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Antonius Rex - Per Viam CD (album) cover


Antonius Rex


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.15 | 25 ratings

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3 stars A legend returns in 2009

Incredibly, the legend of Antonius Rex continues strong with a new album 40 years after the first Jacula release in 1969. "Per Viam" is the new studio album from Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton picking up where 2006's "Switch on Dark" left off. The long running husband/wife compositional team is joined this time out by drummer Florian Gorman, medium Monika Tasnad, and their son Rexanthony. Along with "Switch," the pair is at the top of their game, producing the most exciting music they have made since the early 1970s. The darkness remains of course but the sound is almost post-modern, pushing the boundaries with a mixture of styles and textures that make them hard to compartmentalize. The moods and feelings invoked by self-proclaimed "Mysticdrug for the next generation" are always in conflict: fear and darkness in one moment, and a strange calming peace in the next. They are certainly a much different trip than the "next big thing" release proclaimed by the big prog sites and should appeal to those fans who always claim to be looking for something different. Rex proves that simple melodies and hooks can be just as satisfying to proggers than a bunch of avant manic thrashing.

For those who know only the 1970s Jacula/Rex sound, the modern Antonius Rex is very much updated but also holds dear a bit of the traditional sounds. Their last two albums feature mixtures of high energy, industrial-techno rock with traditional symphonic piano, synth, and organ melodies. Add in vocals that can be either spoken word or sung, male, female, or choirs, and you have a sound that is rich, luxurious, sensual, decadent, and yes.....very dark. "Per Viam" overall seems to have a bit more bite than "Switch." Whereas "Switch" seemed to have sections with beguiling melodies sung by females and accompanied by piano, "Per Viam" has more crunching SG guitar, more male vocals, a bit more venom. Think of taking the proto-Goth organ and mystic vocals of Jacula but injecting it with some Nine Inch Nails attitude. "Micro Demons" opens the album with a monstrous, sludgy chords and the horrific screams of actual demons bringing you face to face with a wraith. Soon Doris brings some nice keys in for balance. "Per Viam" is all about tension with a march style drum beat and frantic simulated strings, you feel as if you are being chased. Suddenly Antonio busts into the first of many fine solos and it is a joy to hear this man wail better than ever after all these years. He is often compared to Sabbath/Iomni by writers and I can tell you he is every bit as talented as Tony is, conveying great darkness with his chords and knocking out some nasty good solos. "Woman of the King" is our first chance to catch our breath, a lovely 9 minute elaboration of keyboard soundscapes by Doris. Soon the loveliness is crushed by the ever present darkness lurking around every corner, here we can hear some unfortunate soul meeting what sounds like an awful demise to Antonio's narration. From there it moves into a steamy metal section with good chugging, heavy drumming and choirs over female gasps....getting a bit Therion here....hell yeah!! "Spectra" is typical Rex sound vision with lots of effects and some hyper-metal soloing by Antonio over various beats. "Angels and Demons" would be the easy choice for a single, a beautifully constructed track with many layers: choir-vocals over heavy guitar riffs alternating with acoustic guitar and piano.

For the last two tracks the album shifts gears and looks to the past. First, we are treated to a remake of Jacula's "UFDEM" which reminds me all over again why I LOVE the voice of Doris Norton. God she sings beautifully. Here the original 1972 vocal is given the pure heavy metal treatment with loud guitar. I much prefer the original arrangement to be honest, but I'd listen to Doris no matter the circumstances. Then we have an interesting 11 minute piece fully titled "Antonius Rex Prophecy: Tiring original prophecy 1948:61st Anniversary Edition." Hmmm....since Charles Tiring has been dead for years, his writing credit here is presumably for an old idea. Although if anyone could arrange to work with a dead man, it would be Antonio, so perhaps he was channeled. The track is a long narration by Antonio over serene keyboards and some guitar in parts, a more peaceful ending to the album. The final closing guitar solo by Antonio is simply beautiful and majestic.

Recommended to any fan of dark prog. A bonus CD-ROM video of "Micro Demons" is included, and the even better video for "Angels and Demons" can be viewed at their website. The tri-fold digipak design comes with wonderful artwork, the cover art is among their most memorable ever. This album and "Switch on Dark" are easy recommendations for anyone wishing to sample the modern Rex. I certainly hope this is not the last we hear from this duo who seem to be experiencing a renaissance of creativity.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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