The more mature people like myself, probably know the 1979 American epic psychological war film Apocalypse Now. A legendary movie directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. They probably also do know the famous quote “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. Coppola's masterpiece and Conrad's novel Heart Of Darkness (to which the film is loosely based) speak of man's inexplicable need to overpower his brothers through old and new forms of murderous colonialism. The Italian progressive rock outfit RanestRane decided, 43 years after the film, that it was time for them to give the outside world their musical view on this famous movie. Those who know this band know that in the past they already shone a light on several well known movies. Starting with Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, Ghost Of The Night. They continued with albums based on two Stanley Kubrick movies. Namely The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And more recently their version of Alan Parker's The Wall, the movie based on the concept album with the same title made by Pink Floyd.
The question of course arises how the band transformed this psychological portrait of soldiers, their thoughts, gestures, words embedded in psychedelic stains of individual shots, changes that take place in their heads under the influence of the cruelty of war. Falling into madness, gradually losing the ability to think logically and plunging more and more into metaphorical darkness. How did they translate the brilliant images, visualization of the world of brutal war, inaccessible jungle and dark corners of the human psyche into some interesting progressive rock for us to listen to.
Well the answer to that question is rather simple and easy to give. Massimo Pomo (guitars), Riccardo Romano (keyboards, harmonium, backing vocals), Maurizio Meo (bass, electric double bass) and Daniele Pomo (drums, percussion, flute, lead and backing vocals) made a new masterpiece!!! After seeing them performing the whole album on stage and listening to it over and over again the beauty if it opened my eyes and ears. Sure, at first it wasn't an easy journey to take, just like the journey in the movie, because what you hear is new and has to get into your mind and heart.
RanestRane gave a second life to this story, they revived the musical image of war, human emotions and chaos that creeps like a thief into the mind of a man tainted by the touch of death and cruelty. They did it perfectly and with great feeling. They juxtaposed the pastel colours of melancholy with a fiery image of a war full of pain, brutality and bitterness. The sound visualization of the changes taking place in the hearts and minds of soldiers sentenced to banishment in a jungle blazing with combat - it is a real mastery. The nine brilliant compositions are like nine steps of initiation into time flitting along staves smelling of napalm. On the nine compositions, with a total time of almost 80 minutes of music, they show music wise what happens in the movie. They sing in Italian, their mother tongue. Which makes it sound even more emotional from time to time.
I won't describe the nine compositions because words can hardly tell you what happens music wise. But I can tell you that the songs have a nice balance between up tempo parts and more mellow pieces. Of course when there is a lot of action going on in the story the music gets faster and more aggressive and on the other hand the tender parts show the restless moments. Drama and passion are also keywords when your hear this musical adventure. This is all done in a musical landscape which shows influences from bands such as the earlier mentioned Pink Floyd. Most of all when Massimo lets his (Fender) guitar speak like on the epic Napalm. But also on the opening piece Saigon traces of this band are notable. Another band which had a major influence on the band is of course Marillion. Listen to songs such as Un Nuovo Dio and The Eden Cries and you know Marillion is never far away. On the other hand the second part of The Eden Cries, mainly because of the keyboards with flute intonations, reminded me of Camel. However earlier work released by the band comes to mind as well throughout the entire album. Most of all the fast and high notes synthesizer parts done by Romano made me think about the 2001: A Space Odyssey trilogy. But I guess that's fine for me because it's in the DNA of the band playing this way. Finally I have to tell you how important are all the sound fragments from the movie. Such as the sound of the helicopters, crying children and most all the voices of the famous actors such as Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. They make the music sound even more impressive.
Who would have thought that after more than forty years an equally outstanding work like the movie would be created. I guess nobody! Apocalypse Now is an excellent concept inspired by a brilliant movie. With this album the four musicians demonstrated once again that Ranestrane is comfortable with putting images of a movie into excellent progressive rock tunes. It's a great example of how to build a captivating and enjoyable epic with melodic and accessible progressive rock. An album that belongs to the highlights of 2022 without any doubt. Another true masterpiece just like its remarkable predecessors!!! Only the highest score of five stars is enough to give the band with what they achieved with this release!!!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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