(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 4:
Interesting New Bands and New Releases
Between 2003 and 2009

VIII Strada - La Leggenda Della Grande Porta (2009)

This Italian five-piece was founded in 1994, but a few years ago, the line-up changed radically. Only two founding members survived. On their website, I found these comments about the music on their debut album La Leggenda Della Grande Porta: “ VIII Strada is a musical workshop where harmony, sounds and words are forged together to create songs whose essential aim is to transmit a state of mind and share emotions with the listener. VIII Strada is classified as progressive rock, but their music has been strongly influenced by the various musical tastes and experiences of its members.  The VIII Strada sound has an unmistakable symphonic-classical influence mixed with the raw energy of rock. VIII Strada’s music overcomes the barriers of categorization and, especially when performed live, a greater contact is established with the audience, the listener finds it easily interpreted and emotionally enthralling. Let’s rock!”

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)

New band Ainur hosts many musicians on instruments that range from violin, harp and flute to baritone, Moog-synthesizer and clarinet. Their debut album From Ancient Times is based upon Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion. The books of Tolkien are not unusual in prog! During my first listening session, I got more and more impressed by Ainur’s album. What a pleasant and elaborate compositions featuring very flowing shifting moods and lots of variation. The atmospheres in the eleven tracks alternate between dreamy with twanging acoustic guitars, flute, harp and piano to compelling and bombastic with protrusive electric guitar riffs and fluent synthesizer flights. Both male and female vocals play an important role in Ainur’s sound and even a baritone who sounds like an opera vocalist. Some songs contain great variety like The Fall Of Nargochrond: from sparkling piano to propulsive and bombastic with fat guitar riffs and delicate synthesizer runs along strong male vocals, The Fall Of Gondolin with changing atmospheres and War Of Wrath with sparkling piano, fiery guitar, a sensational synthesizer solo and howling guitar runs. From Ancient Times is a tasteful album that combines symphonic prog, folk and classical in a pleasant way.

ARCHANGEL - The Akallabeth (2009)

This is the first solo album by keyboard player Gabriele Manzini who joined The Watch between 2000 and 2005. Nowadays he’s a member of Ubi Maior that released their excellent second album Senza Tempo in 2009. Gabriele has invited well-known singers as Damian Wilson (Threshold, Landmarq, Ayreon, Rick Wakeman), Zachary Stevens (Savatage, between 1993 and 2000) and Ted Leonard (Enchant) alongside a wide range of guest musicians, including his friends of Ubi Maior and several ex-members of The Watch.

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 is a trio featuring Michele Epifani (keyboards, guitars and vocals) as the musical brainchild. On their eponymous debut album, we can enjoy pleasant prog rock that frequently alternates from mellow or compelling to sumptuous delivering a lush organ sound and melancholic vocals. In general, the compositions have been based upon creating symphonic landscapes with analogue keyboards like the Hammond, Farfisa, mellotron and Fender Rhodes electric piano. The electric guitar work is sensitive and is in combination with the lush organ sound a very compelling element. Although sometimes my attention faded away, the music of Areknames contains many strong breaks and captivating accelerations and changing atmospheres. The information booklet mentions many bands that were an inspiration, in my opinion Van Der Graaf Generator, early Pink Floyd, Atomic Rooster and Il Balletto Di Bronzo were the main inspirational sources. This is not a very memorable or inventive album, but if you like to dream away on keyboard-oriented prog, this CD is a pleasant surprise.

AREKNAMES – Live At Burg Herzberg Festival 2007 (2007)

This live album of Areknames was recorded during the Burg Herzberg Festival 2007. I hope a DVD will follow soon: what a stunning sound!

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)

During the first two songs on this album new band Il Bacio Della Medusa present mainly hard rock inspired songs with raw Italian vocals, biting guitar, propulsive guitar riffs and a thunderous rhythm section. From the third song, however, Il Bacio Della Medusa starts to deliver exciting heavy prog. There are parts with dreamy acoustic guitar and flute and heavy ones with propulsive guitar riffs, fiery vocals, powerful flute and acoustic guitar. Scorticamento Di Marsia (Part I/IV) has emotional vocals and a sparkling flute, fiery saxophone, a jazzy bass and heavy guitar in a warm sound with an omnipresent harmonica. We hear the Latin-American charango in Il Vino (Breve Delirio Del Vino), emotional vocals and a final part with heavy guitar and fiery drums. In Cantico Del Poeta Errante (Part I/III) we can enjoy mellow flute and acoustic guitar to heavy with fiery guitar and a propulsive rhythm section. However, my highlight is the final track Cantico Del Poeta Errante (Part I/II) built around a swinging rhythm in which a flamenco rhythm is blended in a very exciting way. We can enjoy lots of captivating shifting moods and a lush instrumentation, from organ and biting guitar to folky mandolin and exotic conga’s. Great! This is no easy prog, but if you are up to a thrilling musical adventure this band is yours!

(IL) BACIO DELLA MEDUSA – Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante (2008)

Four years after their promising eponymous debut album, six piece Il Bacio Della Medusa released their second album Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante in 2008. Meanwhile, the saxophone player has been replaced by a violinist and the drummer/keyboard player extended his array of keyboards, especially the distinctive Hammond organ is omnipresent on this new album.

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
changing climates, strong solos on guitar and keyboards and what an inspired Italian vocals! A very strong element in Il Bacio Della Medusa’s sound is the ‘Holy Trinity’ of the fiery guitar, the swirling flute and the powerful Hammond organ. Ricordi Del Supplizio sounds like a hot heavy prog jam session featuring Jon Lord and Ian Anderson, splendid! Another strong element is the tension between the mellow parts with flute, acoustic guitar, grand piano, violin and warm vocals and the heavy interludes with bombastic keyboards, harder-edged guitar and raw vocals like in Nostalgia, Pentimento E Rabbia and Nosce Te Ipsum: La Bestia Ringhia In Noi. The music delivers lots of variety: from grand piano with violin and pleasant vocals in Confessione D’Un Amante and a duet with saxophone and fiery guitar in E Fu Allora Che Dalle Fiamme Mi Sorprese Una Calda Brezza Celeste to wonderful interplay between grand piano, violin and choir in the moving Corale Per Messa Da Requiem. I had almost tears in my eyes... what an emotion this song evokes! To me this album sounds as one of the best Italian prog rock albums I’ve heard in the last ten years. Highly recommended!

CAGE – Secret Passage (2008)

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 six songs recorded between 1987 and 1994. The songs have a lot of tension between the mellow parts and the bombastic parts with harder-edged guitar work, tastefully arranged with dual-keyboard play of organ, piano, mellotron and synthesizers. Since that promising album, we had to wait five years until Musea released Secret Passage, their latest effort to date.

