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Presence: Master And Following

Deep, dark, progressive and from Naples, Italy, Presence offer up their eleventh effort Master And Following, where seven original tracks and three cover versions appear hugely intent on baffling. Much of what we review here on SoT can fall into categories described as challenging, or not readily accessible, yet few seem so unintentionally remote and obscured by their own manner of presentation as this. With a production that at best could be considered cluttered, and the barrage of keyboards often trying to drown out everything else, the initial confrontation with this album is one of confusion and conflict. That vocalist Sophya Baccini turns the dramatics to maximum, merely compounds the problem as you wonder when the sounds she makes will lock in, in any way, to the music she fronts. The answer arrives when she tones down the volume, tempers her range and simply keeps it small. In those all too rare moments she turns out to be a remarkably composed and captivating presence (no pun intended). That this approach arrives so skantly is a real disappointment.

Guitarist Sergio Casamassima does force his efforts to the forefront on occasion and yet there's no denying that throughout it's the keyboard machinations of Enrico Iglio that set the theme, tone and expression. To say he chooses most often to lay down full, almost brutish displays of his undoubted talent, would underplay just how full on he can be. From the originals, "Now" proves most willing to let you into this band's way of thinking, a flow to the structure revealed in a way that simply isn't available elsewhere. Everything else, such as "The House On The Hill" or "Space Ship Ghost", insisting on building a wall of sound that even after countless listens has grown so tall, I can't clamber over.

The band don't have a permanent drummer, Sergio Quagliarella bringing an uncomfortably staccato smash of percussion to the already packed party. Something that makes for an unnecessarily fraught take on Sparks "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us", the bombast the original skilfully avoids poured on by the potful. While the hammering handling of Judas Priest's "Free Wheel Burning" takes the song's best guitar parts and squeezes them into needless keyboard squirts and squarts. Unfortunately it's symptomatic of the misjudgments Presence seem to heap on just about everything they do – Baccini's blurted vocals on the latter track equally bamboozling.

Yet, with an enthusiastic crowd seemingly lapping up the efforts on the album's bonus live disc, there's no doubt other opinions are available. At least here the drumming feels less at odds with everything else that's going on and the mix is slightly less relentless. Therefore, safe in the knowledge that there's obviously an audience out there enjoying what this band do, you may want to try them out before you take my word for it. However, I can't hide my confusion and disconnect at the full on bombast that is Presence.


Track Listing
CD 1
1. MASTERS AND FOLLOWING
2. DELIVER
3. NOW
4. INTERLUDE
5. THE HOUSE ON THE HILL (Audience cover song)
6. FREEWEHEEL BURNING (Judas Priest cover song)
7. SPACE SHIP GHOST
8. THIS TOWN AIN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR THE BOTH OF US (Sparks cover song)
9. PRELUDE
10. SYMMETRY
11. COLLISION COURSE
12. ON THE EASTERN SIDE
13. THE REVEALING

CD 2 (LIVE)
1. SCARLET
2. THE SLEEPER AWAKES
3. LIGHTENING
4. THE DARK
5. EYEMASTER
6. JUST BEFORE THE RAIN
7. THE BLEEDING
8. UN DI' QUANDO LE VENERI
Orchestral:
9. OVERTURE
10. HELLISH
11. J'ACCUSE
12. MAKUMBA
13. SUPERSTICIOUS
14. THE KING COULD DIE ISSUELESS

Added: April 14th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Presence on Facebook
Hits: 534
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Presence: Master And Following
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-04-14 01:15:56
My Score:

Here is another entry on the Italian label Black Widow Records. The band Presence hail from Naples and formed in the early '90s and have released six studio albums to date including their latest Masters and Following from 2016.

The band includes Sophya Baccini (vocals), Enrico Iglio (keyboards, percussion) and Sergio Casamassima (guitars). Guests include Sergio Quagliarella (drums) and Mino Berlano (bass).

There has been some nice Italian progressive rock released lately but I have to say this was a bit of a tough pill to swallow. Don't get me wrong, there are some nice moments here but there are also some missteps which I must point out. The music is generally darker symphonic prog and is quite complex in nature, perhaps too complex for its own good. Take the album opening title track as a prime example. The classically inspired piano intro is quite nice and when the band divert to their softer side the instrumentation is really quite lovely. However, when the music turns heavy the riffs seem to be slightly misplaced and the drum sound feels a little too clumsy to these ears. It's a fairly jarring listen with some of the tempo changes sounding just too messy for me. A similar theme can be heard on the next track "Deliver". It's just too chaotic to glean enjoyment from and the drum production is off. There are moments to like, particularly the keyboard work but that is overshadowed by the haphazard tempo shifts and guitar riffs. "Now" is okay with nice symphonic keyboards adding a pretty melody but the sloppy drum sound still persists and the interjected voice samples and curious use of change ups again felt awkward. And so it goes…

This is a two disc set but I must confess I had a hard time listening to it. The overall experience was just too jarring to really enjoy, at least for me. There is just too much excellent Italian prog around to give this disc any more listening time. Sorry guys…



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