Quel Che Disse Il Tuono - Il Velo Dei Rifless

Recently I was surfing on the Background Magazine Facebook page, I stumbled upon a post from a member of Quel Che Disse Il Tuono about their debut album, read the very positive words and decided to contact that band member on Facebook. During a one hour chat it turned out to be the female guitarist, only 30 years old but very much into Seventies David Gilmour and Andy Latimer, and playing on a Fender Stratocaster from 1972. But she also plays on a 'fair amount of vintage keyboards', to say the least, what an awesome array of distinctive and unsurpassed 'old gear'. Including a digital Mellotron delivering mind blowing sounds of the violin - and choir section, that was what I discovered while I listening to their debut CD on the band camp page. But first a small history lesson.
The new Italian formation Quel Che Disse Il Tuono (which means “What The Thunder Said”) was founded early 2019 in Milan by four young musicians: Francesca Zanetta on guitars and additional vintage keyboards (she was the founder of Unreal City), Niccolò Gallani on keyboards, flute and additional vocals (he is an active member of Cellar Noise), Roberto "Berna" Bernasconi" on bass and lead vocals, and Alessio Del Ben on drums, and additional keyboards and vocals. The biggest influence is symphonic progressive rock from the early 70s, especially Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Camel and Pink Floyd. But all members also like the prolific Italian prog. The band's name is an homage to the late poet T.S.Eliot while Il Velo Dei Riflessi is a wider concept.
The album contains five tracks, including four epics, between 9 and 14 minutes. The other song Chi Ti Cammina Accanto? is a wonderful ballad, very tastefully coloured with fragile guitar play, the distinctive string-ensemble, intense Mellotron violins (reminding me of Museo Rosenbach and the Skandinavian prog), melancholy Grand piano, delicate flute, and topped with strong and emotional vocals. The conclusion is very compelling, featuring intense Mellotron violin, bombastic Mini Moog, sensitive electric guitar and Mellotron choir, in the end tender Grand piano, slowly fading away, simply wonderful.
But back to the four epics, these are firmly rooted in the Seventies symphonic rock tradition, very melodic, harmonic and dynamic with lots of shifting moods, strong musical ideas, and pleasant Italian vocals. But the most obvious element is the lush vintage keyboard sound, from soaring Mellotron violins, subtle Fender piano and delicate Solina string-ensemble to bombastic Hammond, flashy Mini Moog and majestic Mellotron choirs, wow! Every composition delivers its own flavour and interesting musical ideas.
An omnipresent Hammond organ, exciting eruptions on Mellotron and Mini Moog, warm flute play and elements from early Camel, Genesis and Le Orme in Il Paradigma Dello Specchio (Primo Specchio).
Figlio Dell'Uomo (Secondo Specchio) features even more Vintage Keyboard Extravaganza, from Mellotron choirs and tender Fender piano runs to flashy pitch bend driven Mini Moog flights and bombastic Hammond runs (evoking Le Orme, first album). I am also pleased with the varied guitar work and the emotional vocals.
In the alternating Il Bastone e Il Serpente (Quarto Specchio) lots of interesting moments: a raw rock guitar blended with lush vintage keyboards (evoking Swedish Landberk), a captivating contrast between the powerful electric guitar and soaring Mellotron (reminding me of Museo Rosenbach) and another compelling grand finale, now with a tight rhythm-section, moving electric guitar, awesome Mellotron choir and Mini Moog, what an exciting blend of Seventies UK symphonic rock and Classic Italian prog.
The final and longest epic track entitled Loro Sono Me - Catarsi (close to 14 minutes) is my highlight on this album. It contains hints from King Crimson and Anekdoten (compelling, dark, fiery guitar and intense Mellotron), Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Le Orme (bombastic Hammond) and Il Balletto Di Bronzo (bombastic, compelling, agressive drums and majestic Mellotron). And cascades of interesting musical ideas, from interplay between Mellotron brass and harpsichord to a Spanish guitar (part of Asturias) with rock guitar, 'classic meets prog'. The conclusion is mind blowing: after a Mellotron violins interlude and slow drums (evoking early Genesis), a rock guitar joins, the music builds to a grand finale featuring strong vocals, again an awesome Mellotron choir sound, varied guitar work (from subtle distorted to very moving) and lush Hammond, in the end again (like in the start) the sound of thunder, wow, this is the band in its full splendor, very well done!

