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La Torre dell'Alchimista: Neo

Six years after their well-received eponymous debut, the young Italian symphonic proggers release their second disk and I can tell you it has been worth the wait. Where the first album was relatively safe, relying on melody and traditional symphonic guitar and keyboard washes, the band have produced a more mature and varied offering with greater use of semitones and more complex chord progressions. The great Italian bands such as Banco, Maxophone or Cervello are the main influences whilst the more serous of ELP's ideas can be found in many places, evident particularly in the chunky Hammond arpeggios and keyboard swipes.

Michele Mutti's (the main composer) array of analog keys are to the fore along with violin, sax and flute adding spot color and making this expansive work even more vibrant. There is only limited guest guitar input with much of the lead provided by the keyboards.

The opening track, "Dissimmetrie", features neatly executed counterpoint between Hammond, sax and guitar and some fine overlapping melodies and rhythms. 3 part vocals support this effervescent opener which probably has more complexity in it than their entire debut album! "Medusa" has a rather discordant air in keeping with its mythological theme but the band provide a number of pleasing switches into more romantic passages around Michele Giardino's melodic vocals with a sweet violin taking a lead role.

A nice piano solo "Idra" bridges into the fourth track, the first part of the album's main theme, "Risveglio procreazione e dubbio", which is in 8 movements. From the prelude, we move through two "experiments". Each has its own flavour and tempo with mellotron and string synthesiser layers providing the symphonic texture. The melancholy ending expresses the "doubt" theme.

Two more tracks divide the grand theme. The first is a short piano solo, "L'amore diverso", built on a series of gently descending piano scales whilst the second, "Cerbero", opens with an exuberant Hammond and synth mixture, giving way to an urgent vocal with Hammond and violin providing opposing emotions of dark and light. The tempo is dropped down for the lamenting violin to take the spotlight with synthesiser taking over smoothly after a minute or so to take us into the next section with menacing vocals. The edgy Hammond and bass line here create a neurotic atmosphere to the music leading into a spacey lull before the ELP-like war theme. The last movement is a more gentle reflective affair.

The remaining three themes of "Risveglio (awakening)", "epilog", "coda", and "goodbye" effectively close the album (three times!). layers of synth and soaring vocals with violin inlays describe a contemplative mood and a suitably melodious finale.

This recording is a must for lovers of classic Italian progressive music and is possibly a contender for symphonic prog album of the year.

Track Listing
1) Dissimmetrie
2) Medusa
3) Idra
4) Risveglio procreazione e dubbio Pt 1
5) L'amore diverso
6) Cerbero
7) Risveglio procreazione e dubbio Pt 2

Added: July 7th 2007
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Ma Ra Cash Records
Hits: 6234
Language: english

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