(by Erik Neuteboom)

(edited by Peter Willemsen)

The Chapters:

1) Introduction
2) The Classic Era: 1969 - 1979
3) The Years Between 1980 and 2002
4) Interesting New Bands and New Releases Between 2003 and 2009
5) Reunions of Legendary and Popular Bands In The Last Decade
6) Compilations and  Special Projects
7) DVD’s
8) My Personal 1969 – 2009 Italian Prog rock Album Top 20
9) Epilogue

Chapter 3:
The Years Between 1980 and 2002

ABIOGENESI - Abiogenesi (1995)  

This eponymous debut album from Abiogenesi is still my favourite one. The horror-like paintings on the cover and the mentioning of a quote by H.P. Lovecraft showcases a gothic sympathy, but I don’t trace this very much on this album concerning the music. On the first track Ile St. Louis (8:57) you will be pleased by the moving atmosphere featuring a warm bass sound, pleasant organ waves and strong Italian vocals. Halfway there is a wah-wah drenched guitar solo in the vein of Mick Box from Uriah Heep and in the end an acceleration guided by a compelling Hammond organ solo and wah-wah guitar cries. Splendid! The second song La Notte Di Ognissanti (7:48) starts with a mellow church organ-like sound, then a slow rhythm delivering acoustic rhythm guitar, organ, sensitive electric guitar including a howling solo, some harpsichord and strong vocals with a fine emotional undertone. It strongly evokes seventies Italian prog rock. What a wonderful atmosphere! The title track (9:20) features in the mellow first part the romantic sound of the accordion, as if you were walking on the banks of the river Seine in Paris. Then the atmosphere gradually becomes a bit psychedelic, emphasized by a distorted (wah-wah), biting electric guitar solo and powerful drumbeats. The final part again features the romantic accordion sound. L’Oscura Tenebra (9:52) starts with military drumming, mellow organ and slow, sensitive electric guitar runs, followed by a short mid-tempo culminating in a kind of ‘bluesy prog rock’ featuring strong, melancholic vocals, moving violin play and pleasant organ waves. In the second part the rhythm changes to mid-tempo with a compelling organ solo and a great build-up, sensitive electric guitar solo with howling runs. Wonderful! R.I.P. (2:30) delivers nature sounds and wailing violin play. The final composition Appurtamento La Luna (11:15) sounds similar to early Marillion, but it fails to keep one’s attention. This is a rather disappointing end of a beautiful, very warm sounding album.


ARCANSIEL - Swimming In The Sand: The Best Of 1989 - 2004

For me Arcansiel has always been a promising band that never reached the level of bands like IQ, Pendragon or Twelfth Night, although they had the potential. Their three albums contained good compositions, but also weaker material that couldn’t keep my attention. Now Arcansiel has delivered a ‘best of ’ compilation and for the first time, how cynical, this fine band has made a mature CD! An hour long you can enjoy alternating symphonic rock in the vein of IQ with lots of breaks, changing of atmospheres and great solo work on guitar, organ and saxophone with strong echoes from Pink Floyd. Their ‘magnum opus’ is the long track Evelyn (21 minutes) that starts mellow with emotional vocals, than a catchy rhythm and many solos on violin, acoustic – and electric guitar, organ and synthesizer and finally a compelling and bombastic atmosphere with sensitive electric guitar play. If you like melodic, 24-carat symphonic rock with beautiful guitar and keyboards, this one is yours.

ASGARD – Arkana (1992)

The Italian/German formation Asgard was born in the northern part of Italy in 1987. One year later the band appeared on the legendary Dutch double compilation album Exposure ’88, featuring many new prog rock bands from Europe, and in 1991 Asgard released their debut album entitled Gotterdammerung. In The Netherlands Asgard soon build-up a small but fanatic cult following: some fans even had an Asgard tattoo and other fans knew the band members personally and went to Italy to visit them at home! I also witnessed Asgard on a prog rock festival in the early nineties. What a wonderful experience and what a warm interaction between
the band and the euphoric fans!

In general, the third album Arkana, released in 1992 on the German Music Is Intelligence label, is considered their most mature and balanced effort. It comprises wonderful compositions with often early-Genesis and Marillion inspired atmospheres that range from mellow with flute, acoustic guitar and an instrumental interlude with grand piano to bombastic with heavy guitars and powerful keyboards, topped with emotional vocals and mythical lyrics by the charismatic front man Kikko Grosso. The ‘slow-motion’ keyboard solo in the epic song The Mirror Of The King is remarkable.
(Picture by Henri Strik)

ATON’S – H (1985)

This is the earliest effort by prog rock trio Aton’s, the album H is from 1985. The emphasis is on the atmosphere, rather than excursions on guitar and keyboards. In general, the seventeen compositions sound fluent and harmonic with many cheerful atmospheres featuring beautiful acoustic guitar, twanging electric guitars with slight distortion and rather functional keyboards. The warm and inspired vocals and some fiery electric guitar soli are quite remarkable. The music on this fine album reminds me of fellow Italian Angelo Branduardi, mainly because of the obvious folky elements. If you feel a little bit depressed, stressed or unhappy, this album will help you to battle these feelings. In dulci jubilo, Mike Oldfield would say!


