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Antonius Rex - Praeternatural  CD (album) cover

PRAETERNATURAL

Antonius Rex

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.13 | 13 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars "Welcome to our long night..."

What a fascinating work `Praeternatural' is in the discography of the cult that is Antonius Rex. Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton offer an album that takes in all the different sides of the Jacula/Antonius Rex projects, as it moves through the hypnotic, sinister moods of the early days, the experimentation of `Zora', the lush progressive rock/Italian RPI stylings of `Ralefun' and finally heading into the synthesized spooky soundscapes that would soundtrack their modern works...it would just take them about 20 years to get there for that era to be fully realized.

`Praeternatural' essentially makes for a continuous piece of music, like you're moving through a haunted house, each room offering a different kind of psychological, emotional or supernatural assault - take your pick. That mood maintains the whole time, and it provides a darkly ambient soundtrack. This particular album might be a good starting place for newcomers to the band who want to tread carefully. Here the band is more melodic, atmospheric and incorporate a wider range of genres that may make it more accessible and approachable to listeners. It definitely lacks the outright violent and uncomfortable menace of the earlier works, but is never lightweight or totally easy-going.

Howling winds open `Halloween', which instantly tells you what to expect from the album. A dramatic mix of ghostly taunting piano, churning thick orchestral synths and Bartoccetti's macabre guitar riffing. Make sure to listen out for some gloriously murky and slinky bass that murmurs and snakes it's way around the backdrop of the synths and spectral piano about half way through. It's surprising then that, considering the track name of the opening piece, it's the second track `Fatsum et Violentia' instead that more or less rips off the piano melody from the 70's horror movie classic `Halloween'! It's a short brooding interlude with mucky synthesized orchestration and creepy mood effects.

The title track opens with slightly off acoustic guitar over some razor sharp, cutting and disorientating electronic effects and brief repeated narration before immense and booming glorious church organ over a stop-start drum pattern and searing electric guitar soloing from Bartoccetti. But most surprising of all - wait until 6 minutes in, when the drumming suddenly becomes more uptempo, almost dance beats, and Doris Norton doubles on jazzy piano soloing and fiery Mini- Moog noodling that would be more at home on an album from Canterbury Scene legends Caravan or romantic proggers Camel! It sounds like nothing else the band has done before or since, and it's really infectious and quite upbeat. Both Bartoccetti and Norton sound really full of joy and life on this piece! Then Antonio joins in with some driving guitar, before a truly baffling end - the track just stops, no fadeout, no big finale, just grinds to a halt. One minute he's wailing away, and then it's gone. A serious letdown to a very memorable and unique Rex piece.

Side B's `Monsegur Legend' is another shorter interlude/bridging piano/acoustic guitar distraction with unpleasant dark ambient backing. `Capturing Universe' builds a repetitive or trance-like effect around dark and ominous deep groaning male choir vocals looped over and over amongst snarling lead guitar chugging hellfire from Bartoccetti. `Invisible Force' ends our journey with another Rex/Jacula trademark - the stalking and hallucinatory sound collage/experimental piece. This one is full of wicked devilish children's voices, creaking doors, scratching and footsteps interspersed with a maddening tiptoeing piano melody and unnerving groaning synth orchestration. It ends with an oddly triumphant and grand organ finale, which means we've either made it to safety, or perished and crossed over to the other side...

The LP reissue from Black Widow looks stunning, from the horror comic-book styled front cover, to the eerie photos of Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton surprisingly dressed in psychedelic hippie colours on the inner sleeve! Especially intriguing are some additional photos of gothic ornaments and bedchambers.

While it's not a true classic in their catalogue, I do think `Praeternatural' may provide a perfect `sampling' of the many faces of Jacula/Rex for the new fan. They'll get an instant and fascinating overview of the different directions the band experimented with at various points in their career, and they can decide which album they might like to look at next. To my ears, it's also very successful at creating several uneasy and haunting mood pieces, an extended supernatural journey which is exactly what you want in an Antonius Rex album.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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