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DRAMMA DI UN POETA UBRIACO

Pandora

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Enter Pandora and what springs from the box!

Pandora is a 4-man band from Cuneo that began in the fall of 2005. Claudio and Beppe Colombo along with Corrado Grappeggia started the project based on their love of '70s progressive rock but with an eye to the future as well. In early 2008 they signed with AMS/BTF and welcomed the addition of guitarist Christian Dimasi to the fold. By the end of the year their debut work "Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco" was released and the band is getting some good early buzz in Italian prog fan circles. On their webpage the band lists influences such as Genesis, Yes, PFM, New Trolls, Dream Theater, and Banco. The mission statement from their site contains one sentence that explains well what they are shooting for as a goal: "to explore various expressions of progressive rock: from hard rock to medieval compositions, jazz and symphonic melodies that inspire large fabulous events and infinites of soul with texts strictly in Italian that go between the personal problems of all of us to the fantasy stories inspired by the symbol of Pandora's box." Homage is certainly paid to the 1970s greats, both Italian and English, but to my ear Pandora is rooted in the present with an eye on reaching the new generation of prog fans.

After a "Wish You Were Here" style "radio-scape" that opens the album the band lunges for a powerful stride immediately. The first two tracks are filled throughout with chunky power chords and distorted semi-metallic riffs from the SG of Mr. Dimasi, the boy can play some guitar there is no doubt about it. Sharing these bold, aggressive introductions are the upfront keyboards and drumming, all pushing things to a very brisk chugging pace. It certainly does seem Dream Theater-inspired at this early point in the album making me think of Rudess and Portnoy. Some Italian bands that come to mind at this point are the more recent works of bands like Moongarden and Ubi Major (think Nostos) who bring a more muscular twist to the Italian symphonic and neo-prog genres, no doubt a reaction to the success of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, and prog-metal in general. Sometimes this direction is not to my taste as the production tendency in some modern recordings is to have the drums too loud in the mix and the sound more mechanical than organic. I've noticed the trend in comments from younger listeners who sometimes talk disparagingly about "old prog" and how the production values and instrument choices are old-fashioned or boring somehow. I find the opposite to be true generally. But I'll spare you the opinion piece on sound dynamics! Back to the album, which by the third track "Cosi Come Sei" will shift often to a more traditional and elegant mode for much of the balance of the album, though still pushing into jam mode frequently. Now I am beginning to hear older influences like Banco, Locanda delle Fate, and Genesis as the tracks take on epic qualities and begin to slow down and breathe. Bridging from the old to the new makes me think of recent releases of Zuffanti projects like Finisterre (Meccanica Naturale) and Maschera di Cera (Lux Ade) although the latter lacks the bold electric guitar presence in Pandora's sound. We begin to hear mellower passages creep in with acoustic guitars and even a folkish sound to "Breve Storia di San George." We will get some excellent spacey synthesizer landscapes courtesy of Colombo and Grappeggia. As it unfolds further we are treated to some piano which is always refreshing to hear after lots of electronic keyboards. Corrado Grappeggia's vocals have a warm, sure-footed feel with just a touch of gravel at times which I like very much, and of course the decision to stick with all Italian vocals (over English) is an excellent one, grazie for that Corrado! As a fan, I have to note the distinction (as I have before, begin eyes rolling) about the feel of modern interpretations of "classic" sounding progressive albums to the originals in the area of the "surprise factor": that weird, unpredictable, avant-garde madness that defined those albums from '72-'74. So many of those albums have the ability to truly surprise and sometimes shock even today's well rounded listeners, whereas many of today's albums, even those as fine as Pandora or Maschera please the listener but rarely make them flinch or cower in fear. I think it can only be ascribed to the motives and social influences of the classic period: those bands were competing for the mantle of the strange and they were living in the times and situations that encouraged that approach over desire to entertain. There had to be an explanation for which bands like Area or Semiramis could bloom by pushing people's buttons. This is not a slam of today's bands but simply a distinction. Think about "Ys" or "Melos" or "Palepoli." Old prog jumped out from behind corners, grabbed you by the throat and throttled you. Newer prog in the "symphonic" realms walks up to you, smiles, and shakes your hand. It's much more refined and pleasant, it's just not as devilishly provoking to the masochistic desires of avant-loving devotees. A simplistic generalization perhaps, as there are always exceptions on both ends of the spectrum. I bring it up only because I know people like myself who want that irreverent edge in their music. Many others do not, so judge for yourself. Honestly I can and do appreciate both, for different reasons. But regardless of whether you prefer mostly-friendly music or the borderline obnoxious variety, the last four tracks on this album in particular are beautifully constructed and executed examples of melodic progressive. There is much energy and enthusiasm here and they are constantly looking for new avenues to hit, zigging one way and then back another in their team jamming. The moods can be dreamy and thoughtful one moment, dramatic and powerful again in the next-at times the pace will simply make your head spin with delight. Just take a look at the title track "Dramma" which moves from gorgeous piano over simulated strings backed by thrilling guitar leads, built upon a frame of masterful drumming from Claudio Colombo. The near-14 minute closer "Salto nel Buio" has more of this exciting drum work and more wonderful acoustic guitar creeping in. I need more time to thoroughly absorb the composition of Pandora; I am writing this review earlier than I normally would to get some information out there and get interest stoked in this impressive new work. But I know that our own Sinkadotentree will be providing the required and thorough play-by-play of each track that they deserve.so let's have it John! (You're gonna love this album, JD)