In 1996, Il Balletto Di Bronzo performed on a progressive rock festival in Rome, only singer/keyboardist Gianni Leone was from the original line-up. Compared to the music on their acclaimed album Ys from 1972, the vintage keyboard sound disappeared. The eleven compositions sound pleasant featuring some spectacular keyboard solos with hints from Keith Emerson, but they don’t evoke the intricate atmosphere from the early seventies. The song Technoage has even a house-like atmosphere delivering a tight and propulsive beat along flashy synth runs! This is a decent keyboard-oriented prog rock CD, but if you expect to hear more like Ys, it will probably become a disappointment.
(Picture by Henri Strik)


BARROCK – L’Alchimista (1990)

This band appeared on the legendary double album Exposure ’88 with The Witch. Two years later Barrock released their debut album L’Alchimista. The sound alternates between seventies symphonic rock, medieval and classical music with hints from Banco, PFM and ELP. In the 13-minutes composition Re Artu-Suite and in the title track, evoking Nuova Era, you can enjoy the wonderful voices of female singers Grazielle Vendramin and Paolo Polese. This is a fine album, but most prog heads will be pleased more with the elaborate sounding successors Oxian, in 1994 released on the Dutch prog rock label SI Music, and La Strega released in 1999 on the Italian prog rock label Mellow Records.

CAGE – 87/94 (2003)

Cage was founded in 1987. Soon they took part in several shows, festivals and competitions in cities like Sienna, Rome and Milan. In 1992, Cage got a contract from the label Toast in Torino and in the same year, they released the single View. A year later Cage released their first album entitled The Feebleminded Man. In 1994, Cage appeared on the Italian TV with a video clip, but later that year several members decided to work on their own musical ideas. However, in 2000 they joined again and devoted themselves to a new project that can be heard on the demo that Cage recorded in March 2001. In 2003, the band released 87/94 containing songs recorded between 1987 and 1994. Cage appeared on the satellite channel Rock TV and is now working on further projects.

The six compositions on this compilation CD sound very melodic, pleasant and alternating. The English vocals are decent, but no more than that. The strong point is the tension between the mellow parts with classical piano and the fierier and bombastic parts with harder-edged guitar work, tastefully layered with duo-keyboard play with organ, piano, mellotron and synthesizers. Highlight is the long track The Feebleminded Man (20.57) featuring many shifting moods, a strong and dynamic rhythm-section, fiery electric guitar and many fluent synthesizer flights. The most captivating moment is the final part: first tender piano and soft vocals, then ominous guitar that gradually culminates in biting guitar sounds. The atmosphere turns into very bombastic and finally there is an exciting duel between spectacular guitar and flashy synthesizer. Cage is a very promising band!

CALLIOPE — La Terra Dei Grandi Occhi (1992)

The sound from this Italian five piece delights me from the very first moment: dazzling runs on the MiniMoog synthesizer, floods of Hammond organ, majestic mellotron waves and warm vocals. The tracks Non Ci Credo Piu, Lunario and Passi Dentro Il Tempo are fluent tracks featuring powerful guitar- and keyboard play. Avalon and L'Anima Del Cielo More are mellower, delivering dreamy guitar and compelling organ and mellotron waves, dynamic drums and emotional vocals. My personal highlight is the long epic composition Pensieri Affascinatti with Banks-like organ play, a break with fiery electric guitar and a lush grand finale, layered with vintage keyboards. A pleasant final song is Mellotronmania. This title speaks for itself: many mellotron sounds, I love it! This is another strong effort from an Italian band!

CALLIOPE – Citta Di Frontiera (1993)

I was very pleased with the debut album from Calliope loaded with vintage keyboards, so I had high expectations of this second album. Well, some things changed and to my great sorrow, the mellotron and Hammond sounds are less dominant. However, the compositions sound more elaborated and the music from Calliope features more variation like in Margherita a Rodi, a wonderful ballad with beautiful piano play. Senza Pretese is a short acoustic guitar piece. Windsor has a spacey intro and lots of saxophone. L'Attesa sounds folky with soaring keyboards. The unsurpassed mellotron is only omnipresent in Terra Di Nessuno that also features a Peter Bardens inspired organ solo. Songs like La Prova and the splendid final composition Il Ritorno delivers many pleasant shifting moods and great work on guitar and keyboards. The strong and enthusiastic vocals from Massimo Berruti (what a beautiful Italian names!) add an extra dimension to the sound of Calliope. If you like melodic, fluent and symphonic rock, this one is yours!

CIRCLE OF FAIRIES – As The Years Go By (1995)

Here’s another one-shot-band from Italy! The five piece Circle Of Fairies existed between 1992 and 1996. In 1993, the band released a demo tape entitled Twilight, in 1995 followed by their debut album As The Years Go By that turned out to be their swansong.

Most of the seven tasteful and melodic compositions between 7 and 12 minutes alternate between seventies symphonic rock and neo-prog with a lot of variety, many changing atmospheres and many solos. In My Camouflage and Autumn Colours, we can enjoy pleasant work on acoustic guitar, a strings sound and sensitive vocals. In On The Run, the admiration of the seventies is obvious, due to the lush Hammond and mellotron sounds. The two longest tracks are in the vein of Marillion : an intro with mellotron and electric guitar duet in The Troubled Wake and a strong and moving guitar solo in the title track. Although this music is beyond original and the recording quality is far from optimal, I’m very pleased with this tribute to the masters of seventies symphonic rock and neo-prog.

CONSORZIO ACQUA POTABILE - Nei Gorghy Del Tempo (1992)

Consorzio Acqua Potabile (CAP) is an Italian sextet featuring two keyboard- and two guitar players. Four out of the five tracks have a running time over seven minutes and they sound interesting: lots of shifting moods, breaks, soli on guitar and keyboards, a strong Italian voice and a very decent level of compositional skills. It’s obvious that fellow Italians Banco are a source of inspiration: the intro from the wonderful Vivendo contains great keyboards and beautiful acoustic guitar, the vocals are a bit similar to Banco and CAP delivers a great, slightly changed version of the Banco song Traccia entitled Traccia...Ora O E. This CD is a fine discovery featuring pleasant Italian vocals.

