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Raven Sad - Layers Of Stratosphere CD (album) cover

LAYERS OF STRATOSPHERE

Raven Sad

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.76 | 46 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Are soaring melodic leads your thing?

Raven Sad is an accessible modern prog band from Prato Italy, and this is their third album for Lizards Records, one of Italy's premier labels. The band began in 2005 under the direction of multi-instrumentalist Samuel Santanna and was generally a one-man (with friends) project for a while, this time out he sought a full working band which could be taken live. So along with keyboardist Fabrizio Trinci who had played on the first two albums, they added bassist Giulio Bizzarri and drummer Simone Borsi. The result is a bit less of an ambient experience and a bit more of a muscular band feel, but of course the hazy pleasures of Raven Sad remain. At times they can remind me of Moongarden but that would be only a glancing reference.

It's been some time since I've heard the previous 'We Are Not Alone' but as mentioned the band seems to have morphed from an ambient, droning, trippy space vibe to something more crossover oriented. The songs have a more traditional song structure and less weirdness factor, certainly not what I would classify as 'psychedelic' anymore. And yet it is just as enjoyable with the new Raven Sad sound. We are treated to some robust jamming with plenty of Gilmour/Rothery flavored guitar over delicious keyboard textures, and in addition some piano giving the recording a tinge of RPI appeal as well. The weak spot would be the vocals which are simply average and delivered in accented English instead of Italian, never a good decision. With both male and female vocalists the effect is a bit like the Mindflower albums vocals.

The album starts with astronaut dialogue setting off the cool cover art (love it!), then a heavy throbbing bass and drum beat usher in succinct distortion laden guitar, a wonderful opening segment. Soon the lead guitar leaps into action and never stops, this is a passionate lead guitar lovers kind of album. When a quiet interlude interrupts it is often given to thoughtful piano or other soft keyboard atmospheres, the guitar never being far off. All of the playing is stellar and passionate, the solos have a relaxing and longing effect, sometimes made nicer by wordless female backing vocal accompaniment. There is the inevitable baby crying in one track: have you ever noticed how many Italian albums feature a crying infant? I should start a list, there's a few! It's another intimate little detail in an album filled with sincerity. 'Lies in the Sand' is a 17 minute highlight with some fantastic keyboard sections, more astronaut dialogue, and dreamy soloing, along with some occasional acoustic sections as well. Things even drift into non-prog territory with 'The Highest Cliff' which is essentially a ballad with a heartfelt chord progression. Overall the album is a very tasteful expression and a mature one devoid of some of today's cheesier clich's, the band focusing on mood and lighter ambiance as opposed to boastful theatrics or aggressive look-at-me shred.

Another album for my list of favorite 2011 titles, Raven Sad has officially 'arrived' and I suspect there are more good things to come. As usual three stars seems low and four a bit high, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt today.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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