Although Melting Clock trace their origins back to the University of Genoa in the early years of this century, this is their first full length release on Black Widow Records, the formidable Genoese stable for progressive and symphonic rock, having recorded a 4-track demo in 2017 to promote the band and get gigs. Although the name will immediately evoke the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, it is also an ironic piece of humour, referring to their early musical endeavours when bass-player Alessandro Bosca would say, 'we are melting our time!' referring to the ensemble's inability to keep to the beat.
No such musical lapses are evident on this accomplished collection of traditional progressive rock.
Caleidoscopio is a belting choice of a lead track, typical of the band in its tight arrangement and strong leanings towards early progressive rock. It is also a marvellous vehicle to introduce vocalist Emanuela Vedana whose assured delivery has a lovely quality shining like a crystal. Despite citing a range of influences through 70s Italian and British progressive rock pioneers to modern metal based bands such as Opeth, Dream Theater and Ayreon and even Scandinavian jazz, the overall effect is remarkably focussed, repaying the amount of time invested in honing the arrangements in the studio. Tracks like Vetro also display regional influences and Genoese maritime heritage in its subtle use of exotic phrasing. On Banalmente, an intricate ballad showcasing guitar and piano, that builds to a furious climax the band show their political teeth in delivering a message on the dangers of remaining disengaged in the face of moral outrage. Despite the cosmological theme, regional themes also feature explicitly on Antares, one of the band's earliest compositions and one of the standout tracks featuring duetting vocals, the male and female lines superbly complementing each other supported by intricate bass, guitar and piano lines. The whole piece builds to a thrilling crashing electric guitar led crescendo, which immediately contrasts with the contemplative tranquillity of the opening bars of Sono Luce, the jangling guitar lines being picked up in a wash of synthesizer, reminiscent of 70s prog rock without being a slavish copy. The final track, appropriately titled Destinazione is another showcase piece, a complex multipart arrangement, juxtaposing heavy metal like riffs with ethereal piano and frantic acoustic guitar, and an exhilarating end to a fine collection of work.
With this track, the album may have reached its terminus, but I hope that this is just the start of many great things to come, because this is a very fine debut indeed, already marking out Melting Clock as a cut above in what is a high quality source of great rock music.
Apparently Melting Clock's live performances feature at least one cover from their early influences, and for the LP version of this release, side 4 features Alla Corte del Re Crimisi and even my rudimentary Italian can pick out what that is. Apparently there is more as this version is a medley of King Crimson tracks; 21st Century Schizoid Man, In The Court of The Crimson King and Starless, pretty brave stuff for a debut and a strong statement of intent from this excellent group of musicians. Unfortunately my version didn't include this track, so I can't say whether Crim-heads would approve. From what I've heard on the rest of the album, particularly in tracks like Destinazione, I can be confident that Melting Clock make a pretty good job of it, with no melting time signatures!
As an aside, it is almost with a sense of disbelief that I find myself reviewing yet another high-quality release from yet another high-quality Genoese band. I don't know what is in the water there, but it is an enviable production line and Black Widow Records in particular should be congratulated on amassing such an awesome body of talent.
****+ Andrew Cottrell
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