FORTY YEARS OF ITALIAN PROGROCK 1969 - 2009
(by Erik Neuteboom)
(edited by Peter Willemsen)
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
8) My Personal 1969 – 2009 Italian Prog rock Album Top 20
VIII Strada - La Leggenda Della Grande Porta (2009)
Well, listening to the melodic and accessible music on their debut album, I conclude that VII Strada rocks indeed. In general, VIII Strada is scouting the borders between heavy prog and prog metal, but fortunately without the boring cascades of scale-acrobatics in an exciting way. Their music is very dynamic, powerful, bombastic, has lots of shifting moods, breaks and sensational accelerations, powerful Italian vocals with passion and a powerhouse rhythm-section. However, the focus is on the sensational guitar work: propulsive riffs and many fiery, howling and blistering solos, often in great interplay with the sparkling grand piano. That is the trademark of VIII Strada and I love it! Sometimes the band plays mellow featuring warm acoustic guitar, tender piano and dreamy vocals like in the title track and in Laguna Di Giada. Even the short piece Amencer contains a wonderful duet between tango-like piano and classical guitar. This is an exciting CD to check out for the heavy prog and prog metal fans and for prog heads that don’t have a problem with harder-edged prog rock!
AINUR - From Ancient Times (2007)
ARCHANGEL - The Akallabeth (2009)
In comparison with his band Ubi Maior, the sound of Archangel on The Akallabeth is more in the realm of heavy prog and melodic rock. The twelve songs on The Akallabeth have been tastefully arranged with strong vocal contributions, splendid harder-edged guitar work and wonderful work on a wide range of vintage keyboards. These elements remind me of the sound of fellow Dutchman Arjen Lucassen with his project Ayreon. Especially the double album Into The Electric Castle, but less bombastic and less focused on guitar. In my opinion, Gabriele is a more elaborate composer. Just listen to The Shade Of Numenor with an exciting blend of sparkling grand piano, propulsive guitar riffs, a sensitive electric guitar solo and finally fiery guitar runs with floods of Hammond organ. In Raise The Sword and Lidless Eye, it is Hammond, Moog and mellotron time. The album also contains the wonderful ballads Power Within, from acoustic rhythm guitar with mellotron violins to a great MiniMoog solo and Red Clouds War with dreamy tender piano and soaring keyboards to a slow rhythm with an awesome mellotron sound and a MiniMoog solo with heavy guitar riffs.
The Downfall: 39 Days Of Madness is compelling and varied with a strong contribution of Damian Wilson and majestic mellotron choir drops. The final composition is The Price with dreamy piano and warm vocals, a slow rhythm with a sensitive guitar solo and finally a bombastic part featuring mellotron choirs, emotional vocals and a moving guitar solo. Goose bumps!
If you like heavy prog and keyboard-oriented melodic rock, I’m sure that especially the fans of Ayreon and Uriah Heep will be pleased with the sound of Archangel. This is an album to discover, because this music deserves more attention!
AREKNAMES - Areknames (2003)
AREKNAMES – Live At Burg Herzberg Festival 2007 (2007)
Dateless Diary: after a dreamy atmosphere with wonderful mellotron violins and rather melancholic vocals evoking Peter Hamill, we can enjoy powerful Hammond organ, propulsive guitar work and fat synthesizer flights in a compelling atmosphere. In the end, the dreamy atmosphere returns delivering mellotron, Hammond and fluent electric guitar.
A Prison That Few Can See: the first part is mellow, the music reminds me of Anekdoten because of the mellotron violin and the warm but a bit dark vocals. Gradually the sound becomes lush with powerful Hammond waves, strong drumming and howling electric guitar runs, followed by a long and very compelling Hammond solo similar to Dave Greenslade’s work in Colosseum and Greenslade.
A New Song starts with a slow rhythm and fragile guitar play, mellow organ and warm vocals again evoking Anekdoten, then a mid-tempo with majestic Hammond and powerful guitar, culminating in a kind of bombastic psychedelia. Again, we can enjoy a long Hammond solo, this time swirling with great support of the rhythm section. The final part contains soaring mellotron. Although it is short, I get goose bumps!
Outcast is a short piece that sounds a bit psychedelic with propulsive drums, fiery vocals, heavy guitar and hypnotizing organ work. It reminds me of early Italian gem Il Balletto Di Bronzo. Very dynamic! In Boredom, the focus is again on the Hammond alongside a sensitive electric guitar solo, fat synthesizer flights and wonderful mellotron violins. You hear fluent runs, sumptuous eruptions and a swirling solo with psychedelic undertones. This man knows how to push the right keys! Don't expect elaborate music, but let you carry away by Areknames’ compelling vintage sound, loaded with mind-lowing work on the Hammond organ!
ARIES - Aries (2005)
Incredible, but here’s another new and promising one-shot-band from Italy. This six-piece band delivers a wonderful album that blends rock, folk and symphonic in a very compelling way. Sometimes the music is warm, mellow almost fragile with beautiful piano, acoustic guitar and flute. In other songs, we hear symphonic rock featuring some splendid synthesizer soli. The guitar work is excellent; some sensitive solos remind me of Neil Young’s raw and moving style. All six compositions are topped by a great vocal performance of Simone Angioloni. This is one of the best female voices since Annie Haslam. Highly recommended!
