As so brilliantly expressed by my esteemed colleagues Todd and Aussie-Byrd-Brother, the Italian progressive scene has been spurting lately with fierce determination, Vesuvius and Etna exploding simultaneously with a lava flow of stunning 2013 releases and it is now clear that 2014 will be just as scorching. Recent arrivals Phoenix Again, Ego, Aurora Lunare, Nodo Gordiano and the delectable Fabio Zuffanti are simply eclipsed by this utter stunner! As both reviewers so clearly have stated, Logos’ ‘L’Enigma della Vita’ is one for the ages, a scintillating example of modern RPI, caramelized with grandiose symphonic elements, a touch of space/psychedelia, massive hues of shadow and light, as well as all the characteristics that make RPI such a devout prog institution. Nearly 14 years in the making, the patience, the dedication and the savoir-faire are all there in vivid sound and art, with a picture perfect cover, sublime photography and general artwork. Needless to say, the crew led by maestro keyboardist Luca Zerman is tight as a screw, with second ivoryman Claudio Antolini adding that special Banco-like touch, guitarist Massimo Maoli spitting out a slew of rich riffs and glittering leads whilst the foundation of both bass and drums are held down solidly by Fabio Gaspari. The material is exemplary, highly layered and intensely emotional on a multitude of levels, a recording that will definitely stand the test of time. The atmospheric intro ‘Antifona ‘briefly sets the tone, a velvet curtain of sound slowly setting the stage aglow with ambient splendor. The dream show is about to begin, please take your seats, sit back comfortably and turn off your cell phones. The segue into ‘Venivo da un Lungo Sonno’ kicks off sprightly, a steady propulsive beat, armed with sea-gull crying guitar flourishes, churning organ and synthesizer swells liberated by the two-man keyboard team. This 9 minute + piece has all the ingredients described above with shifting moods between pastoral and explosive, strong rhythmic interplay and a keen sense of weaving something extraordinary. Some bright Zerman vocals adorn the dazzling melody, spiced by a spirited yet simple guitar phrasing from guest Simone Bistaffa , organ and mellotron blazing in the background, all very lyrical and highly symphonic. Yes, the Floyd influence remains vivid by structure, yet the axe solo is more personal in its conclusion.
The reverberating electric piano joins in with the mighty mellotron on ‘In Fuga’, as the frolicking organ and sizzling synths join the fray, in a baroque/medieval twist that vaults into a space groove (a la Eloy) , brief vocal in full expansion. The playing is resourceful, elegant and refined, all four so very perceptibly in synch, a delightful piece of RPI magic, delicately coated with that distinctive finesse we all adore.
The mood veers towards the stark and mordacious with the sombre ‘Alla Fine dell’ultimo Capitolo’, led by a burping bass from Gaspari and classic interval thumping from guest drummer Alessandro Perbellini , choppy guitars give a weighty atmosphere to the arrangement but most of all, a series of turn-on-a-dime instrumental wizardry on all solo instruments, painted with colored dissonance and a nasty attitude. A tortured synth solo remindful of a mini-tornado kills the deal, half way through. The voice only adds to the bass- grooved menace, my kind of adventurous mind music, as the thriving mellotron adds her voice to the finale. Wow!
As if to confirm and stamp the impression even further, the frenzied ‘N.A.S.’ shoots straight for the ‘ballistic missile in space’ style, a chop-fest for sure, so studiously correlated by Aussie-Byrd-Brother as an intermingling of slashing Carpe Nota power jamming and Italian psych masters Sensation’s Fix penchant for interstellar sonic overdrive. I am in lust with such instrumental discourse, a fond mix of bizarre and comfortable, an audacious expression of cosmic guitars and enlightened synths, all ICBM-ed by a rabid and binary bass/drum propulsion unit. I stand and applaud!
The title track shifts into a more modern electro-prog hip beat, a concrete groove is laid down on which shimmering slivers of keys and shrivelling guitars are evenly spread out like some prog shag carpeting, the drums’ studding nails keeping things tight as a drum. The mid-section recalls the course again, giving Maoli the road adherence he requires to speed his Ferrari-guitar over the macadam. Bombastic synths supply a monumental and grandiose apotheosis to it all. Vroom-vroom!
A highlight track without a doubt, the pic 11 minute ‘In Principio’ begins with flourishing piano motifs, a mournful classical guitar foundation and an impassioned voice, pleading for some understanding. Simple drums (Simone Chiampan) keep it all graceful and nebulous, a fragile adventure with a transcendent main melody that flutters into infinity , when suddenly it gets kicked into maximum acceleration with some trendy rhythm guitar shavings, aided and abetted by jazzy electric piano rumblings and crowned with a wicked ‘search and destroy’ guitar solo. Madonna mia! Or OMG as the most current phone app claims! Gurgling synths returns the thrill into more Floydian expanses, gently charting the final voyage.
Crystalline synthesizer introduces ‘Completamente Estranei’ allied with a booming bass, colossal drums and a wall of howling mellotron washes, constructing a delightful main chorus that is enriched by a zooming guitar riff. The theme seems familiar only because it is based on classic prog tendencies that have stood the test of time, Zerman adding another brief vocal that fits well with the mood. Parping synthesizers wave the flag.
Being a total sentimental fool for any piece that showcases piano, ‘In Quale Luogo si Fermo’il Mio Tempo’ qualifies as a melancholic addition to any compilation, a short and lovely etude that would make even Liszt or Chopin proud, elegant and celestial. Achingly dazzling.
Another clear highlight track is the cinematographic ‘Pioggia in Campagna’, an archetypical symphonic blowout that will combine sorcery and technique, a microcosmic universe of all those elements that make us such devoted fans. Dual keyboard assaults by both Antolini and Zerman, fueled by dynamic rhythmic foundations and some exquisite playing by guitarist Maoli are all massaged into one brilliant piece of work. Tons of details are immersed into the canvas, in respect to the Monet-like art that adorns the track lyrics, a classic RPI epic.
‘Il Rumore dell’aria’ proudly lowers the velvet drape on another magnificent performance, a truly world class release of the very highest standing. Sonics, raindrops, echoed narration, buona sera e grazie.
This is a massive opus, a thrilling classic and destined to place itself on the RPI mantel, alongside the other great role models from the land of the Azzuri. Italy rules again, proggers!
5 Life puzzles