (the album’s title comes a quote from Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, “Everything is absurd when you see it clearly”), a complex instrumentation  blending state-of-the-art electronic soundscapes with warm ethnic percussion, lyrical flute and violin, and gutsy electric guitar – all make for a very demanding listening experience, though one that can confidently bear the “progressive” label. For all its cosmopolitan, cutting-edge allure, Assurdo does have that indefinable “Italian” quality that the use of the Italian language (though juxtaposed with English) lends to even the most avant-garde musical efforts – as proved by a band like Nichelodeon, whose mainman Claudio Milano has been actively involved in the realization of Garden Wall’s latest effort.

Assurdo is one of those albums that need to be absorbed as a whole, so that trying to describe any of the tracks in detail would feel like a pointless exercise. The tracks run between 2 and 8 minutes, with the lone instrumental “Just Cannot Forget” strategically placed in the middle, as a sort of interlude. Taking Demetrio Stratos as a springboard, Seravalle dominates the rest – at times speaking, at others whispering, or even screaming or growling.  Garden Wall’s  impressively omnivorous approach encompasses the academic suggestions of opener “Iperbole”, to the deconstructed funk of the appropriately-named “Trasfiguratofunky”, the haunting trip-hop of “Negative”, the heady Middle Eastern flavour of “Vacuum Fluctuation” – blending jazzy organ, industrial electronics and heavy riffing as in “Clamores Horrendos Ad Sidera Tollit”, employing flute and violin to complement the spacey, ambient-like electronics of closer “Isterectomia”.

At under 70 minutes, Assurdo is not an excessively long album for today’s standards.  However, with its unabashedly eclectic, experimental bent, coupled with a distinct lack of anything even remotely resembling a catchy tune (as well as Seravalle’s acquired-taste vocals), the album is rarely a comfortable listening experience – though a much more solid effort than some overly pretentious releases in the experimental prog field. In any case, adventurous listeners will find a lot to appreciate in Assurdo, one of the most intriguing albums released in 2011, and one that definitely deserves more exposure.

Links:
http://www.gardenwallband.com/

http://www.lizardrecords.net63.net/index.php

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Bogus (7:41)
2. Dead Man Walking (6:26)
3. De Rerum Natura (7:42)
4. Follow the Weaver (7:49)
5. Ride the Owl (4:26)
6. Avoid Feelings (6:40)
7. That Night (7:04)
8. Ultraworld (9:45)

LINEUP:
Barbara Rubin – vocals
Francesco Salvadeo – guitars
Giordano Mattiuzzo – bass
Lorenzo Marcenaro – keyboards
Claudio Cavalli – drums

Hailing from Alessandria, in north-western Italy, Loreweaver began their career in 2008, when vocalist Barbara Rubin (a classically-trained violinist) joined  a quartet of musicians that had been playing together for some time – guitarist Francesco Salvadeo, keyboardist Lorenzo Marcenaro, bassist Giordano Mattiuzzo and drummer Andrea Mazza (later replaced by Claudio Cavalli). Imperviae Auditiones (which in English sounds more or less like “difficult listening”) their recording debut, was first released in 2009 by the band themselves; then, in the spring of 2011, after Loreweaver got signed by SG Records (an Italian label specializing in heavy metal, punk and alternative rock), the album finally got an official release.

As my readers may know, I am not a fan of progressive metal, and most of my contacts with this subgenre have been through reviewing rather than personal choice. In particular, anything that might remind me of subgenre icons Dream Theater leaves me quite cold. However, I also pride myself on being as objective as possible, and, even if an album may not be my listening material of choice, I make a point of giving quality its due  – and Loreweaver’s debut, in spite of the almost inevitable rough edges, is quite a remarkable effort.

While Italy is home to an impressive number of progressive metal bands, the genre is somehow perceived as “foreign”, and not only on account of the widespread practice of using English for both lyrics and band names. In the Eighties, a few Italian metal bands adopted their native language, but nowadays this trend seems to have faded almost completely. The choice of English is undoubtedly crucial for all those bands that want to travel outside their home country and make a name for themselves on the international market (as fellow Italians Lacuna Coil did with unqualified success). This strategy certainly helped Loreweaver, whose appearance at the 2011 edition of the Fused Festival in Lydney (UK) drew a lot of attention to this distinctive version of a female-fronted prog-metal band.