CONTRAPPUNTO – Subidea (1999)

Here is an Italian band on a Brazilian label reviewed by a Dutchman: music unites! Contrappunto is from the city of Torino, known for their legendary football club Juventus. The nine compositions on their first album (1999) contain a fresh and modern sound with lots of captivating breaks. All musicians present themselves in a very pleasant and crafted way: good female English vocals with hints from Tracey Hitchings, a guitarist who plays very alternating: from sensitive soli to heavy riffs, a keyboardist with a lush sound and flashy runs and a tight rhythm-section. Some tracks evoke the Phil Collins-era Genesis but in general, Contrappunto makes quite original prog that grows every turn. The final song Bad Choice is a funny one with disco-like rhythm guitar and a jazzy piano. A promising debut album.

DEUS EX MACHINA – Cinque (2002)

Here is a very interesting, very gifted sextet that was founded in 1985. Since their debut album entitled Galidum Caeli from 1991, the band released six studio albums and two live albums (a CD in 1996 and an LP in 1997). Their latest effort Imparis (2008) also contains a DVD with live, TV and video recordings between 1993 and 2006. Deus Ex Machina also performed on the annual USA Progfest in 1995. Although most of their albums got a lot of praise, Cinque (2002) is their most acclaimed CD. The music is a unique blend of several styles: from rock to avant-garde, but with the focus on jazz and fusion, with hints from Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, ELP and UK. You can enjoy complex arrangements and exciting shifting moods, from mellow classical with acoustic guitar and violin to bombastic with heavy guitar and majestic organ, embellished with impressive vocals in the Latin language and a very dynamic and inventive rhythm-section. The excitement on this album culminates in the 20-minutes final epic composition Olim Sol Rogavit Terram II. Here you hear the band in its full splendour. Who dare to say that progressive rock stopped being progressive after the seventies should listen to this album!

DEVIL DOLL – Dies Irae (1995)

(review by Maurice Dam, Background Magazine # 53, June 1996)

Devil Doll ’s history goes back to 1987. A native of Venice, who calls himself Mr. Doctor, assembled a basic line-up to work on a project called The Mark Of The Beast. A second line-up formed in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia in former Yugoslavia where Mr. Doctor caught attention of producer Juri Toni of Laibach. With Toni, The Mark Of The Beast was recorded at the Tivoli Studios. Only a single copy of the album was made. Of course, this can be considered as Devil Dolls rarest release to date. After this, the band released three albums and apart from these albums, Mr. Doctor did a tribute performance to German composer Hans Eisler in 1989. A CD of this performance is available under the title Mr. Doctor Sings Hans Eisler. Several Devil Doll releases followed, most of these so-called fan club issues have additional intros and outros. American label Renaissance released all Devil Doll albums on CD with alternative artwork.
The Sacrilege Of Fatal Arms (1993) is the most striking and features several parts from cult horror movies. This album is the soundtrack version of a frightening video performance of Sacrilegium, extending the piece over seventy minutes.

In 1995, Devil Doll released a new album entitled Dies Irae. It will be no surprise that Mr. Doctor took the theatrical aspects a bit further than on Sacrilegium. This does not only concern the music! During the recordings, a fire destroyed the studio completely including all the recordings. Dies Irae is a classical, conceptual work in sixteen acts in the true theatrical Victorian hammer horror imagery. All ingredients are present. The piano is the most important instrument to accompany Mr. Doctor’s dramatic, excruciating and painful voice in Peter Hammil-style. However, Dies Irae also contains a number of pieces of classical pieces varying from only violin or organ to a complete symphony orchestra. If you listen to this album a few times, it is easy to imagine the scenes Edgar Allan Poe has put to words so well. The balance between classical and heavy parts, gives the music an extra dimension. There are several brilliant guitar solos. This album really gives you the chills and it builds up to a grand finale. The music cries out for a stage performance with orchestra and choir. For all disbelievers: I hope I have convinced you to explore the wonderful world of Devil Doll.

D.F.A. – Works In Progress Live (2001)

This live album is a registration of the concert at the annual Nearfest festival in the USA, June 17th, 2000. From the very first moment, D.F.A. impressed me. The music has been built around varied keyboards like Hammond, Fender Rhodes electric piano, several synthesizer sounds and fiery electric guitar with captivating interplay, strong soli and a tight and powerful rhythm-section. Every song has its own dynamic and variety. Escher has an Ozric Tentacles-atmosphere, but less exotic. We hear splendid
keyboards in the jazzy-inspired Caleidoscopio with some echoes of Gentle Giant, moving electric guitar and flashy synths in Trip On The Metro, strong jazz-rock in the long and very alternating La Via, great soli and organ/guitar interplay, compelling build-up parts and again splendid keyboards in Pantera and tasteful jazz-rock in the swinging Ragno. This review is rather euphoric, but in my opinion, this is one of the best new Italian jazz rock releases.
(Picture by Henri Strik)

DISTILLERIE DI MALTO- Manuale Del Piccoli Discorsi (2001)

Distillerie Di Malto is a five-piece band that includes two guitar players and a keyboardist, on the last track supplemented by a flute player. This debut album is dedicated to René Magritte, one of my favourite surrealistic painters. On the first track Allegro Con Brio the atmosphere is ominous and ambient following by a fluent rhythm featuring organ and guitar. Enjoy the dynamic music with fiery electric guitar and wonderful keyboard play. Phoebus starts a bit experimental with a xylophone, repetitive bass and electric guitar with hints from early King Crimson. Then the mood shifts from up-tempo with mellow organ, fiery electric guitar and flute to dreamy with classical guitar and flute and atmospheric with flute, hi-hats and piano. Very alternating. Melodia Di Fine Autunno starts with a compelling atmosphere that gradually grows to bombastic, interfered by mellow pieces until a long and sumptuous finale, featuring lush keyboards, harder-edged guitar and a dynamic rhythm-section. The next composition is the longest one entitled Aria E Vento again a very alternating track: twanging guitars and great keyboards like sparkling piano, moving with a wonderful guitar solo in the vein of Hackett/Latimer, bombastic with organ and even an interlude with classical guitar and flute. The music often evokes early Genesis, wonderful! The final song 5/5/1555 starts with xylophone, like the second track, and electric guitar, followed by some sensational, mid-Emerson inspired synthesizer soli and lots of varied atmospheres featuring strong Italian vocals, howling electric guitar and dreamy flute. The ‘grand finale’ delivers a moving atmosphere with a splendid build-up guitar solo, supported by lush keyboards. Prog heaven! This CD has hints from Genesis, Camel and King Crimson for the more complex and experimental parts and contains five elaborate and tastefully coloured compositions. What a strong debut album!

