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La Maschera Di Cera - Le Porte Del Domani CD (album) cover


La Maschera Di Cera


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.01 | 324 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Fabio Zuffanti is truly a modern Italian progressive icon. His prolific output has included this project La Maschera Di Cera (five albums in and counting), the atmospheric Hostsonaten, Finisterre, the Goblin/horror influenced L'Ombra Della Sera, his solo rock operas, as well as overseeing numerous acts such as heavy psych rockers Oxhuitzan and the sublime solo album from his drummer Maurizio Di Tollo amongst many others. This year, together they are responsible for one of the most high profile and controversial Italian releases, `Le Porte Del Domani', a lavish and stylish production available across a number of formats and variations.

For those unaware, this album is a follow-up or continuation of the classic Le Orme album `Felona E Serona'. Whether this has come about through a true affection and respect for that beloved 70's release, or using it as a notorious way to draw extra attention I'm unsure - possibly both! It shares the same cover artist, alternate English and Italian language versions of the album, 8 tracks ending on an epic instrumental, and occasional moments that borrow particular themes or musical passages from the original album. I don't know if this album was made with Le Orme's blessing, or why for that matter they never got around to making a proper sequel themselves!

There is a case for the point that not only is Fabio blatantly taking advantage of another band and albums' status, but he's shamelessly putting out product that lazily provides every Italian RPI cliche - a `paint by numbers' approach without much in the way of originality, if you will. Some will definitely see it that way. There are other exciting bands emerging or currently establishing themselves in the modern RPI genre that deserve just as much praise, attention and status as this one, who are offering more daring and truly progressive work. However, there is no denying the sheer quality of the production and the playing of the outstanding musicians involved here (keyboardist Agostino Macor and flautist Martin Grice really shine), and they should be proud of what they achieved. Repeated plays thankfully reveal an album that very much stands on it's own identity, and it certainly isn't just a tedious rehash or lazy remake of the Le Orme original.

The darkly psychedelic `Ritorno Dal Nulla' opens Side A of the Italian vinyl copy, Fabio's slinking bass murmurs around Agostino Macor's eerie phasing and shimmering keyboards, gentle percussion gradually growing in tension and tempo before a bombastic Mellotron and flute explosion! This is one of the few sections that features an exact reprise of the opening track on Le Orme's `Felona'. Vocalist Alessandro Corvaglia soon comes in singing accompanied only by a quavering Mellotron, his gruff voice standing out with conviction and power. After the marching drum and chime introduction, the driving acoustic `La Guerra Dei Mille Ani' has all the right RPI ingredients - fiery guitar strumming, passionate vocals, classical grandeur and magical flute, with a real chest-beating and stirring chorus. It's a lovely affectionate track that shows a lot of heart. The interlude `Ritratto Di Lui' is all mystical ambient mystery, before the driving and angry `L'Enorme Abisso' attacks the listener with swirling Wakeman-influenced blaring Minimoog and intimidating Mellotron choirs, pouncing bass, bashing drums from Maurizio and wailing guitar soloing from guest Laura Marsano amongst a whirlwind of hazy sax, flute and electronics. During the grand finale, Allesandro's gravelly tone even takes on Marillion's Fish-like spitting qualities! This piece reminds me so much of that first unpredictable Banco album, and what a way to wrap the first side!

Side B opens with the sedate mystery and beauty of `Ritratto Di Lei', with gothic Mellotron veils, tiptoeing electric piano footsteps and Allessandro's hoarse and passionate voice, with a booming church organ and spiraling piano middle that's so full of RPI classical bombast - again reminding me in particular of Banco. It's soon obliterated by the smashing and sinister `Viaggio Metafisico', Fabio's relentless bass grooving and punching away in the background like he's just stepped in from a Krautrock album, Agostino's keyboards a dreamy blur. `Alba Nel Tempio' slows things back down for a more reflective and placid number, a lush romantic piece with Allesandro's voice full of longing and a majestic and heartfelt guitar solo again from Laura that soars to the heavens. The reflective mood continues initially with the very personal acoustic guitar sounds and introspective flute of `Luce Sui Due Mondi', a real positive vibe dancing all around! We soon get a dynamic reprise of the powerful chorus of the opening track with a bursting imperial keyboard outro. It's then full throttle to the album finish, a dazzling senses-shredding disorientating instrumental. Fuzzy bubbling electronics, crashing 70's Nick Mason-styled percussion, glistening electric piano, shimmering synths, imposing Mellotron walls, all played at varying tempos back and forth with a finale brief salute to the mighty Le Orme at the tail end. An absolute winner.

So is `Le Porte Di Cera' one of the most exciting and must-buy recent Italian progressive releases? Maybe not. Is it well written, beautifully performed and impeccably produced? Absolutely. This album has caught a lot of attention from either curious, lapsed or half-hearted fans, as well as new listeners, so if it serves as an opening to look further around for what's currently going on in the modern RPi genre, that can only be a very good thing. Fabio Zuffanti and his cohorts should be immensely proud of what they've achieved here, and they've definitely set the bar high for the next La Macchera Di era release as well as rasing their own status in the genre.

Four stars - and treat yourself, buy one of stunning vinyl copies!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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