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Janus - Al Maestrale CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.90 | 11 ratings

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3 stars Nice low-fi mix of hard prog with folk touches

JANUS (formerly JANUM) was a band from Rome who existed from 1975-1981. They carry the unique distinction in RPI history of being one of the few bands who sailed against the prevailing winds of the leftist political counter-culture of the 1970s Italian music scene. Their album "Al Maestrale" is not exactly an RPI classic and has been panned for its weak production, but for an album recorded in just six hours it has some worthwhile moments.

"Al Maestrale" is an RPI mixture of hard-rock a bit like the first two Il Rovescio Della Medaglia albums (not "Contaminazione!") with folk elements, lots of flute, and some nice keyboards. "An Dro" begins with a wonderful combination of flute solo, flanged guitar, and piano. A perfect seafaring anthem that conjures well the painting on the cover. The title track introduces vocals and while nothing to write home about, I've heard worse. Despite the challenged production the sound really isn't that bad, and more importantly the music has heart, I love this kind of homegrown garage work. After a jazzy piano solo the hard rock kicks in with guitars and drums blazing, with the flute coming back over the top. "Trotto" is a cool little flute/bass interlude (or is it a recorder?) at breakneck speed, sort of a folk jig but heavy at the same time. "Il Ritorno del Cavaliere Nero" is a brash number, with slow tortured guitar chords producing a menacing sound, followed by a blistering solo. This is a bit primitive but it is enjoyable.

Side two opens with "Il Fuoco e la Spada" which again has that effects laden guitar strumming with a piano and some punchy drumming, with an eventual overdriven guitar solo. "Neapolis" is a short keyboard interlude with piano and flute and a brisk, marching pace. "Manifestazione non autorizzata" has an abrasive, heavy sound which other sites have said sounds like a clear punk influence, which is possible given the album's date. "King of the Fairies" almost sounds like Ralefun-era Antonius Rex with flute over a primitive bass line, and an erratic, somewhat cheesy synth solo prefacing another heavy guitar solo. I don't know how it does it, but somehow, it works. "Tempo di Vittoria" closes this short album with its most aggressive track last, another fast-paced driving rock number with pure drum bashing, guitar wailing, and a real dingy low-ceilinged live sound.

Reports are that the album was recorded in a dumpy space in six hours flat. Because it often sounds like that I'll issue a buyer-beware warning on this album, but the fact is that I like the album quite a bit. It has the right blend of sass, heartfelt piano, and flute to make it memorable, if not to the usual refined standards of bands with more resources. If you love slightly seedy, hard-rock oriented RPI bands, of which there are quite a few, you may enjoy Janus.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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