DIVAE – Determinazione (1995)

Divae ’s first serious gig was as a support act for Italian prog rock legend Le Orme in Rome’s Palladium, 1994. The band started to write compositions and end 1995 Divae performed on several festivals: The Marechiaro Blues Festival (alongside Banco, The Jack Bruce Band and Jefferson Starship) , the Palladium in Rome (during a medley with Gentle Giant-songs, guitarist Gary Green joined Divae on stage) and The Music Of Freedom Festival (with Finisterre and the known Il Balletto Di Bronzo). On their debut album Detreminazone Il Balletto Di Bronzo keyboardist Gianni Leone and Osanna’s Lino Vairetti contribute on the song Vento Che Va. Divae has two keyboard players; the drummer also plays keyboards so it’s no surprise that their music is often keyboard-driven with echoes from Banco (Hammond organ) and PFM (flashy synthesizer flights). The music also evokes Gentle Giant and Camel. Strong points are the interplay between the guitarist and the keyboard player, the passionate vocals with theatrical undertones and the captivating shifting moods. Their sound is fresh and dynamic, unfortunately Divae turned out to be another promising Italian one-shot band.

DORACOR – Transizione (2001)

I was very pleased with the latest release by Doracor entitled Evanescenze. What a wonderful symphonic rock album! This album, however, is from 2001 and contains three long tracks. The first Cavaliere Del Destino (26.43) manages to keep my attention despite the long running time. You can hear many pleasant musical ideas and fluent shifting moods from mellow, with beautiful violin and piano to bombastic with flashy synthesizer runs and heavy guitar riffs or mid-tempo with strong vocals and fiery guitar. Remarkable is the middle section featuring The Enid -like prog delivering classical orchestrations and flowing, sensitive electric guitar work. The second song Luce Ed Ombra (7.12) contains a fluent rhythm with mellotron choir samples. Halfway the atmosphere turns into dreamy with a wonderful violin, piano and flute. The final part features a fiery and heavy guitar solo! The third composition Transizione (17.44) sounds very alternating and tasteful with great keyboards: sensational synthesizer runs and impressive church organ samples. Again, the guitar is harder-edged and forms a good counterpart to the keyboards. Doracor doesn’t make very original prog, but their sound delights me, this is beautiful symphonic rock!


Empire is an Italian one-shot band that featured the duo formation Syndone (drummer Paolo Sburlati and keyboardist Edo Rogani) and female singer Rosanna De Luca. Most of the nine compositions sound fluent and modern with varied keyboards that contain obvious hints from Eddie Jobson and Keith Emerson. The vocals remind me of Annie Lennox. In the track Immortal we can enjoy a guest on guitar and the composition The Nite is based upon the famous classical piece Night On Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky in which the drums sound very powerful and the keyboard play is a tribute to Emerson/Jobson. Despite the poppy overtones in the songs with vocals, this CD is a pleasant effort for keyboard freaks.

ERIS PLUVIA – Rings Of Earthly Light (1991)

Eris Pluvia was founded in 1988, two years later this often overlooked formation released the demo tape Pushing Together and in 1991 the album Rings Of Earthly Light. The music sounds varied, but a bit laid-back: between Camel and Pink Floyd with some jazzy sidesteps in the title track. The Rising Mist is a ballad with wonderful guitar, pleasant jazz-rock in The Broken Path, ambient in Glares Of Mind, beautiful vocals and piano in Pushing Together and a tasteful colouring with flute, saxophone and guitar in the subdued final song The Way Home. All songs sound very melodic and harmonic with a strong romantic undertone, a kind of ‘pastoral prog’ with the focus on creating pleasant atmospheres rather than showing skills.

(L’) ESTATE DI SAN MARTINO – Alder (CD 2006)

L’Estate Di San Martino was founded in 1975. In the early eighties, they started to work out a concept story about an angler who makes an imaginary journey to knowledge. In 1983, the band made recordings during two nights, but it took 23 years before the prolific Italian prog rock label Btf. released it on CD issued in a beautiful mini gatefold package. The ten compositions on the album Alder sound quite mellow with lots of twanging acoustic guitars and some flute. It reminds me of the folky side of early Genesis. The keyboards are a bit on the background featuring some synthesizer flights and grand piano. At those moments I like Alder’s in general 'pastoral prog', embellished with beautiful Italian vocals and some moving electric guitar work. A nice album, no more no less in my opinion. It will please the more romantic prog heads.

P.S.: In 2007, the band released the well-received new album Febo.

