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Altare Thotemico - Altare Thotemico CD (album) cover


Altare Thotemico


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.20 | 17 ratings

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4 stars Saucy, lively, tenacious! This band has heart

Altare Thotemico based in Ancona are the latest band attempting to provide new material in the spirit of the classic RPI sound and they succeed better than many recent efforts-which means they will thrill fans of the real spicy stuff while perhaps being too hot for the casual fan who expects all RPI to sound like a gentle Le Orme passage. The member's different ages and backgrounds have allowed a true amalgam of musical diversity to unfold. Altare's new release is from Maracash Records, another of the fine labels handling Italian prog. The music draws on a variety of styles and influences from psych, blues, avant, and jazz flavored rock, while the generous keyboards and bold vocals get the RPI juices flowing. Most important is the sense of playfulness and passion that was a hallmark of the classic period bands. Often newer bands are very technically gifted but lack that sense of musical mischief and soul-Altare Thotemico have not forgotten. Oh yes, we have a feast here! This is the kind of album which I find thrilling and rare these days. First, it rocks without any noticeable metal influence. Remember when rock could be damn heavy without metal influence or obligatory shredding? Second, it sounds warm and homey on the production side rather than overly slick and coldly mechanical. Third, surprises! Yes, we have songs here that will try anything and everything, even injecting pure weirdness like they used to do in the old days. Thankfully there are almost no English vocals; most singing is fantastic dramatic Italian.

The nine medium length tracks total an hour of interesting prog-rock, and I mean that quite literally: interesting! Not for a second is this album boring. A variety of fantastic keyboards permeate every track, even organ to open the appropriately darker "Demon" which reminded me of Antonius Rex. Gianni Venturi is the bold and outrageous vocalist in the grand RPI tradition, big and dramatic, capable of sounding off-his-rocker sometimes, untamed, imagine a bit of Decamps, Stratos, and Fella (Jumbo)! There are lovely flute sections to give the mellower segments that '70s touch. And the guitars....oh yeah! Some very cool off-color acoustic moments as well as scorching solos, without resorting to unnecessary shredding. I'm impressed very much by the mountains of interesting ideas which are strong and complex while remaining fun. The musicians seem to be enjoying an improvisational approach towards one another, taking plenty of time to develop some really nice jams, while being equally adept at supporting the vocals or experimenting with quieter moments.

The album is instantly enjoyable and moving despite the fact that it pushes away anything obvious or easy. It opens with a gorgeous pastoral swirl of flute and clean guitar, one of the few moments that actually conjure the serene and excellent cover art of Maracash's own Domizia Parri. (Most of the album is heavier and wilder than the peaceful album cover portends). Slowly soft keyboards usher in the passionate vocals of "Il Canto che Sprofonda." Things veer toward vintage heavy psych in "Lo Sciamano" with some great drum playing and guitar that eventually just completely grooves! The groovin' continues into "L'interessante vita del topo" with the vocals going over-the-top wild as the memories of harder-bluesy RPI come to mind: JET, Biglietto, perhaps De De Lind. You'll hear some obnoxious, almost absurdist vocals on "Computer Organico" that will scare your family....I loved every second as the song moves into avant-garde territory. "L'addormato" starts getting jazzy but closes with this cool guitar thing that reminds me of a Steve Howe earth-lava moment from Yessongs. "La mente mia" is maybe the heaviest full band jam but eventually it breaks into a superb guitar solo over keys. "Suite per Marianna" gives us a lovely acoustic intro and outro with flute and gentle bass guitar. Closer "Oltre" again just gets nuts with moments that sound like experimental space jazz channeling the Pholas Dactylus album. They are "out there" on this song! Wow-this album just makes me smile start to finish, that's really all I need to say. I need a cigarette after playing this CD.

Be aware that Altare Thotemico is not especially entry-level RPI. While much of the music is I think universally approachable, the delivery and style of vocalist Venturi demands listeners willing to go to the edge with him. He is a true poet who I sense lives to get beyond the conventional, and while I don't understand the Italian lyrics, goes into a recitation style at times perhaps even channeling characters and such. It gets wild in that Ange theatrical sense so do not expect to chill out to a serene Le Orme vocal. I was told Venturi is a fan of the beat poets and writers ala "Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Cassady, Burroughs, Hemingway and Raymond Carver" and the listener must be willing to embrace some adventure, stop shaving, pick up some hitchhikers and go "on the road" with a lot of wine and dreams. As they say on their website: "....this is where Poetry meets Music and this blend turns into something incredibly powerful, pure ENERGY! Whatever happens, this is our key word, our motto, and we believe ourselves to be carriers of an unrestrainable virus called "Soul!"

The booklet features lyrics in Italian and a series of photos that suggest the band truly enjoys their collaborative experience. Altare Thotemico have made my kind of RPI album: little inhibition, lots of ideas, a joyful approach, and a willingness to offend the mainstream prog fan. Each song is a mini album of its own independent of the others. In another great year for RPI this one is pretty much essential for lovers of the genre. God I hope they make another album someday.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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