(IL) BACIO DELLA MEDUSA – Il Bacio Della Medusa (2004)
(IL) BACIO DELLA MEDUSA – Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante (2008)
The twelve tracks on this concept album sound more elaborate and refined than on the promising debut album. What a tension, dynamics, captivating breaks and
CAGE – Secret Passage (2008)
This new album features dual-keyboard play as well ( Alessandro Bugliani and Claudio Franciosi) and a guest-musician on flute in one track. Three songs are recorded in 2007, four in 2008 and M31 is a live track ‘of some years ago, somewhere’ as the band writes in the booklet. I must say, that I’m impressed by the variety in the eight compositions, the musical skills of the musicians and the awesome interplay of which The Scream is the best example. In comparison with 87/94, Cage delivers a more jazz-rock-oriented sound in Movements with delicate fretless bass work and in Bitter Honey with a flashy synthesizer solo and a hard-edged guitar solo. Marta has a subtle volume pedal guitar, sparkling piano and a strong build-up with exciting interplay between guitar and organ. Time To Go Back Home delivers a great dynamic atmosphere in the end and on the live track M31, we can enjoy an exciting guitar solo and omnipresent electric piano work. The title track is a solo piece on classical guitar in the vein of Steve Hackett and in The Scream, the vocals come pretty close to the voice of The Watch’s singer Simone Rossetti. In my opinion, Cage has made a captivating blend of classic prog and jazz-rock, more mature and elaborated than ever before!
(IL) CASTELLO DI ATLANTE – Concerto Acustico (2006)
(IL) CASTELLO DI ATLANTE – Capitolo 7 - Tra Le Antiche Mura (2009)
Since I started to write reviews about prog rock music in the early nineties for Background Magazine, Il Castello Di Atlante is one of those bands I frequently stumbled upon from the very first beginning. Listening to their new album, their sound is still a very melodic and harmonic blend of seventies symphonic and neo-symphonic rock with hints to early Marillion. Most of the alternating compositions clock between ten and twenty minutes, featuring shifting moods, often compelling interplay between sensitive electric guitar and varied keyboards and warm, melancholic Italian vocals. The band is at their best in the tasteful mixture of classical instruments like piano, guitar and violin with modern keyboards: bombastic church-organ, fat synthesizer flights, tender grand piano and delicate harpsichord. Although I miss specific highlights, this album sounds as pleasant prog rock that will please the more romantic oriented prog heads among us.
(IL) CERCHIO D’ORO – Il Viaggio Di Colombo (2008)
And what a wonderful layout this album has! A fold-cover with sketches that take you away to the time that Columbus set sail to America and met the native Indians, an encounter of two different worlds. On this first studio album, Il Cerchio D’Oro sounds melodic and accessible in the thirteen alternating songs with passionate Italian vocals from drummer Gino Terribile, bass player Guiseppe Terribile and guitarist Piuccio Pradal. Sometimes you hear a typical classic Italian prog rock atmosphere like in the bonus track Futuro Prossimo. A strong feature of their music is the way they colour their tasteful arrangements with strong and varied guitar work and keyboards. You can enjoy a slow rhythm with sensitive electric guitar or a dreamy atmosphere with twelve-string acoustic guitars, but also mid-tempo pieces with swinging piano and bombastic atmospheres with powerful organ (Franco Piccolini). It is hard to mention absolute highlights, because Il Cerchio D’Oro arranged the thirteen compositions on this new CD in a very tasteful manner. You can enjoy lots of shifting moods and nice musical ideas, especially the guitar pieces. Two members play acoustic and electric guitar and Guiseppe Terribile plays besides the bass also twelve-string acoustic guitar and keyboards. They all give Il Viaggio Di Colombo an extra dimension.
CONQUEROR – 74 Giorni (2007)
CORAL CAVES - Mitapoiesi (2008)
I’m sure this wonderful debut album by Coral Caves will please both the sympho maniacs and the neo-prog heads. Recently I asked prime mover and multi-instrumentalist Pietro Saviano about the current situation of Coral Caves:
“At this moment we are organizing some gigs in Sicily in order to promote the album. That’s not easy because the prog is not fashionable, but we'll get in the spotlights. Additionally we are working on Marillion’s Lavender and Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes The Flood for the Mellow Records tribute album of Marillion and solo work of Genesis. We have ideas and material enough for a second album!! We only need time and, above all, money in order to record it….”
DELIRIUM - Il Nome Del Viento (2009)
While listening to this new album, I recognized the best elements of their seventies albums, but at a higher level. To me the compositions sound more mature, more elaborate and more captivating thanks to their experience over the years. There is a perfect balance between the instruments, between the mellow and dynamic parts and between folk, symphonic rock and jazz-(rock). Especially in the tracks Dopo Il Vento, with very dynamic and wonderful colouring guitar, flute, sax and piano, and Cuore Sacro with great tension between parts with powerful organ and warm piano. Also interesting is the use of a string quartet in some songs and I’m delighted with the Italian vocals. I’m curious about Delirium’s future after they returned from the past thanks to Black Widow Records. This Italian label gives prog rock talent a chance, even if these talents are over fifty!
This album of Doracor sounds far from original, complex or adventurous, but I love the 24-carat symphonic rock sound! Most of the compositions contain a pleasant atmosphere featuring warm Italian vocals and wonderful work on keyboards, evoking early IQ and Pendragon, mid- Genesis and Banco. The colouring of the songs is great delivering fat synthesizer flights, sensitive piano, organ waves or howling electric guitar. The music often sounds bombastic, but also mellow or swinging, layered with great keyboard work and guitar. Very convincing!
FAVERAVOLA – Contea Dei Cento Castagni (2006)
Leggenda Delle Foglia is another highlight with strong vocals and a great synthesizer solo and the bombastic Finally Neorinascimento with propulsive and fiery guitar and powerful organ waves. Don't expect complex music like Gentle Giant, virtuosic soli like ELP or dynamic songs like Rush, just enjoy the warm and pleasant atmosphere. Perhaps we can create the category ‘pastoral prog’ for this beautiful music.