EZRA WINSTON – Ancient Afternoon (1990)

Ancient Afternoon is a beauty from the nineties by Ezra Winston, two years after their acclaimed debut album Myth Of The Crysavides. The first track The Painter And The King consists of five parts and has a delicate classical inspired symphonic sound with flute and acoustic guitar and strong hints from early Genesis. The electric guitar play is very flowing and sensitive. The next song Verge Of Suicide (four parts) has echoes from PFM, due to the sparkling flute and the acoustic guitar and warm vocals. The final part includes fanfare-like bombastic keyboards and drums. Then a shorter song entitled Night Storm with a compelling, symphonic atmosphere featuring howling electric guitar, accompanied by saxophone and flute. The fourth composition Ancient Afternoon Of An Unknown Town is with nine parts and 26 minutes the 'magnum opus' of the album. It sounds very alternating: from mellow with acoustic guitars, flute and floating keyboards to bombastic with swirling flute. We also hear up-tempo rhythms with sumptuous synthesizers in the vein of the Japanese prog (Gerard, Déjà Vu, Ars Nova) . Surprising elements are the use of xylophone, brass and classical guitar. The final song Shades Of Grey is a short bonus track that delivers twanging acoustic guitar, flute and Steve Hackett-like guitar, strongly evoking early Genesis. If you like early Genesis and classical music, this CD is worth a try.

FOGLIE DI VETRO – Same (1996)

During my work for Dutch prog rock magazine iO Pages, I reviewed many new Italian prog rock bands. Despite the language gap, they kept on sending floods of promo CD’s, especially between 1995 and 2000. Here’s a very fine one from 1996. Listening to this eponymous debut album, I’m delighted about the tension between the mellow parts and the powerful parts, the inventive twists and turns, the tasteful interplay and the blend of instruments. Let’s not forget about the keyboards, the Italian trademark. We hear beautiful piano work from tender to sparkling, a lush strings-sound and bombastic synthesizer layers. My highlight is the long and varied title track in which the band plays at their peak and you can enjoy Foglie Di Vetro ’s trademark: the wonderful, often compelling interplay between piano and electric guitar: from sensitive solos to propulsive riffs, embellished with a saxophone solo and emotional vocals and culminating in a strong bombastic final part. What a beautiful album! Unfortunately, Foglie Di Vetro turned out to be another fine Italian one-shot-band.

GARDEN WALL – Path Of Dreams (1994)

(review by Maurice Dam, Background Magazine # 45, February 1995)

After a good entry into the progressive scene, Garden Wall are ready to show if they are to stay there. This time we are taken on a Path Of Dreams, starting off at Prelude, The Gates Of Hypnos an instrumental piano piece that paves the way for a dream of love Communion. The main theme of the CD is the human path from birth to death, the dreams one has and the disillusions that follow.

The sound of Garden Wall hasn’t changed very much since the previous album. They still show a distinct influence of IQ in a darker sense, this time slightly mingled with a Dream Theater-like style. The band definitely developed a certain style of their own though, sometimes with floating guitar leads that cut through the dark and gloomy paths of the keyboards. Vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Alessandro Seravalle has a dark opera-like voice that suits the music splendidly. He even screams out the lyrics at times.

The next dream is the dream of purity, The Bride Of The Wind, the second instrumental piece on this CD followed by Sex, The Dream Of Life. In two parts, we can enjoy ourselves: first in the Hotness Of The Flesh, followed by Soft Warm, the instrumental segment that is not everyday-good-clean-happy-prog, but having one of the best guitar solos on this disc. After pleasure, pain immediately follows with another piano piece, Interlude: Between Eros And Thanatos leading us to the dream of neurosis and Band Luft, another instrumental that comes close to On De Radio from their previous album. Kaos, The Dream Of Hate and Onirios, The Dream Of Awe are two of the heavier pieces on this album. At first I didn’t get beyond this point as it was just too much to swallow in one go. Luckily, the next track gets more progressive. The Cage, The Dream Of Pain has a beautiful intro in the vein of Genesis in the early seventies. There’s even a mellotron to be heard for the hobbits among us. Our journey ends at the dream of death, May Di Muart with lyrics sung in Latin: “Here all is lost, all is past, all is nothing.” The sad piano piece Mortal Maj closes the album and our journey is over. The booklet gives the English translation of Maj Di Muart.

If you are extremely depressed then this is not the CD you want to play, unless you want to make your final journey. For the more serious prog rock fans among us, this isn’t an album will easily get into you as it definitely needs several spins. However, once you are through, it will be a treat.

GERMINALE — E Il Suo Respiro Ancora Agitata Le Onde (1995)

This second album from Germinale is their best. What a wonderful and lush 24-carat symphonic rock sound!

Il Gia Sentito E Il Non Ancora (1:35) : the first track features a mellow atmosphere with twanging guitar and dreamy vocals.

Maggio (9:29): a pleasant and varied up-tempo song, nicely coloured with flute, organ and electric guitar.

D'Ombra, Vapori E Sabbia (6:41): a fluent rhythm with a wonderful harmony between mellotron, organ and flute and fine solos on guitar and flute. This composition contains many good musical ideas.

Eleonora (4:20): a dreamy piece with twanging electric guitar.

Le Onde, Respiro Del Mare (8:46): a very good composition delivering a compelling atmosphere and spectacular keyboard playing. The moods shift from mellow to up-tempo with bombastic Hammond organ and fiery electric guitar, the interplay between these instruments also sound great!

Dioniso Inquieto (4:22): beautiful twelve-string acoustic guitar, a sound that I love since early Genesis! The piano supports a subdued, very sensitive electric guitar solo.

Malcreanza (6:59): lots of excitement here: a break with a flute solo, Fripperian guitar work, a Moog-synthesizer solo on the Prodigy, the poor man's Moog..!, and many changing atmospheres.

D'io (3:40): this short and romantic piece features vocals, twanging guitar and wonderful mellotron waves.

Avant - Grado (9:20): another great composition that starts with beautiful flute and sparkling classical piano, then an up-tempo piece with bombastic organ.

In Aeternum Veritas (0:58): only a voice and twanging acoustic guitar.