Indeed, Loreweaver’s ace in the hole, the single factor that prevents them from sounding just like another of the many Dream Theater disciples, is the presence of Barbara Rubin behind the microphone. My first contact with her came in 2009, when I reviewed her debut solo album, Under the Ice, and was impressed by her voice, a warm, self-assured contralto with enough versatility to tackle both out-and-out rockers and gentler, more intimate pieces. On a music scene overrun with pseudo-operatic wailers or cloyingly sweet, cutesy sopranos, Barbara’s clear, powerful pipes sound refreshingly different – as does her avoidance of either femme-fatale or tough-chick affectations. Her classical training has clearly influenced her singing technique, and her voice sounds perfectly in control, negotiating the often wild shifts in tempo and mood typical of the genre in an almost effortless, authoritative manner. Although her voice is unmistakably feminine, her approach is more masculine, steering well clear of mawkishness and saccharine-sweetness even in the  obligatory, piano-infused power ballad That Night. Indeed, Rubin comes across as a heavier version of Janis Joplin or Grace Slick rather than yet another Tarja Turunen clone, decked in corsets and lace.

The songs, all between 6 and almost 10 minutes (with the exception of the lone instrumental Ride the Own, at barely over 4 minutes the shortest track on the album), blend riff-driven heaviness with synth sweeps, eerie electronics and occasional bouts of mellowness provided by piano and acoustic guitar. Bogus kicks off  with a slice of classic of prog-metal, in which the hissing synthesizers and inevitable spots of rapid-fire drumming  receive a welcome injection of remarkably un-cheesy melody from Rubin’s powerful, yet astonishingly controlled vocals. In Dead Man Walking an atmospheric, slightly sinister component prevails, with Rubin’s voice alternately soothing and shouting, and Francesco Salvadeo’s sharp, clear guitar solo drawing things to a close with just a touch of shredding; while De Rerum Natura is grandiosely dramatic, with so many changes to make the average listener’s head spin, veering from doomy slowness to a more upbeat, dance-like pace. Follow the Weaver, on the other hand, seems to take the contrast between melody and aggression to extremes, with an airy, melodic middle section decidedly at odds with the rest of the track. Avoid Feelings has a similar structure, though more nuanced, and lashings of whistling, wheezing sound effects offset by wistful piano. The album is then wrapped up by the sci-fi-tinged epic Ultraworld, complete with ominous recorded voices and strident electronics, and propelled by Rubin’s sensational vocal performance, whose intensity is paralleled by the smooth guitar-keyboard interplay.

Professionally packaged with suitably disturbing artwork, liner notes and lyrics (which are, however, somewhat difficult to read), Imperviae Auditiones does not stray far from the template, of “traditional” progressive metal, either musically or lyrically. However, Barbara Rubin’s vocals are enough to make a difference, and attract the interest of those fans of the genre that are a bit weary of run-of-the-mill, Gothic/symphonic bands fronted by the token siren-voiced temptress. Loreweaver are a promising band with the potential to develop an even more personal sound in their future releases.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/loreweaverband

http://www.sgrecords.it

 

 

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Cronovisione (7:36)
2. Gatto Lupesco (7:23)
3. Nei Cerchi del Legno (13:09):
– a. Pinocchio (0:00)
– b. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (2:17)
– c. L’Eterna Spirale del Destino (5:22)
– d. Radici di una Coscienza (8:57)
4. Il Fattore Precipitante (7:00)
5. Il Basilisco (6:19)
6. Un Insolito Baratto Alchemico (7:11)
7. Acustica Felina (9:37)

 LINEUP:
Gabriele Guidi Colombi – bass
Andrea Orlando – drums, percussion
Alessio Calandriello – vocals
Davide Serpico – electric and acoustic guitars
Andrea Lotti – piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar
Stefano Agnini – piano, keyboards

With:
Luca Scherani –  accordion (5), flute arrangement (6)
Joanne Roan – flute (6)
Rossano Villa – string arrangement (3, 7)
Lidia Molinari – voice (1, 7)

Another outstanding addition to the thriving music scene of the Italian port city of Genoa, La Coscienza di Zeno was founded in  2007 by a group of experienced musicians – bassist Gabriele “Estunno” Guidi Colombi (also a founding member of Il Tempio delle Clessidre), drummer Andrea Orlando and vocalist Alessio Calandriello. Keyboardist and lyricist Stefano Agnini joined the band at the beginning of 2008, while guitarist Davide Serpico (who replaced original guitarist Matteo Malvezzi) and keyboardist Andrea Lotti joined between 2008 and 2009. Agnini left at the end of the recording sessions for La Coscienza di Zeno’s self-titled debut album, which had started in May 2010.

The band takes its distinctive name (meaning “Zeno’s Conscience” in English, and often shortened to CDZ for ease of reference) from one of the masterpieces of Italian literature, the ground-breaking psychological novel published in 1923 by writer and businessman Italo Svevo, and written in the form of an autobiography meant to help the titular Zeno’s attempts to quit smoking through psychoanalysis. Not surprisingly, La Coscienza di Zeno’s debut possesses a definite intellectual appeal – though without the level of pretentiousness that might be expected _ revolving around Stefano Agnini’s highly literate lyrics (loosely inspired by the novel) masterfully interpreted by lead singer Alessio Calandriello’s technically impeccable voice, passionate without being overwrought.