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)

I’m familiar with this band since their debut album in the early nineties. Because the Italian prog is so prolific, you have to make choices and I decided to check out other bands. Therefore, after all these years, this is my first renewed musical encounter with Il Castello Di Atlante. The five musicians deliver an unplugged concert, recorded halfway 2006 in Italy. I love unplugged gigs because of the surprising elements like on the unplugged albums by Nirvana, Golden Earring, Neil Young and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Let’s return to prog. Over one hour the band plays violin-drenched music featuring a wonderful harmony between all the instruments like piano, drums and guitars along warm, a bit melancholic vocals. Some songs contain pleasant soli on piano and acoustic guitar and we can also enjoy a few accelerations like in the catchy Semplice Ma Non Troppa with strong hints from PFM. If you like folky inspired prog, this CD will please you.

(IL) CASTELLO DI ATLANTE – Capitolo 7 - Tra Le Antiche Mura (2009)

This fine Italian band started in 1974, but it took eighteen years before Il Castello Di Atlante presented their first album Sono Io Il Signore Delle Terre A Nord. In 2004 the band released their fifth and previous studio-album Quintessenza. Il Castello Di Atlante also performed in Mexico on the annual Baja Prog Festival and recently in Japan. However, the most remarkable fact is that this new album was recorded with all members of the original seventies line-up including bass player Dino Fiore who returned recently!

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)

The Italian formation Il Cerchio D’Oro was founded in 1974. They started as a trio, but a year later a second keyboard player and a guitarist joined the band. Unfortunately, they only released three singles in the late seventies. In 1999, the Italian prog rock label Mellow Records released an album with twelve tracks recorded in the mid-seventies. In 2005, Psych-Out released the LP La Quadratura Del Cerchio. It contains nine, unreleased recordings including original material and covers of Le Orme, New Trolls and The Trip. In 2006, Il Cerchio D'Oro reformed with the original line-up and in 2008, they released their first studio album, the concept Il Viaggio Di Colombo.

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)

After their debut album Istinto (2003) and his successor Storie Fuori Dal Tempo (2005), five-piece band Conqueror released their third studio effort in 2007. Again the band made a remarkable progress. I’m even impressed by the ten melodic, tasteful and varied compositions of which some are instrumental. They deliver a wide range of instruments: a wonderful blend of soaring keyboards, powerful bass runs, a tight drumbeat and sensitive electric guitar in Il Viaggio. There are many shifting moods and pleasant guitar work and flutes in Orca, a sixties-like organ sound in The Animals/The Doors and wah-wah guitar and fluent synthesizer flights in the alternating Non Maturi per l'Adilà. The short track Cormonrani delivers romantic piano. You can enjoy tasteful keyboards and varied guitar work from heavy riffs to the use of the tremolo in L'ora Del Parlare. Fender Rhodes piano and jazzy guitar are omnipresent in the short Miraggi. In the captivating song Nebbia Ad Occhi Chiusi we hear a sensational MiniMoog-like sound and a compelling part with raw guitars and soaring flutes. The album has lots of variety and solos on different instruments. This album grows every listening session and I’m sure it will carry you away to prog heaven!

CORAL CAVES - Mitapoiesi (2008)

Coral Caves is a new five-piece formation, founded in 2001 and inspired by the late sixties and seventies progressive rock. Coral Caves even started as a Pink Floyd tribute band! It took four years before the band managed to complete their first series of compositions and in 2006 they released four songs on a self-produced EP. At the same time Coral Caves did a mini-tour near Palermo, the capital of the southern Italian island Sicily. Their music is still rooted in the Classic prog era, but with a more modern touch. One year later the band went into the studio in order to record their debut album Mitapoiesi. This album is a wonderful, compelling debut on the verge of neo-prog and symphonic rock. The warm native vocals add a ‘healthy Italian prog rock factor’ to the music. The sound on the nine compositions is very melodic and accessible, from dreamy with flute and acoustic guitar to tight mid-tempo rhythms and bombastic eruptions with a tasteful keyboard colouring by the Hammond, the mellotron and the Moog. However, the nucleus of this album is obviously the excellent duo-guitar work: biting wah-wah drenched in Sorridi, Santana-inspired in Cliff Of Moher, Gilmourian in Senza Di Me and Ricordi and many moving solos with often howling runs in most of the tracks. Shivers down my spine!

My highlights are Senza Di Me with a great build-up from mellow with twanging guitars to bombastic with a wonderful vintage keyboard sound, beautiful guitar and emotional vocals. The second one is the long and alternating final composition Il Dolce Canto Della Terra. It starts with a slow rhythm with organ and warm vocals blended with dreamy parts featuring classical flute and guitar. In the middle section we hear a moving guitar solo culminating in a very compelling final part with fat synthesizer flights and a sensitive electric guitar solo accompanied by a lush organ sound. Goose bumps!

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)

In 2006, Delirium pleasantly surprised the prog rock world with a stunning reunion gig, while the band was working on a new album. Well, in 2009 Delirium released that eagerly awaited new album. What an awesome sound these prog rock veterans created on Il Nome Del Viento!

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!

DORACOR - Evanescenze (2005)

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)

This is a ‘new’ band although the musicians are veterans who made already music in the seventies. Their debut album is a concept featuring Aldo Tagliapietra from the legendary band Le Orme doing the narration. The twelve melodic and tastefully arranged compositions sound very pleasant with the emphasis on creating a warm atmosphere by lush organ waves, sensitive electric guitar and inspired vocals. To me the songs evoke the debut albums by Men Of Lake and Abiogenesi and the sound of famous seventies Italian prog bands Metamorfosi (E Fiu Il Geste Giorno) and Celeste. The integration of instruments like the violin, acoustic guitar and flute give the music a folky and Medieval touch. These moments you can dream away by the wonderful cover painting featuring a knight on a horse, on his way up to a castle in a green landscape. In general, the music sounds mellow and dreamy but some tracks contain bombastic eruptions or accelerations delivering powerful soli on organ and guitar. My highlights are La Foresta Degli Elfi Alati with beautiful interplay between guitar and organ, La Piana Dei Temoli Del Livenza with soaring keyboards and moving violin and Danza Di Messer Reale E Madonna Fantasia with a wonderful harpsichord-like sound in a Medieval atmosphere.

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!


This is another wonderful packaged CD from the Italian Btf-label, featuring a booklet with a lot of information and a cover that stimulates your fantasy. This new band ‘with the long name’ is the brainchild of keyboardist and composer Angelo Santo Lombardi, together with musicians on acoustic- and electric guitar, drums, bass and vocals. The first album I Giorni Di Eurisko (2004) was released under his own name, but the second effort Lavori In Corso is presented as Gan Eden: Giardino Delle Delizie.

