It's been a few years, but Italian proggers Mangala Vallis have finally released the follow-up to 2002's The Book of Dreams. This time around, the band have recruited Bernardo Lanzetti (PFM & Acqua Fragile) as a full time member, who sings all the tracks, as well as David Jackson from Van Der Graaf Generator, who contributes his unique sax to two songs. These two points should be reason enough for any lover of rich 70's inspired prog rock to pick this CD up, but let me point out that Lycanthrope is every bit as good as the bands debut, but thanks to the presence of Lanzetti on all the songs the music now has more of an Italian prog flavor, so while you can still hear influences from such bands as Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Spock's Beard, and Marillion, it is easier to hear hints from PFM, Banco, Acqua Fragile, Osanna, Le Orme, Semiramis, and Latte E Miele in their music.
Vintage keyboards make up an integral aspect to the nature of Mangala Vallis' classic sound, so expect to hear loads of Mellotron (which permeates the excellent 4 part "Werewolf Suite") Hammond, piano, and Moog synths on this release. Check out the spooky Mellotron washes that cascade into the mix while the wolves howl at the intro to "The Boy That Howls at the Moon", a near 14-minute prog rock opus that just oozes 70's era Genesis as well as PFM. Blistering guitar work meets walls of keyboards on the powerful "The Mask", a heavier number that features plenty of intrumental interplay as well as Lanzetti's histrionic vocals and Jackson's sax work. For the moody "The Transparent and the Obscure", the band creates some dreamy yet haunting soundscapes with emotional guitar textures, ominous Mellotron and Hammond. It's one of those tracks where you just dim the lights, close your eyes, and let the music take you away to another world, and you will very quickly find yourself singing along to the catchy chorus.
Mangala Vallis have certainly cemented their spot at the forefront of the modern Italian progressive rock scene with Lycanthrope, a worthy successor to 2002's The Book of Dreams. Sure, it's not breaking any new ground, but who cares. This is well played and well written 70's styled prog rock that presses all the right buttons, giving lovers of the genre that warm fuzzy feeling. Not to mention that it is one of the best spotlights for the Mellotron I have heard all year. Check it out and indulge your fetish!
1. Echo Absolute (1:45)
2. Cosmotraffic Jam (9:49)
3. Call me Alias (7:14)
4. Lycanthroparty (5:24)
5. Hum/Animal Song (2:51)
6. The Boy that Howls at the Moon (13:36)
7. The Mask (11:43)
8. The Transparent and the Obscure (9:57)
Total Time: 62:21