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Presence

Masters and Following

Review by G. W. Hill
This double CD set should appeal mostly to fans of Italian prog and those who really enjoy music from the Rock In Opposition music. It clearly has ties to both of those things. For my tastes, the music is a bit too freeform. Additionally, I don't really like Sophya Baccini's voice. I can see that some others would like the music and her singing more than I do, though. I have to say that they earn some serious points for original thinking for covering Judas Priest.

The second disc features both live performances and some songs recorded with orchestral instrumentation. Personally, I think I prefer that second disc. A lot of that has to do with the production. The mix on the main CD seems a bit lo-tech. The problem with that is, it makes for a recording that feels a bit muddy. When there is as much going on as there is here, that is a recipe for disaster. It works well at times, but overall, there are problems brought about by that mix.

Track by Track Review
CD 1

           
Masters and Following

Starting with piano this works outward with a dark, ominous vibe. As the vocals join I'm reminded a bit of something like Curved Air. Still, there are some dark, almost creepy twists built into some of the musical interludes. There are also definite epic metal powered up sections here. This piece is really about contrasts. There are mellow, nearly classical segments. Those are countered with incredibly heavy, noisy, dissonant bits that feel like chaos. The balance between the two works to create a tension and make the piece particularly complex and effective.

Deliver
In some ways this more straightforward than the opener was. It's incredibly heavy and noisy. It's too weird and out of the box to be metal, though. This is prog, but very metallic, dark and modern prog. Again classically tinged segments serve as the contrasting moments on the piece.
Now
This is a bit more of a mainstream prog cut. It's more melodic. In some ways this feels to me like a heavier, darker version of Renaissance.
Interlude
This is a very classical music based piece of instrumental sound. It feels a bit like something from a soundtrack. It is dark and has some world music elements.
The House on the Hill
This cut makes great use of the balance between heavier and more sedate sounds. It's a fierce, metallic cut in a lot of ways. Yet, it also has an almost folk prog element at times. There is a shift to incredibly creepy atmospheric space rock styled stuff mid-track. Then it threatens to fire out with some old school prog rock. It never really does, though, instead remaining in the space territory before we get an exceptionally heavy jam that's part metal and part Hawkwind styled space. Some of the vocals make me think of Heart. There are drop backs to mellower, folk prog styled stuff.
Freewheel Burning
Who would expect a prog band with a female lead singer to cover Judas Priest? Well, that's exactly what we get here. This comes across a bit like Burn era Deep Purple to me.
Space Ship Ghost
As you might expect of a song with that title, this comes in very spacey. It turns toward some weird stuff for a short time on this intro. Then it gets a heavy metal like infusion to carry forward. The cut keeps shifting and changing and has some killer prog rock in some of the fast paced changes. This instrumental is fairly extensive and quite dynamic and trippy.
This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us
Here have a rather odd, but also quite cool prog number. It's rather metallic, but also challenging in terms of the complexities and weird angles of the sounds.
Prelude
This is a full symphonic piece.
Symmetry

There is some chatter from a space mission. Then they fire out into a fierce, powered up stomper that's part epic metal and part noisy prog. This is like Curved Air going metal in a lot of ways.

Collision Course
Rather crazed and noisy, this is a progressive rock powerhouse. It's rather chaotic and yet has some cool symphonic elements at times.
On the Eastern Side
This comes in with a much mellower motif, but it powers out some rocking, but still slower stuff as it continues.
The Revealing

I dig the metallic edge of this a lot. The cut gets a bit weird in terms of some of the layers of sound, though. I dig the guitar solo dominated instrumental section mid-track quite a bit. They include some mellower stuff with symphonic elements after that, too. At over nine and a half minutes in length, this is the epic of the CD. It is also quite a ride.

Live CD

 

Scarlet
This has almost a more traditional prog sound to it. The mix seems better than that on the studio disc. It's a powerful prog cut with symphonic textures.
The Sleeper Awakes
There is no huge change here. This is another powerful progressive rock cut with some metallic elements.
Lightening
I really love the guitar solo segment on this. Beyond that, this isn't an enormous change. Still, it's effective stuff.
The Dark
This is just a short vocal excursion with very little backing.
Eyemaster
Coming out of the previous piece, this is a balladic piece. It works better than some of the others.
Just Before the Rain
This seems almost like an extension of the previous cut, but it's more powered up, landing more like a jazz kind of piece.
The Bleeding
We're back into the high energy prog directions here. This is a classy tune.
Un Di' Quando Le Veneri
This is rather operatic in delivery, but over the top of more of a rocking musical texture. There are things about this that make me think of Queen. Mid-track it turns to something that is very much prog meets classical in nature. The guitar solo at the end is definitely rocking.
Orchestral
                     

Overture

This has symphonic elements, as you'd expect, but it's mixed with some pretty prog ballad type sounds. This is an instrumental that seems a bit freeform.

Hellish
Another cut that's mellower, the vocals return here. This has a prog ballad mixed with operatic symphony sound to it. It's one of the more cohesive and effective pieces of the set in a lot of ways. It gets a bit stranger as it nears the end, though.
J'accuse
While there is still a lot of classical music in the mix here, this is also dramatic and powerful prog rock in many ways. It gets pretty weird as it continues.
Makumba

I dig the dramatic prog sounds that start this. It has a driving persistence, but also a lot of symphonic elements. The cut works out from there to something more akin to the rest of the stuff we've heard in this symphonic section.

Supersticious

Piano brings this in with an almost creepy element to it. It works out from there into a sound that's more keeping with the rest of the set.

The King Could Die Issueless
There is something about this that feels almost like some kind of ritual. The symphonic elements drive this piece in a lot of ways. It's not a huge change, but it works better than some of the rest of the sounds here.
 
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