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Aton's - Caccia Grossa  CD (album) cover

CACCIA GROSSA

Aton's

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.94 | 6 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator
RPI
4 stars La gioia della Musica

After reading a recent review of the new Anglagard album by one of our esteemed collaborators I got to thinking about the impact the Swedish band have had and how it compares with the baby footprint left by Aton's, one of the leading RPI groups of the recent past. It's my understanding that Scandinavian and Italian artists were at the epicentre of the prog revival of the nineties, but whereas Anglagard seem to have had the Midas touch in that they produced one of the seminal albums of the decade, an album that is perhaps emblematic for the prog revival itself, an album that on its own has attracted something approaching one thousand ratings for the band - and their new album has already garnered nearly two hundred ratings - the six albums by Aton's listed on ProgArchives currently have a paltry seventeen ratings between them. And that inequable distribution of ratings is in spite of one of their tracks, 'Buio', having featured regularly on MTV.

In spite of their fringe status on this site Aton's helped to pave the way for the restoration in prog rock that was ongoing during the nineties, with foundations that were laid years earlier; they had actually been on the go since 1977 so were intrinsic to the development of Italian prog, even if their role appears unimpressive and they weren't able to flex the same kind of muscle as Anglagard. As an axis that unites seventies and modern RPI, Aton's must surely be one of the site's best-kept secrets and I'm genuinely puzzled at the paucity of reviews for the band. Okay, they are one of the more mainstream examples of the RPI subgenre and 'Caccia Grossa' stands for a collision of RPI, Neo-Prog and synth-pop that's about as far from the monolithic and menacing 'Hybris' as you could get. And while the 13- minute 'Sinfonia No. 2...' showcases Aton's at their most ambitious and symphonic, there just seems to be a touch of the burlesque to this rather mediocre and long-titled instrumental; for me their main strength is their songwriting. From the standpoint of degrees or levels of prog rock content, if you were to do a comparative study between 'Hybris' and 'Caccia Grossa' Anglagard's dissonance, virtuosity and complexity would most likely hold sway. But for me it's like trying to compare a windswept hike across the icy Scandinavian mark with a romantic cruise around the warm Mediterranean coastline in a lateen-rigged felucca.

Speaking of which the first sounds heard on the album are of waves breaking on the shore at the beginning of 'Maggio di Sant'Elena', Aton's majestic vision of Napoleon Bonaparte as the Romantic hero. The song presents the melancholy that rises in the emperor's heart and he cuts a lonely figure looking out to sea, driven to an inglorious end he did not foresee and haunted by memories of drum rolls and daring cavalry charges of victorious campaigns. I don't know whether Mark Knopfler ever heard Aton's but his song about the little corporal on his mid-nineties 'Golden Heart' album recalls the campfire jig halfway through 'Maggio di Sant'Elena' although Knopfler's song presents the common soldier's point of view rather than Bonaparte's.

If Bonaparte's exile on St Helena was his lowest point, prog rock was arguably at a nadir in the late eighties although that would soon change. Despite my early interest in Italian prog rock - I bought PFM's 'Photos Of Ghosts' and 'The World Became The World' on their original release in the early-seventies - I wasn't aware at the time of the depth of the scene in Italy, just as I wasn't aware of the mushrooming of prog music during the nineties. That revival might not have been possible without a combination of CD reissues, technological advances such as the Internet and the socio-political upheaval of the period. Some of these events have resonance on this album, such as The Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 which had a knock-on effect in Italy with its transition from the First to the Second Republic, from bribesville to clean hands. Additionally, the signing of the Maastricht treaty in the following year led to the European Union and from then everything, including prog rock, snowballed. Coincidence I daresay, but the Italian economy finally overtook that of Britain in the late eighties at the same time as the Italian prog scene was once again flourishing. Events like these seem to underpin the songs on this album and for me the titular tower of 'La Torre Tradita' provides a metaphor for the transformed and united Italy standing sentinel over the symbols of war, the arts and religion of the nation's past and future.

This engagement with Italian history seems to continue on the title-track (the album title translates roughly as 'Big Game Hunt') and this song depicts a forest scene with strummed charango reinforcing the pastoral feel. There's nothing in the music to transmit the plight of the forest inhabitants but when the lyrics come into the equation it's a different story. A shadow falls over the forest valley as a hunter and his dogs arrive to wage war on the birds and their little allies, like Il Duce and his Fascist militia during their March on Rome. The woods become a death-trap as the birds are torn feather from feather and a strange silence replaces the music of the forest. To me the song signifies the bravery of the Italian troops who were massacred when they refused to surrender Cephalonia to the Germans, or the burning alive of the villagers of Boves in 1943. (Contrast these incidents with the myth of Italian cowardice that resulted from allied propaganda during WWII, e.g. jokes about the number of reverse gears on Italian tanks).

After a lapse of twenty years since their debut, Anglagard's new album reinforces their leading position in the land of the prog giants. Meanwhile 'Caccia Grossa' remains criminally overlooked and I guess the final nail in the coffin for the album was that following its release the Contempo record company quickly folded (the album artwork of a warrior with downward-pointed spear symbolising universal destruction seems prophetic), with the result that finding a copy of the album is no halfpenny matter. If you see it on sale for a reasonable sum you should bite the seller's hand off. A recent discussion in the forum centred on a call for the introduction of a Melodic Prog category. If such a category did exist 'Caccia Grossa' would surely deserve to feature among its top albums because it's a true celebration of the wonderful gift of melody. Aton's may be lying in decay deep within the bowels of RPI obscurity but none of the shiny stuff of 'Caccia Grossa' has worn off. The band's name is taken from Aten, or Aton, the deified disc of the sun in Egyptian mythology, and the blazing light of the joy of music bursts forth from this rare treasure.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |

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