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)

I was very pleased with the lush vintage keyboard sound on Gan Eden’s previous album Lavori In Corso. However, not all tracks succeeded in keeping my attention. Listening to this new CD, I notice that the five compositions, mainly symphonic rock, but also some experimental interludes, sound more captivating and compelling. The focus is on the impressive keyboards skills of Angelo Santo Lombardi. This album contains the vintage keyboard heaven: a majestic church organ, sparkling and swinging grand piano, lush Hammond-organ, fat MiniMoog flights and mighty mellotron choir eruptions. The interplay between the keyboards, the guitar and the dynamic rhythm-section is exciting with hints of Dutch band Trace. The atmosphere is often bombastic or contains fluent rhythms with protrusive guitar riffs or wah-wah guitar and sumptuous keyboards. Sometimes, the music turns to mellow pieces, like in the virtuosic solo on the grand piano in the short Impatsi Emotivi, which is a kind of ‘Emerson meets Rachmaninov’. In the epic Reazioni A Catena we hear a part with twanging electric guitar and a powerful bass sound and in the final (ghost)-track Emozioni featuring acoustic guitar, emotional vocals and beautiful classical orchestrations! If you like classic Italian prog with strong native vocals and lush vintage keyboards like early Le Orme, Metamorfosi or Rustichelli & Bordini, this is an album to check out!

GERMINALE – Scogli Di Scabbia (2005)

The five-piece band Germinale delivers a compilation album featuring previously unreleased songs (1998), tributes and live tracks (2002). The four songs from 1998 sound melodic, fluent and have been tastefully coloured with piano, guitar and flute work. The atmospheres change from dreamy and moving to catchy mid-tempo. The female vocals are decent, but I miss the typical Italian emotion. Germinale also recorded four tribute songs. First The Knife (Genesis) with some nice musical ideas, but not really captivating. Wond'ring Aloud  ( Jethro Tull) sounds mellow with wonderful flute play. Dr. Diamond (King Crimson) with delicate howling electric guitar. Finally La Battaglia Per Il Samp (Kalevala), an alternating and dynamic piece with sensitive electric guitar and pleasant flute work. The final part of this album contains live material from 2002. In general, Germinale sounds warm with fine interplay between acoustic and electric guitar, flute and piano. To me it often sounds a bit too subdued but if you like mellow and romantic prog this is a fine CD.

GOAD – In The House Of Dark Shining Dreams (2006)

This project, rooted in the late seventies, is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Maurilio Rossi and his brother Gianni. Not until 1994 GOAD released their debut album entitled Tribute To E.A. Poe. More than ten years later and after six studio-albums, GOAD recorded the live-album In The House Of The Dark Shining Dreams. Well, listening to this album, I have to conclude that this is an extraordinary musical experience, to say the least! Most of the songs sound ominous and hypnotizing with slow rhythms, raw and fiery guitar work, protrusive drums and vocals that come pretty close to the sound of somebody who’s on the edge of a nervous breakdown. What a spooky voice! In some songs, we can enjoy the majestic sound of the church organ. At those moments GOAD reminds me of the infamous ‘prog from hell’ by Jacula. It’s no coincidence that GOAD decided to play 21st Century Schizoid Man an ominous sounding King Crimson- composition. The use of organ and synthesizers adds a special flavour to this unique rendition. It’s no coincidence whatsoever that GOAD decided to play some work of Wagner - the intro of the final track - with the sound of a classical orchestra, very dark and ominous again. If you like ‘the dark side of Italian prog’, I’m sure this album will please you.

HOSTSONATEN - Springtides (2004)

I only knew this band by name, but they surprised me in a positive way with this compilation album CD containing songs recorded between 1992 and 2002. Brainchild of Hostsonaten is multi- instrumentalist Fabio Zuffanti. In the booklet he says: “These songs are taken from different kind of resources (tapes, CD, DAT, etc.). The sound quality is not always excellent, but I hope you like the music, because in these songs you will find the roots of the Hostsonaten-works in the previous ten years. Thanks to you all!”

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)

In 2004, Hostsonaten released a compilation album that contains material recorded between 1992 and 2002. I was very pleased with the music and therefore looking forward to this new studio album, six years after their previous effort entitled Springsong. You can divide the ten compositions on this CD in seven shorter pieces, between 1 and 4 minutes, and three longer songs between 6 and 13 minutes. The shorter songs are very tastefully coloured with a wide range of instruments, from frequently twanging acoustic guitars and assorted percussion to electric guitar and piano, vintage keyboards, woodwind - and brass instruments. The atmospheres change from dreamy and compelling to mid-tempo. Snowstorm has a strong final part delivering mellotron choirs, moving guitar work and a fluent rhythm like in the short but exciting Outside in which we can enjoy MiniMoog flights, mellotron choirs and Moog Taurus bass pedals, like in the Wind And Wuthering Genesis-era, I love it! The three long compositions deserve to be described separately. The first part of Entering The Halls Of Winter sounds like a bolero with tender grand piano and then slowly other instruments come up like soft drums, bass, mellotron violins and brass, followed by heavy mellotron choirs and a compelling part with howling guitar and propulsive drums. Finally, we hear wonderful interplay between piano, clarinet and mellotron choirs, culminating in a grand finale with a French horn. The track The Crystal Light starts with lush mellotron choirs, followed by a slow rhythm turning into a dreamy interlude with twanging guitars and a clarinet solo and ending up with an exciting part featuring fluent drums, powerful Hammond and spoken words. The long final composition is my highlight on this new Hostsonaten album: first a slow rhythm with sensitive guitar and then splendid parts with breathtaking interplay between grand piano and mellotron violins and sumptuous moments with synthesizers, organ, mellotron choirs and howling guitar. This is prog heaven!

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)

This is a musical project from drummer Daniel Caputo and bass player Stefano Gabbani, both member of the vintage keyboards-drenched prog rock trio Standarte. On this album, Gianni Vergelli joined them on acoustic and electric guitar, Gianluca Gerlini on Hammond, Fender and Wurlitzer electric piano, mellotron and clavinet and some additional musicians on saxophone, flute and vocal harmonies. The eleven tracks including covers from Manfred Mann and Atomic Rooster, are very melodic and harmonious with a lush Hammond organ sound, especially in End Of The Race, the Atomic Rooster inspired Travelling Lady and The Days Of Man. London Underground sounds like a blend of the sixties, rock and psychedelia with a warm emotional undertone. The music is often simply, but very tasteful structured with pleasant interplay between organ and guitar.

