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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ingranaggi della Valle

In Hoc Signo

Review by Gary Hill

Italian prog is a sub-genre all its own. There are people thoroughly devoted to the musical style. For me, it often leans too far towards weird shifts and changes (ala Rock In Opposition) and operatic vocals (I’m not a big fan of opera). I’d have to say that this one lands more mainstream. It touches on fusion quite a bit, but also mainstream progressive rock. The changes are frequent and fast, making it hard to catalog each song in detail. It’s all entertaining, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Introduzione
Only fourteen seconds in length, this is just a short atmospheric introductory piece.
Cavalcata
Powering out with a hard edged fusion sound, the violin really adds a lot of this piece. It’s an energetic and powerful jam. Just short of the one minute mark, though, it drops to a piano based section for the first vocals. As that section continues the other instruments come back in and it gets quite fast paced and powerful. The shifting and changing continues on this number. Around two and a half minutes in, it drops down to a very atmospheric section. The bass continues in a subdued way. Eventually the vocals and the piano return to move it forward again. It continues with a gradually increasing arrangement. Then it powers out into some more high powered fusion.
Mare In Tempesta
Keyboard sounds that make me think of Starcastle open this. Other instruments join and they work through the introduction in this sort of motif. Then it drops way down for a piano and vocal movement. It gets powered back up after the verse to continue. After more vocals over this more energized sound we’re taken into an instrumental movement that’s got a lot of fusion in the mix. Once more the violin gets to really soar. Eventually we’re taken back out into the song proper. Then, after another vocal segment, they explode out into a crazed jazz-like jam. That crescendos and gives way to a more melodic section that ends it.
Via Egnatia
Starting with almost a Pink Floyd styled space rock sound, this builds gradually. Eventually it drops back for the vocal section. Then it explodes out into a jam that feels quite like King Crimson. That’s turned out into a retro sounding jazz segment for the next vocals. The changes are rapid fire beyond that point. The various sections keep returning with some variations. It gets quite crazed. Then it crescendos and there’s a new rocking movement that starts off. After a time they start gradually increasing the speed on this section. Eventually after a couple shifts and changes we wind up heading out into a melodic prog section that’s a bit like Kansas. That section takes it to the close.
L'Assedio Di Antiochia
Drums start this. As the keyboards enter it resembles Emerson, Lake and Palmer quite a bit. The piece takes on some Celtic hints for a time. Then it shifts to harder rocking music with some klezmer in the mix. The vocals join over a fast paced progressive rock jam. Violin solos after the first verse. Then more vocals join. We get a fast paced, tastefully off-kilter jam from there. That peaks and they drop it way down before coming back up in to a fusion instrumental movement with some great retro keyboards. There is another quick stop. Then it works out into a reprise of the song proper for the next vocals. Changes continue as this runs forward. There’s a section with odd, rather classical vocals later. Then a crescendo gives way to mellower music for the next set of vocals. A killer prog groove emerges after that. The changes just keep coming as this piece works its way out.
Fuga Da Amman
Starting mellow and melodic, this builds out after the one minute mark to a high energy progressive rock jam that’s very tasty. There are shifts towards world music as the dramatic and powerful instrumental interplay continues. Then around the two and a half minute mark it turns out to another high energy jam, but one that’s more purely melodic. Guitar solos over the top of this tapestry. As with everything on this album, the changes just keep coming. Then around the four and a half minute mark, it drops way down to a new element. There’s almost a Frank Zappa styled fusion sound to the instrumental interplay here. It feels a little funky at times and I love some of the retro keyboard sounds. There’s a fade-down around the five and a half minute mark to take the piece out.
Kairuv'an
A rubbery bass line gets violin over the top as the fusion sounds open this piece. They take us through several shifts and changes as they continue. Piano gets a solo later as the powerhouse jazz continues in the background. Although, as upfront as the bass is, it seems odd to say it’s in the background. This is very much pure fusion. Then around the minute and a half mark it drops away and an acoustic guitar rises up with the first rock sounds of the piece. The vocals come in over that sort of backdrop after a time. After that works through it drops way down and they bring it back in with a different theme. It’s quite world music oriented. Eventually some hints of rock sound emerge. Then after a time they work it out into some full on melodic progressive rock. Violin solos over the top as this continues to evolve. Then they work it into another jam that’s rather like something from Kansas. That drops down for mellower sounds. Then we’re taken abruptly into some pure mellow jazz to continue. Acoustic guitar solos on this as the song starts to fade out to end.
Masqat
A smoking hot fusion sound opens this. There’s a cool bass groove holding it together while violin solos over the top. As the other instruments add to the jamming it feels a bit like King Crimson for a time. Then it drops way down as bass and organ carry the piece. Somehow that short section feels a bit like early Yes to me. Then the bass takes over from there. More of a start and stop riff rock section takes it before a piano solo emerges. That piano solo is quite soulful and tasty. It drops way down for the vocals. They come in rather distant at first and start to gradually rise up from there. Then a melodic progressive rock movement emerges as those vocals peak. More rocking sounds come into play as the piece continues to shift and change. There is some seriously upfront drumming later. More changes happen before it drops down to the bass to end.
Jangala Mem
The mellow atmospherics that open this make me think of Genesis just a bit. A rather mean sounding guitar comes in tentatively and seems like it wants to take over the cut. Then they turn out into a melodic fusion jam from there. It drops back to some spoken vocals. There is some weirdness as this continues. Something rather like twisted music box sounds take it. Drums shine on this section. Then a hard rocking guitar section joins and the piece works out into a different jam as violin solos over the top. This just keeps evolving and shifting. It seems like it’s just one left turn after another. This is the most freeform and dynamic piece of the whole set. It’s the most like Rock in Opposition, too. Another melodic prog movement is heard before it drops to acoustic guitar for the first vocals of the piece. Keyboards soar over the top as the music intensifies after those vocals. Then it’s another shift, this time to spacey music from there. The guitar fires out into some seriously frantic soloing as this rises out from the mellower sounds. Quite a frantic jam ends it.
Il Vento Del Tempo
Mellow atmospheric tones open this one. Some weird world music styled vocals emerge. Then a bit of weirdness gives way to a frantic prog jam. That doesn’t last long, though. It drops way down to just keyboards. The vocals come in over the top of that. Several changes take it past that. There’s a vocal section later that’s one of the most effective movements of the whole disc. Then more weirdness ensues as vocals continue. As the shifts and changes continue there’s sort of an odd fast paced movement with some scat like vocals that make me think of Magma just a bit. After that we get a tasty organ solo and then a violin showing. More changes occur after that and more vocals are heard. Then a really off-kilter odd jam that feels like King Crimson does jazz is heard. That takes it with a little change to the end.
Finale
This one comes in mellow with acoustic guitar and violin driving it. Eventually it works out from there in a melodic prog jam. The vocals come in over that after a time. It gets pretty dramatic and theatrical as it continues to build. They take us through a number of changes. There’s a weird little vocal driven section later that gets sped up faster and faster with each time through. That resolves to more melodic progressive rock in a crescendo that serves as the ending punctuation for the section. There’s a short mellow segment around that. Then it works to a melodic fusion jam with both violin and piano featuring prominently. It gets quite fast paced as it continues. As the piece keeps evolving it turns towards some rather crazed, but very tasty fusion. Then piano and vocals take it through the mellower segment. After building it out again this is quite powerful melodic progressive rock with a flute soaring overhead. There’s a restatement of some of the main themes to end the piece.
 
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