FINISTERRE - La Meccanica Naturale (2004)
Shame on me, I must have overlooked this Italian gem! I only knew this band by name! I got this Finisterre album from a friend and it blew me away. The alternating music is so captivating and the ten compositions are very tasteful and elaborate. Some songs remind me of the famous seventies Italians prog rock legends PFM, Banco en Museo Rosenbach, but Finisterre manages to surprise me again and again with musical twists and turns, great! Other tracks have very different atmospheres: from classical piano and trombone (!) to jazzy piano with wah-wah guitar and mellotron. The final three songs deliver great build-ups and splendid grand finales featuring fiery electric guitar, lush keyboards and inspired vocals. The music on this album is not always accessible, but it has many wonderful moments. A ‘must have’ for every Italian prog rock aficionado!
GAN EDEN: GIARDINO DELLE DELIZIE - Lavori in Corso (2007)
The music is obviously rooted in the 24-carat symphonic prog tradition of the seventies, mainly because of the frequent use of vintage keyboards like Hammond and MiniMoog. After a few listening sessions, I noticed a huge difference of composing quality between the first and final track! The opener Dolce Brezza starts in a pleasant atmosphere, but goes on and on without any tension or musical ideas. Only the final part delivers a sensitive electric guitar solo and a fluent shifting mood with tasteful piano and organ, but a duration of ten minutes is excessively long for this track. The final composition I Take All The Way highlights Gan Eden at their best: lots of variety and dynamics, exciting work on guitar and keyboards. We hear sparkling grand piano, fat MiniMoog flights, a sensitive electric guitar solo, a fluent rhythm-section and organ play that strongly reminded me of famous Le Orme (Collage-era). The other four songs sound pleasant and melodic with a tasteful colouring by the guitar and keyboards like warm grand piano, fat MiniMoog runs and a pipe organ interlude in the title track. You can enjoy slow and fat MiniMoog flights, howling guitar and sparkling piano in La Canzione Della Bimba and mellow Hammond runs with fiery guitar in E Dopa Il Vento. The Italian vocals on this album sound warm and inspired in the typical seventies Italian prog tradition like Metamorfosi and Le Orme. Apart from the first composition, I enjoyed this wonderful symphonic prog album. Especially recommended to fans of seventies Italian symphonic prog.
GAN EDEN : GIARDINO DELLE DELIZIE – Ritratto Di Ballerina (2009)
GERMINALE – Scogli Di Scabbia (2005)
GOAD – In The House Of Dark Shining Dreams (2006)
HOSTSONATEN - Springtides (2004)
Indeed, especially on the first track the recording quality is at bootleg level, but in general the sound is decent and certainly not disturbing, not for me anyway. The first three songs Ace Of Sunlight, Starfields and Seascape sound mellow featuring fine guitar and some saxophone and mellotron. Unfortunately, the English vocals are quite mediocre. If you are an Italian native, please sing in your wonderful language! The next track Season Of Eve is a bit bombastic mid-tempo piece with irritating computer drums, but they were only meant to explain the musicians how to play their parts. Aries is a very alternating song featuring church-organ and a fiery, rock and roll inspired guitar solo. Rainbow is an exciting composition with a sitar intro and then dynamic and sumptuous prog rock with duo-keyboards. Morning is a splendid track with wonderful flute samples, sensitive electric guitar, sparkling piano, impressive mellotron waves and many shifting moods. This is Hostsonaten at their best! In Living Stone And First Reprise we hear first a swinging rhythm with a strong bass sound and then an atmosphere delivering howling electric guitar and majestic mellotron choirs and beautiful piano. Just great! The last two songs, The Night The Moon Fell Down and Crossing The Bar contain acoustic guitar and vocals. One day these songs will appear on an entire acoustic album. After listening to this compilation, I will for sure try to listen to more albums from Hostsonaten!
HOSTSONATEN – Winterthrough (2008)
I needed a few listening sessions to get into this new Hostsonaten CD, because I’m not a fan of woodwind and brass instruments, but now I’m carried away by this wonderful and pleasantly arranged blend of seventies inspired symphonic rock, classical music and folk. A big hand for Hostsonaten!
LONDON UNDERGROUND – Through A Glass Darkly (2003)
MALAAVIA – Danze D’Incenso (2004)
MALIBRAN - Strani Colori (2004)
MALIBRAN - Trasparenze : A New Musical Project by Guiseppe Scaravilli (2008)
Most of the eleven compositions on Trasparenze sound dreamy and mellow featuring warm twanging acoustic guitar, pleasant Italian vocals, cheerful flute work and in some songs solos on saxophone, acoustic guitar, violin (evoking Jean Luc Ponty in Volo Magico), jazzy inspired electric guitar in Nel Ricordo and flashy synthesizer in Pioggia Di Maggio. The two epic tracks (around 13 minutes) Trasparenze has Jethro Tull-like flute play and a Mike Oldfield-oriented atmosphere. Pensieri Fragili with powerful saxophone and heavy electric guitar riffs, contains lots of flowing shifting moods with wonderful solos on electric guitar (sensitive with howling runs) and a delicate colouring with flute and acoustic guitar. My favourite songs are Vento D’Oriente an Arabian atmosphere with great contrast between a sultry violin and a harder-edged electric guitar. Presagio has a strong build-up with exciting work on guitar and keyboards and even some prog metal. Although the balance is a bit more on the mellow side, this new Malibran-album succeeds in keeping my attention. It sounds very pleasant, especially the twanging acoustic guitars, and melodic with very strong solos on electric guitar.