MALAAVIA – Danze D’Incenso (2004)

In general, this musical project from signori Lusi and signori Scarpato is a wonderful and very alternating prog rock album. You hear great duo-vocals tastefully blended with flute, organ, violin and piano in Abraham, Where Is The Land? An Arabian undertone with synthesizer flights and saxophone in Sahara - Marrakesh, classical orchestrations and a splendid grand finale featuring violin and some church organ in Ombre, sparkling classical piano play in Softmoon and Bach’s Prelude, fiery and heavy guitar work in Hominem Quaero and wonderful classical and Spanish guitar and mandolin in Locus Amoenus. There is a lot to enjoy, especially the title track with great keyboards, a sensitive Spanish guitar solo, beautiful piano and in the end a synthesizer solo. Mezzalunafertile has a compelling classical undertone, tastefully blended with sitar, accordion, Spanish guitar and flute. Unfortunately, the composers got the idea to add disco beats to some tracks! Just when you are carried away to prog heaven, that weird musical idea sends you back to a harsh reality. However, if you use the program function, this CD will deliver many wonderful prog rock moments.

MALIBRAN - Strani Colori (2004)

In the early nineties, I bought the debut-LP Wood Of Tales, a pleasant blend of folk and prog with strong echoes from Jethro Tull. Their next album was more symphonic with strong hints from early Marillion featuring sensitive guitar soli and lush keyboards. The Italian vocals gave the music a special flavour. After this album, my attention faded away for this band but a few years ago, I got an interesting Malibran promo CD entitled Strani Colori (running time 75 minutes). You can divide this compilation into three parts. The first four songs are from their latest period. You may conclude that Malibran has turned into a band with its own identity. Their music is very melodic, warm and alternating, but also more polished. Then a few covers like Bourreé (Bach/Ian Anderson) from 2000 and Rhayader Goes To Town (Latimer/Bardens) from 1997. Their renditions sound good, but I always wonder who’s waiting for these covers. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers (Jeff Beck) from 1997 contains fiery and powerful guitar work, but it’s a mission impossible to copy the sound of the underrated ex-Yardbirds’ guitarist. The final part includes six compelling songs from 1989-1994: beautiful soli en duets on guitar, a dynamic rhythm-section, wonderful flute and saxophone play and tasteful keyboards. The music on these songs again has echoes from Jethro Tull and Marillion. Malibran delivered a pleasant prog rock album, not very original but if you like early Marillion and you are up to Italian vocals this is a CD to check out.

MALIBRAN - Trasparenze : A New Musical Project by Guiseppe Scaravilli (2008)

This fine prog rock band has been established in 1987. In 1990, the band released their well-received debut album The Wood Of Tales followed by their most acclaimed album Le Porte Del Silenzio in 1993. Between 1993 and June 2009, Malibran released a series of studio-albums, compilations and live records and in 2005 the DVD 10 Anni In Concerto 1988 – 1998. It’s already eight years ago that Malibran released their latest studio-album Oltre L’Ignoto, so it was time for Malibran to present a new album. Although this new album has been presented as Malibran, it also contains the message on the front and back cover: ‘A new musical project by Guiseppe Scaravilli’. He’s one of  the prime movers of the band who invited Malibran-members Jerry Litrico (synth guitar, guitars) and Alessio Scaravelli (drums) along with special guest musicians Giancarlo Cutuli (saxophone on 2 tracks) and Toni Granata (violin on 3 tracks).

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)  

A few years ago I spoke to a member of Dutch prog rock formation Plackband. They performed with Mangala Vallis on an Italian prog rock festival and they were very impressed by their performance and new material. Well, listening to this new album from Mangala Vallis, with a contribution from Van Der Graaf Generator-saxophonist David Jackson, I was stunned by the huge progress this promising Italian band has made. Their debut album was a pleasant one loaded with mellotron, but this one sounds more mature and captivating.

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.
The vocals from Bernardo Lanzetti, who sang in PFM and Acqua Fragile in the mid-seventies, are both very distinctive and a bit theatrical with echoes from early Peter Gabriel and Fish. The highlight on this CD is the long track The Boy That Howls At The Moon. It starts with the howling of wolves, followed by twanging guitars, dreamy vocals and mellotron flutes. The rhythm turns into slow delivering floods of organ and delicate acoustic rhythm guitar, culminating in a sensitive electric guitar solo, supported by mellotron violins. Next, a splendid piece of music with lots of bombastic prog rock, very compelling and moving with heavy mellotron choirs, a Hammond organ solo and finally an up-tempo rhythm with flashy synthesizer runs. Goose bumps! The final part contains a wonderful build-up guitar solo with fiery runs and fluent drums. This album is highly recommended to all fans of Genesis, IQ, Pendragon and Pink Floyd.

MARYGOLD - The Guns Of Marygold (2006) 

Marygold is rooted in 1994 and most members are from the Marillion (Fish-era) cover band Wildfire. Marygold started to play covers from Marillion and Genesis, but gradually composed more material of their own that resulted in the debut album The Guns Of Marygold. The vocals are in English and the running time like that of the ‘good old LP’s’: about forty minutes!

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)

In 2002, I got the eponymous debut album from this promising five-piece band as a promo on a CD-R. I was delighted about the seventies inspired sound (Banco, Museo Rosenbach, Metamorfosi) loaded with vintage keyboards like the Moog-synthesizer, Hammond-organ and mellotron. Unfortunately, the compositions turned out to be a bit too fragmented. This band had to mature. After two studio and one live album, here is the new album by La Maschera Di Cera and to start with my conclusion: this is a masterpiece! From the very notes La Maschera Di Cera take you away with dynamic, alternating and often very compelling compositions, drenched into the wonderful seventies Italian prog rock tradition with passionate Italian vocals, fluent and pleasant shifting moods, great build-ups and wonderful ‘grand finales’, often featuring mellotron choirs and mellotron violins eruptions and sensational synthesizer flights. Goose bumps! The musical variation is great and ranges from twelve-string acoustic guitar and flute traverse to saxophone and a huge array of vintage keyboards: mellotron, Hammond- and Crumar-organ, harpsichord, Fender Rhodes piano and several synthesizers. Another impressive Italian prog rock CD, highly recommended!

