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Minstrel - Faust CD (album) cover

FAUST

Minstrel

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.24 | 26 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

andrea
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Minstrel began life in Bergamo in 1991 playing covers of bands such as Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Whitesnake, Queensryche, Savatage and Helloween to name but a few. As years passed by the band added many other influences and musical colours to their musical palette. In 1997 they released a first, still immature, demo tape, "New Life", featuring their own early original compositions. After some line up changes and many troubles, in 2000 Minstrel released their real debut album, "Faust", a rock opera inspired by the work of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. On this album the line up features Mauro Ghilardini (piano, keyboards), Michele Savoldelli (guitars), Gianpaolo Pasini (drums), Marco Fiorina (bass) plus the guest Giuseppe Peracchi (clarinet). Five singers share the vocal parts interpreting the different characters of the opera: Mario Bertasa (narrator), Mauro Ghilardini (Faust), Davide Ferrari (Mefistofele), Giorgio Sala (Pater Ecstaticus) and Silvia Semperboni (Margherita). On account of the low budget the album was recorded in less than a week, probably not enough for such an ambitious project. Nonetheless, thanks to the great musicianship of all the people involved in the recording sessions, the result is excellent.

Minstrel's "Faust" is an opera in two acts that opens with "Preludio ? Una foresta, una storia" (Prelude ? A forest, a story), a short spoken track where a narrator introduces the story... "I was born among spires of high gliding cathedrals...". The mysterious narrator, dressed as a medieval bard, invites you to listen to his words experiencing the emotions that only the old art of storytelling can give. That said, he bows and leaves on the first chords of the opera...

"Bellatrix" (Act I - Scene I) starts calmly, with a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio. The curtain slowly opens revealing Faust kneeling, turned towards a star called Bellatrix, in the constellation Orion. The operatic voice of Mauro Ghilardini soars towards the star drawing a beautiful, melodic lay prayer to the light of knowledge... "You still shine / Where the grey sky embraces my pain / You still shine / Dry the cry with your tepid warmth...". Then the heartfelt notes of an evocative electric guitar solo lead to the next scene...

On "Mefistofele" (Act I - Scene II) twelve bell strokes bring Faust back to reality. He stands up and decides to walk looking for his castle, a Kafkaesque metaphor for Knowledge. As he walks his fears dance around him until he's tired and stops... "No friendly hand could trace the never-ending way for us, mortal wanderers dispersed on the sea / There's no wind to push me away / Now I sit down depressed and I slowly close my eyes...". An electric guitar solo leads to the meeting between Faust and the evil character of Mephistopheles who is biding his time nearby. An intense, theatrical operatic duet follows. Mephistopheles leads Faust on the way to the castle while demons and witches slowly appear around them "Let us open the confused dance / With the bitter smell of an ancient time... Pape satan, pape satan aleppe...".

On the next scene Faust approaches the castle. "Il castello" (The Castle - Act I - Scene III) begins with a frenzied rhythm and you can imagine Faust running towards the castle. Then the rhythm calms down... "Cold is the evening / That dark cloud is now gone / Sounds of stones and thorns make endlessly dream / Beyond the wind...". Faust has to face his doubts and his fears. He decides to interrogate what's left of his soul and his fears reply while an electric guitar solo leads the dance of anguish. Bellatrix still shines in the sky and lightens the way giving Faust new energies, pushing him beyond the wind, over the fears, closer and closer to the castle.

"Faust" (Act II ? Scene I) is a long, complex track featuring sudden changes in rhythm and atmosphere. Faust is inside the castle and begins to sing ecstatically in German some verses by Goethe... "Waldung, sie schwankt heran...". Well, the same verses inspired also, among others, Gustav Mahler for the second part of his Symphony n. 8 and Robert Schumann. Anyway here the result is quite different and the fight between good and evil is expressed with all the energy of a rock band and a strong theatrical emphasis in the vocal parts. Mephistopheles claims Faust's soul but Faust repents and is helped by the character of Pater Ecstaticus and by an army of angels. The battle between angels and demons rages on and in the end the angels prevail, helped by the Virgin Mary, Mater Gloriosa. The piece ends with Faust singing in English some verses taken from the Sonnet n. 39 by William Shakespeare... "Oh how thy worth with manners may I sing / When thou art all the better part of me? / What can mine own praise to mine own self bring and what is 't but mine own when I praise thee? / Even for this, let us divided live / And our dead love lose name of single one / That by this separation I may give / That due to thee which thou deservest alone...".

The next track, "La neve" (Act II ? Scene II), opens with a short electric guitar solo la Santana, then from an acoustic guitar pattern the voice of Faust delicately soars. The battle is over and Faust goes out from the castle. Now he is surrounded by the snow that here is a metaphor for the troubles of life. Faust is full of regrets and misses an old love... "If I saw her open in flowers / Perhaps I'd flee from my agonies / I'm searching for the dawn...". The character of Pater Ecstaticus appears again to comfort him and a vocal duet follows drawing a melancholic atmosphere. Pater Ecstaticus is moved and he melts in the air. After a while he comes back with Faust's sweetheart, Margherita, then he quits leaving the two lovers alone. A romantic duet between Faust and Margherita follows and the stars of life shine again for them... "You shine on me, since I was a child we whispered in the evening... I live in you... Yes, you live in me... Life starts now... It still shines...".

"Finale (Ogni viaggio) (Finale - Each travel) concludes the opera. The narrator comes back on stage to tell us that every story is like a journey, with its taverns, tears and mists hanging on a pond... And a delicate music that accompanies us and solitary shines in our night. Now we are ready to begin now a new journey...

andrea | 4/5 |

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