La Coscienza di Zeno is one of those rare albums that, while in keeping with the classic prog tradition of long tracks, rich instrumentation (with special prominence given to the keyboards) and intricate arrangements, achieves the considerable feat of never overstaying its welcome.  As other reviewers have pointed out, the album is not as easy to approach as other comparable efforts, and the first impression might be somewhat deceiving. To be perfectly honest, after my first listen I thought, here is another of the many Italian Genesis-worshipping bands – which, after successive listens, turned out to be a very unfair assessment. Indeed, while the Genesis influence is occasionally hard to miss, the album’s roots lie firmly and deeply in the great Italian prog tradition, with Banco del Mutuo Soccorso a particularly apt reference, mainly on account the presence of two keyboardists and the remarkable balance between vocal and instrumental parts.

Clocking in at slightly under one hour, La Coscienza di Zeno features seven tracks between 6 and 13 minutes. Though the main foundation of the album is symphonic, lush and multilayered, with plenty of seamless instrumental interplay, outstanding solo passages and rivetingly expressive singing, there is also enough variety to keep the interest of the more eclectic-minded listeners, with a wide range of influences cropping up almost unexpectedly, from waltz to folk by way of jazz and even hard rock. The almost wholly instrumental (except for the spoken-word vocals in the middle) opener “Cronovisione” is melodic and intricate at the same time, with echoes of Yes in the airy synth sweeps laced with faintly spiky guitar, and of Banco in the majestic yet dynamic feel imparted by the twin keyboards. “Gatto Lupesco”, hinges on Alessio Calandriello’s amazing vocal range and expressive power, complemented by a musical accompaniment that is melancholy and intense in turns, driven by keyboards and dramatic drumming. The obligatory epic, “Nei Cerchi del Legno” (partly inspired by the iconic tale of Pinocchio, one of the few instances of Italian literature that have had some international resonance) has a rather unusual format, being mostly instrumental, with vocals making an appearance only towards the end. The music, on the other hand, is a triumph of imposing symphonic passages rendered even more lush by the double keyboard setup and string arrangement, almost jazzy inserts offset by gently meditative episodes, and stunning synth-guitar interplay that brings to mind Genesis’ immortal “Firth of Fifth”.

Out of the remaining four tracks, “Il Fattore Precipitante” pursues the classic Italian prog route, with the lavish, airy Genesis-like suggestions sharpened by some heavy riffing and high-powered rhythm work courtesy of Gabriele Guidi Colombi and Andrea Orlando – though Calandriello steals the show here, his vocal tour de force complemented by a superb instrumental tapestry of keyboards, drums and guitar. “Il Basilisco”, on the other hand, signals a sharp change in mood and musical style – a folk-tinged number veined with melancholy and enhanced by the arresting, unmistakably Old-World accordion of guest artist Luca Scherani of Höstsonaten, also showcasing Davide Serpico’s lovely acoustic guitar work. The splendid, exquisitely tense instrumental “Un Insolito Baratto Alchemico” juxtaposes quieter, flute-led sections and stormy keyboard passages spiced by metal-hued riffing, enriched by solemn organ and lilting piano; while closer “Acustica Felina” (the second longest track on the album) reprises the lush symphonic mood of the beginning, rounded up by the deep choral tone of the inevitable Mellotron. Calandriello’s voice tackles the challenging lyrical matter with superb expertise, veering from gentleness to a deep, almost menacing tone; the song is then wrapped up by a magnificent, Hackettian guitar solo.

With refreshing honesty, La Coscienza di Zeno make no bones about paying homage to the progressive rock tradition of the Seventies, both Italian and British – even if the sound quality and production values of their debut album are thoroughly modern, and lend extra depth and dimension to the elegantly complex music. An obvious labour of love, every aspect of the album has been carefully considered in order to offer a complete experience to the discerning listener – with stylish, mostly black-and-white photography and detailed liner notes, including the lyrics (which make worthwhile reading for anyone familiar with the Italian language). Indeed, La Coscienza di Zeno is a must for all lovers of vintage Italian prog, adding the band to the growing list of excellent “traditional but modern” acts that already includes their fellow Genoese Il Tempio delle Clessidre and La Maschera di Cera, as well as the revamped Delirium. Highly recommended to symphonic prog fans and anyone who is not put off by foreign-language vocals, this is another classy package coming from the ever-dependable Italian prog scene.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/lacoscienzadizeno

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