MANGALA VALLIS - Lycanthrope (2005)
The unsurpassed mellotron is omnipresent, almost every song contains mellotron waves of violin, flute and choir-Mellotron. What a joy! The eight compositions sound melodic, tasteful and alternating: from dreamy en compelling to up-tempo and sumptuous featuring great soli on guitar, often Gilmourian inspired, and keyboards.
MARYGOLD - The Guns Of Marygold (2006)
1. Hara-kiri Show (7.25): the intro contains a spacey sound from keyboards and a Roland guitar-synthesizer. It evokes Steve Hackett’s ominous sounding song Land Of A Thousand Autumns. A compelling rhythm follows with lots of breaks and shifting moods sounding very dynamic and featuring dramatic vocals, fiery guitar and fluent synthesizer flights.
2. Crows On The Tree (6.32): this is a mellow track with melancholic vocals and fragile guitar work, followed by beautiful guitar play with the volume pedal and sensitive piano. The final part delivers a mid-tempo with howling electric guitar, very moving!
3. Marygold (7.21): this song starts with twanging guitars in the vein of early Genesis in a dreamy atmosphere with warm vocals and a slow synthesizer solo. Halfway a break, then a mid-tempo pace and we can enjoy delicate work on organ, inspired vocals and slightly distorted guitar.
4. Sunflowers (5.21): this composition contains lots of variation and flowing changing atmospheres: from dreamy with sparkling piano to a fluent rhythm with flashy synthesizer work, fiery guitar and passionate vocals.
5. Tania Stands... (2.56): a short song with wonderful interplay between the acoustic guitar, halfway there is some delicate flute, simply beautiful!
6. The Wizard (9.46): after strong drum beats and fiery guitar the atmosphere turns into dreamy with a slow rhythm delivering soaring keyboards, sensitive electric guitar with volume pedal play and warm vocals. Gradually the pace becomes faster and the sound lush and bombastic, culminating in exciting interplay between guitar and keyboards along passionate vocals. This is Marygold at their best! Suddenly the music stops and a bell rings (my border collie Lola looked confused at me or she had to bark ..!), then the music returns with a mellow atmosphere featuring wonderful symphonic prog with lush keyboards and howling electric guitar. I’m on cloud 9! Marygold sounds very warm and beautiful and is recommended to fans of pleasant and melodic prog like Genesis, Marillion, Pendragon, Camel and IQ but a bit more subdued. I would say that Marygold is, to quote Fish: “...for the romantics in the audience.”
(LA) MASCHERA DI CERA - LuxAde (2006)
(LA) MASCHERA DI CERA - In Concerto (2004)
MASS MEDIA – Criptoidea (2007)
MAURY E I PRONOMI - (Ec) Citazioni Neoclassische (2004)
MOONGARDEN - Round Midnight (2003)
MOONGARDEN - Songs From The Lighthouse (2008)
1. My Darkside (7.26): after a spacey intro, Moongarden delivers a fluent rhythm with delicate guitar work, soaring keyboards and emotional English vocals. This is followed by several shifting moods, from dreamy with violins and melancholic vocals to powerful accelerations with Hammond- organ, propulsive drums, howling guitar and a splendid final part featuring the omnipresent mellotron. I love it!
2. It's You (7.04): starts dreamy with mellow piano and vocals and then turns into wonderful vocals, mellotron and intense guitars, sounding like a symphonic Radiohead.
3. Solaris (13.00): this is an alternating composition with the final part as a highlight with an excellent build-up: a Floydian inspired guitar solo supported by a heavy Hammond and then the majestic mellotron. This is prog heaven!
4. Emotionaut (3.55): in this short piece we can enjoy propulsive and bombastic parts with heavy mellotron work.
5. That Child (5.52): the first part contains sensitive piano and warm vocals then the band succeeds to translate the emotional subject (parents neglecting their child) into music in a very impressive way. Lots of mellotron violins but also bombastic with fat and protrusive guitar, mellotron choirs and cynical vocals (using over-dubs). Goose bumps!
6. Flesh (2.49): an instrumental track with cello and grand piano, supported by mellow mellotron waves.
7. Dreamlord (11.30): this piece begins with a Fender piano sound and mellotron violins and then turning from dreamy into bombastic with fiery guitar and lush mellotron choirs.
8. Southampton Railroad (4.11): in this short song, we can enjoy acoustic rhythm guitar and the sound of tablas (Indian percussion). It sounds pleasant and a bit exotic.
9. Sonya In Search Of The Moon (5.47): a very alternating composition with first a slow rhythm featuring flashy synthesizer flights, then bombastic with sensitive guitar, bass pedals and mellotron choirs, all very tastefully arranged.
10. The Lighthouse Song (9.32): the title track is also very tastefully arranged: first dreamy with acoustic rhythm guitar, piano and warm vocals and compelling like the Radiohead atmosphere in the second track and finally howling guitar, strong vocals and majestic mellotron choirs. What a captivating new prog rock!
MOONGARDEN – A Vulgar Display Of Prog (2009)
On A Vulgar Display Of Prog, Moongarden invites us again for an interesting and captivating musical journey. These guys play progressive rock in the true sense of the word! Sometimes we hear bombastic seventies symphonic rock in the vein of Genesis 1976-77 with lush mellotron and a powerful guitar sound, but also mellow atmospheres with dreamy vocals and ambient keyboards like in Demetrio And Magdalen. On other tracks we can enjoy an eighties Queen-like synthesizer sound in MDMA or a heavy guitar wall with rap-like vocals in Compression. What a stunning variety!
