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La Maschera Di Cera - Il Grande Labirinto CD (album) cover

IL GRANDE LABIRINTO

La Maschera Di Cera

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have always been a big fan of the concept album format and coupled with the creative genius of Agostino Macor (FINESTERRE) and his band they have created another monster album with "Il Grande Labrinto". After being completely enamoured with their debut album I had to hear the follow up album and find it again a mark of genius and hear it in similar light. La MASCHERA DI CERA are Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals), Agostino Macor (guitars and keyboards), Andrea Monetti. (flute and sax), Fabio Zuffanti (bass, guitar, bass pedals and Maurizio di Tollo (drums). For those who believe that Progressive rock is only capable from the 70's era need to wake up and listen to this album. These band have it all going for them with giant symphonic passages (aka Mellotron and vintage keyboards), great guitar and bass interplay vivid flute (love flute in music like this) and excellent drums and vocals (sung of course in Italian).

Musically these guys can really write music with some awesome moments that will make the hair stand up on your arms. I also have a natural tendency to gravitate towards the lengthier songs on albums and I must tell you that the 22 mins "Il Viaggio Nell Oceano Capovolto Parte 2" is a truly magnificent piece of work. Hard exactly to peg musically but I would suggest a cross of 70's Italian prog band METAMORFOSI with PFM, portions of FINESTERRE and a good dose of GENESIS. A wonderful album and one of the more captivating albums I have heard in a wee while.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#18187)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars I wish I could match James's enthusiasm and read so much into this record as he does. Unfortunately I would have to agree with Lethe's review of their debut: this sounds like retro prog to me - VERY WELL DONE but almost pointless. The music is impeccably played , written , produced and delivered - something we all have to agree that Fabio Zuffantiis a master at but again , the lack of imagination is what strikes me the most in such a release. Not that I am unable to enjoy it - far from it , it has spun some twenty times since I bought it but I cannot get excited about it the way I would if I was listening to a superb Italian classic such as PFM or QVL .

As for the music, this is somewhere along PFM , Museo , Q V Loccanda and many more with great music and unmistakably Italian progressive vocal delivery although the voice reminds me of a cross between Ramazotti and Zucchero also . Zuffanti coming from Finnisterre has this project well in hand and the music has a more distinct direction than his afore- mentioned group (this was my main complaint about Finisterre). If you are to indulge in this band you are likely to enjoy it but do not look for anything new or original - Zuffanti has Lazona reserved for that!!!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#18188)
Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Winter is now, a long, never-ending winter. The snow covers the roads, you cannot escape, you cannot hear nothing. The journey is inside your soul. There, all things are upside-down. You are your own labyrinth.

This La Maschera di Cera's album is not strictly a concept album, but very near to that, though. Only four tracks, plus, as a bonus track, "La Consunzione" which is an extract from the opener "Il Viaggio nell'Oceano Capovolto pt. 1" (Voyager to the Inverted Ocean). Total running time 1 hour and 5 mns.

Dark and deep atmospheres. The results of all those things: piano, fender rhodes electric piano, hammond organ, mellotron 400, arp odissey, vc3, oberheim ob12, minimoog, roland analogic, harpsichord, clavinet, effects.

Great role for the bass guitar of Fabio Zuffanti. Two free riders: a rough electric guitar from the distance and a nervous flute, an evil flute. What a surprise, the evil flute! The flute goes around this spacey album as if it goes without any direction. Lost in a lost world (thanks to the magnificient Moodies for using their own words).

Dreamy feel sometimes, dramatic for the most part. Even absurd. Melodic sung tunes alternates with longer instrumental efforts. Sometime repetitive as those beautiful five minutes of the final part of "Il Viaggio nell'Oceano Capovolto pt. 2".

Not a masterpiece for sure, but a record that deserves much more attention by any good prog lover! Other reviewers have pointed out the references of this work to some typical italian sound from the seventies (such as PFM, for example). I don't know what they like to listen to. I do not find so "too much" references from the italian roots. It wouldn't be a mortal sin, by the way, neither a reason to down-grade the album.

Ah, almost forgotten the cover! What a beatiful and delicate cover!

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#75387)
Posted Tuesday, April 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Every song on this album is of the highest calibure. This release pushes all the right buttons for me. Lots of mellotron and flute, great Italian vocals, and the songs are filled with many mood shifts and time changes. What a musical journey this record is. Of Fabio's many projects this one is my favourite.

