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Akron - La Signora del Buio CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.33 | 7 ratings

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4 stars Italian doom-prog debut

Akron is an Italian symphonic doom-prog band who released two albums on the Black Widow record label. The band is the project of Enio "Akron" Nicolini, who is also the bass player for the famous Italian heavy-doom band The Black. Here Enio was dabbling more in a symphonic vein, and while they are not a Jacula clone, they could be described as a band that would appeal to Jacula/Antonius Rex fans. While Jacula had heavy classical influence, here the basis is heavier, brooding symphonic prog-rock, and if I'm not mistaken I'd say there is just a little bit of a post-punk energy in these participants. The composition is a bit more youthful and carefree here than on the follow-up, sometimes clumsy, na´ve, but always full of integrity. Akron does not "feel" as dark as Jacula/Rex. The themes are certainly dark and doomy, but here they feel more fictional whereas sometimes Jacula/Rex can get uncomfortably authentic for some listeners.

The Akron sound is ominous and ritualistic....the soundtrack to the walk up the path to a dark castle. What makes the Akron sound unique is the lack of guitar and the huge bass presence. While there is a little bit of electric guitar here and there, the lead instrument is Enio's bass, and in some cases dual-bass assaults courtesy of Daniel Dixon. The other lead is the substantial keyboard presence, mostly synthesizers and Hammond, the duties shared by Alice di Francescantonio and Gabriele Di Monte. Doomy and some might say a bit cheesy at times, the synths, Hammond, and even simulated harpsichord weave a magical journey of mood and mystery. It forms a satisfying and sinister cloak of dark rock sound with the lead bass. Atop that we have the forceful and rough vocals of Eugenio Mucci who sometimes sounds like he was out all night drinking and smoking before the session, but he has passion, and is for the most part perfect in this role. Lea Palmieri handles the drums here and shines in the ritual thudding of toms. Slow and oppressive, she plays not unlike Albert Goodman on the first Antonius Rex album, or perhaps like Lori Barbero at half speed. The pieces drift along one to the next like a soundtrack sometimes, like storytelling music. The pace of the music is often slow and deliberate, as is the playing, but I think it would be a mistake to confuse this style for somehow less interesting than fast, complex music.

While the tracks can be quite heavy at times, the foggy keyboards and brooding bass guitars can also be played with a delightful minimalism, a sparseness that allows you to focus on each part and truly enjoy it. I love these moments of space between sounds, which feature vocal parts coming and going. The vocals can also be either quite rough, or gentle and lost sounding, mournful, sad, sometimes delirious. While the ingredients are kept simple and devoid of "flash" playing, what they do with their parts is often just unique and fascinating. There are a couple of instances where the guitar or keys are exploited for odd rhythmic sound as opposed to their traditional use. They almost choke some different sound from them in these moments. Enthusiasm for the material, great timing for effect, and an ability to find cool, dark, lovely sound seem to be strong assets of Akron. The music is dark and passionate, but overall the effect on me is one of peace and melancholy. This is very special music and I've only found a few albums that provide this kind of musical experience.

I'm in very subjective territory with Akron, in contrast to my usual habit of weighing my taste versus objective factors. I love music like this and I'm going to rate it accordingly even though many proggers will not dig this----the same is true for my love for the Jacula sound. So you've had your caveat here, I'm a bit of a fanboy for Italian theatrical doom. These bands are not for everyone and they can be "campy" or pompous to many, but I'm not willing to downplay the rating based on what I believe Transatlantic or Crimson fans would think of my guilty pleasures. This music, which takes me to dark castles and introduces me to the inhabitants is great fun, even if it is a bit cheesy sometimes. Something strange happened as I absorbed the band's two albums. At first I thought the more elaborate second album was the better one, but I've come to the conclusion that the first has more of the personality I enjoy. The sound, the production, the writing, and the playing all would seem to improve on the next album, and yet, this is the one I'm drawn to. Can't explain that except to say I sometimes prefer the searching to the end game. Sometimes youthful indiscretions are more fun that musical advances or maturity. Not always of course, but sometimes.

If you are a fan of this kind of music, be sure to secure a copy of the Akron albums while they are still in print. The booklet is brief and contains only Italian lyrics and credits. The back panel of the booklet contains alternate "cover art" that is pretty cool, with another witchy lady.

A special thanks to Ozzy Tom for bringing this band to the attention of the RPI team.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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