Arx Atlantis is the ninth release from veteran Italian outfit, Il Castello Di Atlante, billed as a 40th anniversary celebration. What a formidable showcase for a group proudly proclaiming itself The most long-living Italian progressive rock band this is.
Despite an extensive touring schedule, their infrequent forays into the recording studio mean that their name might not come easily to mind in the formidable catalogue of progressive talent hailing from northern Italy, but make no mistake, these musicians are masters of their craft and this release just brims over with class. Unfailingly ambitious, multi-layered and challenging, this represents a band at the peak of their powers, exploiting an understanding and unity developed over years of playing and friendship. The tone is urgent, full of pomp and bombast from the minute Mattia Garrimano's drums launch the album modulating into an imperious guitar riff from Aldo Bergamini. Even through bombastic guitar solos and swirling, driving organ, the piano interwoven into the mix is still clearly audible. No-one gets short changed here. There is a lot going on in these virtuoso pieces and the skill is that no-one gets left out. The effect can be exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time. Il Vecchio Giovane, the tale of a youthful character trapped in an old man's body opens up to showcase Andrea Bertino's violin and Davide Cristofoli's piano in a wistful partnership, developing into a full blown symphonic denouement. While Ghino E L'Abate Di Clignė seems somewhat pedestrian compared with the preceding tracks, the multipart approach to composition keeps things fresh and interesting, and the keyboard led Il Tempo Del Grande Onore introduces an upbeat jazz feel, the piano sparkling like sun on raindrops. Il Tesoro Ritrovato is a fitting closer for this collection, a magnum opus that glitters like the treasure it describes, showcasing the band at the height of their powers in a complex, multipart adventure full of exciting musical excursions woven together into a joyful sonic tapestry and a celebration of everything that the band have worked to be over the years.
History tells us that it will be a long wait before Il Castello Di Atlante enter the studio for another edition, so appreciate the quality of this offering. Excellence like this does not appear overnight and this has been well worth all the time and effort spent on it. Tesoro Ritrovato indeed!
**** Andrew Cottrell
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