It's already 15 years ago since I had my first musical encounter with Italian prog band Ubi Maior and its debut CD entitled Nostos, I was blown away: the sound is firmly rooted in the Classic Prog tradition and layered with vintage keyboards, especially the Mellotron sound is awesome. In those days Ubi Maior also performed on a Biglietto Per L'Inferno tribute concert, alongside legendary bands like Le Orme, Banco and Area. And Ubi Maior made an impression, and a lot of fans! I was also pleased with the successor Senza Tempo (see review) from 2009, but then I lost the band, I think because there is such a huge gap between every release, and such a huge competition with the cascades of good new Italian prog bands. Anyway, their third release Incanti Bio Meccanici (see review) is from 2015 and this new album from 2020, this means only 4 releases in 15 years! Because I was so positive about the first two releases and missed the other two I was very curious to my first musical encounter with Ubi Maior since 2009.
Well, after a few listening sessions I am very pleased to conclude that Ubi Maior still succeeds to blow me away, the entire running time! The six composition (between 5 and 10 minutes) contain lots of flowing shifting moods (between dreamy and bombastic), dynamics, tension, variety, strong work on keyboards (by Gabriele Manzini, also ex member of The Watch) and guitar (by Marcella Arganese, also Marillion tribute band Mr. Punch) and fine musical ideas. The fluent rhythm-section feautures Gianmaria Giardino on bass, and Alessandro Di Caprio on drums, he played with Alex Carpani, Aldo Tagliapietra, David Jackson, Bernardo Lanzetti and David Cross. This is topped by the inspired, slightly theatrical Italian vocals by Mario Moi who also plays violin and trumpet. What an interesting Italian prog rock line-up!
Nero Nott. First intense bluesy guitar and halfway wonderful violin work in a mid-tempo, then a sensitive electric guitar soli. In the final part a building up to a sumptuous conclusion with howling guitar, lush Hammond organ and a sensational flashy synthesizer solo. This is blended with powerful emotional vocals, an excellent start lady and gentlemen!
Misteri Di Tessaglia. Tension, dynamics and a lush instrumentation. From dreamy with piano and warm vocals to an exciting ominous atmosphere with violin, raw guitar riffs, howling electric guitar, flashy synthesizer flights and beautiful violin. And from a bombastic eruption with moving guitar and emotional vocals to an exciting grand finale featuring strong guitar work and an awesome Mellotron choir sound.
The track Wendigo delivers very powerful and bombastic music with awesome keyboards (from church organ and Hammond to tender piano), excellent guitar play (from sensitive to heavy) and swirling violin work. The compelling parts with theatrical vocals reminds me of Il Balletto Di Bronzo and the heavy parts with Hammond, guitar and violin of early Kansas.
In Nessie again hints of Kansas but also a jazzy element (trumpet), prog metal (heavy guitar, flashy synthesizer flights and thunderous drums), a swinging piano solo and romantic violin, what a variety!
The track Fabula Sienis starts mellow with twanging guitar and flageolets, halfway an acceleration to a mid-tempo beat and finally wonderful interplay between moving guitar and tender piano, another strong example of how interesting Ubi Maior works with tension and dynamics.
The final epic composition is the titletrack, close to 10 minutes, this one showcases Ubi Maior's huge potential. First a bombastic Hammond sound, romantic violin and theatrical vocals in a slow rhythm. Then sensitive electric guitar runs and again lush Hammond. Halfway an accelaration with bombastic overtones, inspired vocals, powerful Hammond, howling guitar runs and a church organ sound, how exciting. Now the climate turns into dreamy with twanging acoustic guitar and flute, this is pastoral prog like early Genesis. Next warm romantic vocals and tender piano arpeggios join. Finally a great build-up with a soaring tremolo Hammond sound, tender piano, slow drum beats and soft synthesizer flights. In the final part a pleasant musical surprise featuring flowing slide guitar runs (early Seventies Pink Floyd comes to my mind), blended with piano arpeggios and again soaring Hammond waves. What a wonderful and delicate musical idea, and what a beautiful way to end this album!
If you are up to the distinctive Italian vocals this is a very pleasant album in the genuine prog rock - and Classic Italian prog tradition, thumbs up for this new Ubi Maior album, made by five experienced and inspired musicians.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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