Once in a while I get completely overwhelmed, blown away and fascinated by a new album. This also happened when I listened to the eponymous debut of the Italian band Not A Good Sign. Although the band is unknown in the prog community, you might call it a super group, since all band members already made a name for themselves with other Italian bands. Not A Good Sign consist of keyboard player Paolo 'Ske' Botta and guitarist Francesco Zago, both from Yugen, bassist Gabriele Guidi Colombi and lead singer Alessio Calandriello, both from La Coscienza Di Zeno. Drummer Martino Malacrida, who studied at the Berklee College of Music, completes the line-up.
The band members mostly aim to reincarnate the sounds of what they call 'classic prog' thus recalling the fantastic music of the seventies prog rock bands. They blend these sounds with elements from hard rock and psychedelic music and because they don't want to sound old-fashioned, they have a modern attitude towards music. By doing so, they create melancholic and dark atmospheres in their compositions. Well, after listening to the album, I can only conclude that they succeeded in producing a great album on which they blended the many vintage keyboards, the powerful guitars and the excellent vocals into a superb sound that many bands can only dream of. With the help of guest musicians Maurizio Fasoli (Yugen) on grand piano, Sharron Fortnam (North Sea Radio Orchestra, Cardiacs) on vocals and Bianca Fervidi on cello they recorded a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.
All tracks are of an unbelievable high quality level featuring several beautiful instrumental passages with lots of marvellous Mellotron and synthesizer parts. Many melodic guitar solos are present as well and make you dream away. They also managed to compose outstanding climaxes which can be heard a couple of times. Italian bands mostly sing in the Italian language, but that's not the case on this CD. All lyrics are sung in English and hardly without an Italian accent; this way the emotion and tension remains. While listening to this album I couldn't avoid thinking of acts that might have influenced them, like Genesis, PFM, King Crimson, Barrock Project, Anekdoten, Steven Wilson, Änglagård and Yes. I think they all inspired these musicians to create such a superb album!
It doesn't happen that often that a debut album appears to be a masterpiece. Only time will tell if they're able to create more albums like these. Well, I certainly hope that this was not the only one. What I know for sure is that this album is one of my musical highlights of 2013. Please check out this one and find out that I was right by giving this album the highest rating of five stars!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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