Italy's Aton's (apostrophe intentional) is not a new band! According to the bio, the trio was formed in 1977, and Capolinea (recorded in 2000 and just now released on Musea), their seventh and newest offering, may actually be their swan song! (Founding members [guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist] Pietro Ratto and [bassist] Vito Frallonardo are still musically active, and Ratto has recorded at least one solo album.)
Seldom is such an industrious kickoff heard: the colorful pipe organ intro of "Introduzione Star" issues no warning for the power trio lurking behind its camouflage. The levels rise like an errant bomb nearing ground level as Ratto, Frallonardo and drummer Riccardo Lombardo bolt through an intro that resembles a jazzed-up Latin version of Rush. Ratto's passion compensates for the high notes he attempts to hit, but can't. Frallonardo and Lombardo radiate Claypool and Zonder in energy, if not their styles. Segments of this track sound like borderline prog-metal it gets that intense. An ace opener!
Just one problem: it's all downhill from there. The rest of Capolinea doesn't quite match up to "Star," but it's not to hard to fathom why they chose the best track to lead off: that's the skill of the draw...or expenditure of the best weapon, first. Delving into the remainder, Ratto seems much more comfortable singing mid-range on "La Fanciulla e l'Albero," a downtempo, not-very-electric ballad. "Oltre Me" jerks things back uptempo, replete with strained vocal notes, bass pops, and metallic snare.
The [synthetic] pipe organ returns on the transitory instrumental "All'Ingresso," Ratto also plays Spanish guitar on the uplifting "Il Fratello." The rhythm section's role is anything but strictly accompaniment, though Ratto's leadership role doesn't exactly leave much room for soloing on their behalf. Pro-grade playing, definitely. "Capolinea" contains a rather impressive vocal performance, proving that it's better to work in and around a given range than to attempt to exceed it for ambition's sake. The two-minute "Sonata" is an enjoyable, if ordinary "pastoral-jazz" interlude. By the time "Sempre Solo" appears on the digital counter, the formula has worn a bit. Expectations set by the first track have not measured up power trio? Maybe not. Aton's has lingered in relative obscurity, even within the Itali-prog underground, along with scores of other acts, and while they're certainly a set of accomplished players, there is still that nagging feeling:
If only these guys had a full-time keyboardist! Three stars, on the strength of the first track, plus the relative solidarity of the following eight.