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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pandora

Sempre e Ovunque Oltre il Sogno

Review by Gary Hill

A new release from an Italian progressive band, this disc really runs the gamut of sounds. A good chunk of the album is purely instrumental and at times it feels quite close to classical music. Others part seem more jazzy. Even the sections that are pure progressive rock seem to alternate between the classic style of the genre and the newer forms. All in all, though, it’s a great disc. The lyrics are in Italian, but when the music is this good, it really doesn’t matter if you know what they are singing about. The packaging is first class, too – seeming like a smaller version of an old gatefold LP. All in all, this is an excellent package.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Il Re degli Scemi

Powerfully symphonic, this music is quite beautiful. While it’s got some hints of rock it’s really almost purely classical in nature. We’re almost three minutes in before progressive rock really kicks in, and even then it’s in the form of a keyboard solo that’s still accompanied by the symphonic elements. That doesn’t stay around long, though, and they revert to the nearly purely classical arrangement after a time.

L'Altare del Sacrificio
Powering out much like something from Emerson Lake and Palmer, this is decidedly progressive rock in contrast to the opener that was almost completely classical music. It gets pretty intense and really does capture a mood and tone that’s quite similar to ELP, but some of the guitar gets a bit crunchier than that.
L'Incantesimo del Druido
Coming straight out of the previous piece, this powers in with a more jazz driven motif, but still contains a lot of those ELP leanings. The piano drives a lot of the early portions and the cut shifts to something that’s perhaps more akin to early Genesis. Then they take us out into a pure fusion jam with some seriously hard edged guitar. The first vocals of the album enter amidst this arrangement. The cut moves forward in this crunchy modern prog vein (with Italian style), but then shifts later to a strange bit of keyboard dominated space meets noise textures. There’s a tasty retro sounding keyboard solo later that heralds the return to harder rocking music. This time, it’s really heavy, but I’d say still firmly in the metal prog rather than prog metal territory. Although, I could see someone making the opposite argument. Then around the six minute mark this prog journey shifts back towards mellower, keyboard dominated music. They take it back out to the song proper after a while.
Discesa Attraverso lo Stige
A pretty and intricate prog ballad approach makes up this track. It seems quite close to something Hawkwind might do, but with hints of Genesis, too. Still, the Hawkwind edge is the dominant one for the first minute or so. Then we get something that combines that with some rather Pink Floyd like music. This grows organically and powerfully as it continues. It’s pretty and powerful. While the acoustic guitar drives this the keyboard layers really flavor it. It segues into the next number.
Ade, Sensazione di Paura
This starts rather like the previous piece, but has a darker texture. As it grows upwards it becomes more complex and, while louder, is almost more classical in nature. This is some tasty traditional progressive rock with a dark cinematic texture. There are some cool keyboard sounds and some great changes in play. Then it powers up into a modern hard-edged prog tune driven by a killer twisty riff. It gets very symphonic but still remains hard edged. At times this feels like a more symphonic Dream Theater. There are a lot of cool twists and turns and around the three minute mark it drops to keyboard dominated mellower sounds. Before the five minute mark it gets heavier again, but this time it’s perhaps closer to a crunchier Rush. That section doesn’t hold the track for long, though. It crescendos and keyboards take over again. Another powerhouse heavy section enters later and again Rush comes to mind. There’s a final shift to keyboards that takes this out.
03-02-1974
A guitar based balladic track, the lyrics to this are sung in English, the delivery is not traditional Italian prog styled, but have more of a standard progressive rock telling. The vocal arrangement is multi-layered and great and the powered up prog ballad approach really holds this piece. They take it out into some cool instrumental music for a time, but it drops back to the song proper for the next set of lyrics. Then they power out to an off-kilter, hard edged prog jam that’s very tasty. It moves out in a more traditional progressive rock style for the next vocals. Then they drop it back down to the acoustic ballad approach. A short Genesis like guitar and vocal movement ends it.
La Formula Finale di Chad-Bat
Atmosphere and spoken vocals start this. Around the one minute mark it moves to a heavy (but still purely progressive rock) slow moving section. There’s a tasty guitar solo over the top as this continues and that section has elements of Genesis and Yes. It becomes quite an extensive instrumental segment. Then keyboards take over and percussion wails. This resolves out to a triumphant sounding progressive rock journey that calls to mind The Flower Kings a bit. There’s a short little jazzy jam to end the piece.
Sempre e Ovunque
Exactly twenty-three minutes in length, this is the epic of the disc. Keyboard bring it in with some symphonic elements lending a classical air. That crescendos and then the track starts again with mellow keys creating new musical textures that grow gradually and at times rather playfully with a definite classical feeling. Around the two minute mark a driving sound enters, almost in the background and threatens to take over, feeling a bit like something from Pink Floyd. Instead of powering up into that kind of piece, though, keyboards continue to dominate. Then a heavy flourish of sound heralds a new movement, something that’s a bit like a combination of many of the progressive rock greats (Yes, Genesis, ELP). That holds the cut for a time, but then keyboards once again assert control. From there, though, it shifts to something closer to fusion with ELP being the dominant influence. Some crunchy guitar lends a bit of a Kansas texture, but they work through several changes from there. Then it drops back to nearly pure jazz before taking it out into a segment that combines ELP like elements with Kansas. This continues its journey of rapid-fire shifts and changes as it works onward. Then it drops way down for a time. Around the six minute mark it powers up into a progressive rock meets symphonic fury movement. Then we get something not that far removed from Yes. The changes continue unabated as a keyboard dominated melodic movement takes over. Around the eight minute mark it drops way down and we get the first vocals of the song. This is a very mellow and textural segment. It works out from there in a melodic and pretty balladic way after the vocals. More vocals come in over this new motif and the track continues building. Then around the nine and a half minute mark it shifts out to a new fast paced section and the alterations continue anew. It turns to a heavier jam later that’s frantic and a bit like ELP meets Dream Theater and Rush. Around the thirteen minute mark, this peaks and then drops away to gentle keyboards and the cut rises gradually upward from there. Eventually a folk prog balladic motif brings in the next vocals. After a time they take us out into a melodic new instrumental journey and then drop way down to intricate guitar. From there the track continues changing. Vocals come in over ominous soundtrack like music and this has a theatrical and classical feeling to it. It’s very cinematic. They burst out into a killer fusion jam from there, though. It turns more ELP-like in a dramatic jam after that. It drops way down to just keyboards in a stripped down arrangement later. Then it powers back up with progressive rock fury once more. Continuing on it gets heavier before a crescendo gives way to science fiction like keyboards that take the piece out.
 
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