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Unreal City - Il Paese Del Tramonto CD (album) cover


Unreal City


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.00 | 373 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Two years ago, a young Italian group based in Parma, under the guidance of modern RPI notable Fabio Zuffanti, released an incredibly vibrant and confident debut album `La Crudelta di Aprile'. That band was Unreal City, and it ended up being one of the Italian Prog highlights of 2013, as well as a thrilling progressive rock work in general. Full of a dazzling variety of instrumental flair, charismatic vocals, winning melodies and ambitious symphonic arrangements, thankfully the band have delivered another winner of an album with their follow-up `Il Paese del Tramonto' (The Country of Sunset). While it holds to some of the format of the first album, this time around the band adds even more theatrical moments, longer jazzier passages and carefully cultured qualities that brings it closer to the rich history of music from their home country. Considering their young age, the band show a complete devouring and knowledge of vintage RPI bands both popular and more obscure, virtually overdosing on those sounds and applying it to their own contemporary style. It's retro by way of a sleek modern sound, all played with youthful vigour and presented in an attractive package that will likely instantly appeal to both a younger audience and established veteran prog rock and RPI listeners.

Right from the opening instrumental `Ouverture - Obscuris Fio', frontman and keyboard player Emanuele Tarasconi is front and center, covering the piece with his swooning yet sombre classical piano, spinning Moog dashes, Fender Rhodes splinters and orchestral Mellotron blasts. Federico Bedostri's drums skitter with driving purpose once the piece jumps up in buoyant tempo, and female player Francesca Zanetta offers a tease of the symphonic guitar greatness to come. With a case of Banco-like schizophrenic musical multiple-personality, `Oniromanzia' may open as a gutsier tune with initially bluesy guitar soloing, electric piano and a reflective lead vocal from Emanuele, but it quickly diverts into energetic jazzy drumming and fiery Hammond organ runs, early King Crimson-esque regal fanfares and all manner of whirring synth goodness. Darker gothic moods permeate `Caligari', Dario Pessina's bass creeping and lurking, eerie Antonia Rex/Goblin- like synth weirdness playfully trilling and imposing organ booming. Stately flights of fancy in the manner of early Genesis rise around a prancing theatrical vocal purr and Francesca's guitar whimsy before the piece careens away into nimble piano runs and a snarling heavy finale.

Violin and accordion strains bring echoes of more folky Italian music of old throughout `La Meccanica dell'ombra', with creeping bass strolling around the background, sitar-like echoing guitar strains, thoughtful delicate classical piano and no shortage of schizophrenic synth delirium! The band don't always feel the need to dial the instrumental prog-outs up to 11, and the dreamy vibes that float through `Il Nome di Lei' show just how well the band do calmer and more direct tunes, with gorgeous ringing electric and soothing acoustic guitar soloing and some prancing harpsichord prettiness that tickles of classic RPI. The deranged `Lo Schermo di Pietra (Kenosis)' is full of hyperactive instrumental explosions, break-neck tempo changes and punky boisterous vocals, and the orgy of keyboard orgasm all over it makes it the `adult movie' of modern RPI by way of hyperactive good-looking youngsters overdosing on filthy battery-acid energy drinks!

But once again, just like on the first disc, the group save the best until last, and the twenty-plus minute four part suite `Ex Tenebrae Lux' is the highlight of the album. Dynamic and daring, playful and determined to impress, the longer running time allows the band to more calmly explore new directions without trying to cram in quite so many quicker racing passages and shorter pieces. Everything from malevolent spectral piano tiptoes, easy-going breezy jazzy electric piano and light jazz/fusion bass grooves, fiery guitar and rippling Fender Rhodes duelling back and forth are included, and some drifting electronic drones hint at new and daring directions the band should consider exploring more in the future. With a greater sense of build, atmosphere and emotion, the music here is truly joyful, and this epic is a big step up in maturity and sophistication for the band while also showing greater subtlety.

Some listeners may find it a little disappointing that, considering Emanuele is an impressive vocalist full of flair, there's more emphasis placed on longer instrumental sections. But this is a case of band really showing what they can do musically as a proper group, giving attention to all the players and letting their abilities shine through. Considering there's a great buzz around the band, they could have focussed more on shorter, more simplistic vocal pieces, or (even worse) chosen to sing in English in a misguided attempt to appeal to a wider audience. But instead, they've delved even further into more ballistic, self-indulgent and pompous Italian prog rock than ever before, and progressive listeners will be in absolute heaven! The first album might just have the edge with stronger tunes, and this one may lack the initial surprise that hit when their debut first arrived, but `Il Paese del Tramonto' is a gifted band taking their own sound, influences and supreme musical talent even further, and it's just as good as the debut while promising so much more exciting music to come in the future.

Another five stars for a shining light in the modern RPI world!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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