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Phoenix - Cantofabule (Cantafabule) CD (album) cover

CANTOFABULE (CANTAFABULE)

Phoenix

 

Prog Folk

4.00 | 92 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

SpecialKindOfHell
5 stars Today as Tomorrow, Forever and Now

In graduate school at the turn of the millennium, a fellow student from Romania and I were chatting about music and it's influence and importance to student populations; for inspiration, for entertainment, maybe for protest. He turned me on to Phoenix with some rare (in the US) CDs he brought back from his trip home and let me discover what the underground Romanian student population was inspired by in the 70s, 80s and on.

Banned from performing in Romania in 1972 and finally relocated to Amsterdam to avoid further persecution in the iron curtain-clad country, Phoenix was the voice for the youth, those seeking freedom from the existing regime, at the risk of imprisonment or worse. They've sold millions in Romania, but remain tragically obscure elsewhere. Their songs combine equal parts hard rock and fuzzed-out guitar lines with Transylvania gypsy folk music influence that often have these guys labeled as 'Folk-Prog'.

However, it's really much more than that. There are some melodic and stripped back moments, but they do rock loudly and with an incessant metaliic fuzz that is rattling, as in "Invocație" (Invocation). Not to mention the dark melancholic mood that is put forth throughout. There is often a pounding drum rhythm that is intricate and tribal; and I don't mean in an American indian way, but rather in it's force and feel. A soundtrack to Romanian cavalry riding hard across the country perhaps, or more likely the tribal Dacia empire that existed before the Romans conquered the area (and made it forever Romania). Cantafabule (Cantofabule) is Phoenix's third LP, released in 1975 on the Electrecord label in Romania, and is their pinnacle achievement.

Not only does it establish the popular music / rock integration with traditional Romanian music, Zamfir and his panpipes don't count, but it also combined elements of a proto-metal sound, like a distant ancestor of Doom Metal, with the folk and progressive tendencies. In the background of 'Definul' a zapped-out synthesizer sound bubbles along under chanting deep guttural vocals. "Filip și Cerbul" has a mind-blowing metal-like riff anchoring the beginning of the second LP. And this is a true double LP, unlike the contemporary tradition of spreading out one LP worth of material over two. There's almost 70 minutes of music in this grand suite, and this allows them to really stretch out and weave a surreal image of this fantasy world with many different layers.

The idea for Cantafabule came from a fourteenth-century Bestiary, an illustrated anthology of beasts popular from the middle ages on. Thus the songs are vignettes from the animal world, such as "Scarab Scale", "Slaying of The Dragon", and appropriately, "Phoenix", whose last line provides the title to this review.

"We thought at first to some magical formula spirits delight. A kind of invocation. These animal spirits are called symbolic and they start to appear, at first the smallest and most innocent, such as scarab and unicorn, then rest, dolphin and dangerous. At one time, all recorded within a sort of conflict, Zoomahia, and everything ends suggesting the beginning of a new cycle of existence to a higher level through a hymn dedicated to Phoenix, the symbol of rebirth and eternal existence." - Andrew Ujica

Original pressings are 2 LPs in a gatefold cover with truly great psychedelic artwork by Lili and Valeriu Sepi, and are notoriously hard to find in excellent condition since the Romanian covers were very thin and fragile. The only official reissue on LP was in 1992 and the 2 LPs were packaged in separate covers that featured the cover art in yellow and blue tones rather than the grey and red original. Original LP labels were white with red, and the reissues black with silver.

SpecialKindOfHell | 5/5 |

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