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Yleclipse - Songs from the Crackling Atanor CD (album) cover





3.48 | 46 ratings

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3 stars Another example that not every prog band to emerge from Italy follows the RPI template, Cagliari's Yleclipse follow the Neo Prog silver brick road, fashioning a style more in common with the likes of 80's Marillion and early Pendragon with pinch of Van der Graaf Generator and Pink Floyd thrown into the cauldron for good measure. With richly detailed fantasy lyrics, theatrical vocal delivery and a sound that seamlessly moves through delicate medieval acoustic subtlety to hard-rocking modern passages then back around again, the band perform and compose the music on their fifth album `Songs From the Cracking Atanor' with all the sophistication and technicality expected of Italian bands.

Although this was the first Yleclipse album I purchased, I was certainly well aware of them - you don't have exquisite fantasy art like Alessandra Murgia's work here adorning all your albums as a defining characteristic and not have it spoken about in Prog circles! Even the CD booklet is beautifully presented, like a lavish tome of fantasy poetry. If only this band would release their music on vinyl! Anyway, I learned very quickly that the band is considered something very special to its small but devoted fanbase, so I was excited to hear if the music matched the wonderful presentation. For the most part, with one small initial gripe aside that I soon got over, I've found them to be a very worthy and interesting band!

The main issue with the album for me personally are the somewhat inconsistent English vocals. Alessio Guerriero sometimes runs the very wordy lyrics together with a kind of mumbled slur, so a lot of the time I have terrible trouble understanding what he's saying (thank goodness for the lyrics provided!). There's occasional strained notes, and some harmonies go a bit astray with slightly cringe-worthy results. But when he slows down, and doesn't try to cram so much into a short space, things work a lot better, especially on the spoken word-type passages where he takes on an interesting Peter Hammill-type phrasing. Every now and then, like at the beginning of the fourth track, Alesso adopts a Fish-like snarl that also delivers, and the following track throws a little David Bowie into the mix too.

Listeners are pretty spoiled with the tasty instrumental that opens with album, `Convivium Mithrae'. A whimsical and impossibly pretty classical acoustic piece that blends soothing flute, Mellotron and gentle synths, this one comes closest to the warmth and classical flavour of the defining 70's Italian bands. I do think it sets the bar high right at the start, and it's probably why I was a bit disappointed once the vocals entered on the next track. But over the next few numbers, you'll find some supremely tasteful Neo Prog pieces all with several thrilling musical passages. While the opening vocal melody of `Dreams Are Foam' drifts a little close to Van der Graaf Generator's `A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' (even more noticeable due to the Hammill influenced vocals mannerisms), listen out instead for the varied piano, loopy synths, and the perfectly drowsy slide guitar-like solo over organ worthy of Pink Floyd during the finale. `A Jinnee Be Freed' has a strong Marillion connection, not only do the vocals go for a angry spitting Fish-type approach, the guitars have the same harsh electric edge which the production reinforces with similarly cold 80's production.

Album highlight `Springtime Fiery Delirium' opens with a frantic and tense drive of joyous melodic guitar soloing and peppy synths over an uptempo drum-beat courtesy of Federico Bacco. This is the track where the vocals flow the best and flow perfectly with the music, sounding less awkward and much more confident. The extended guitar solo from Allessio that runs through the majority of the piece is beautifully executed, reaching for the skies yet also holding back to let the mysterious floating synths weave through as well. The upbeat and playful `Growling Warty Beast' offers plenty of dazzling synth showcase moments for player Andrea Picciau, oppressive and thick one second, reassuring the next. Despite album Closer `Nadir Voices' opening with a foot tapping beat, grooving bass from Andrea Iddas and oceans of warm Hammond organ, the majority of the piece is more emotional and introspective with a thoughtful and guitar solo, enveloping synths and heartfelt vocals. I have to say, one or two brief moments where Allessio's voice turns slightly twisted reminded me of Michael Schubert's warped vocals on the murky 1976 Kyrie Eleison album `Fountain Beyond The Sunrise'! I wouldn't be surprised if the band knows that Genesis-influenced album well. I love the final lyrics too - "I part, I must ascend in never ending long, I wave goodbye."

The album greatly improves over repeated plays, and I urge listeners to persist with it and become more familiarized with the dense arrangements. I was initially very let down and quite vocal in my disappointment, but I'm glad I stuck with it. For me personally, the album especially soars more in the extended instrumental passages, although I did eventually come to enjoy Alessio's vocals more after persevering with the disc. If you also take that time, you'll discover an album that's lyrically vivid, instrumentally diverse and not merely lazily remaking the past vintage bands, even if they are something of a vague influence. Yleclipse bring their own unique ideas to their particular take of Neo Prog, and I look forward to hearing more of their work! Any suggestions on which album of theirs to go for next are very welcome!

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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