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Nathan - Era CD (album) cover

ERA

Nathan

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.65 | 23 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Italian group Nathan formed in 1997, although three of its members were actually active in the late Seventies, and while little recordings here and there showed up during the last two decades, their proper full-length debut `Nebulosa' emerged only two years ago, and an underrated pleasant surprise it turned out to be! The band perform keyboard-dominated symphonic progressive rock but prioritise compact vocal-driven songs at the expensive of much drawn soloing, and 2018 has seen them follow up their first disc with `Era'. What we have here is another fine album from these skilled musicians, one that unexpectedly lifts to incredible heights if the listener gives it the attention it deserves and makes the time to let their music sink in.

`Figli di Cane' sets a nice early high standard, with Daniele Ferro's twisting electric guitar work constantly snaking in and out of the subtly sensational piece alongside Piergiorgio Abba's glistening keys, Fabio Sanfilippo's powerful drumming and Mauro Brunzu pulsing bass backing up Bruno Lugaro's commanding call-to-arms croon (and female singer Monica Giovannini provides lovely restrained backing vocals here and throughout the entire disc). This winning opener reminds of a cross between legendary vintage Italian proggers Le Orme and a modern symphonic group like Logos, and it also makes unexpectedly fleeting darker turns for great dramatic effect.

Piergiogio's keys are front-and-center throughout `Invisibile', swooning with orchestral-like fancy one moment, cloaked in Mellotron veils the next, and when they're surrounded by ragged guitar noodling, the piece wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Clive Nolan/Arena album (and listen to that gorgeous outro passage in the final minute!) ' just, you know, sung in Italian instead! `Le vie dei Canti' is a more romantic and softer break that still finds a bit of grunt, and `L'ultimo Giro' clips along with a swaggering mid-tempo stride that calls to mind the positivity of the early Neo-Prog albums.

The urgent `L'ombra del Falco' is the centrepiece of the album, all fanciful whirring synths, punchy organ bursts, pretty piano and thick coursing bass behind Bruno's dignified rasp, and the track will have Le Orme fans weeping for joy. The intelligent and sophisticated `Indaco' is sobering piano-lifted introspection with sublime scratchy Mellotron blasts and deeply heart- wrenching soloing guitar emotion, making for another standout moment that prog fans will completely fall for. `Maschere' has brash and crunching bombastic breaks, and closer `Esistono Ore Perfette' bristles with a touch of danger and an air of regal pomp, the piece perfectly encapsulating the sound of the classic Le Orme years, just given a modern approach (although it disappointingly fades out prematurely mid guitar solo - boo!).

`Era' is the sort of album that requires patient listening. On the surface, many of the tracks have the same basic structure ' tight songs with raspy vocals that rarely stop, reprising choruses with short little instrumental bursts here and there, and maybe a slightly extended outro once in a while. For some listeners, attention might wane, but commit to multiple spins, and very quickly the power and refinement of Nathan's music becomes apparent. There might be flashier bands around, but Nathan's secret weapon and their strength lies in how skilfully and delicately implemented all their instrumental touches are, and it helps make `Era' another superb effort from the fellas. If you like modern acts like Logos and Panther & C but still want music respectful of the vintage Italian prog masters (especially Le Orme), this quiet achiever of an album will be just for you, and with 2018 seemingly a little quieter on the Italian prog front, Nathan might just have released one of the standout albums from that country for the year.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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