Meurglys III (The Songwriters Guild) (7:42): a Van Der Graaf Generator -cover featuring an intro with soft mellotron and flute, then emotional vocals and fiery Fripperian guitar, changing atmospheres and a wonderful final part with organ and piano.

LEVIATHAN – Bee Yourself (1990)

After their promising debut album entitled Heartquake (1988), Leviathan (founded in 1985) was embraced by the neo-prog heads, although the music also contains elements of Genesis and classic Italian prog legends PFM and Banco. The neo-prog heads were even more pleased with the successor Bee Yourself . A huge boost to Leviathan’s sound was the new, classically trained keyboardist Andrea Amici, especially in the epic title track, we can enjoy his lush keyboard work. The album sold very well, but Leviathan disappeared for seven years until they released the album Volume in 1997 and recently Leviathan collaborated with new compositions to the musical projects Kalevala (2003), The Colossus Of Rhodes (2004) and Giallo! (2009) and the band is working on the English version of their active website. Here are some comments on the contribution to the Giallo!-project:

Vecchi Giochi (21.03, four parts): we can enjoy 24-carat symphonic rock and vintage keyboards like the MiniMoog, Hammond and mellotron. It starts of with beautiful grand piano, classical orchestrations and inspired Italian vocals, the music alternates between dreamy, mid-tempo rhythms and bombastic featuring sparkling piano and fluent Hammond runs. Due to the heavy Taurus bass-pedals and the Steve Hackett-like guitar, Leviathan evokes Wind And Wuthering -era Genesis, what a wonderful music! The final part is great delivering a slow rhythm with bass pedals, synthesizer flights and mellotron choirs, topped with passionate Italian vocals. Goose bumps!

MAD CRAYON – Ultimo Miraggio (1994)

Mad Crayon has been rooted twice in the past. First, the album cover that has been designed by Mac Mazzierri, who once created the cover of Le Orme’s album Uomo Di Pezza. Second, their sound that has obvious hints from mid-era Genesis: tasteful and melodic symphonic rock delivering wonderful interplay between the guitar and dual keyboards strongly evoking Steve Hackett and Tony Banks. The song Running Child contains pieces derived from the famous classical composer J.S. Bach. To my surprise, the vocals are not only in Italian, but also in English. That is a pity because Italian should sing in their beautiful native language. The English vocals lack a bit power and emotion. That’s my only negative remark. Enjoy this wonderful prog rock album.

MAD CRAYON – Diamanti (1999)

Diamanti is the successor of Ultimo Miraggio, released in 1999 so we had to wait five years! On this album, Mad Crayon sounds tight, fluent and convincing. Their compositions are tasteful featuring lots of pleasant changing atmospheres. The band has two keyboard players and three guitarists, which culminate in many solos. The best moments are in Deserti: a dreamy first part, then a saxophone solo, sparkling piano, a moving guitar solo and great interplay between violin and piano. Glorioso Destino has many fine musical ideas and strong soli. Mad Crayon’s prog rock doesn’t sound original or complex, but they deliver very melodic, harmonic and pleasant music.

MALIBRAN – In Concerto (1997)

These live recordings are from 1997 when Malibran performed on the famous island of Sicily. The sound of this recording has the quality level of a decent bootleg, but to me that is no problem at all. There is plenty to enjoy on this live album. Ten pleasant and melodic compositions featuring great dual guitar play with hints from Steve Rothery and David Gilmour and swirling work on the flute. Only the keyboards sound a bit too functional. Highlights are an abridged version of Pyramid’s Street with a Bolero-rhythm and an Arabian atmosphere, Magica Attesa with good soli on guitar and flute and the long, captivating Prelude evoking early Marillion delivering a fiery and powerful, Ritchie Blackmore-inspired solo. Malibran will never be rewarded as a very original or extremely crafty prog rock band, but to me they sound pleasant and varied. Many parts of this live album can also be heard and seen on their DVD Malibran 10 Anni In Concerto. I hope to see Malibran live on stage once!

MALIBRAN – La Citta Sul Lago (1998)

One year later Malibran released their fourth album entitled La Citta Sul Lago. Despite the long running time (about 70 minutes), Malibran succeeds in keeping my attention. The compositions sound alternating featuring many strong shifting moods, breaks and soli and a varied instrumentation with guitars, flute, saxophone and piano). My highlights are a fiery, wah-wah drenched guitar solo in the title track, a playful percussive break with a biting guitar solo in The Time, a Jethro Tull-inspired part in La Stagione Del Re and metal guitar and protrusive drums in Nuvole Di Vetro. If I compare this album to their previous work like Le Porte Del Silenzio, the Marillion -echoes are almost faded away. I trace some elements from Camel (mostly flute and guitars), Genesis (keyboards and twelve-string guitars) and Jethro Tull (flute), but gradually Malibran has managed to sound rather original. A special remark is for the splendid guitar work from Guiseppe Scaravelli and Jerry Litrico in the vein of Steve Rothery (Marillion) and Andy Latimer (Camel). They deliver many moving and exciting solos and dual guitar play!

MEN OF LAKE - Men of Lake  (1991)

Men Of Lake released four studio-albums between 1991 and 1998. However, this eponymous debut album is still my favourite one. The structure of the eight compositions is simple, but very tastefully. You will be carried away by the warm atmosphere, featuring a lush Hammond and Farfisa organ sound and pleasant vocals. The guitar play is subdued, but fits perfect to the often romantic and melancholic atmospheres. Some songs are mellow, other contain bombastic eruptions delivering majestic floods of organ. If you like the melodic organ-driven prog rock in the vein of Procol Harum and Rare Bird, this album is a delight.

MINSTREL - Faust (2000)

This overlooked band started in 1991, but it took six years before Minstrel released a demo tape entitled New Life, in 2000 followed by their debut album Faust. By the way, I read about plans for a new CD entitled Moby Dick on their website, but the latest update is from 2006, so let’s concentrate on this wonderful album Faust.