"Il Viaggio Nell'Oceano Capovolto Parte 1" is chaotic to open but it settles quickly. Fragile vocals come in followed by organ. Piano tinkles away and then it kicks in around 2 minutes but settles again quickly. These contrasts continue. Flute before 4 minutes. It's chaotic again after 5 minutes as sounds build. So cool ! A dead calm before 6 minutes then vocals come in as it starts to build again. Mellotron before 7 minutes followed by guitar. Flute's back and passionate vocals. Amazing song ! Check out the organ solo and the mellotron that follows. "Il Grande Labirinto" has this good heavy sound with flute, bass, drums and organ. It settles and vocals come in around a minute. Piano before 2 minutes followed by passionate vocals. Great sound before 5 minutes and mellotron joins in. A calm with vocals after 6 minutes. Piano and a powerful soundscape 7 1/2 minutes in. A calm again a minute later. This is dark right to the end.

"Il Canto Dell'Inverno" opens with piano melodies galore until mellotron comes in after a minute. A solemn mood after 2 minutes and it's spacey to end it. "Ai Confini Del Mondo" features lots of organ and flute early. A calm 2 minutes in followed by voclas. A nice heavy sound a minute later. Love the vocals and the mellotron is so uplifting after 6 minutes. A change 7 1/2 minutes in as piano then flute take over. Vocals are back before 11 minutes. "Il Viaggio Nell'Oceano Capovolto Parte 2" is the 22 1/2 minute closer. Water sounds and birds greet us as gentle guitar and flute come in. Vocals and mellotron join in as well. A fuller sound after 3 1/2 minutes. A calm before 7 1/2 minutes and before 10 minutes. It starts to build with flute and drums and then kicks in before 13 minutes. It settles with organ, mellotron and piano before 15 minutes. Vocals follow. Another calm before 17 minutes with aboe. Drums join in. Mellotron 20 1/2 minutes in and flute follows.

Those incredible Italian vocals combined with that vintage seventies sound is just priceless. Hey the mellotron doesn't hurt either.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#94183)
Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars yes.....the italian symphonic prog is still alive!!

with bands like la maschera di cera the music in the 70's style will be nearly transformed to this ages. good keyboard and organ, perfect flute work and a very pleasant singersvoice make this record for me to a timemachine which throws me among 35 years back in time. i would recommend this album to everyone who loves the melodic 'italian style' with the production standard from today. because a prefer this music gerne so much a give realy five stars!!!

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Send comments to peeperkorn (BETA) | Report this review (#94738)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
infandous@exc
3 stars 3.5 stars actually.

While I consider their next album, LuxAde, to be the best album I heard in 2006 (so far, anyway) this one was the first one I heard and has not done as much for me. This is a somewhat dark and strange type of Italian prog. Thanks to Andrea Cortese's review, I have a better understanding of where this music is coming from (same with LuxAde). Given the subject matter, the spooky ambiances and repetitveness of some sections makes more sense to me. Still, this is not nearly as enjoyable for me as the next album. But it does feature all the elements. The wonderful flute, the fantastic keyboards, and the solid, driving rhythm section. The vocals of Corvaglia are the only sticking point, being a bit rough and strained at times, but I have grown to like them and they do fit the music quite well. The best track for me, hands down, is Ai Confini Del Mondo, having a more upbeat and varied approach than the other songs. Still, there is much here to enjoy, with both parts of Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto offering many interesting musical ideas. So for me, a bit less than the next album, but still worth hearing for the lover of classic Italian symphonic progressive. A sold 3.5 stars for this one.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#94746)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars My review of their first album was rather rave to say the least. I mentioned that the number "La Mascheara Di Cera" was their second best. Logically, the best one will be featured here.

Although seaparated by three tracks (I really wonder why this habit has grown so much in rock music). Why the hell, can't we get a full number without interruption ? Mystery. Maybe a track in excess of thirty-six minutes might sound too extravagant ?

"Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto" is indeed a fantastic voyage. This is almost as much Italian I can grab. The Maschera universe is all there of course : very complex songwritting, lots of mood changes.

The symphonic Crimson side is there in the intro, and in the finale. The fabulous vocals from Alesandro are so passionate... When I saw La Maschera in concert (October 2005), he had to play the keys as well (Agostino was on a honeymoon travel...). He could even managed to hold the keys while singing! A tour de force, really. The first section is just an appetizer (even if it clocks at almost forteen minutes) to the second portion of this wonderful track.

"Il Grande Labirinto" is quite dark. Sounds as Genesis at times because of some very similar keys play. But the predominent reference here is as well KC. Scary music, yet subtle with very nice piano and flute. La Maschera renders so well the symphonic side of Crimson ! I would have loved so much that this great band (KC) would stick more to this part of their repertoire. I can only be grateful to La Maschera to reproduce such nice moments.