(LA) MASCHERA DI CERA - In Concerto (2004)

I remember that about two years ago ‘Tattoo Ko’, perhaps the number one prog head in The Netherlands said to me that he had seen one of the most memorable concerts in his life in the splendid Belgian prog rock temple Spirit of '66 in Verviers. He talked about Italian band La Maschera Di Cera, a band that makes wonderful music in a very emotional atmosphere and with three mellotrons on stage! I was very curious to hear their live-album when I got it as a promo. Well, the short first song contains a kind of Watcher Of The Skies, part two. What a mind-blowing mellotron sound! The other six compositions (between 8 and 20 minutes) are a tribute to the famous prog rock dinosaurs of the seventies with lots of shifting moods, many accelerations, great soli on guitar, flute and keyboards and, last but not least, very moving bombastic eruptions featuring Moog Taurus bass pedals, majestic mellotron waves and spectacular MiniMoog runs. The pleasant vocals remind me of Men Of Lake. At some moments, the music sounds a bit too cacophonic or avant-garde to me, but in general this band plays in the wonderful 24-carat symphonic rock tradition like early King Crimson, Yes and Genesis delivering lots of analogue keyboards. This is music that grabs you or not, but it’s a very emotional experience!

MASS MEDIA – Criptoidea (2007)

Mass Media already made music in the seventies, but they reunited because the label Electromantic invited the band to make a new album. The current line-up features three original members. Criptoidea contains thirteen: four with Italian vocals, nine are instrumental. The music often delivers swinging and fluent jazz-rock with echoes from Mahavishnu Orchestra and Brand X with lots of guitar and Fender Rhodes electric piano along Hammond-organ and synthesizers and a very adventurous, often propulsive rhythm-section. I’m impressed by the musicians’ skills and interplay. They are very experienced and know each other very well in musical terms. I’m delighted about the parts in which the guitar is supported by strings, the propulsive rhythm-section and the duels between guitar and keyboards. What an energy! The final composition Suite Del Ringraziamento is a tribute to some classical composers and keyboardists Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. It’s recorded live in the studio and contains short renditions of compositions by Bach (Badinerie and Preludio), Mozart (Rondo A La Turca), Bernstein (America), Brubeck (Blue Rondo A La Turk), Copland (Hoedown) and Wakeman (Catherine Howard). We can enjoy sparkling piano and fiery guitar and great interplay between guitar and keyboards. Remarkably is the fiery electric guitar in Hoedown instead of the fat synthesizer sound. I’m sure this album will please many jazz rock fans.

MAURY E I PRONOMI - (Ec) Citazioni Neoclassische (2004)

This debut album sounds as a tribute to the glorious days of the seventies Italian prog rock bands like Banco, Biglietto Per L’Inferno, Metamorfosi, Le Orme and Il Balletto Di Bronzo. The first composition Il Racconte Degli Dei (about 25 minutes) is divided into seven parts. Part I is build around a compelling climate featuring powerful vocals with a melancholic undertone, beautiful piano play, propulsive guitar riffs and a wonderful string sound. I love the tension and dynamics and the final, very sensitive guitar solo. Part II has a fluent rhythm featuring fiery electric guitar work and slow synthesizer runs and very inspired vocals. Part III sounds atmospheric, but halfway we can enjoy a good build-up and strong guitar solo. Part IV has a bit ominous climate like King Crimson on Red that flows into Part V that delivers a heavy guitar solo with biting runs. Part VI sounds bombastic with a howling guitar and  mellotron choirs! The final Part VII contains powerful Hammond-organ. Although some parts have a similar atmosphere or are too long-winded, in general this composition sounds warm and pleasant. The second track Lei E Venezia (12.02) has strong classical overtones featuring piano, violin and orchestral keyboards. Gradually the atmosphere becomes more bombastic with strong Italian vocals and sensitive electric guitar. Halfway is an eruption of propulsive guitar riffs, synthesizer flights and a great build-up guitar solo with lush strings and powerful vocals. The third song Voglio Cambiare (5.49) is a kind of ‘prog ‘n’ roll: a heavy up-tempo rhythm, a dynamic rhythm-section, strong organ waves and good vocals. Oceano (almost 10 minutes) sounds like ‘bluesy symphonic rock’: a slow rhythm, soaring strings, a lush organ and fat guitar sound and melancholic vocals. Then we can enjoy a powerful saxophone solo in the vein of Pink Floyd, a sensitive guitar and a surprising break with tin-whistle, organ, howling guitar and flute. The final song L'Assenza is very alternating, but showcases also that this band has to mature in composing and writing because sometimes the music has a tendency to become long-winded. The second part is great, ending up with a wonderful and moving guitar solo. Although Maury E I Pronomi has to work on the compositions, this is a very warm and pleasant tribute to the legendary Italian prog rock bands from the seventies.

MOONGARDEN - Round Midnight (2003)

Listening to Moongarden ’s music is a special experience, a kind of ‘Pandora’s box of musical surprises’. It’s hard to put this band in a category, perhaps the musicians themselves hate every attempt of prog rock reviewers to do so! My first reaction on this album was ‘Is this prog rock?’, but finally I concluded that is great to notice that, after more than 35 years, new bands still succeed to sound progressive. The music alternates from progressive pop, including warm piano and acoustic rhythm-guitar and melancholic vocals with obvious hints from Radiohead and Coldplay, to melodic progressive rock featuring sumptuous keyboards, many fine mellotron samples and some wonderful sensitive electric guitar soli. I’m stunned by the beautiful, varied and elaborated compositions, loaded with emotion. In the end the vocalist sings I’m so damned alone..., I think this phrase epitomizes the feelings of many young people who live in our ultra-modern and technically based society where verbal communication is on the level of pre-historical times.

MOONGARDEN - Songs From The Lighthouse (2008)

This album, with a great fold out cover, is Moongarden ’s fifth effort and it sounds great:

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)

Moongarden has turned into a very interesting prog rock band since their debut album Moonsadness in 1994. However, this new album is only their sixth studio-album in fifteen years. On their previous effort Songs From The Lighthouse (2008), we enjoyed a varied prog rock sound embellished with instruments as the grand piano, cello and tablas. The album contained strong and very distinctive vocals and majestic mellotron layers, so I was very curious how Moongarden’s new album would sound a year later.

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)

The man behind this Italian project is multi-instrumentalist Mauro Montobbio. Musicians like singer Alessandro Corvaglia from La Maschera Di Cera en Edmondo Romano van Eris Pluvia supported him.

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)

In 2006, Narrow Pass released their debut album entitled A Room Of Fairy Queen’s a very pleasant and melodic album. Well, on the new album Narrow Pass still creates 76-77 Genesis inspired symphonic rock. Most of the seven tracks deliver flowing shifting moods featuring a tasteful colouring. The music is very alternating: from acoustic and classical guitar to flute, saxophone and violin, but also moving electric guitar work, varied keyboards and a wonderful female singer along some male vocals. A very special and beautiful song is the folky Silver Lady with Gaelic vocals, instruments like violin, Irish bodhran, tin-whistle and the use of two Irish speakers. I’m sure this wonderful new album will please many symphomaniacs. Fortunately, Narrow Pass didn’t remain another new and promising one-shot Italian progrock band!

