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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Magni Animi Viri

Heroes Temporis

Review by Rick Damigella

How long has it been since you did something adventurous and took a chance on a piece of music you knew nothing about and when listened to, couldn’t understand a word of what is being sung? If you will indulge me, I would like to take you on a journey to Italy (sorry, airfare not included) for one of the most spectacular listening experiences you will hear in a long while.

Heroes Temporis, is the debut album from Magni Animi Viri, a collaboration of a rock band and 100 piece symphonic orchestra which results in a most exciting one hour listening experience. For progressive rock fans, you can go ahead and call this a modern classic of Italian prog. For the adventurous listener who isn’t necessarily familiar with the likes of PFM, Goblin or Museo Rosenbach, don’t let the idea of a rock opera concept album sung in Italian and Latin about reality being an illusion scare you off. Heroes Temporis is powerful, exciting and magnificent music, full of emotion in the performances and as an overall listening experience.

As my Italian countrymen might say of this album, questo la musica e molto meraviglioso! (This music is very wonderful!) Ok, ok so I might have butchered the translation but il mio italiano e orrible (my Italian is bad), however, if MSJ did reviews based on the five star scale, Heroes Temporis would definitely receive cinque stelle! (5 stars).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Colonna sonora (Soundtrack)
The album opens with ambient sounds and spoken word narration by Matteo Salsano that gives way to the orchestra and build up until joined by the rock band. The story of the album tells of a man-character who by way of his dreams, reflects on the events of his life at each stage which will, in the end, bring him to a decision which will change his life. Consider this the prologue to the story in the classical sense as the music unfolds perfectly as the beginning of a story.
Heroes...
The operatic vocals of tenor Francesco Napoletano soar above the music during the second piece on the album. The musical themes of the opening number continue here, with bombastic orchestral flourishes countered by the seven piece rock band.
...Temporis
As the story continues, both the male protagonist and male narrator trade passages over the rockestra in a continuation of the opening sequence of the album. Napoletano’s vocals soar higher and higher as the song builds. The guitar solo on the outro from Marco Sfogli is truly inspired.
Intus
The music shifts to a lighter mood, backed by strings and woods and the introduction of a female character, as sung by Ivana Giugliano. This short piece acts as an introduction to the next song.
Finche
Ivana Giugliano’s vocals propel this next piece. Starting with just piano, the song progresses into a power ballad style number with strings and the rock band backing her.
Pensieri
You will have to indulge me on this one. I am not a fan of drawing to direct a comparison to certain songs where it could lead on the potential listener. In this case I have to break this self-imposed rule by saying if a future James Bond movie is set primarily in Italy with a raven tressed beauty opposite Bond, this would have to be the opening theme song. The overall composition feels very Bond-like with the mesh of orchestra and band. This is arguably one of the more newcomer accessible pieces on the album.
Tertia Vigilia
Here we have a short ambient piece which segues into the next.
Mai Piu (Never Again)
This number qualifies as my personal favorite song on the album. Starting with more narration, the song progresses quickly into a mid-tempo rock driven piece with vocals from both Francesco Napoletano and Ivana Giugliano. The song builds through each passage with an amazing explosion of passionate vocals from Napoletano. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Even if you can’t understand a word being sung here, you know there is feeling and raw emotion being put forth by both the characters and the musicians backing them.
Desertanima (Desertsoul)
This is another solo vocal from Napoletano fronting a slower tempo rockestra piece. At this point, I should say that if you have ever spun a disc by Savatage or their more holiday themed alter egos the Trans Siberian Orchestra, you could do a lot worse than to add this album to your iPod.
Vorrei
Starting off in a very metal mode, it will make you want to throw the mano cornuta for the playing of six-stringer Marco Sfogli. The band is joined by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and both vocalists in another passion filled performance. It almost makes you wish more operas featured rock bands.
Come un Falco (Like a Hawk)
Featuring an almost ethnic sounding intro, the duet vocals again are present backed by the rockestra and acoustic guitar. The percussion here helps drive this number. I think it is safe to say, based on the solo from Marco Sfogli, that the art of guitar solo is, in fact, alive and well.
Uritur
The crackling of flames acts as an ambient introduction to the next song.
Sai Cos’ e
At this point in the dream/story it is most definitely time for a song of unrequited love. The vocal performances of both singers truly bring the story to life with an acoustic guitar backing by Simone Gianlorenzi.
Immenso
A quieter percussive intro and solo vocals by Ivana Giugliano open this very ballad like number. It is more pop in feeling in places and not as bombastic as some of the other pieces on the album, yet equally as beautiful in performance.
Fortis
With this number I will call out to fans of Nightwish and say you really should be listening to this album. The opening synth and guitar melody immediately evokes comparisons to Finland’s finest purveyors of opera metal. These next songs are where we get the best sense of the keyboard playing of Giancarlo Trotta and Luca Contegiacomo. This song features a retro moog solo that doesn’t feel dated or out of place whatsoever.
Senza Respiro (Without Breath)
The crackling of flames acts as an ambient introduction to the next song.
Sai Cos’ e
The dream ends and the protagonist awakes in shock. I prefer to leave the deeper meaning of the story to that adventurous listener out there who goes out of their way to take this musical journey. Keys and overdriven guitar are joined by the orchestra and one of the most contemporary sounding moog runs you may hear this year. What the listener will find truly refreshing about the combination of orchestra and rock band is while there are moments of similarity in sound in places, the album truly progresses throughout, maintaining unique sounds and not repeating ideas.


Outro
This is the first of two instrumentals that close out the album. This one is a light piano and flute themed piece. Almost medieval in quality, the song shifts into a choir and acoustic guitar backed number. Were this a movie, this would play beneath the more prominently featured players’ credits before the general credit roll begins.
CS Instrumental
This song takes the spoken word narration out of the opening number and lets the musical performers stand solo from the story. This allows the listener to hear and feel each instrument in full. One thing in particular that is so striking about this album is the production. Where so many albums today feel heavy handed and compressed, the sound of Heroes Temporis is amazing. The talents behind the sound boards on this album have engineered a listening experience that does not wear on the senses. Each instrument rings true and stands apart from the others and never turns into a cacophony. That’s quite an accomplishment when fusing the unique sounds of a band and orchestra.
 
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