I’m delighted about the interplay between the guitars and keyboards. In Aesthetic Surgery, you can enjoy a howling guitar with mellotron choirs. Wordz & Badge delivers an exciting duel between aggressive guitar riffs and again mellotron choirs just like in Demetrio And Magdalen. Sometimes Moongarden sounds mellow and warm with strong emotions like in Aesthetic Surgery with tender piano and melancholic vocals (‘I am an artist, not God’). Those emotional and expressive vocals form an important part of Moongarden’s distinctive sound. Simone Baldini Tosi has a rather unique voice in the current prog rock with a lot of emotion and expression! This kind of music is not always my cup of tea, but I’m impressed anyway. Fifteen years after their debut album Moongarden are still alive and progging!
NARROW PASS - A Room Of Fairy Queen’s (2006)
1. Earth - Je Cherche La Vie (5.19): this piece starts with a wonderful spacey keyboard intro and the Roland guitar synthesizer followed by a fluent rhythm featuring Spanish guitar runs and quick synthesizer flights with strong echoes from Tony Banks’s ARP Pro Solist sound.
2. A Room Of Fairy Queen's (5.32): this track has a beautiful medieval atmosphere with pleasant female Annie Haslam-like vocals, flute and classical guitar.
3. Lord Of The Headline (7.37): now Narrow Pass turns into a propulsive mid-tempo with raw male vocals, flashy synthesizer runs and harder-edged guitar work. We can enjoy fiery electric guitar soli and MiniMoog-like synthesizer flights. The music sounds dynamic and tasteful.
4. The Lake (6.50): this instrumental piece starts with flute and acoustic rhythm guitar, then the unique and surprising sound of a bagpipe! After a strong and compelling guitar solo, the atmosphere turns into mellow with acoustic guitar and soaring keyboards.
5. Coming Off My Shadow (1.45): this is a short instrumental with a catchy rhythm and a spectacular duel between guitar and keyboards in the vein of Steve Hackett in ...In That Quiet Earth.
6. Desert (7.46): this is another instrumental, very alternating with Hackett-like guitar playing and lots of strong soli on guitar and keyboards. Great!
7. Wake Up (10.15): the longest composition sounds very dynamic: from dreamy with twanging guitars to bombastic with fiery electric guitar. It often evokes the early and pleasant neo-prog of IQ. The omnipresent saxophone alongside the Hackett-like guitar and the lush bass pedal sound are remarkable on this track.
8. Into The Light (6.04): after a dreamy intro, the music slowly turns into compelling symphonic prog, culminating in a ‘grand finale’ delivering bass pedals, lush keyboards and howling electric guitar. This is progheaven!
A Room Of Fairy Queen’s is a very pleasant and melodic album that will delight the fans of Genesis 1970-1977 era, Steve Hackett and neo-prog like IQ and Pendragon.
NARROW PASS – In This World And Beyond (2009)
NODO GORDIANO – Flektogon (2009)
Well, the name of King Crimson frequently appears in the above-mentioned biography, so it’s logical that the spirit of this classic prog rock legend reigns over this album. In almost every track, I notice strong hints of King Crimson. Heavy and hypnotizing atmospheres with a very propulsive rhythm-section close to John Wetton and Bill Bruford and razor-sharp or repetitive guitar work in the best tradition of Robert Fripp’s. Also Jamie Muir-inspired percussion experiments in Ozymandias Part I + II and screamy saxophone play. However, Nodo Gordiano turns out to be more than a King Crimson-clone. Just listen to the high-pitched female opera-like vocals in Theatro Di Memoria. The intro with the choir strongly evokes PFM’s The World Became The World. Listen to the ethnic Indian intro, the electronic sound collage and the dreamy flute in the magnum opus Avventure Di Mastarna. To me this long epic composition sounds like a jam session of 30 minutes, from mellow to ‘organized chaos’, in the best tradition of King Crimson.
After several listening sessions, I conclude that Nodo Gordiano has very interesting compositional skills, but I’m sure this kind of prog rock will not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, I recommend the King Crimson fans and those prog heads that are searching for adventurous prog rock to check out the ‘multimedia section’ of Nodo Gordiano’s excellent website.
NOTABENE - NotaBene (2005)
1. Terra Madre (6:50): this track starts with majestic violin work and warm Italian vocals moving to a mid-tempo featuring a pleasant symphonic rock atmosphere with delicate synthesizer flights, sensitive electric guitar and wonderful violin. The music often reminds me of fellow Italian band Abiogenesi.
2. Danza Nel Fuoco (7:00): begins mellow with the interplay of a soft trumpet and piano, followed by a dynamic and bombastic atmosphere delivering powerful organ waves, heavy electric guitar riffs, fiery trumpet and spectacular synthesizer runs. Very entertaining!
3. Effimero Regno Di Plastica (9:13): again dynamic and bombastic music featuring a catchy rhythm. There is great interplay and good soli on organ, violin and guitar. The Italians vocals sound strong with a pleasant, often emotional undertone. Halfway the atmosphere’s changing from heavy progressive into dreamy with the sound of a string ensemble, classical orchestrations, choir and violin. The final part is more dynamic and contains wonderful, very sensitive electric guitar, fat synthesizer flights and moving work on the violin.
4. Maestrale (7:48): this track starts mellow with fine piano, flute and violin. Then many changing atmospheres follow: from dreamy to propulsive featuring bombastic organ and synthesizers with strong Italian vocals.
5. Rosa Bianca (Suite) (13:55): this is Notabene’s ‘magnum opus’. It contains lots of shifting moods and the focus is on swinging Fender Rhodes piano sound and powerful trumpet play. The interplay between the musicians is great, the rhythm-section sounds dynamic. In the end we hear a beautiful, strongly build-up electric guitar solo.
6. Altopiano (7:52): after a few minutes of silence this ‘hidden track’ starts delivering great variety: from sparkling piano and fiery electric guitar to a piece with almost Brazilian carnival music! If you are up to the wonderful Italian prog rock scene, I’m sure Notabene will please you!