Concluding, "Dramma" is a modern symphonic winner that is going to be a knock-out for many prog fans with its combination of beautiful sounds and bold jamming. This album is going to be a hit and this band is only just beginning I predict. For those interested in Pandora, their myspace page features a 4-part web documentary on the making of the album which was interesting to take in. The CD itself comes with a modest lyrics booklet and a deluxe paper mini-lp gatefold sleeve. Had Pandora come out earlier in the year 2008, I am certain this title would have shown up on more "best of '08" lists and surveys. To Pandora, my congratulations for this debut!

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#201474)
Posted Monday, February 02, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Finnforest said I would love this album, how did he know ? Haha. I am a sucker for both powerful and beautiful Italian music, and fortunately we get a good taste of both on this PANDORA's debut. Very good vocals and drum work, chunky bass, dual keyboards and aggressive guitar. What's not to like ?

"Il Giudizio Universale" opens with the sound of children playing followed by thunder then someone changing channels on their radio.The song kicks in powerfully before 1 1/2 minutes. Love the bass and organ after 2 1/2 minutes.The tempo picks up a minute later and we get vocals for the first time 4 minutes in.The guitar is grinding away as the bass throbs heavily. A kick ass opener. "March To Hell" opens with a good beat as guitar comes in followed by synths.The tempo picks up around 2 minutes with a ripping organ solo as the drums continue to pound relentlessly. Guitar is back as the tempo continues to shift on this instrumental.

"Cosi Come Sei" opens with acoustic guitar as synths come in and then reserved vocals at 1 1/2 minutes. A fuller sound follows and then it gets quite powerful 2 1/2 minutes in. Check out the guitar after 4 minutes and the organ a minute later. It all settles 6 minutes in with some heavy drums. Vocals and piano do return before it turns heavy again. Nice. "Pandora" is spacey to open as spoken words come in after a minute. The song kicks in after 1 1/2 minutes with some fat bass lines and powerful drumming. Piano and a good beat arrive 3 minutes in followed by lots of synths. A piano interlude arrives before it kicks back in around 6 minutes. Check out the organ and guitar before 9 minutes. Thunderous drums here too. Themes are repeated and it ends as it began with a spacey soundscape.

"Breve Storia Di San George" opens with acoustic guitar as flute joins in and synths. Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes.The tempo picks up late. "Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco" opens with the sounds of someone knocking bottles over and laughter followed by a drink being poured. Piano takes over then it kicks in around 1 1/2 minutes with orchestral sounds and drums followed by organ. Guitar 2 minutes in. It settles with vocals after 3 minutes as the tempo continues to shift. I like the guitar 8 minutes in, it's quite emotional. "Salio Nel Buio" opens with acoustic guitar followed by synths then a beat.The piano before 2 1/2 minutes sounds great. Vocals after 3 minutes as it settles. Drums, piano and synths lead the way as the tempo and mood keeps changing. Vocals and acoustic guitar come and go. It turns fairly powerful after 10 minutes.

A solid 4 stars. This is what Prog is all about people !

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#203615)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Pandora, along with French band Nemo are one of my favourite more recent discoveries. If you enjoy Italian Symphonic Prog on the heavier side then Pandora could be the band for you.

