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Archangel - Tales of Love and Blood CD (album) cover





2.92 | 17 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars `Tales of Love and Blood' is a well performed and produced concept work by former The Watch/current Ubi Major Italian keyboard player Gabriele Manzini, operating under the project name of Archangel. With the help of other players, the musician has composed a range of dense extended works and branching suites of music, as well as some cover versions, that run through a range of power AOR, heavy progressive rock, Neo prog and classical gothic sophistication. Gabriele is certainly influenced by the bombastic symphonic rock of artists such as Ayreon, Lana Lane and Arena, but he still brings a typical Italian flair to his keyboard and piano playing, and there's even little traces of doom metal kings My Dying Bride and the Alan Parsons Project worked in throughout. It's no surprise to find that the album is especially keyboard dominated, but there's also plenty of opportunities for the other musicians brought in to offer nice contributions. Sadly a number of issues stop the album and band from achieving the best results, but there's so much potential on display here.

`The Countess Bathory Suite' covers the first four tracks of the album, and there's numerous standout moments. Opening with a narrated passage that details the background of the notorious historical figure before a fanfare crescendo, the blustery and stomping AOR rocker `When The Night' kicks in, a serious and theatrical vocal from Gianluigi Girardi over Gabriele Manzini's pulsing Hammond runs and some stirring electric guitar soloing. Then a sombre take on the Blue Oyster Cult's `Nosferatu' features a truly beautiful opening floating keyboard and creeping Mellotron introduction and a darkly crooned vocal from Joe Salati that brings a sense of flair and dark drama. `Misplaced Love' has lovely chiming Neo flavoured acoustic and 12 string guitars, a superior and touching vocal from guest Damian Wilson with some dazzling Rick Wakeman-styled Moog solos in the first half. The middle twists into a heavy instrumental that races through urgent tempo changes, ghostly piano and searing Mellotrons. This suite is easily the highlight of the disc!

Unfortunately, although the almost 14 minute `The Night Scythe' is probably intended to the crowning achievement of the disc, it's one of the least interesting pieces on offer. Several long stretches feature unmemorable melodies, over-wrought vocals and dragging repetitive passages, it's seriously plodding and rapidly grinds the album to a near-halt. It's a shame, because it starts out very promising with some sinister My Dying Bride-styled brooding guitars, has lovely fluid bass throughout and there's endless beautiful piano passages to Manzini's credit.

The `Love and Blood Suite' quickly improves things again. With a soothing melody that greatly resembles `Green-Eyed Angel' from `Pendragon's `Not of this World', `The Black Bride' is another classy Damian Wilson-led ballad with sadly romantic piano and rising electric guitars. It moves through a melancholic and tasteful cover of Roxy Music's `My Only Love' (always an underrated track from that band) with glistening electric piano, ripping Hammond and dynamic guitar solos in the finale, before closing the album on the intense and stalking `In Loneliness', full of doomy riffs and hellbound organ with a classic Neo- styled dreamy bridge.

Regretfully, the band also includes a bonus track, a well played but utterly cringe-worthy and overly polite cover of Black Sabbath's `Wheels of Confusion' that is completely devoid of all the scuzzy charm of the original. Sigh...

Although I've praised many sections of the album, sadly this sort of overbearing AOR/hard- rock is rarely my sort of thing, and I have a very low tolerance of similar acts like most of the Anthony Aryen Luccassen-styled projects. Despite being very impressed by numerous sections, I still find much of the histrionic and deadly serious vocals quite draining, with just a slight hint of blandness creeping in a little too often as well. The cover versions are well- done but distracting and totally unnecessary, because the band already displays more than enough confidence to stand by their own work. But I can truly appreciate talented musicians performing complex arrangements, and there is no doubt Gabriele Manzini is something of a virtuoso musician, and frequently (and thankfully) his playing is subtle and restrained. I have a feeling he's slowly honing his craft and will soon make a truly defining and grand musical statement all his own in the future.

So it's three stars for me personally, but any fans of the above mention Ayreon-type artists can probably add another star to this rating, and they may find this album the perfect way to pass the time until the next proper Arena or Luccassen albums.

Oh, and Gabriele - ditch the covers and let your own talent shine!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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