NOTABENE - Sei Lacrime D'Ambra (2007)
OBSCURA – Le Citta Invisibli (2007)
Although they still have to mature in composing and recording, to me this debut album by Obscura sounds as a very pleasant and original blend of symphonic tasteful vintage keyboards, classical rock and hard rock. I sincerely hope that Obscura will not become another one-shot band.
Singer Davide Cagnata told me the following about the current situation: “The band is not doing well. Massimo Tabai, our main composer and musical leader, moved to Reggio Emilia. He’s working hard mainly as an audio engineer for big shots and at the moment, it’s difficult for him to record new material. Matteo Cavallari (guitar) moved to Bergamo and works as a manager for a fashion firm. He only comes home once a month. Matteo Pinfari (bass) works for a computer firm and is always around the globe: China, Australia, rarely at home. I think everybody lost trace of Barbara Mazzola (flute). I’m afraid she even quit playing. If this album had been released in 1997, it probably would have been another story, but after ten years, it’s hard to reassemble the group. I have two new projects. The first is a collective named Kastlar consisting of about twenty musicians with which I worked in the past. Amongst others: Gianluca Tagliavini (keyboard player with PFM), David Cremoni and Mirko Tagliasacchi from Moongarden. The idea is to put together an album made of different flavours and musicians and to forge them into a unique blend. Well, at least, that’s what I would like to do. I know it’s difficult, it will take time, but it's just up to me to do it.
The other project is Dark Ages, a traditional five-piece prog metal band. We play on a regular base since ten years. I'm writing a concept double album about ancient Assyria.
PANDORA – Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco (2008)
On this first album, Pandora is scouting the borders between classic Italian prog, symphonic rock, heavy prog and prog metal in a very exciting way. We can enjoy many bombastic atmospheres, loaded with heavy guitar play, sensational keyboard work (three members play keyboards!) and thunderous drumming in Il Giudizio Universale. In the instrumental song March To Hell, we hear exciting breaks, great wah-wah guitar and passionate Italian vocals but also swirling Hammond organ solos and a fat MiniMoog sound. The Dream
PERIFERIA DEL MONDO – Periferia Del Mondo (2006)
PROTEO – Under A Red Polar Light (2009)
Proteo released three demos to date: A Glare From Depth (1998), Of Stars And Mind (2001), both recorded in their rehearsal room, and their first studio release named Proteo in 2003. Meanwhile, the band signed with progressive Italian label MaRaCash Records and in September 2009 their debut album Under A Red Polar Light appeared worldwide.
The eight, often swinging compositions on their debut, sound as a pleasant and melodic blend of pop and progressive rock with lots of powerful guitar solos and subtle arrangements. In the song Eternity, we can enjoy a break with catchy interplay between percussion, handclapping and guitar. Australia features a delicate use of electric piano and saxophone and Tales From The Ocean has a slow rhythm with protrusive guitar playing, floating keyboards and strong interplay between rhythm and lead guitar, culminating in a pretty raw solo in Robota. You can hear that these guys are playing together for a long time. Proteo sounds like a tight unit with many interesting musical ideas. If you are up to the more commercial sound of Rush, Roxy Music and Supertramp, or if you like prog pop with echoes from The Police and 10CC, than this is a band to discover.
RANDONE - Hybla Act 1 (2005)
I have heard Randone’s fine debut album, but this one is a better and more original effort. I'm delighted about the variety in the compositions and the use of many different Italian singers. Especially the opera-like vocalist sound great, but that is also a matter of taste. Further more we hear the wonderful vintage keyboard sound of the Moog and the mellotron, splendid and alternating guitar play, acoustic, Spanish, as well as metal, wah-wah and sensitive and howling soli. The 25 tracks are varied and dynamic, but sometimes a bit too fragmented or with too many ideas after each other. In general, this album is an impressive progressive piece. The subtitle A Barock Opera fits the music perfectly. This album will not be everybody's cup of tea, but this prog taste like adventure and progress! Wonderful!
RANESTRANE - Nosferatu Il Vampiro (2009)
The RedZen – The RedZen (promo mini-CD)
Ettore Salati (guitars and bass pedals) collaborated with musicians from the international progressive rock scene, primary with Alex Carpani. He has worked for many years with The Watch, one of the most important prog rock acts nowadays. With them, he recorded two studio albums, a live album, a live DVD and he performed all over the world. He graduated in modern guitar, contributed to guitar methods and started his career as a session musician. He has worked with highlighted Italian artists and great musicians like David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Gabriel), Karl Potter (amongst others Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus) and Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme and solo).
Angelo Racz (keyboards and synthesizers) graduated in piano at the Trento conservatory, attended Berklee Music College of Boston’s jazz piano courses at Umbria Jazz and began with a professional career. He’s a worldwide keyboard demonstrator for Roland and Edirol, teaches piano, musical theory, solfeggio, ear training and so on at Civica Scuola di Musica. Beyond The RedZen, he lends his fingers for hard-proggers Atlantis 1001, the power-fusion Jaguaro Band, the Italian Beatles tribute band BandOnTheRoof, the New Sunrise Gospel Choir and others.
Roberto Leoni (drums and percussion) collaborated with many musicians in several genres, from cover bands to single artists and as a session player with Ricky Gianco among them. He has been a founder member of the world-renowned prog band The Watch, with whom he recorded three studio albums, a live album and a live DVD. He has performed all over the world, appearing at the most important prog festivals. Beyond The RedZen he lends his drumming styles for the rock Serena Project Band. Being very technical talented and eclectic, he has been influenced by plenty of drumming styles.
