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Minstrel - Ahab CD (album) cover

AHAB

Minstrel

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.74 | 17 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Minstrel waited for 10 years before releasing their sophomore follow-up to the fabulous "Faust", an absolute shiny icon in my prog collection. That can be a ridiculous interval but so many prog musicians have day jobs and family obligations that one can only patiently wait, even though I must admit I was fearful of another one-shot wonder. Their lusty combination of operatic vocals, driving rhythm section and scorching guitar is a formula to die for, and it is maintained on Ahab in spades (and clubs and diamonds and hearts!) , wasting little time is setting a tempestuous story line adapted from Melville's obligatory classic Moby Dick (was the working title for quite awhile (or should I say 'a whale' !). We all know the story so I won't bother with it, just the music will be appreciated. There are some rampaging tracks here, full of ribald saltiness and maritime thunder, the Brian May-ish blasts from Michele Salvodelli, perpetuating the Queen images in a proggier vein with incredible opera vocals from the leather-lunged Mauro Ghilardini, who is a splendid keyboard player to boot (may I add a delightful gentleman also as per our ongoing messages!). When any album starts off with a track called vengeance, ("Vendetta") you know it won't be a pastoral prelude but a fulminating foray into the raunchier side, getting the frustrated Captain Ahab obsession into the spotlight for all to understand. There are some breathtaking pieces here like the fluid "Partenza" (Departure) and the stormy "Oceano" (obvious) , where all the instrumentalists really shine, a manic guitar wand and unending rhythmic twists and mood turns that immediately reassure the hungry fan that this is primo stuff! On the magnificent "Alba", the audience gets to see another one of those magical moments that was the hallmark of Faust, a gorgeous melody, fragile and elegant, perhaps even sorrowful, a progressive attribute I particularly respond to. The screaming lead guitar only compounds the pain, riding shot gun on the pleasure train, Mauro singing with confident brilliance, like a man possessed (opera will do that to you!). The pace is complex and swift when needed and redolently gentle at other times. "Cacchia" (Hunting) is a serious wink to their compatriots Universal Totem Orchestra, who on their 2 albums really shook my world with insane vocals and choir, brutal guitar/bass/drum onslaughts and machine-gun lyrics sung with fervor. It bucks, weaves and blows like a ship in the torment of a sea hurricane, with a sudden and unexpected wah-wah guitar funk job that stuns by its originality. The singing is out of whack, howling at the moon like some deranged sailor, screaming his agony and despair. Fantastic hard-hitting stuff, this! The steamrolling "Rampone" is where it gets heavy, the phosphoric guitar streaming between the cascading drum buoys, anchoring an insistent drive into the mind with devastating accuracy, Mauro's hell-bent voice ripping in the wind, with occasional lulls of gentle wisp. The devilish laugh is sizzling as well as the drilling synth solo (very Manfred Mann) but the chugging axe flight is the highlight, totally present and unrelenting. "Tempesta" is where the ragazzi want to show their considerable skills, some razor sharp shifts create this aura of uncontrollable power, like a raging tempest, a harpooning guitar doing most of the damage . "Delirio" contributes the more legend based delirium, hushed vocals narrating the senseless fixation of a vengeful, bitter man. The symphonics are lush and memorable, the mood exhilarating. The disc ends with the 16 minute+ "Morte" (Death), a recap of all the previous songs as well as the moral of the sad story, the instruments merging into a rock opera of the finest caliber, craftly conveying the realities of the storyline. Musically, it translates into a more Ferrari racer approach in transmitting the message, some may be turned on or turned off by the harder approach but I believe it suits the band's style well, as they know when to be ruled by restraint. The final effects, acoustic guitar work and suave piano lines are glorious and enchanting; the contrasts are note worthy and maintain the loftiest interest level. On my next run through I will be sailing with the Alberto Bigoni bass, see if that changes anything. While "Faust" remains an untouchable monument, the Ahab adventure has found a coveted niche next to it, lovingly embraced by the masterful artwork, poster and booklet. I am blown away by the quality of the music here and I would like to thank Mauro for contacting me via PA and asking for my verbal (at times verbose) opinion. Guys and gals, get this ! A 4.5 armada sailing directly into Port 5
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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