NODO GORDIANO – Flektogon (2009)

The Nodo Gordiano project begins starts early 1994 after the meeting of Andrea De Luca (bass, vocals), Alessandro Papotto (wind instruments, vocals) and Tony Zito (drums). The first line up completed when Roberto Proietto (guitars) and Fabio D’Andrea (keyboards) joined. The band made its live debut in late 1994. During 1995 and 1996, they principally play Genesis- and King Crimson-covers and radio-friendly rock, alongside with other private networks, promotion gigs in important live exhibitions in Rome. In 1997, after the keyboardist had left, the quartet created and recorded music for promotional purposes that appeared on the first studio album, produced by the Lizard-label. Furthermore, they played gigs with John Wetton playing King Crimson-covers. In 1998, the band became a sextet with new members Giordano Rossini (vocals, flute) and Roberto Gavazzi (keyboards, piano) and collaborated with Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso. The band appeared on the national TV networks, played live extensively and performed in several Alternative Rock Festivals. In 1990, a few months after the official first release, Alessandro Papotto and Tony Zito left the band to engage themselves in other musical activities, while Andrea De Luca continued in Nodo Gordiano and collected new ideas for the next incarnation of then band. In 2002, Andrea met drummer Carlo Fattorini (Der Blaue Reiter, Magog) and guitarist Fabrizio Santoro ( Magog, Oak). From now on, the band performed as a trio. Other collaborations during the first ten years are with, amongst others, Antonello De Zelis, Max G.B. Tommasi and Alberto D'Annibale. In 2004, Fabrizio left the band choosing to go further as bassist. The band completed the new line-up with the arrival of keyboardist Gianluca Cottarelli. In 2005, this trio released the album Alea on the Mellow Records-label. It’s a collection of improvisations embellished by the precious graphic work of the artist Carla Nico. In 2007, Andrea and Carlo they recorded the latest album Flektogon with the contributions of saxophonist and flutist Franco Terralavoro and soprano Silvia Scozzi. This third studio album has been released in 2009 by the AMS/Vynil Magic-label. In April 2009, guitarist Valerio Rasi (ex-Arvalia) joined the band and completed the line-up again.

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)

Incredible, but Nota Bene is another fine new Italian prog rock band. What a prolific scene!

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)

After their wonderful and acclaimed eponymous debut album, this is the new album by symphonic prog band Notabene. It contains six compositions, three having a running time between ten and twenty minutes. This is no problem because Notabene succeeds in keeping my attention during the entire album: lots of fine shifting moods and wonderful, often howling guitar soli, some flashy synthesizer soli on La Revolution Bourgeoise Parte II and warm Italian vocals with that typical dramatic Mediterenean undertone. I’m also pleased by the delicate musical surprises like a jazzy piano part in Le Mistificazioni Dell'Ombra, mandolin and accordion in the title track and a break with percussion in Il Treno Di Obuda. Notabene’s most pleasant element is the interplay between guitar and keyboards reminding me of another fine Italian band named Nuova Era ( La Revolution Bourgeoise (parte I). In my opinion, Notabene has matured after their promising first album. I’m sure that many prog heads and symphomaniacs will be delighted about this new album.

OBSCURA – Le Citta Invisibli (2007)

Obscura is a new sextet and their music sounds as a pleasant and alternating blend of several styles in which the contrast between the sparkling grand piano and the heavy Black Sabbath-like guitar riffs are remarkable! Those riffs give the music an extra dimension like in the varied composition Limbo Cosmico Part I with mellow flute, heavy guitar and a wonderful, very sensitive guitar solo, supported by huge mellotron waves. Goose bumps!) La Citta Del Sole contains sparkling piano and heavy guitar riffs, acceleration with organ and guitar and finally Fender Rhodes piano and again heavy riffs. In Limbo Cosmico Part II we hear beautiful interplay between piano and flute, a moving guitar solo with lush organ and a great final part with fine vocals, flute and mellotron choirs. The excellent final composition Guernica is very alternating with Fender Rhodes piano/flute with fluent synthesizer flights, organ and protrusive drums and a compelling part with wah-wah guitar, first supported by organ and then by majestic mellotron choirs. Goose bumps again! This album also delivers two short pieces: Bersebea featuring grand piano arpeggio’s and mellow flute and Ipazia with a flute/acoustic guitar duet, wonderful.

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)
This four-piece established in 2006. After a series of concerts in early 2008, Pandora’s got a record deal with the known Italian label Btf. and released their debut album Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco end 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
elements are evident. The title track contains a beautiful grand piano intro and a splendid grand finale with compelling keyboard work and a very moving guitar solo. Goose bumps! In other songs, Pandora also deliver great build-ups like in Così Come Sei: from dreamy with soaring keyboards and acoustic guitar to a strong electric guitar/synthesizer duet. We can also enjoy furious drumming and heavy guitars. In Breve Storia di San George, we hear a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, mellotron flutes, warm Italian vocals, classical orchestrations, delicate harpsichord runs and a pleasant flute solo in the end. The most elaborate composition is the final track Salto Nel Buio (close to 14 minutes). It sounds very alternating and contains many captivating, shifting moods and surprising musical ideas: from a short interlude with acoustic guitar and mellotron choirs to a piece with prog metal overtones and a jazzy vibraphone solo. The final part is very exciting featuring fat synthesizer flights and propulsive drumbeats that slowly fade away. I’m in prog heaven! Highly recommended and ... play it loud!

PERIFERIA DEL MONDO – Periferia Del Mondo (2006)

Periferia Del Mondo decided to give their third album the name of the band, so it’s called Perif3ria Del Mondo. The ten compositions sound alternating and contain a wide range of instruments. In my opinion, the clarinet and the saxophone have an important role on this album. They colour the music in a very pleasant way. You can enjoy many interesting musical ideas like a moving clarinet solo and sensitive electric guitar in the swinging title track. In the mid-tempo song Ocean you can hear fiery guitar and an organ solo and in the Mid-Eastern sounding Suite Mediterranea a spectacular synthesizer solo and many soli, including a clarinet inspired by Ravel’s Bolero. In Charoscuro, we can enjoy a wonderful acoustic guitar with mellotron violins. In Alghe, there is suddenly pure rock-and-roll guitar with organ and powerful vocals. It is all possible on this new and pretty compelling album from Periferia Del Mondo!