Nicola Della Pepa (bass and guitars) started as a self-taught rock musician, following the steps of artists like Pink Floyd and Rush. Then he studied double-bass at the Novara conservatory and nowadays he’s a high demanded bass player in Northern Italy. Beyond The RedZen, he plays for many showbands and collaborated with D-Noir and Jann, for whom he recorded his second album.
After I had contacted The RedZen and pointed them at my Italian prog rock special on the Background Magazine website, the band sent me a promo package, including a mini-CD (running time 18.25) containing three instrumental tracks. The first one is Alexa In The Cage that starts bombastic featuring an exciting MiniMoog-sound, then a catchy beat with fluent synthesizer flights and powerful electric guitar, fuelled by a propulsive rhythm-section. The interplay is awesome in a captivating jazz-rock atmosphere. A raw and fiery guitar solo is backed by a thunderous rhythm-section, followed by a dreamy part with soaring keyboards and fragile guitar runs. In the end, we can enjoy a swinging rhythm with a short bass solo and delicate piano work, culminating into a swirling final part featuring biting guitar, sparkling piano and again a thunderous rhythm-section. This is a very impressive start, gentlemen! Second track is Into The Void. After tender piano and soft fretless bass runs, the music is built around flowing, very moving guitar work evoking Steve Hackett, blended with soaring keyboards and some acoustic guitar runs and synthesizer flights. Then the music slowly fades away. Simply beautiful! The final composition Hot Wine starts with a funky bass, followed by tasteful keyboards and propulsive drumming and a fiery guitar solo in a swinging rhythm. Then the music turns into a slow rhythm with a lush Hammond-organ sound, sensitive electric guitar and a powerful rhythm-section. In the second part we can enjoy lots of shifting moods delivering amazing interplay, an exciting duel between electric guitar and synthesizer, heavy guitar work and in the end a swinging rhythm with piano, powerful bass and a short synthesizer solo.
I’m impressed by the instrumental progressive fusion of The RedZen. They have told me that the band is working on a full album. I’m eagerly looking forward to it!
(CRISTIANO) ROVERSI - The Park (2003)
(IL) RUSCELLO – Paesaggio Solare (2009)
Il Ruscello’s debut album sounds very melodic and harmonic. The interplay between the guitars, the very varied and subtle colouring keyboards and the rhythm-section is wonderful and creates many pleasant atmospheres. You can enjoy swinging and mid-tempo rhythms with powerful electric guitar runs and fluent synthesizer flights, but also dreamy sounds with tender grand piano, twanging acoustic guitar and the distinctive sound of the string-ensemble like in Il Cielo In Un Ruscello and Il Risveglio Di Una Citta. Bands that come to mind often are Le Orme, but also PFM, Il Balletto Di Bronzo and I Dik Dik. The difference between the first five tracks and the final composition Orizzonti is quite remarkable. The latter sounds much more adventurous and elaborate than the rest. First, you hear a swinging rhythm with catchy interplay between a rocky guitar, fat Emersonian synthesizer runs and a propulsive rhythm-section. This part is followed by fiery guitar work and inspired Italian vocals, twanging acoustic guitar and delicate string-ensemble layers. Another part features fluent rhythm and strong solos on guitar and synthesizer and in the end even an avant-garde-like organ solo, pretty experimental compared with most of the material on this album.
This album is a warm and honest tribute to the classic Italian prog rock era. It makes me very curious to the musical direction on Il Ruscello’s next album. I sincerely hope that this promising trio will not turn out to be another one-shot-band.
SOULENGINE – Mind Colours (2010)
In December 2009 SoulenginE released a single entitled Rain Flower (Fall 2008), the instrumental composition Polheim appeared on Dante’s Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy
4-CD box set and soon their debut album will be released. The band describes their instrumental music as ‘seventies rock and jazz, psychedelia and fusion,
The band sent me a promo EP with two tracks. First, the unmastered version of Polheim that sounds dynamic and alternating with elements of ELP, Genesis (bass pedals and mellotron eruptions), Mahavishnu Orchestra (excellent interplay in jazz-rock style) and Rush (synthesizer drops, bass pedals and exciting interaction between guitar, keyboards and rhythm-section). You can hear that the musicians are experienced with many interesting musical ideas. This is a very pleasant first musical encounter with SoulenginE! The other composition is the demo version of their single Rain Flower that starts with a captivating combination of jazz-rock sounding electric piano and guitar and bombastic Hammond-organ, followed by a hard-edged guitar solo. Halfway the atmosphere turns into mellow with soaring electric guitar and mellotron eruptions. Then a splendid build-up follows with tasteful work on guitar and keyboards, a funky bass and in the end a fiery electric guitar solo with wah-wah pedal. This is very dynamic and compelling music. I’m looking forward to their debut album.
TAPOBRAN – Posidonian Fields (2006)
(LA) TORRE DELL’ ALCHIMISTA - USA...You Know? (2005)
Being a European, I have no reason to complain about the bands that visit our continent: from Anekdoten and Riverside to Ange and Moongarden. However, I’m a bit jealous of the USA prog heads that got the opportunity to visit the annual prog rock festivals Progfest and Nearfest featuring a captivating line-up every year! Take, for instance, this concert by the Italian prog rock formation La Torre Dell' Alchimista on Nearfest 2002. This is a wonderful tribute to the keyboard inspired symphonic rock from the seventies especially ELP. As a vintage keyboard freak, this album is for me a prog Walhalla: Hammond, Moogs, Fender Rhodes piano, great! The compositions sound fine, the vocals are well done. This is simply a ‘must have’ for every seventies prog rock aficionado.