Highly recommended!

Erik Neuteboom (c) 2020

Article first published in Background Magazine

Sintonia Distorta ‎– A Piedi Nudi Sull'Arcobaleno

“A new masterpiece in the Italian prog rock scene! … A refined progressive hard rock, full of remarkable compositions and arrangements, in which each song catapults you into a magnificent surprise!… Already to be considered as one of the best albums of 2020!”

With these enthusiastic words Brazilian magazine “PROG SKY – PROGRESSIVE ROCK & PROGRESSIVE METAL E-ZINE” announced the imminent and awaited return of Sintonia Distorta (“A piedi nudi sull’Arcobaleno” – 29 Feb 2020 – Lizard Records / Locanda del Vento)

Of course! Because, in this second chapter, the band breaked through from the highly appreciated debut album “Frammneti d’incanto” (2015), also thanks to a super production that boasts nothing less than FABIO ZUFFANTI in the “control room”, important special guests (ROBERTO TIRANTI, LUCA COLOMBO, PAOLO VIANI, I MUSICI CANTORI DI MILANO) and a sound embellished by flute, sax, moog and mellotron hints, which envelops the rock soul like a dress taking to Italian hard prog seventies, not without renouncing to modernity, to passion and emotional strength that have always distinguished this lombard crew…

“SINTONIA DISTORTA are authoritative heirs of the historical band IL BIGLIETTO PER L’INFERNO”!
(Fabio Zuffanti)

Pendragon - Love Over Fear

After Nick Barrett's move to Cornwall, this latest Pendragon album is heavily influenced by his new surroundings and the sea ('Everything is blue, everything is green') and this is a slight change in direction for the band. After the first track with its lively keyboard and drum opening, we have a piano ballad which is a bit of a new departure for them. We also have a mandolin intro for the track 360 Degrees, which also features a jaunty violin riff from Zoe Devenish. The beautiful 'Afraid of Everything' is another standout for me but there is not a duff track in sight.
There is quite a pastoral feel to this album with its 12-string guitar, saxophone and the afore- mentioned violin however fans of the Barrett guitar won't be disappointed as there are plenty of his trademark solos. Nick is an under-rated guitarist who is up there with the Gilmours and Latimers of this world. New drummer Jan-Vincent Velazco is a revelation, there are some wonderful keyboards as you'd expect from Clive Nolan, all held together with Peter Gee's bass. Barrett's vocals are probably the best they've ever been.

The CD features a wonderful cover by local artist Liz Saddington and apart from the basic CD, there is a book version which has the basic album itself with an acoustic version and an instrumental version.

Not many bands can say they've made the album of their career after 40 years but with Love Over Fear, Pendragon may just have done that. 5 stars.

Toon Ladder (c) 2020

Different Light - Binary Suns (Part 1 - Operant Condition)

For the unaware, DIFFERENT LIGHT have been around since 1994. The combo went through various personnel changes to emerge the current line-up, embracing Trevor Tabone (keyboards / vocals), Petr Lux (guitars / backing vocals), Jirka Matousek (bass) and Petr Matousek (drums). Their newest CD 'The Burden of Paradise' takes the listener on melodic journey, blending a handful of styles. As far as I'm concerned, the subject matter balances between high standard neoprog and symphonic AOR, joined by glossy progressive metal and pop sensibility. These components result in great alliance. Particular album begins with a lengthy opus 'In the Grand Scheme of Things', where each segment is constructed to showcase the common route. The deep flowing keyboards and excellent guitar overlay scatter across 22 + minutes, bringing charm to thematic development of suite. The rhythm section is given ample space, animating the context within. Evocative vocals are turning around the instrumental prowess. The second track 'Voice of Outside' keeps acoustic guitar, elegant piano and affective singing. Later on, some strings and percussion are appeared but the whole vibe remains light and airy. Graceful harmonies provide a supplementary depth. The follow-up, instrumental tune 'A St. Martin's Summer' reflects a calm approach of Dream Theater as source for inspiration. Then we cross over into 'Eternal Return', featuring plenty of sequences. Like a homage to musical trademarks of Supertramp, this multi-part composition is replete with spectacular orchestrations underpinned by exciting choirs. There are noteworthy hooks, shifts in tempo and direction. The album continues by 'Transient Dream'. Wriggling through changes, the song is full of colour and vibrant. What next? A kind of filmic interlude 'Mare Imbrium', whereat sound effects inject disturbing atmosphere. The penultimate chapter 'In Love and War' is divided on two respective halves, setting much more than a sum of diverse ingredients. The CD finishes off with balladry 'All for You'. Translucent keyboards and evolving vocals lead the way. Cleverly crafted harmonies broaden the horizon. Occasionally, the acoustic guitar has an opportunity to shine. Switching bass and drums move along underneath a melody line. Au revoir! ' Overall, the listening experience is most pleasant. The enjoyment seems to increase with every spin as additional nuances are drawn out. Fans of softer, melodic progressive rock should definitely want to pick up a copy of 'The Burden of Paradise'. Looking forward to Part 2 of this journey.

