2013 was a banner year for all things Italian prog related, an astounding mix of winning comeback works from established bands and dazzling works from newcomers filled with so much exciting potential and promise. It was already looking like 2014 would potentially measure up to the same quality, and then an album like this first disc in 14 years from RPI band Logos shows up to make you think that this year may be even better! Play the first few tracks of ‘L’Enigma della Vita’, and lovers of all things Le Orme and the romantic, symphonic side of Italian prog will think they’re in heaven. But large doses of Eloy/Sensation’s Fix-like space-prog, sombre influences from the gloomy Swedish bands like Paatos and Anekdoten, classical grandiosity and subtle gothic flavours soon emerge to take you by surprise. There’s so many beautiful contrasting moments of light and dark, bridging old vintage styles with modern influences effortlessly. A mix of lengthy instrumental passages with stirring vocal sections, with so much time and careful attention having gone into every detail of the album, there’s over 77 minutes of some of the finest music modern progressive rock has to offer right here. After a fragile flowing space-music opening over synths and delayed droning electric guitar, drums and pumping bass gradually fade in through the clouds, all rapidly turning triumphant over the faintest of Mellotron choirs. Band leader Luca Zerman ‘s charismatic voice, full of dignified warmth, croons alongside some very tasteful slow-burning electric guitar soloing in the manner of Pink Floyd (instantly ‘Wish You Were Here’ and even the clarity of ‘The Division Bell’-era came to mind). Twinkling electronics, washes of synth oceans and snappy drum-fills open punchy rocker ‘In Fuga’ that oddly reminds of German band Eloy, but with some added classical RPI piano sophistication, and some nice call and response back and forth interplay between the guitars and keyboards sharing an up- tempo waltzing melody. There’s a surprising gothic flavour for the heavy ‘Alla Fine…’, overloaded with thick organ. It brings a lovely regal fanfare build, plenty of lurking chiming guitar and dark synth mystery over gently grooving bass that sneaks along the background and some sinister Mellotron intensity that would make Anekdoten jealous! Then we reach ‘N.A.S’, a deep space nightmare that sounds like an unholy cross between Italian spacerockers Sensation’s Fix and U.S instrumental proggers Carpe Nota. Powerful drum fury drive an up-tempo beat, maddening repetitive slab-like bass and spitting Mellotron venom with delirious synth freakouts and strangled electric guitar nooses all weave around an impossible to resist melody. With a superb build to as exciting a climax as possible, this is without a doubt the instrumental track of the year so far, simply incredible stuff, and the album would be worth it for this track alone.
The title track jumps around in tempo with gentle grooves, shimmering electronic programming and pleading vocals, but it’s almost a mere diversion to what is to come next. ‘In Principio’ opens with beautiful melancholic classical acoustic guitar that reminds of both classic era Genesis and the more recent Opeth albums, with some dark jazzy hypnotic electric piano that leads to a malevolent drum n’ bass breakdown in the finale. Moody yet achingly beautiful prog doesn’t come any better than this, and anyone who highly rates the classic Paatos debut ‘Timeloss’ and bands like Landberk will worship this track. ‘Completamante…’ is a foot-tapping organ/Moog/Mellotron spacey rest to come down on with restrained group harmonies and grooving bass that actually wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the debut Unreal City album from last year. ‘In Quale Luogo…’ is an exquisite classical piano solo that will bring you to tears. ‘Pioggia…’ is a keyboard tour-de- force, fusing regimented drumming and classical grandness with a passionate vocal over whirring Moogs, fairy-tale Mellotron, lavish ghostly piano serenades and scratchy Hammond runs. There’s a spiky danger to the electric guitar sound through this one, although the piece always remains triumphant. The album then concludes on an eerie narrated passage over doomy ambience.
Each additional listens reveals more and more jaw-dropping moments that remind you over and over why you love the Italian works so much. Sole founding member Luca Zerman clearly had a strong vision for this album, and the additional musicians now brought into the band have delivered the best results possible. To have the musical skill and confidence to successfully pull of a perfect mix of both vintage influences and modern styles is utterly inspiring, and those who want to experience everything they cherish about Italian progressive music now know one of the best bands that carries on that proud tradition. Without a doubt, the powerful ‘L’Enigma della Vita’ is very likely the candidate for Italian album of the year so far, and a standout release for progressive rock in 2014 in general.