(LA) TORRE DELL’ ALCHIMISTA – Neo (2007)
The new album contains seven compositions. Most of them sound fluent, melodic and accessible, especially the vocal parts. I had to get used to the vocals in the first song, but gradually I started to appreciate the singer and in the end, I was pleased with his contributions. La Torre Dell’ Alchimista’s sound is drenched with ‘vintage’ keyboards like the Hammond-organ, with obvious hints from Keith Emerson and Rick van der Linden Trace-era), but also synthesizers like the MiniMoog, the Fender Rhodes electric piano, the mellotron and the grand piano. The interplay between the instruments is wonderful and colours this album very tastefully like the ‘Liturgic organ’ and violin in Medusa, a sensitive piano and violin in Risveglio Procreazione E Dubbio part. I, and flute with Fender Rhodes piano and fluent synthesizer flights with intense violin in the final song Risveglio Procreazione E Dubbio part II. Two tracks deliver solo pieces on grand piano: sparkling and compelling in Idra and dreamy, quite romantic in L’Amore Diverso. However, I’m most impressed by the lush keyboard sound featuring bombastic Hammond-organ, majestic mellotron waves and many fat sounding synthesizers. Almost every track contains exciting keyboard work that reminds me of fellow seventies prog legend Rustichelli & Bordini in the bombastic use of Hammond and Moog and Trace in the fast Hammond runs and the use of a wide range of vintage keyboards.
La Torre Dell’Alchimista has made a lot of progress on their new album and especially the vintage keyboard aficionados will be delighted!
UBI MAIOR-Nostos (2005)
Vendetta (9.21): after an intro with twanging guitars and sensitive piano, a fluent rhythm follows delivering a Procol Harum- like Hammond-organ sound and an adventurous rhythm-section. Then the music turns into the best prog rock of new Italian bands I have heard since many years: heavy guitar-riffs, majestic mellotron choirs, powerful and moving Italian vocals and howling electric guitars. Splendid!
Terra Madre (6.38): this track sounds as the Italian version of ELP’s single success Lucky Man: the same dreamy, a bit melancholic atmosphere, acoustic guitar and those sensational Moog-flights.
Livia (3.12): this is another dreamy piece with halfway a bombastic eruption. The piano play is wonderful.
Messia (9.36): this is a very strong composition with tasteful arrangements and subtle musical ideas with many compelling parts featuring sumptuous Hammond-organ, inspired vocals early Marillion to my mind. This is a very dynamic song, especially in the final part delivering heavy guitar riffs.
Oltre Il Vetro (3.45): a mellow song featuring warm vocals, sensitive acoustic guitar including a short solo and soaring mellotron violins.
Nostos (23.06): the title track is the 'magnum opus' of this CD starting with twanging guitars, soaring keyboards and warm vocals, followed by a fragile Hammond solo. Very tasteful. Then we hear lots of flowing shifting moods, from dreamy to bombastic. Halfway a great build-up with a huge tension featuring protrusive guitar riffs, powerful, a bit theatrical vocals, howling electric guitar runs, impressive mellotron choirs and a grand finale delivering swirling organ and fat guitar licks. Great!
La Tua Casa Comoda (5.22): the final song is a compelling and captivating one with a sparkling piano, fine mellotron and mellow organ. The final part contains a biting, wah-wah drenched electric guitar solo and floods of Hammond-organ.
This CD deserves worldwide recognition. What a warm, inspired and strong prog rock sound!
UBI MAIOR – Senza Tempo (2009)
In 2005, Ubi Maior pleasantly surprised many prog heads with their debut album Nostos. Their music is firmly rooted in the classic prog tradition including the use of vintage keyboards. Especially the mellotron sound is awesome. At that time, Ubi Maior also performed on a Biglietto Per L’Inferno tribute concert together with legendary Italian bands like Le Orme, Banco and Area. To me this new Italian five-piece was as one of the most convincing acts! Now, four years later, Ubi Maior released their long awaited successor Senza Tempo (timeless). Was it worth waiting that long? Yes, it was! Listening to Senza Tempo I noticed that the band matured during the years between the two albums. The ten compositions on Senza Tempo sound more balanced and structured than on Nostos.
The contribution of singer and electric violinist Mario Moi is important. He has a somewhat raw and passionate voice in Disperazione, Delirio and Destino. He colours the music in a special way with strong theatrical undertones, a perfect match with Ubi Maior’s often
The short track Morte sounds as a PFM-inspired ‘classic meets rock’ song with lots of Moog and Hammond along folky acoustic rhythm guitar. After the long and alternating composition Destino, the band ends with the dreamy Morte Part IV featuring warm acoustic guitar, electric violin and pleasant vocals. This final track is a good example of how Ubi Maior maintains the balance on Senza Tempo. We had to wait four years, but finally we can listen to the second and highly recommended Ubi Maior CD.
(THE) WATCH – Primitive (2007)
(THE) WATCH – Live (2008)
Their pleasant and melodic sound alternates between 1970-1973 Genesis-era, from mellow with acoustic guitars and flute to bombastic with bass pedals, Hackett-inspired guitar work, organ and mellotron to early IQ, compelling with powerful interplay between moving guitar and heavy trons. The emphasis in the seven tasteful compositions is on creating an intense often mellotron-drenched atmospheres rather than complexity and inventive arrangements. The enthusiastic and sympathic singer
Although I’m not a real fan of The Watch, I’m very pleased with this album, because in my opinion their sound on stage is more powerful and captivating than on the studio-albums. Many early Genesis and IQ-fans will be delighted about this live album.
WICKED MINDS – Live At Burg Herzberg Festival 2006 (2007)
Proceed to Chapter 5: Reunions of Legendary and Popular Bands In The Last Decade
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