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Mangala Vallis - Lycanthrope CD (album) cover

LYCANTHROPE

Mangala Vallis

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.59 | 51 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
3 stars Somehow, there are always first impressions when listening avidly to a new release and they often determine at the very least whether there is any future pleasure in reliving the experience and even feeling it grow in intensity. I have had perfect first impressions as well as the radical opposite, mostly a certain neutral attitude and then getting blown away later. Sometimes, I never can quite get over the hump, though I am fortunate, 95% that I buy, I like a lot! This is one of those "enigmas", I still can't figure out the stumbling blocks that prevent me for loving this second release by Mangala Vallis. I enjoyed the debut intensely, because there were so many positives (tons of mellotron, great playing all around, gorgeous cover art and production, finally some interesting but very unoriginal "usual suspects influenced" vocals that fit the retro mood perfectly. The Łber-Genesis inspiration was admirable, even though it was clearly very unapologetic about bandying about their "raison d'Ítre". Truth is the songs were palpably vibrant and even exhilarating. With this sophomore work, already the artwork got under my skin as a somewhat graphic demonstration of bad taste. I mean on a Darryl Way's Wolf album, it would be acceptable in view of that band's moniker! Here, it just looks plain silly! Then, the famed ex- PFM and Acqua Fragile singer Bernardo Lanzetti is now on full-time ,after guesting on the previous 'album final track. He is far from my idea of an enjoyable voice, he has always had a propensity to "tremble" and I dislike it intensely. They say he sings like Gabriel, Fish and Hammill. Yeah, right, not exactly at all! My first impression (I was talking about that earlier) of his tone was on PFM's "Chocolate Kings" where the sheer instrumental prowess of the musicians overcame his rather thin performance and I wondered "why him?" ever since! He ain't no Francesco di Giacomo or Aldo Tagliapietra, that's for sure! So, "Lycanthrope" has some first rate Genesis tunes that would have been better served on the main microphone with Ray Wilson and even Uncle Phil Collins! The songs are charcoaled by Lanzetti's neurotic phrasing, the wrong voice regardless of his grand reputation. Now, if Lanzetti wanted to do some bar-room jazz or feel like Tom Waits, fine! But in our critical proggy environment, it must be stated that his singing IMPEDES severely on the enjoyment of the music. There is some mind blowing music here , such as the deep rivulets of rippling bass, magical keyboards textures and positive drumming that are a notch above excellent. Like at Sodom, as soon as Lanzetti sings, I turn to express my displeasure, only to be transformed into a statue of salt! The album starts off with annoying noise effects, police cars, ringing phones, etc.and a final wave of mellotron introduces the storyline of the 4 part Werewolf Suite. Great instrumental barricades are erected with swirling keys laden with majestic orchestrations, raunchy guitar ornamentations, booming bass lines and destructive drumming, all massacred by Lanzetti's disturbed vocals (he makes The Watch's clone-ster vocalist Simone Rossetti sound like Pavarotti !) . Again, the instrumental parts are first rate and cannot be applauded more, especially when the electric guitar decides to go on a whirring journey, weaving deeply into the sonic space, until the mike man returns. Gracefully, the grand piano takes the spotlight on the outro. I am seriously considering getting rid of the vocals and turning this into an instrumental disc. "Call Me Alias" just reinforces my opinion, the same menu of stellar music overshadowed by the voice, the mellotron arrangements alone are sumptuous, burrowing into the pleasure nodes, but Lanzetti is at his worst here, unintelligibly trembling like a babbling fool, words that seem to be in English (they are, mind you Italian lyrics would not have altered his delivery, anyway). Crushing disappointment, as the massive waves of keyboard-driven violins howl convincingly, even allowing a huge guitar sortie that liberally sprinkles Gilmourian exuberance over the entire process. The title track just reinforces the deal, it's becoming harder for me to concentrate on reviewing as my skin continues to raise hairs for the wrong reasons, the upfront reptilian bass keeping the flow aglow, with avid support from drummer Cecchi, sadly demolished by silly vocal inflections and even sillier lyrics (spelling out "Lycanthrope" is just plain idiotic) . I am crying in my minestrone now, wishing it ain't so. I can go on and on but ultimately, I guess the message is clear : Great (at times fabulous) music , full of Genesis/ELP bombast, great instrumental prowess and fascinating pacing , all of it playing second fiddle to the dictatorial voice , as Lanzetti is everywhere .Best example is the brilliant "The Boy That Howls At the Moon" , simply drenched in superlative playing by all, some of the best emotional technique heard in a long time, sadly you know the rest. With a better vocalist, a 5 star album hands down, but Bernardo blows 2 of them out of the sky with his laser-misguided Patriot missile voice. 3 sheep in Wolf's clothing
tszirmay | 3/5 |

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