Preludio (Una Selva Una Storia) (1:20): this short one contains spoken words in the Italian language.

Atto I, Scena I: Bellatrix (5:28): the track starts with twanging acoustic guitar, typical dramatic Italian vocals and wonderful keyboards. In the end a splendid ‘finishing touch’ featuring a fiery and very compelling electric guitar solo.

Atto I, Scena II: Mefistofele (8:55): this track delivers an exciting tension between the acoustic piano and protrusive electric guitar. Also very moving is the acoustic guitar/piano interplay and a moving guitar solo, supported by a beautiful string sound. The final part is bombastic, in the great Italian prog rock tradition!

Atto I, Scena III: Il Castello (6:52): up-tempo with fiery guitar, then a mellow part with piano, moving electric guitar and floating keyboards. The vocals are great and the grand finale carries you away to a prog Walhalla!

Atto II, Scena I: Faust (9:49): the intro features bombastic keyboards, then a mid-tempo with echoes from mid- Genesis. Remarkable is the wah-wah drenched guitar solo.

Atto II, Scena II: La Neve (7:52): first twanging guitars, dreamy vocals and mellow keyboards, then a compelling bombastic atmosphere delivering a wonderful electric guitar solo.

Finale (Ogni Viaggio) (4:17): this one only features piano and spoken words.

My conclusion: another overlooked Italian gem!

MO.DO - La Scimmia Sulla Schiena Del Re (1980)

Talking about overlooked gems, here is the five-piece formation MO.DO founded in the late seventies - 1978 to be precise - by Walter Locatelli, who was the drummer of the well-known prog rock band Dalton. MO.DO turned out to be a one-shot band. Their album La Scimmia Sulla Schiena Del Re was released in 1980 and re-issued on CD in 1993 by Mellow Records. To me the music sounds as a blend of typical melodic classic Italian prog rock bands in the vein of PFM and Banco and more complex oriented prog rock like Gentle Giant. The eight compositions deliver lots of instrumental parts with good work on guitar, vintage keyboards like the Solina string-ensemble and Moog-synthesizers and flute along pleasant harmonies. La Scimmia... is a nice album to discover after you checked out the familiar bands.

MOONGARDEN -The Gates Of Omega (2001)

In 2006, I witnessed a concert by this amazing prog rock band. I was impressed by the performance of the singer, the wonderful keyboard sound and the varied compositions. The Gates Of Omega is not an easy album to listen to. The atmospheres frequently change from romantic, a bit melancholic progressive pop like nineties U2 and Peter Gabriel to pure symphonic rock like mid-Genesis with lush keyboards, Moog Taurus bass pedals, twanging guitars, sensitive, flowing guitar soli and even electronic music in the vein of Tangerine Dream 74-80 era. However, Moongarden also delivered fine musical ideas like mellotron choir waves blended with Spanish guitar, a beautiful piece on acoustic piano and a song featuring a sultry, exotic atmosphere with a djembe percussion sound, flowing keyboards and the distinctive bass stick. My highlights are the compelling, often long soli on the electric guitar and the omnipresent mellotron waves of choir, flute and violin sounds. This double album sounds as prog rock to discover. Moongarden delivered a wonderful piece of music with emotions, skills and variety. This is good prog rock music, worth to check out!

NUOVA ERA — Io E Il Tempo (1992)

This is the third album from the fine Nuova Era. Their debut album L’Ultimo Viaggio sounded promising, but a bit precarious. On the contrary, their second album Dopo L’Infinito sounded strong, but very ELP inspired. My first session with Io E Il Tempo evoked good feelings, I quickly concluded that Nuova Era had delivered their best work. What a pleasant atmospheres and what a beautiful compositions! The album contains two long, very tasteful and alternating, tracks from dreamy to powerful and bombastic. The sound of the guitar and the keyboards is wonderful, the duels are magnificent and we can enjoy many strong guitar and keyboard solos. The vocals are distinctive, but in the background. In general, Nuova Era makes instrumental music. This is a CD to discover.

ODESSA – Stazione Getsemani (1999)

This overlooked four-piece was founded in the late nineties. Their album Stazione Getsemani sounds varied with excellent work on guitar and keyboards, lots of breaks and shifting moods. You have to be up to the strong and expressive, but sometimes pretty raw or theatrical vocals. The atmosphere changes from dreamy with tender grand piano and warm vocals in Di Buio E Luce or slow rhythms with howling electric guitar in Esilio. In Di Buio E Luce and Lotta Per Il Dominio we hear mid-tempos with a dynamic rhythm section, swirling flute and fiery electric guitar, bombastic with powerful Hammond and fat synthesizers, especially Alzo Un Muro Elettrico and even some experimental sounds like in La Sfera. The heavy work on guitar and Hammond reminds me of seventies Deep Purple, very exciting and compelling. Stazione Getsemani is a captivating album.
(Picture by Henri Strik)

RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (1998)

The favourites of guitarist Luca Turilli and keyboard player Alex Staropoli of Rhapsody (Of Fire) are Bach, Paganini and Yngwie Malmsteen. However, it is no surprise that the music of Rhapsody is a blend of classical music and prog metal. After the acclaimed demo tape Land Of Immortals the band released their debut album Legendary Tales in 1997 followed by Symphony Of Enchanted Lands. On this album, Rhapsody has invited a Russian choir and use instruments like hobo, lute, violin, harpsichord, acoustic guitars, mandolin and the ethnic Russian balalaika. The result is a dynamic and varied mix of classical music, symphonic rock and heavy metal, which sometimes is very impressive and exciting! My first highlight is Eternal Glory, a prog metal song along mellow parts with flute and harpsichord. Next the compelling ballad Wings Of Destiny with great tension between keyboards and vocals. Riding The Winds Of Destiny with sparkling, often orchestral keyboards, violin and fiery speed metal interludes.  My absolute favourite track is The Dark Tower Of Abyss. To me this composition sounds like Vivaldi meets Savatage featuring a swirling violin-section, biting guitar and powerful drums. Personally, I don't like heavy and prog metal. Thus, in general I have problems with listening to those albums. Nevertheless, Rhapsody generates a lot of excitement to me, because they succeeded in finding a perfect balance between classical music, symphonic rock and metal.

