Aufklarung: De La Tempesta…. L'Oscuro Piacere (1995)
I've been plugging this one to anyone who's been willing to listen for nearly eight years now. Aufklarung are (were?) an Italian project made up of five members with two special guests (incl. Chicco Grosso of Asgard fame. Rest assured, his vocals are much better on this disc).Their style is an exquisite hybrid of symphonic pomp and neo drama. This is an excellent disc to introduce the uninitiated listener to Italian progressive , while remaining less intimidating than the Italian masters of the 1970's. The lyrics are all in English for those who still have an aversion to foreign language recordings. The musical forays are outstanding and, believe me, numerous enough to please even the more hard-core prog enthusiasts.
The disc begins with "Red Shift". An electrical storm starts us off before the music intervenes. Chicco Grosso seems to have found his vocal pitch on this disc and his heavily accented voice fits in nicely (although his syntax is atrocious). The track introduces us to the style we can expect throughout the disc:
'70's symphonic progressive derivative of giants like Genesis and PFM which also combines a modern sound. The track fades out/ mixes in with the second one "Jetho Van Hall". This one opens with magnificent classical guitar and Chicco's agreeable voice (more bad grammar unfortunately). Analog keyboards fill out the song as it veers and shifts in interesting directions. Again the emphasis is on the musical excursions more than the vocals. This track contains enough varied time signatures and layers to challenge even more advanced progsters. Track 3 " Il Funerale Della Luna (Silence In The Darkness)" once again begins with Hackettesque classical guitar and soft vocals ( a formula is born ?). We think we're in for a ballad yet we're thrown for a loop approximately halfway into the song when it explodes with an outlandish analog keys excursion over some luscious rhythm guitar and battering drums; only to return to the opening classical guitar and vocals, accentuated by heavenly flute passages. The track then brings us in another direction with a bluesy, Gilmouresque lead guitar break which segues into a Tull-like flute foray and more keyboard wizardry. The track ends rather abruptly setting the stage for "Eclispe", a short instrumental piece laced with haunting Mellotron and bass pedals. This is merely an introduction to the album closer, the excellent "Echo's Wave". More classical guitar and ethereal flute as the track builds to a crescendo . Flautist guest Edouardo Lecci then gets to demonstrate his mastery of his instrument as a hammering bass line and crunchy guitars interpolate with his musical prowess. The track then veers about-face and we return to dreamy flute and acoustic guitar. Chicco Grosso croons the final lyrics and the opening rain storm returns . We re-immerge from a splendid musical expedition.
While not breaking any new ground or standing the progressive world on it's ear, Aufklarung make all the right moves in my book. As comfortable as a faded pair of jeans, this disc has me returning time and again whenever I'm in the mood for a modern sounding slice of symphonic heaven.