PROTEO – Under A Red Polar Light (2009)

The Italian four-piece formation Proteo started to play rock- and-roll in 1996, but soon they changed their musical direction towards progressive rock. Gradually the band shaped their sound just working together on the songs. Nowadays we can describe their music as catchy, but with distinctive arrangements. The main feature is that every instrument is equally important to the others. This way they get a well-balanced and compact sound, they consider as prog pop, a bridge between the easiness of pop and the complexity of melodic prog.

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)

Four-piece RanestRane was founded in the second half of the nineties. The band started to play live with the images of Werner Herzog’s movie Nosferatu (1979) in the background, a so-called ‘cine concert’ as the band explains on their website. This was the starting point of their ambitious double album debut entitled Nosferatu: Il Vampiro. Instead of creating rock opera’s at the scale of Tommy by The Who or The Wall by Pink Floyd, RanestRane decided to build their music on this Werner Herzog-movie, because of the cost. Therefore, they produced this double CD themselves. Most of the 28 compositions sound dreamy, mellow and ambient blended with sounds. The band used voices based upon the original lyrics, soaring keyboards, wonderful grand piano, pleasant Italian vocals and atmospheric guitar work. While listening, the albums Love Over Gold by Dire Straits and Brave by Marillion came to my mind, but RanestRane delivers a more progressive rock touch to the music. The musicians present compelling shifting moods, subtle accelerations and captivating build-ups. In Via De Wismar is a mid-tempo piece with bombastic keyboards, powerful guitar and in the end sensitive work on guitar and piano. L’Assalto is raw, has an aggressive sound with hypnotizing distorted electric guitar runs. Saranno Giorni Tristi has a slow rhythm with Hammond-organ in the vein of Ken Hensley. Ritorna has beautiful moving guitar playing similar to Steve Hackett. Gli Ultimi Momenti Di Wismar delivers a warm accordion and piano sound. L’Ultimo Incontro has bombastic interplay between keyboards and drums. Te awesome final composition Via Da Wismar comes close to neo-prog) with first wonderful grand piano and Italian vocals. Then the music gradually turns into bombastic with protrusive drumbeats, sumptuous keyboard layers and delicate synthesizer flights. What a splendid grand finale! Let yourself carry away by this wonderful ‘soundtrack-prog rock’. A big hand for RanestRane’s daring debut!

The RedZen – The RedZen (promo mini-CD)

On their MySpace website I read: ‘The RedZen is a project born in 2008 in Italy under the sign of Roberto Leoni, Ettore Salati, Marco Schembri and Angelo Racz and devoted to instrumental progressive fusion music. They finally met after having shared different projects which led them to play in world-distributed prog releases. They performed live in many European countries, USA, South-America and Japan. After a couple of jam-sessions as a trio, keyboard virtuoso Angelo completed the line-up. Some months later, Marco decided to leave the project and Nicola Della Pepa brought his bass lines into the sound.’ Here’s an introduction of the band members:

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)

Looking at his MySpace website, I noticed that Cristiano Roversi is a very prolific musician, who has contributed too many musical projects alongside his work on keyboards for Moongarden and Submarine Silence. Because of the obvious Genesis hints in both bands, producer Franco Zaffanella asked Cristiano to create the music for his movie Un Anno In Torbiera with a sound between Tony Banks and Anthony Phillips. Well, listening to The Park I’m flooded by nature images when I close my eyes. The sound is very mellow with layers of mellotron violins, choirs and flutes, often in combination with electric piano and some synthesizer flights. Some tracks contain more variety like Stolen Title build around the Chapman-stick and twanging guitars. The final composition Tripping has warm vocals by Simone Rosetti, known as the singer of The Watch. If you like mellow electronic inspired music, this is a fine one to dream away by.

(IL) RUSCELLO – Paesaggio Solare (2009)

The story of this trio started in the late nineties when Luca Harb (guitars, synthesizers and piano) and Giampaolo Cavallo (electric bass and orchestrations) founded the formation Unyou. Between 1999 and 2004, this band gigged extensively in and around Milan and released two demos and an EP that were highly praised and critically acclaimed by the national musical press. They later moved to London, initially founding the band Zen State (active in 2005 and 2006) and later Unyou Productions, a music production and sound design company. Giampaolo’s brother Silvio played, since his early youth, guitar and drums in several local bands. He developed a deep interest and passion for Italian progressive rock and collected a considerable number of albums released in the golden years between 1970 and 1977. In January 2008, these three musicians gathered in the Room 16 Studios in London, listening to the all-time classics from Silvio’s collection. That inspired them to write and record Il Cielo In Un Ruscello that turned out to be Il Ruscello's very first song. It aroused the interest of Matthias Scheller, head of the AMS-Vinyl Magic record label and a ‘progressive rock connoisseur extraordinaire’. In the autumn of 2008, Silvio moved to London and the band rapidly wrote and recorded Orizzonti and Paesaggio Solare. The latter became the title track of Il Ruscello's debut album. Further more they wrote the suite Le Grande Città, split in two separate songs named La Notte Di Una Città and Il Risveglio Di Una Città and the instrumental La Quiete. These tracks became Il Ruscello’s first album, evocatively titled Paesaggio Solare, which means ‘solar landscape’. The album was released in September 2009 by the Italian progrock label AMS-Vinyl Magic Records.

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)

SoulenginE is a brand new progressive rock formation that hails from Milan. All members were already involved in other bands. Guitarist Ettore Salati was a member of The Watch for many years. He graduated in modern guitar, contributed to guitar methods and started his career as a session musician, having worked with highlighted Italian artists and great musicians like David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Gabriel), Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme) and Karl Potter ( Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus). Keyboardist Fabio Mancini got professional degrees in organ and piano and won several organ contests. He started his professional career playing with many orchestras and choirs all over Italy, but also teaching piano, organ, theory and harmony. As a solo artist he gigged all over Europe and recorded piano and organ solo albums. He was Ettore’s band mate in The Watch as well. Bassist Nando De Luca started his musical career in Paris studying with well-known bassist. Back in Italy he collaborated with many solo artists and bands in different genres with a special glance to jazz-rock projects. He contributed to rock releases for the Italian scene too, taught bass techniques and arrangements in schools of music and is frequently on tour with his official band Gleba and with songwriter and vocalist Paolo Agosta. Drummer Giacomo Pacini collaborated with many Italian artists and he is almost on tour on a daily basis. He studied with famous international drummers, and then started an intense professional career that brought him to gig frequently all over Italy with solo artists (Alex Carpani) and show bands and is now becoming an appreciated drum instructor.

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,
progressive and classic music with a flower power feeling’, influenced by progressive rock from the seventies (ELP, Yes, Genesis), jazz-fusion (Return To Forever, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra), psychedelia ( Pink Floyd, Ozric Tentacles) and many other styles and artists, due to their previous musical growing ups. Right now Highway Music and FMCDP are producing their first album, entitled Mind Colours.

