In 2011 I discovered a very interesting Italian progressive rock act. At the time I could not have foreseen that Phoenix Again would get so close to my heart in the years to come. Reviewing their albums ThreeFour (2011, see review) and Look Out (2014, see review) and even managing to arrange a concert for them in the Netherlands (see review, their first one outside their own country) brought me closer to them. However when you get the request to review their third album Unexplored you have to beware to be objective, as with any other new releases. Also was I curious if they would maintain their influences of Focus and Camel on this new album. Or are we in for something new?
Very open minded, and most of all as if I was listening to Phoenix Again for the very first time, I played their third release a couple of times before I could write down my verdict. As soon as I heard the opening tune That Day Will Come I realised I was in for something special. Antonio Lorandi (bass guitar, vocals), Sergio Lorandi (acoustic and electric guitars, vocals), Giorgio Lorandi (percussions, vocals), Marco Lorandi (electric guitars, vocals), Andrea Piccinelli (keyboards) and Silvano Silva (drums, percussion, vocals) entertained me all the way with their well performed music! The Camel influences certainly did come up from time to time. Not only the guitar and synthesizer parts made me think about this band but also the way the vocals are done. Anybody who knows how the vocals are done by Andy Latimer can agree with me that this is also the case on this track. The only difference with Camel are the Latin kind of influences which are incorporated. This is also the case on the song that follows. Also on Silver some vocals can be noticed. However this time around they are wordless, but still worth hearing, just like the rest of the song. Most of all the synthesizer solo is pretty awesome. Those who own the third release of the impressive Decameron releases might have heard already the next piece. The instrumental The Bridge Of Geese starts on the acoustic guitar before the rest of the band joins in and kicks ass. Most of the solos performed on the electric guitar and synthesizer are of a very high level and most are very enjoyable. Sure the influences of Camel are notable but it is most of all the way they put some classical music into the song which really impressed me! The follow up Whisky is again mainly a strong up tempo tune. Here again main songwriter Sergio Lorandi comes up with some fine guitar riffs and knows how to keep you focused by using some more mellow parts in the middle section. Almost completely performed on the acoustic guitar the next track is Close To You. Only some musical assistance can be heard on the string synthesizer. Although it lasts only two and a half minutes I loved it from the start till the final notes performed on the guitar. The next piece of music Valle Della Luna is again a great track with some outstanding guitar and keyboard parts. Sometimes reminding me again of the earlier mentioned Camel. The second composition with lyrics written for it is next. To Be Afraid - Ansia is of the same high level as the songs I heard before on this release. Again it is sung by Latimer himself. The Mellotron flute parts sound really cool next to the beautiful acoustic guitar parts. The song is rather mellow and moves towards an awesome climax by using a really cool guitar solo. The album ends with the track Great Event. Here the band once again shows how talented each member is on their instruments. The six of them bring the album to a real nice ending on this rather mellow composition. A composition which lasts unfortunately only two minutes. But for those who are a little slow in getting the CD out of their music system will hear an extra part of the song. Or should I say a hidden track? Here the acoustic guitars and percussion instruments take the lead on this again mellow composition. An extra two minutes of musical enjoyments are offered. Thanks!
This third album of Phoenix Again is without doubt their most mature one. The band operates as a true professional outfit and comes up with the best compositions they have written so far in their career. No weak tracks can be spotted throughout the entire album. Bravo for that!
Maybe the total time of almost fifty minutes is for some lovers of progressive rock a little bit too short. But for me it is perfect. If they had gone to the seventy minutes they probably had made a too long album with songs that would have been too mediocre. This is now not the case at all. So bravo for that!
Unexplored is again highly recommended to all fans of Camel and those who like melodic (most of all) instrumental progressive rock. Thanks guys for giving me so much listening pleasure!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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