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Vita Nova - Vita Nova CD (album) cover


Vita Nova


Eclectic Prog

3.90 | 28 ratings

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4 stars Besides the fabulous, longeval classic bands of progressive rock's golden decade, there are plenty more ensembles that prove of a splendid value and fill a space in the grand scheme just like everyone else, despite the roughness in finding their records, the shortness of what they offered and the rather underground presence. Vita Nova don't differ from these many bands, putting up a quite interesting and extremely pleasant or healthy portion of prog rock, while in the meantime everything was likely too good to last more than a blink of an eye, too "academic" to reach down to the masses, too singled-out as to stir things deeply and reach up the heights of those times. In fact, the essence of this band's subsistence sounds more familiar than unforeseen: rare, sole album, short-lived project due to lack of consistent interest (they haven't concerted or resumed composing anything too serious afterwards), unknown reference except if it's found after persistent search (though a CD remaster has been done, in the 90s, and its bonus tracks are valorous). This, however, does not mean that it shouldn't be recommended. Vita Nova lived up to making good prog music; any (semi-)extensive research into the huge musical movement should include them.

Eddy Marron is the brainchild and dominant figure of Vita Nova, playing guitars and lead vocals in three (or is it four?) certain pieces; he'll also play afterwards in Missus Beastly and Dzyan, solid bands of the Kraut/Jazz/Rock stage. Yet Sylvester Leray could be admired much more, since the stylish purity of keyboards, from exquisite Hammond to more interesting approaches (like Hohner clavinet) pays off immensely; much of the music is vitalized by simple, yet far from ordinary keyboard music and glosses. Christian von Hoffman completes the trio and the band music as well, as drummer.

The prog rock affinity is more than obvious from a classic point of view, much of the sound and the textures being vintage without meaning they're also dated, and classic without meaning their personalized spirit isn't also unleashed, vibrant. Upon reading the biography, you can imagine pretty well what inspired the musicians to create Vita Nova: departing from "imposed", "a la mode" music was their main objective (they are however, by this issue, two years far from the "rebellious" 60s...); and while we're not talking a band that turned non-conformist or truly experimental, but actually chose well the sterile (as in clean, immune) ground of classic prog or hard rock, the keyword being instead how "illuminated" the whole conceived material shines through. A progressive mode, in other words, was chosen as the fitting characterization of their personalities and their "vita nova" music.

Style isn't at all a dry subject, as while dominantly "psychedelicky", the band works also consistently on several other full nuances, such as symphonic, heavy, jazzy, space prog, rock or even pop (but never brewed in pure form, always mixed with something else of the mentioned). It surprises that Vita Nova's music is mature, central, addictive to patterns and light of mutations, yet the styles are intrinsic. The instrumental universe adopted here is of great results, why half of the vocal moments are a bit unclean and unpleasant, but luckily don't harm badly the whole project.

Vita Nova is essentially an album whose music counts the most. So let the walkthrough do the rest. I'm evaluating the CD 90s remaster, counting therefore the two juicy bonus tracks. Apart from these, the original material is clearly split, conceptually and by the content's continuity, in two major parts (countable as epics too, though the playlist clearly mentions separate pieces).

After an opener called Quomodo Manet, which seems like a bad start through its self-indulgent vocals, but falls down to gorgeous rock in the middle, the first part - or "epic" - is called Inventions, lasting 6 pieces, all but one short, till that which is deliberately called Inventions Finale. I'd rather think of these six as "variations", because after the symph-psych dished Vita Nova Inventions, each of the new slim track presents something different; and here we go: Whirl Wind adopts a western suspense, though the beats and the guitar lonely melody are technically plain rock, Istanbul is an oriental-oriented guitar-"becken" (German for cymbals) dance, Sylvester is a piano intermezzo (here I dare point out that it reminds me of Tangerine Dream's same piano pauses in Tangram, though nine years apart; of course, "reminds" is a misused term, given this case), Wildman is von Hoffman's excellent coup and over in the shortest of all Finale, the main symph syntax is reloaded.

The second "epic", as far as the name goes, can quicker be acknowledged as Adoramus, containing the next four (out of five originally left) pieces from the album. Heva-Cleva seems like an individual composition, with special-rhythmic percussion on more tribal incantations, until the last minute where the main choral, psych-organ backgrounded theme concretely starts: here the chanting vocals are good. Adoramus follows, purely repeating through instruments the main theme, in a filling psych-symph then hard down the last minutes mood ("reminds" of Focus) - it's the longest and most complex piece, and it resonates greatly, at least if mentioning the style standards and the sweet mood of exuberant organ-keys mixtures. Sunt Alteri ravages in a completely ELP way, being a cadence to Adoramus Finale, first experimental, then dark, finally reloading the "choral". This second part of the album is simpler, heavier, probably more appropriate for a synthesized psych-symph liking, but actually feels just a tiny bit below the first part. Tempus Est ends the original Vita Nova, mostly heavy rock, with complete musicianship skills throughout.

The bonus tracks, Lacrimosa and Olymp 99 also seem to descend from heavy/hard rock grounds, the first being a raw final blow (if judging it added to the whole experience), while the latter has groovy progressive rhythms, again close to classic (even half-cliqued) standards. To end with a curious detail, when I first listened to Vita Nova, I had a feeling that these two bonuses, plus Tempus Est from before, approached a Deep Purple-like wham. But nowadays, that feeling is rather gone.

Overall, a classic-driven, intense, precise, highly enjoyable singular album from this psych-descending-in-traditional-prog band, an album that, even with flaws here and there, doesn't deserve less than a fine grade.

Ricochet | 4/5 |


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