Toon Ladder (c) 2020

Karfagen - Birds of Passage

After releasing the acclaimed album 'Echoes from Within Dragon Island' last year, Karfagen was quick to release their 11th full length studio album in January of 2020 called 'Birds of Passage'. Their 'Dragon Island' album was well-loved by many reviewers here in the Archives, and many are excited to hear this new album. So the question is, does it live up to the previous album?
Karfagen was conceived by Antony Kalugin in 1997 and even now he continues to head this project performing most of the instruments on the album. However, he has continued to recruit many regulars who have become part of the band line-up over the years. On this album, Antony performs on keyboards, vocals, percussion, penny flute, and does arranging and programming of the tracks. Joining him are Mathieu Spaeter on electric guitars, Konstantin Ionenko on bass, Viktor Syrotin on drums, Tim Soloblev on vocals, Olha Rostovska on vocals, Aleksandr Pavlov on nylon guitar, Alexandr Pastuchov on bassoon, Maria Baranovska on violin, and Elena Kushiy on flute.

The album consists on a single suite called 'Birds of Passage' in 2 parts. Each part is in turn divided up into several sub- sections, in the same way that their previous master work was organized. The sound of this suite is much the same style as 'Dragon Island' suite from last year; complex, symphonic prog with a lot of nice textures among the instrumental and vocal sections. There does seem to be a bit more dissonance on this particular suite, but that also goes hand in hand with the sections that show more intensity. Also, as in the previous album, there is a nice mix of folk sounds and instrumentation and everything flows together wonderfully.

Each part of the suite is over 20 minutes in length, and, as expected from Karfagen, the themes and sections are all well developed. The music flows well and there is a nice balance between the instruments and the dynamics of the music is superb. The overall vibe is quite bright and positive even though the overall thematic element deals with the natural world and using symbolism from that to portray a very neo-prog element of the fight between good and evil. That neo-prog element lies mostly in the theme as the music itself is much more similar to the dynamic of symphonic prog. Each instrument is clear and polished with many keyboard and guitar interaction with nice vocals that utilize both male and female singing and harmonization.

The poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (in part 1) and William Blake (in part 2) is used in the suite. The poetry makes up most of the lyrical content of these parts of the suite, and the additional lyric is composed by Antony. All of the lyrics are sung, and the placement of the words into song has been done quite well, and is probably one of the most impressive things about Karfagen's music. One would almost expect the sound to be a bit choppy between the extended instrumental sections and the lyrical sections, but everything flows seamlessly. This is the main thing that makes me come back to the band's music, the fact that the poetry can be so beautifully integrated into a suite. Everything else just flows along with this, and the more complex compositional parts of the suites start to become more apparent with continued listening. This makes this music more likeable, even from the first listen. The first part of the suite is much more lyric heavy, while the 2nd part concentrates more on longer instrumental sections.

Also similar to the previous album, there are other tracks that are 'supplemental' to the main suite, but in this case they are considered all bonus tracks, and there are only 3 of them. 'Spring (Birds Delight)' is a shorter work also based on a Blake poem 'Spring'. This one has a catchy sound and also has some scat going on that almost sounds tribal, and this sound mixes well with the other influences that are usually at work in the band's music. 'Sunrise' is a nice, pastoral and peaceful instrumental mostly featuring some lovely flute backed by atmospheric synths and percussion. 'Birds (short introduction)' is not available on the CD release. It is another short instrumental that does sound like an introduction to something, but this closes the album.

Toon Ladder (c) 2020