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Unreal City - La Crudeltà di Aprile CD (album) cover


Unreal City


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.14 | 400 ratings

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5 stars Unreal City? You mean Unreal Country, as Italy has unleashed a debut album that should be the talk of progdom for the year 2013. Musically sensational, visually attractive and fresh, we are offered a vision where classic progressive meshes with absolute modernisms, a young quartet of Northern Italian fashionistas who happen to master their instruments (besides looking hot) and incorporate all the classic RPI traditions of clever melodies, artful presentation, impeccable delivery and dramatic performances. Looks like Fabio Zuffanti has once again delivered a new and exciting progressive band that may have immense future appeal, great looks and even better hooks.

So who do we have manning the crew? Clever keyboardist Emmanuele Tarasconi is a complete standout, primarily vehiculating a raging Hammond organ as weapon of predilection, tossing in flurries of elegant piano, blistering synths, some Fender Rhodes e- piano, its distant cousin the clavinet, the rarely used chamberlin (a precursor of the mellotron) and theremin, even dashes of colossal church organ. His voice is luscious and operatic, recalling at times the great Aldo Tagliapietra but with his own sense of timbre and tone. Sultry brunette guitarist Francesca Zanetta has a more discreet musical role, letting the keys rule, does unleash a few blizzard solos but she is also very pretty indeed. Francesco Orefice mans a nasty bass, craving and blasting heavily, occasionally tossing in some dazzling fretless runs. Another clear master is drummer Federico Bedrosti, a manic thumper who knows how to power up the arrangements.

The music covers the entire RPI spectrum of influences, from Le Orme, PFM, Goblin and Banco but they actually need to be lumped in with the more recent collection of Italian proggers such as Gran Turismo Veloce, Il Labirinto dei Specchi and La Coscienza di Zeno. There are some highly original passages that defy description, mostly radicalisms colliding with the medieval harpsichord, twisted around by loopy synthesized soloing. Lost Innocence indeed opens up this masterstroke, "Dell'Innocenza Perduta " that has all the ingredients we all hold dear, velvety voice within a passionate cellophane of sound, simple but glorious melody hammered out on the piano, liquid guitar solo and subtle rhythmic drive. The fun starts when the piano kicks in, heady organ in alliance, recalling the finest Hammond moments on record. The synths just blaze serenely, I mean these are the reasons we adore prog from Italy: effortless flair! A sultry violin does the coup de grace. Ridiculous.

The colossal "Atlantis" in particular is a most impressive rendition that will hammer hard at the door of the progfan, begging to enter and settle in for posterity. An archetypal symphonic track that has stellar stamped all over it, mellotron waves colliding with the speakers and subjugating the listener into willing submission. Again, the entire progressive gamut is tossed into the salad, all that is missing is the dressing! Tarasconi's balsamic voice appears as if a miracle, full of power, lust and desire, while his startling synthesizers parp and careen like some Testarossa gone 'pazzo'. When the harpsichord, acoustic guitar and the Moogs kick in with the Greek spoken words, well, we are definitely in Progland. "Catabasi" has a mournful pipe organ motif, church bells pealing mournfully, resonating loudly amid the bass rumble and wild drum fills, whilst introducing a solemn vocal that inspires a tremendous appeal, the violin rages and the mood exalts into cavernous delirium, a descent into a fiery hellhole (as the sub-title in Latin implies) of grinding sound and fury. A bluesy guitar section only elevates the exaltation, totally unexpected yet deliciously chosen.

Where the light becomes more intense ("Dove La Luce E Piu Intensa") is bedecked with a classic PFM feel and a tremendous vocal performance once again. The lush synth solo is right out of the Flavio Premoli school of elegant sophistication, whilst the bass rumble will recall Djivas. This vibrant track just explodes into a myriad of stars and constant excitement, mostly due to Tarasconi"s expressive lungs and dazzling fingers. What a talent on display! The rhythm section also provides some exemplary support. Can they keep up this torrid pace?

You bet, as "Ecate" proposes a youthful exuberance that allays any fear of boredom or formula, all players booming on all cylinders, on a dime stops and starts, complex shifts and sudden drama. Francesca delivers a sublime guitar solo, all relaxed yet seductive. The piano extolls a carnival/barroom atmosphere that hides no punches, wide musical grins firmly established (you can imagine the quartet smiling as they play along). In a way, this dizzying track gives the listener the reassurance that these are musicians enjoying their craft and hungrily wishing to include an audience of accomplices, a trait that the Italians have mastered over the centuries. One word: fun!

To finish off with an epic nearly 18 minute romp requires lots of confidence and the band pulls it off rather brilliantly, as "Horror vacui" manages to reiterate those classic element so dear to RPI, such as a fascination of morbid soundtracks (think of their heroes in Goblin). This is cinematic prog at its most expressive, a musical catacomb where a lugubrious bass rumbles amid spectral keyboard webs, creating a blistering cacophony of devastating rhythms that pulsate monstrously. Spooky spaghetti! Tarasconi and Zanetta exchange all kinds of solos that captivate the mind, with seemingly little effort in getting the mood done! The voice has been echoed to highlight the subterranean feel, cavernous as the material is, loaded with huge mellotron (Chamberlin) clashes. This extended piece showcases so much talent, one can only shudder. The immaculate piano and keyboard work, the sexy guitars, a sensational bass attack and powerful drumming of the highest complexity all conspire to get you hooked, with line and sinker not far behind.

It would behoove any prog reviewer (such as my esteemed colleague Aussie-Byrd-Brother) who has listened to this colossus, to absolutely mention the influence of Fabio Zuffanti, an Italian master-musician and a reverential Italian version of Roine Stolt or Steve Wilson. This man's career is littered with gems (Höstsonaten especially) but this is one for the ages, giving these youngsters the confidence to forge their own path, being a true mentor. Needless to mention, the production, sound, mastering and overall presentation is phenomenal.

Italy's next big thing? If this is just the tip of their iceberg, look out Titanic! Mille grazie to the previous reviewers for tweaking my attention, this is one hell of a find! Worthy successors of CAP, Banco, PFM and company. Not to have this on your mantle is a shame.

5 Mamma mias

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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