ROMANTIC WARRIORS – Battlefield (1992)

In the nineties, the Italian prog rock label Vinyl Magic founded a project named New Progressive ’90 in order to release albums by new Italian prog rock bands like Calliope, Syndone and Il Castello Di Atlante. The producer was Italian keyboard player Beppe Crovella, a former member of classic Italian prog legend Arti & Mesteri. He decided to establish his own band named Romantic Warriors and make an album entitled Battlefield for that project. This album contains many swinging rhythms and most songs deliver Emersonian keyboard work, with both vintage and modern sounds like in Open The Gates: early ELP meets new Genesis. In The Dreambreaker, we can also enjoy raw guitar work with a heavy organ wall in a slow rhythm and a wonderful organ-guitar duet in Song To John. I’m also pleased with the melancholic accordion sound in Montmartre although the vocals lack the emotions that make you dream about Paris. If you like modern and accessible keyboard-driven prog rock, this CD is worth to check out.

STANDARTE - Curses And Invocations (1996)

This keyboard-driven prog rock trio does a very fine job by reviving the wonderful seventies sound loaded with the ‘Mighty Three’: mellotron, Hammond organ and Moog-synthesizer. What a ‘vintage heaven’! Those keyboards alongside piano and harpsichord, gives this second album from Standarte a pleasant atmosphere by. On every track you will hear floods of Hammond, Moog and mellotron. Don’t expect elaborated, refined or subtle music: all songs haven been very simply structured and the vocals have a limited range. As a tribute to the early British progressive movement known for its lush keyboard sound, Standarte plays the first part of the song Super Nova from Gracious. This is another great surprise from the small Italian Black Widow label.

SUBMARINE SILENCE – Submarine Silence (2001)

Paul Whitehead created the cover art for this album. He was responsible for some stunning cover paintings on the early Genesis albums Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot as well. So that is one link to Genesis; the music is the other one: beautiful twanging acoustic guitars, Steve Hackett and Andy Latimer inspired electric guitar and keyboards with strong echoes from Tony Banks with lots of mellotron flutes, violins and choir. The compositions sound very symphonic featuring fluent shifting moods from mellow and mid-tempo to compelling and bombastic, fine guitar and keyboard solos and many fresh musical ideas. This is not music that delivers tension, complexity or originality, but it sounds as a wonderful tribute to early Genesis. Unfortunately, this seemed to be another promising Italian one-shot band.

TALE CUE - Voices Beyond My Curtain (1991)

In my opinion, this is a much underrated prog rock album, especially if you like Twelfth Night. This band is a real revelation! The six compositions sound alternating and often very compelling featuring lots of exciting accelerations and sumptuous eruptions with excellent electric guitar play, warm classical guitar and lush keyboards. I have to warn that the distinctive female vocals will not be everybody’s cup of tea, because sometimes it sounds a bit hysterical or unstable, but to me this lady fits perfect to the captivating prog rock of Tale Cue.

(IL) TRONO DEI RICORDI – Il Trono Dei Ricordi (1994)

(abridged review by Michel van de Ven, Background Magazine # 45, February 1995)

This is the best release in years! A dangerous statement, but this is the only way to describe Il Trono Dei Ricordi’s eponymous debut album. It contains only four tracks, but of an outstanding quality! Singer Alberto Mugniani passed Tolkien and adapted work from the English avant-garde poet William Blake (1757-1827). He used it as a basis for all the songs. King Of Memories, the first track that lasts over 19 minutes, contains moments of classical music alternated by glowing ELP -like solos. It takes you from medieval parts to science fiction-like spheres in only a few seconds. It all happens naturally because of the outstanding orchestrations that make the best of the composition. Mugniana’s singing differs from time to time, as if he is still looking for a personal style. Although he is not gifted with a real fantastic voice, he knows how to express the emotions in the music and his voice fits the atmosphere. He is a crossover of early Peter Gabriel and Fish, but he certainly is not a ripp-off, which is a good thing.

The album is dominated, however not off balance, by keyboards, very well played by Stefano Cupertino whose solos I adore. The second and shortest track A Memorable Fancy, just over four minutes, is more guitar oriented and therefore an exception. Some riffs in this song reminded me of Rush to some extent. Il Trono Dei Ricordi’s strength is that they play together very well. These are not just five – plus two additional – musicians on a CD. They are a team, cooperating perfectly with one another. They compete with the giants who influenced them. On The Rising Sun (over 13 minutes) shows that too. It becomes Nektar-like after the intro, with a quiet part in the middle succeeded by an inspired exciting interlude. Suddenly I understand what I like so much about Il Trono Dei Ricordi: they have guts. They dare using a theme and they don’t have this obsession for alternations. Sometimes, like in Visions Of The Daughters Of Albion a particular melody runs along and drifts away for maybe a minute and re-appears later in the song. This talent sets the music at rest and therefore it gains quality and as we all know quality pays itself back. This final track lasts another 18 minutes.

All considered, I would like you to check out this one. There is a lot of potential in Il Trono Dei Ricordi. Although I’m a very critical listener (I hear a lot you know), I honestly enjoyed this one very much.

Proceed to Chapter 4: Interesting New Bands and New Releases Between 2003 and 2009

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