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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Novembre

Materia

Review by Gary Hill

I really wonder why so many death metal bands wind up turning to neo-prog? Such is the case with this Italian outfit. What they have served up is a metallic rendition of modern progressive rock that has some vocals in English and some in Italian. These guys do their best work in creating moods and textures that evoke emotion and powerful sounds. While not every song here is a winner, most of them are. Be advised, those adverse to metal should probably steer clear as a couple songs do contain some death growls and screams. If you have the heart for adventure, though, you’d do well to check this out.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Verne
Moody, dark ballad textures start this one off. They carry that style forward from there, building gradually on it until they explode into a crunchy neo-prog type of motif. Vocals soar over the top of this mix. This twists and turns in increments, but never ceases to captivate. At about mid-song they drop it way back to atmospheric keys then build back up from there in the ballad-like fashion. The tones here are incredibly powerful. They eventually pull it back up toward the more metallic as they carry forward. The final segment of this cut is incredibly rich and full.
Memoria Stoica/Vetro
A less foreboding sound makes up the balladish introduction here. That’s not to say this is cheery, but there is a definite light air to it. They work through this format for a time, then power out into something more akin to Dream Theater’s more metal moments. This is another winning piece right out of the gate. As the vocals enter overlayers cut the impact of the metallic tones back to more pure neo-prog. They carry on like this for a time. This gets pretty involved, but eventually climaxes and a new sedate section takes over. The next vocals come in this format. Metal sounds return after a while, powering the track out from that point. The arrangement takes on more and more layers and is another stellar one.
Reason
Mellow guitar modes begin this in a slowly ascending fashion. It gets increasingly more intricate and beautiful as it carries on. A more rocking, but not really metallic, format takes it after a time and works through. This takes on some different textures and sounds as it continues. As some other guitar sounds join I actually hear some things that remind me of Steve Howe at times. They move this out for a while then drop back to ballad-like structures as they move onward. This one, as pretty much everything here, gets quite powerful before it ends.
Aquamarine
While this one starts off with mellow tones, they power it out a lot faster than they did on the other tracks. This is a crunchy sort of neo-prog with soaring vocals. Some of the instrumental work here really shines as does the whole vocal arrangement. This one may well be my favorite cut on the disc. As with all the tracks they manage to work another of different themes and modes into the mix here. In a nod to their death metal roots this one has some growls, but over the top of a neo-prog instrumental journey.
Jules
They lead this one off with intricate and beautiful modes, but power it out shortly into something that feels a bit like Rush on steroids. They drop it back to the mellower motif for the vocals to be delivered. They move it back out to the heavier styles later, but then turn in one of the most pure prog segments of the whole disc (albeit neo-prog). This is another exceptionally strong piece and one of the more dynamic. When they crank it out into the fast paced crunchy movement later it is extremely powerful.
Geppetto
If you remember Geppetto is the name of the man who created Pinocchio in the story. Well, this cut starts off appropriately with what feels rather like Italian folk music. That runs through for a while then is replaced by more of a prog ballad approach to bring in the first vocals here. They crank out towards the metallic as they move the song out from there, though. I hear echoes of Rush on this number, too. After this harder edged segment we get a short burst of jazz-like sounds then they move it into more crunchy textures. They create a number of different segments throughout this cut ranging from mellow ballad tones to crunching near metal.
Comedia
Here they waste no time getting to the pounding. A frantic, heavy jam leads this one off, but even then they temper it with overlayers to keep it from being pure metal. After a time this drops back to a more pure rock style. This is probably the least prog rock track on show – and one of the least creative ones. I’d just have to say that this tends to be a little on the generic side. Still, when these guys lean towards generic it’s still pretty good. This one just doesn’t grab me as much as some of the rest of the material does.
The Promise
On this track they come in with an almost funky jazz sound, but quickly shift gears towards more of their trademarked musical textures. This is another winner that moves between styles and movements with the seaming ease that these guys often pull off.
Materia
Keys start this in forlorn and slightly dissonant ways. The cut grows slowly and eventually turns toward the metallic. They work through a number of segments and changes, but as is the case with a lot of this, reach their emotional and prog rock like peak close to the end of the track in the later movements. This one is another that turns exceptionally powerful as it nears its conclusion. It is also another one that has some death growls.
Croma
The sedate opening to this feels even more mellow after the fury that ended the last track. They move through this mode for quite a while, adding layers and sounds, but staying true to the origins. In fact, it’s about three minutes in before there are any significant changes, this time in the form of powering up towards the metallic spectrum. From there they launch into some stellar neo-prog jamming. It’s another winner.
Nothijngrad
Atmospheric, nearly classical sounds open this up. They eventually move it out into a fairly mellow neo-prog pattern for the vocals, but then power out from there into more metallic prog motions. This winds through for a time, then slows down and drops back to the sedate sounds that preceded it. They work through a number of modes on this one, and we get some more death growls here. While this is a good cut it might not have been the best choice for closer because it doesn’t have all that unique of an identity.
 
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