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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Deus Ex Machina

Imparis

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve heard of this group for a while, but this is the first time I’ve ever actually heard them. They are pretty incredible. They combine fusion with RIO and Crimsonian progressive rock (and even some jam band and funk sounds) to create a musical tapestry that’s impressive and fairly unique. Then incredible vocals (some in Latin and some in Italian) complete the picture and make this a type of music that is very much their own. This is an interesting set combining a new studio album with a live DVD.

The DVD includes a full concert – and it’s a scorching show that’s captured quite well. It also has some interview segments – in Italian, but you can view the subtitles – some in studio footage and several other concert performances. The bonus concert stuff seems to be bootleg material – but it’s incredibly good quality bootleg.

I’d say that either one of these products – the CD or the DVD – by itself would be a great thing to have. Combining them in one package, though, makes this an exceptional value. If you are a fan of the band you know what you are getting and will be all over this. If you, like me, had never heard them before, it makes for a great introduction.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
La Diversità di Avere un'Anima

A dramatic and mysterious tone starts things off. It builds gradually upwards. At around the half minute mark they stop and the whole thing is re-envisioned into a quick paced, fusion oriented jam that’s got a great retro sound to it. After a time they shift out into some rather dissonant territory, but make it back out to the earlier section from there. This just continues re-thinking and re-arranging the whole musical conception until we come to the vocal motif. There’s a vibe here that’s rather like The Band. After the vocals finish their duties this is moved out into another cool fusion jam, this one set in a more accessible motif. Then we get some more vocals (only a short segment, though) and we’re out into some killer musical excursions. As this works its way through a number of changes and alterations I can swear I hear some traces of Hendrix at least once or twice. They eventually move out into some effects laden space rock for a time.

Giallo Oro
Keyboards begin this in a mellower jazz fashion. As other instrumentation begins to enter they keep it sedate, but waves of sound bring more drama to the piece. Violin weaves some awesome melody over this backdrop for a while. Eventually the volume and intensity begin to ramp up. This becomes quite hard rocking and then shifts into some more dramatic motifs before dropping way down again. Vocals come in over a fairly stripped down motif and then we get bursts of more developed sounds here and there. They resolve this out into a King Crimson like riff from there and then vocals come over as they continue building it upward and then shift it to more pure fusion-like territory. Once more they drop back to continue, but this ends. Then they launch out into an off-kilter riff driven jam that reminds me a lot of Pentwater with some King Crimson thrown in for good measure. They work through some variants on this theme. It gets rather dissonant at times. There are some awesome keyboard sounds in a later portion. Eventually they move it back to a decidedly Fripp-like riff and then drop it way down to continue. This segment gives way to a more jazz-like, keyboard oriented excursion. Other instruments join as this feels like it is moving back towards some of the earlier themes. They rock out pretty hard as they continue climbing upwards with this and some dissonant elements are thrust across the top. Eventually they drop it way down for more vocals and it turns just a little bluesy. They give us one more jazz-like motif before closing the track out at the twelve minute and five second mark. 
Il Testamento dell'Uomo Saggio
A frantic jam starts us off but after a few measures like that they take it out into a killer funky excursion. The vocals come over this as various instruments serve here and there as the punctuation. There’s a decidedly Yes-like jam after the first singing section. It doesn’t stay around long, though. Instead they drop it back down to the segment that preceded it for the next vocals. The Yes section comes back after that and gives way to another movement that is rather ELP-like. Then fusion elements are merged with this sound. We make our way from there back out to the main song structure for the next vocals and the repeating pattern is resumed. At around the three minute mark, though, they crescendo and it seems like the track is done. Instead this picks up and moves to a more open and dynamic jazz journey. Working for a while in mellow territory they fire this out into a fast paced and hard edged jam with definite retro textures. There’s some killer retro keyboard soloing. Then it moves to a more dramatic stripped down sound and violin begins singing over the top. From there they take it on a scorching jam that’s a little bit RIO and a lot King Crimson. Keyboards wail over the top after a while and take it to its close. 
Cor Mio
Gentle and intricate piano starts this with other instrument joining to build this in a pretty and rather balladic fashion. The vocals come over the top and the track continues growing in intensity and complexity. They power this up pretty well and resolve it out to a more energized jam. There’s a killer frantic section later on this. There’s also a tasty violin solo further down this musical road and it takes the track out. 
La Fine del Mondo
Jazz ballad type motifs start this off. It grows gradually from there. Then a rather funky acoustic guitar bit heralds a new segment. They turn this out into a great (if understated) excursion over which violin solos. Comparisons to Jean-Luc Ponty would be warranted here. They eventually work it out towards a vocal section and then power this out into some great fusion territory that gets a little noisy at times. Later they drop it to a little keyboard bit and from there this comes in a RIO format with some freeform jamming taking it into new territory. It gets pretty dissonant and times. Later a dark and dramatic guitar takes over for a while until they move back into vocal territory. As they work through and intensify this it has both classical elements and RIO ones. Eventually they take us out into another soaring instrumental section. It gets into more melodic (although dark) territory along this route than the more freeform stuff – at least at first. They do take this into weirder soundscapes as they continue. 
Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano (Live)
As good as the studio material here is, this might have some of my favorite music of the whole set. Percussion starts it off and they take us through some hard-edged music for quite a bit of time. Eventually it shifts down towards spacey atmosphere (that after some of the most powerful vocals of the disc are delivered). This then is moved into some Frippian weirdness. While they’ve got some cool musical textures along this road, it kind of loses me in its randomness. They work out into a killer funky jam as they continue on. Once more this gets extremely intense. Some great retro keyboards come over the top here and there. As they build it up we get some scorching hard rock guitar work. This seriously screams before it hits its crescendo. Then they drop it back to mellower motifs for a short time. A Vanilla Fudge like burst of sound heralds another scorching fusion progression. This carries it up to the next vocal section. Dramatic bits ensue as they continue to ramp it up. Then they bring it out to a short resolution to end it.
 
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