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Janus - Al Maestrale CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.90 | 11 ratings

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3 stars Janus was formed in 1976 by young members of the Italian right wing Il Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), the youth front of which organised cultural events called Campi Hobbit (Hobbit fields) from 1977-81. The campi were of course named after the well-known novel by J. R. R. Tolkien and the author's work in general provided a cultural touchstone for the politicised youth of the right. This was mainly due to Italian philosopher Elemine Zolla's introduction (which was interpreted as neo-fascist) to the first edition of the 'Lord of the Rings' novel in 1970, but also in part because of Tolkien's regard for Nordic culture.

Progressive folk band La Compagnia dell'Anello (The Fellowship of the Ring) was another of the leading right wing formations (although Janus was undoubtedly foremost among them, even having a tribute album released in 1990s) and both groups took part in the inaugural campo at Montesarchio in June 1977. In fact there is also a strong folk element to 'Il Maestrale' thanks to its frequent flute and recorder forays, although overall it's a truly eclectic work and the wah wah on 'Tempo di Vittoria' (Time of Victory) that rounds out the album recalls the ramshackle vigour of Guru Guru. Anyway, by the time Janus played at the same event in the following year guitarist Stefano Recchioni was dead, having been shot and mortally wounded by police gunfire during a political riot that became known as the Massacre of Acca Larentia; singer-songwriter Fabrizio Marzi dedicated the song 'Giovinezza' to the memory of Recchioni.

Another important figure to the right wing was Julius Evola who placed great importance on mythology. He saw it as the intersection of history and superhistory, and the likes of Arthurian legend and, as a consequence, the Celtic cross became important symbols for the MSI. You might wonder where this review is going but the album is a product of the Italian right wing and all the above strands come together in the album's art and its title- track: 'How I love you, mistral wind... we are born of one womb... we were forever predestined to be heirs to heavy burdens and great battles... climb higher and hang in the sky because the world will see it and be truer.' The artwork mirrors these words with a Norse longboat climbing into the sky above the sea, its sail emblazoned with the Celtic cross that dominated the campi skylines. And similar themes recur throughout the album - a blistering guitar rips through the bedlam of the Arthurian-inspired 'Il Ritorno del Cavaliero Nero' (The Return of the Black Knight), while 'King of the Fairies' (based on Alberich, the dwarf chieftain who guards the treasure of the Nibelungen) is all folksy recorder and psychedelic organ.

Getting specific on the few lyrics on the album, 'Il Fuoco e La Spada' (Fire and Sword) concerns the 'just' fight of the last of a race of warriors riding on celestial steeds: 'I am an exile on this earth, inhabited by small scheming men without honour... yet I see a new sun will rise to illuminate the few hearts that were pure, free and proud and true.' Sonically this track is reminiscent of Calvert-era Hawkwind, but their take on the crisis of Italian terrorism, the hectic 'Manifestazione Non Autorizzata' (Unauthorised Demonstration), is even punkier and carries a less ambiguous message: 'the joy of the struggle and the victory' against the safe side 'who live by dollars and roubles.'

Of historical importance, 'Il Maestrale' is also *extremely* rough around the edges which probably makes it one for RPI aficionados only.

seventhsojourn | 3/5 |


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