On 7 tracks in just over an hour, Pandora have produced an exciting album that for the most part doesn't sit still for too long, with a myriad of time/tempo changes, including lots of instrumental passages. The vocals are good but it's the instrumental sections where their true strengths lie. Just listen to 11 minute long instrumental Pandora as proof. They blend classic symphonic prog with heavier, sometimes metal elements to produce a lively, dynamic and inventive sound. But the metal side never dominates being used as colour so it's never overpowering. Acoustic guitar is also well used adding to the light and shade element like on Breve Storia di San George which captures the band at their most mellow. The same can be said for Salto nel Buio, for the first 10 minutes or so of this epic, until a blistering instrumental finale takes over.

All band members excel on their instruments with some blistering guitar and drum work which contrasts well against the 2 keyboard players who sound like and play strongly in the seventies tradition.

With the influences that go to make up the Pandora sound you may think they won't be the most original band and this to a large extent is true. However they blend their seventies prog and heavy rock so well which nicely updates the sound to leave us with an excellent symphonic prog album for the times. A very mature first album, I'll really look forward to the next.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#203865)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
andrea
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Pandora is an Italian prog band from Piemonte that was formed in 2005 on Beppe and Claudio Colombo initiative, father and son... Beppe Colombo during the seventies was a music fan and a musician who never had the chance to record an album, but his passion for music has always been hanging on and he could transmit it to his son Claudio. So, along with keyboardist Corrado Grappeggia they started an interesting musical project blending influences from the past (PFM, BMS etc.) with a more "heavy" and modern taste (Dream Theater): a kind of bridge across the generation gap. The present line up features Beppe Colombo (synth, organ, backing vocals), Claudio Colombo (drums, percussion, bass, acoustic guitar, synth), Corrado Grappeggia (vocals, synth, organ, piano) and young guitarist Christian Dimasi (electric guitar, backing vocals). Pandora's debut album, "Dramma di un poeta ubriaco" was released by AMS/BTF label in 2008 and the result is excellent.

The opener "Il giudizio universale" (The Last Judgement), aggressive and desperate, is an imaginary dialog with God on the Day of Judgement... "Here we are before you! / We are the exiles, breed of Eve and Abraham / And we're waiting for the apocalyptic and universal Judgement / Everybody is guilty / We turn down the head and accept the fate / But you, try to explain this fate / To the innocent children, tired and hungry... Wondering souls hanging into the limb of time / There's no one anymore / No one who has got any tears to cry / Anguish rules... Silence rules... / Behold what you have done!".

The next track, "March to Hell" is beautiful instrumental. According to an interview with the band it was written 13 years ago and it was inspired by the war in Kosovo. The band imagined all the mighty ones of the earth marching naked towards hell on a powerful and fiery "marching beat"... So, close your eyes and try to imagine the scene while listening to this track...

"Cosě come sei" (The way you are) comes like the calm after the storm, acoustic and delicate... "You are as you are / You can't help it, that's the way you are / You want to come down / When suddenly you go up, up, up / Your arms broaden and become wings / You go up, up, up...". Then the rhythm goes up in wonderful crescendo featuring sudden changes of musical direction, taking off and landing again on a softer atmosphere...

The long "Pandora" is probably "le plat de resistance" of this album... A gloomy voice describes the opening of Pandora's box: only a little and pretty blue bird remains to give comfort to the humankind while the evil is spreading all around... Then the music flows in every direction and the members of band can showcase their great musicianship and their taste for challenging compositions...

The acoustic ballad "Breve storia di San George" (Short tale of Saint George) is about the myth of Saint George and the dragon, where the "hero" kills the monster with his spear and save a princess. You can find here almost a medieval atmosphere...

The title track "Dramma di un poeta ubriaco" (Tragedy of a drunken poet) is about a poet that rely on alcohol to find inspiration and dreams to get his bottles on fire to break free from his addiction... The music alternates frantic passages, delicate piano arpeggios and soaring melodies featuring a peculiar bittersweet mood.

The complex and long "Salto nel buio" (Jump in the dark) closes the album. The track is dramatic and almost mystic... It's divided in four parts: reflection, jump, fall and awareness. The mood is dark and lyrics develop some reflections about death.

Excellent album, beautiful package and booklet... A must for every Italianprog lover!

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#210473)
Posted Sunday, April 05, 2009 | Review Permalink

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