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Unreal City - Frammenti Notturni CD (album) cover


Unreal City


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.82 | 139 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars RPI band Unreal City made an instant splash in modern progressive rock circles when their debut `La Crudeltà Di Aprile' arrived back in 2013, an energetic and confident first work given a profile boost by the backing of modern Italian prog icon Fabio Zuffanti. The young and talented-beyond-their-years group followed it up two years later with the possibly even superior `Il Paese del Tramonto', and a further two on from that brings us to the crucial third album, `Frammenti Notturi'. It's wonderful to discover that it maintains the exact same quality of their first two discs, as well as frequently introducing a new and fresh approach that ensures the band confirms they have plenty of fiery inspiration and ideas left to be realised in the future!

`Frammenti Notturi' may hold plenty of the usual Unreal City characteristics - doomed symphonic and romantic moods blasted with constant instrumental flights-of-fancy delivered with a youthful zest - check! But this time, the band have frequently given their music a heavier grunt as well as a wickedly addictive dirtier (and more dangerous!) instrumental backing, they've placed a lot of prominence on the addition of violin in the first half to further acknowledge their vintage Italian prog heritage, they've incorporated some subtle and unexpected electronics, and they've even dialled back on the more overly swooning catchier vocal moments of the first two discs. But most importantly, `Frammenti Notturi' also proves to be their most grandiose and often equally (and very importantly) subtle and richly detailed artistic musical statement to date, even more evidence of their growing maturity and surety as a group.

Of the five pieces on offer, the band open with the five-part suite `La Grande Festa In Maschera', and a boisterous, aggressive and tasty behemoth it is, with three of the core founding line-up, joined by new drummer Marco Garbin, battering through a range of loopy and high-energy instrumental symphonic themes. But this time around, there's plenty of distortion and wilder noise throughout to a heavier guitar approach and jazzier touches, and guest violinist Matteo Bertani is given free reign to weave through the bluster and stormy attack with searing feeling. The standouts are Dario Pessina's upfront thick bass bouncing with ferocious purpose around Marco's versatile and peppy drumming, Francesca Zanetta's maddening King Crimson-like guitar splinters and vocalist Emanuele Tarasconi's jagged piano stabbings, and his fuzzed-up noisy Fender Rhodes-like soloing in the climax gives the Italian Canterbury sound band The Winstons a run for their money! Play this piece loud, and especially listen out for the deeply sexy distortion rumbles that start at about the 9:55 mark!

`Le Luci delle Case (Spente)' is dramatic and...even a little playful! Francesca's guitars melt into erupting molten electric distortion and slick electric piano glistenings have the piece taking on a seductive heavy groove early on, and Emanuele's charismatic voice purrs with charm and roars with chest-beating pride in the finale. In it's upbeat jovial moments with rollicking synths and scratchy violin, the track actually almost embraces a fancier and whimsical quality that may remind some listeners of seminal Italian prog band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM).

The shortest piece at just under six minutes, `Barricate' is perhaps the closest to a `traditional' lovingly melancholic and romantic Unreal City tune, but teasing a low-key jazzy buoyancy from electric piano tiptoes. It then proceeds to gently introduce spacey fizzing electronics and diverts into an aggressive solo spot in the middle highlighted by supremely dirty Hammond organ and grumbling bass, and the ringing guitar shimmers sound like they've wandered off a modern Marillion album. The stuttering bass stabs, whirring keyboards and snappy drumming of horror tale `Il Nido delle Succubi' suggest the musical approach of Unreal City's current touring friends, fellow young Italian band Kalisantrope, might be rubbing off on them, but the piece eventually comes to resemble a captivating spectral pantomime laced with prancing harpsichord, ghostly Mellotron choirs and eclectic Steve Hackett/Genesis-flavoured regal synths.

But what a closer `Arrivi all'Aurora' turns out to be...where in some moments on the earlier discs the band have giddily raced off into delirious extended keyboard soloing and busy instrumental interplay at many opportunities, here they strip things back for a sombre and elegant piano-driven ballad that eventually takes flight into joyful skies. Emanuele's weary voice moves between wounded romance and eerie treated moments, and the more slower-paced, restrained soloing from the whole band in the second half shows great poise and genuine emotion, making this finale come across as a very important piece in the continuing development of the group.

`Frammenti Notturi' is everything a third album should be - not a band merely coasting on past successes, but taking their recognisable sound and fusing it with dynamic new ideas as well as only beginning to hint at possible new directions and fresh sounds to be explored on albums to come. It's also admirable that the group, despite their much-loved status in the current Italian Prog community, have defiantly refused to not only streamline their music into overtly melodic and catchier shorter pieces to try and lure in more commercial audiences, but resisted the urge to sing in English, and if anything, this disc seems designed to appeal much more to long-term fans of the group than newcomers (who might be better off checking out the previous two albums to start off with).

This is classic Italian symphonic music given a proudly `pure prog' bombastic approach with a modern sensibility delivered by an impeccably skilled young band in Unreal City, who've not only released their third exceptional disc in a row, but have absolutely delivered one of the standout Italian prog works of 2017 that will be greatly loved by their fans.

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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