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Il Balletto di Bronzo - Ys CD (album) cover

YS

Il Balletto di Bronzo

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.19 | 365 ratings

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coasterzombie
5 stars I can think of no other band making such an enormous jump from one album to the next than Il Balletto di Bronzo. Their 1970 debut Sirio 2222 was a heavy psych/proto metal release - solid, but not exactly Prog. Enter Gianni Leone: The keyboardist and singer brought with him an arsenal of sound-shaping instruments, a challenging and frenetic energy, and an ostentatious concept with accompanying lyrics. Ys was the result...a rock band playing opera music...not a rock opera, mind you, but a full-fledged opera in five movements or "encounters," all designed to paint a bleak, apocalyptic vision. Often described as a masterpiece of the Italian movement, I can think of no better word to describe it; Ys is unquestionably a masterpiece of RPI, though each listener will approach and leave it a bit differently. But each one is undoubtedly changed, at first unsure why such brashness and violently terrifying arrangement and instrumentation is necessary to achieve its purpose, but eventually reaching the realization that they have experienced something special and different. It is that singular experience that makes Ys a work of art.

The chilling, siren-like voice that announces "Introduzione" is a now iconic moment in prog, but it's easy to see why upon release Ys was largely misunderstood or even avoided. This is not a lullaby. "Introduzione" is a 15-minute nightmare, taking the listener on a startling musical journey. Leone sings competently enough but it's his keyboard work that takes front and center - a battery of organ, piano, Moog, Mellotron and plucked keys generously drive the group, while the remaining band plays more of a support role. This is particularly true of guitar, which typically takes a back seat to drums and bass. The apropos accompaniment perfectly showcases Leone's grand scheme, and allows his brand of calculated insanity to roam and soar. The end of "Introduzione" prefaces "Primo Incontro," the first of three short movements. The combination of twisted tremolo guitar and unexpected spinet is an enticing combination, with plenty of explosive drum work and tasteful bass playing that only adds to the complex track.

"Secondo Incontro" is the closest Ys ever gets to traditional rock music, as Leone sings a bluesy introduction that quickly transforms into a brilliant vocal melody, frighteningly supported by Mellotron. The snare drum pops and bounces like a ping pong ball while bass slyly segues to "Terzo Incontro." This third encounter features organ and choir, as drums bubble under the surface, only coming up for air at the end of each phrase in a tense fashion. This suspenseful tension is fully heightened in "Epilogo," which begins with a repeating sextuplet figure before establishing something far more sinister. If you want to sleep tonight, I would strongly recommend skipping the middle of "Epilogo." Get up, grab a drink, check the mail, whatever. Don't come back for five minutes. The morbidly curious will likely be scared beyond imagination. Those that survive are generously rewarded with one of the most haunting moments in all of Italian Prog. You should already own Ys, but if you don't, get it now.

coasterzombie | 5/5 |

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