In 2009 Gabriele Manzini, the former keyboard player with The Watch, recorded The Akallabeth (see review) under the moniker of Archangel. This is a fantastic concept album on which Manzini got the help of a number of guest musicians. After contributing on several tribute albums, and playing with the Italian prog rock band Ubi Maior, Manzini finally found the time to record a successor called Tales Of Love And Blood.
Once again this is a concept album about the adventures of countess Elizabeth Báthory, the female counterpart of count Dracula. The story of Báthory starts with her death sentence in 1611. She was one of the powerful aristocrats of her time, who was accused and convicted of murdering over six hundred girls. Strangely enough no female singer can be heard on this album to play Elizabeth's part. Instead male singers Damian Wilson (Threshold, Maiden United, Headspace), Gianluigi Girardi and Joe Salati were asked to interpret this imaginary story.
In addition Manzini recruited four guitarists, namely Alessandro Dově, Marcella Arganese (Ubi Maior, Shylock), Stefano Mancarella (Ubi Maior) and Ettore Salati (ex-The Watch, Soulengine, The Red Zen). The rhythm-section consists of bassist Walter Gualtiero Gorreri (Ubi Maior) and drummer Davide Martinelli (Darsky, Winter Mist). Of course Manzini is responsible for the keyboards, but occasionally he also played the drums and the acoustic guitar, and he did some of the backing vocals.
During the almost sixty minutes of music I was rather pleasantly entertained by two musical styles: keyboard orientated prog rock and guitar orientated prog metal. Those two styles suit this concept album well; it is divided into three suites and by doing so they could perfectly distinguish between the brutal parts (prog metal) and the gentle parts (progressive rock) of the story of this female vampire! To be honest - and this is not surprising of course - I prefer the more prog rock orientated parts like Misplaced Love , The Night Scythe and The Black Bride to the more heavy guitar dominated parts like Ouverture: Frozen Torment, When The Night and the first part of In Loneliness.
Also the parts sung by Mr. Wilson I like the best. Once again he appears to be a unique singer with a strong and energetic, emotional voice. He's just one of a kind. Wilson certainly belongs to the best singers of the prog rock scene. He's unsurpassed when he sings with emotion. Just listen to Misplaced Love, The Black Bride and the final part of In Loneliness and you'll understand why I'm so positive about this excellent singer. Most songs were composed by Manzini except for Nosferatu, a classic piece by Blue Öyster Cult, the ballad My Only Love (Roxy Music) and Wheels Of Confusion by the heavy metal legend Black Sabbath. The first two covers perfectly fit the concept, but the third one doesn't add anything extra. It's just a simple straightforward uptempo hard rock tune. No more, no less! Maybe that was the reason why it was added as a bonus.
However, in spite of this insignificant bonus track I can only be positive about this second album by Archangel. Gabriele Manzini managed to keep me entertained throughout the concept of Tales Of Love And Blood. I will forgive him for adding such a simple Black Sabbath cover to end this well- told story about Elizabeth Báthory, the female Dracula!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?