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)

After their wonderful contribution to the CD The Seven Samurai, The Ultimate Epic that also features CAP and Tempano, I was very curious to this new album of Tapobran. The album contains about 75 percent of prog drenched into the classic seventies symphonic prog tradition with obvious hints from ELP along Yes and Genesis. The music also reminds me of keyboard-driven bands like Le Orme, Quill en Lift. In Immersion we hear a fluent rhythm with the distinctive Moog-sound and impressive Hammond work including a swirling solo with those exciting ‘whisks’. Riding In Posidonian Fields has a mid-tempo containing great interplay between Hammond and subtle mellotron choirs and a sumptuous final part with church-organ and again mellotron choirs. The fluent Octopus and Entwinnings contain fat Moog-flights, powerful bass and a lush Hammond and Moog sound. My highlight is Uncontrolled Dreams starting with fragile piano and melancholic English vocals, then lots of pleasant shifting moods featuring great Hammond, fat Moog, sensitive electric guitar, deep Moog Taurus bass pedal sounds and a delicate jazzy inspired part with organ, bass and drums. As I stated before, about 75 percent is seventies inspired symphonic rock, but the remainder contains mainly mellow, often folky sounding tracks delivering acoustic guitar, grand piano, often melancholic English vocals and ethnic instruments like bouzouki and bodhran. It took me at least three listening sessions to get into Tapobran’s new album, but I’m sure that many symphomaniacs will be delighted about this album. Unfortunately, I still have a problem. When I want to be carried away to prog heaven by keyboard-driven seventies inspired symphonic prog, often those mellow, folky sounding songs take me back to earth.

 (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.


Since their eponymous debut album from 2001, this band has changed from a quintet to a quartet. On this new album, the band are accompanied by guest musicians on flute, violin, saxophone and guitar. In recent years La Torre Dell’ Alchimista performed on several festivals like Nearfe002 in the USA and The Gouviea Art Rock Festival 2005 in Portugal. I noticed this has boosted their experience and compositorial skills if you compare Neo with their debut album.

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)

Ubi Maior is a new five-piece band sounding as the most convincing one on the Biglietto Per L’Inferno-tribute DVD that also features members from Le Orme, Banco and Area. I was very pleased to discover this debut album from Ubi Maior.

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
dark, expressive and heavy bombastic prog rock. At other times, he sounds warm, almost tender like in the mellow mid-section of Sogno combined with beautiful mellotron-violin sounds. That also counts for the intro of Desiderio, a wonderful duet with sparkling grand piano and, especially in the first part of Distruzione, a subtle blend of warm vocals, Fender Rhodes-like piano and floating keyboards. What impressed me most, however, is the way Ubi Maior succeeds in building up tension in many songs. The long composition Delirio delivers moving guitar pieces and swirling Hammond organ. The exciting and varied Destino has a fantastic grand finale with a strong reference to Pallas due to the melllotron-choir sounds and the fiery guitar runs. Another strong example is Sogno: heavy with a dark atmosphere in the vein of Il Balletto Di Bronzo, sultry with floating mellotron choirs, slow rhythms with howling guitars and inspired vocals, bombastic fragments with protrusive guitar riffs and mellotron-violin waves. In Desiderio, you can enjoy a beautiful grand piano intro with warm vocals, bombastic eruptions with intense guitar and majestic mellotron choirs. In the sultry Distruzione, you hear dreamy hypnotizing Fender piano, romantic vocals and melancholic electric violin.

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)

I still remember hearing the Peter Gabriel-like voice of Simone Rosetti for the first time. At that time, I wrote reviews for the Dutch prog rock magazine iO Pages. I got every promo similar to early Genesis or mellotron-drenched, so I also received Twilight by Simone Rosetti’s first band The Night Watch. Indeed, within a few minutes the music carried me away to early Genesis. Ten years later and three years after their second effort Vacuum, the new album by The Watch evoke the same atmosphere. It’s sound again comes pretty close to early Genesis (Nursery Cryme-Foxtrot-era) blended with the neo-prog by early IQ, but less dynamic and less elaborate. The seven pleasant and melodic compositions deliver frequent mellotron eruptions, passionate Peter Gabriel-like vocals and some sensitive electric guitar work. In general, the atmosphere is quite dreamy and mellow, but from time to time, you get bombastic eruptions and accelerations as well. To me the music on this new album sounds as ‘pastoral prog’: wonderful and tastefully coloured, but a bit too subdued. A number of songs couldn’t keep my attention. Nonetheless, I’m sure many fans of the band – I’m not really one of them - will be delighted with this new effort. In my opinion, it’s their most mature effort to date.

(THE) WATCH – Live (2008)

In The Netherlands The Watch is a rather popular band. I even noticed that Dutch symphomaniac ‘Tattoo’ Ko is mentioned in the booklet of this album! I’ve seen The Watch several times since their early days and I was in the audience during their acclaimed performance on Symforce II, a part of the 2008 tour that is now out on CD.

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
Simone Rossetti has the same melancholic undertone as Peter Gabriel has. When closing your eyes only his Italian accent reveals that he’s not! An original song is the dreamy Riding The Elephant because of its electronic-oriented atmosphere with howling guitar and majestic mellotron violins. Halfway the medley Twilight Alehouse/Another Life we can enjoy a bombastic 24-carat symphonic rock sound with lush mellotron, a deep bass pedal sound and a sensitive guitar solo. Goose bumps! However, the absolute highlight on this live album is the final track Berlin 1936 first with dreamy vocals, then a mid-tempo with bombastic interplay between organ and guitar, wonderful mellotron drops and finally the ultimate symphonic rock sound featuring moving guitar work with volume pedal, bass pedals, mellotron choirs and Hammond-organ. Who will beg for more!

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)

New band Wicked Minds is a ‘musical time-machine’ that brings you back to the heavy progressive sound of the exciting seventies era. You can enjoy lots if swirling Hammond-organ solos, a fiery and biting guitar-drenched sound and vocals sounding like David Byron. The songs are rather simple, but very catchy and compelling. They will appeal to fans of mainly Uriah Heep, but also Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster and even Jimi Hendrix. Through My Love is an obvious tribute to the late Jimi featuring a long and distorted guitar solo. This album was recorded in Germany and it’s great to hear how proud the Germans were to present Wicked Minds to the audience. I only missed some refinements their studio album Witchflower had: wider range of keyboards and the use of acoustic guitar. On the other hand, the band let you freak out, so if you’re into the above-mentioned bands or if you are a Hammond-organ aficionado, check this one out!

Proceed to Chapter 5: Reunions of Legendary and Popular Bands In The Last Decade

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