A short and almost classic number will serve as interlude to lead to "Al Confini Del Mondo" (At The Boundaries Of The World). At least my French and Spanish can help me understand some portion of their lyrics (but very few, I admit).

"Il Canto Dell' Inverno" (The Song - or Chant - Of The Winter) will end as the finale of the central piece of this work. It is difficult to wait to get there, but don't worry. WE WILL.

"Al Confini Del Mondo" is another true symphonic moment. So beautiful background keys, so lovely vocals, such a nice flute playing. Do you need something else ? I can not think of one single aspect of the music we love that La Maschera could not render. They combine the best of Italian prog with the most complex anglo-saxon (Crimson, ELP at times) music you could think of. The addition of a full time flutist and at times (live) sax player adds another dimension to this band.

Some "Cinema Show" passages are featured, at times, as interlude in this beautiful song. I think that no one could synthetizes both worlds (Genesis and Crimson) better than La Maschera. This is almost sublime, my friend. Get your hankerchief ready before you listen to them. They will bring you to such extremes (at least it is my feeling) that you'll definitely need it !

So, now we are ready for the long journey. "Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto" Part II as it is called. It takes a bit to take off, I must say. But once we reach 3'30", oh boy ! What an extasy ! This crescendo is just magnificent. Get it full volume to be absolutely flooded with their sounds. From time to time, a very tranquil break (almost a cappella) will highlight, if needed, Alessandro's mastery in the vocals. An absolute master.

The band will work at unison to provide another fantastic epic song. You know the ones you listen to and at the end you say : what ? already finished ? Even if they last for more than twenty mnutes. This is my gauge. If at times, I'm bored for some minutes during an epic, I just believe it might be a very good song. After all, writing twenty minutes track is not a guarantee for quality. I'm just tranported with delight with htis one. All the way through.

During this track, there are none of these boring moments. It is full of melody, complexity, weirdiness and ... genious. The end of the song, while played live, gets the audience very much involved. Usually, I do not like these moments but when it came to that point, it was almost as an au-revoir (and the sooner, the better). The whole concert hall singing non-existing words on this marvel of a finale (five minutes long). I can only wish you to live such a moment. Unforgettable.

This album might well be less accessible than their debut. You'll need to get into these wonderful songs. It might not be love at first sight (although it was for me), but your efforts will be rewarded. La Maschera is a great band. "Il Grande Labirinto" is a great album. Retro-prog ? A joke !

Five stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#120079)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Thankfully, the sophomore jinx rarely applies in the current prog world, as artists are not pressured into releasing sub-par performances in order to stay within contractual confines. Good, lawyers should learn to be more relaxed and try some good progressive, maybe they will see the light of justice (I know of a few here at PA)! La Maschera di Cera's debut was received in stunning disbelief when it appeared as a Finisterre offshoot and may have even outshot the "Lands End" mother. "Il Grande Labirinto" only serves to further define the style and the charm of this unique band (Side A and B, just like with those old LPs) and the focus squarely on new keyboard whiz Agostino Macor (who in my opinion is the new Wakeman, what with his stellar work here, with Zaal and Lazona to boot) and his arsenal of mellotrons, Hammonds, pianos and synthesizers. "Il Viaggio Nell Oceano Capovolto Pt1" is a mad foray into heavy jam territory full of blazing mellotron shades, chilling organ patterns, a little wicked electric guitar, solid bass and sassy drumming. Sandro Corviglia has a voice that is simply loaded with theatrics as any self-respecting Italian School of Prog singer would benevolently adhere to. Number 2 the title track slaps some Fabio Zuffanti fuzz bass turbo charge into the arrangement, giving it an almost explosive Canterbury/Magma touch, especially when the flute decides that its ballet time and the celebrated 'tron decides to start fuming! Oh, this is a nasty piece of heavy music that has a mid section that basks in peaceful tranquility before another torrential dive into the lost abyss, like the title implies, of a great musical maze. "Il Canto dell' Inverno" is a brief yet playful piano exercise that adds mellotron wisps to evoke the bleak grandeur of winter and gets a little experimental. The 12 minute plus "Al Confini del Mondo" gets funky, zipping along with some juicy woozy Hammond runs, swirling flute and electric piano thumping along with the fuzzed out bass rumble. The tempo suddenly evolves into a supremely peaceful melody with genteel flute weaving the way while Sandro sings with unbridled melancholic passion and the piece then heads back and forth into the heavy symphonics this band knows how to erect with intricate impunity. Pure succulence, as Frank Zappa would say! To the confines of the world indeed, as a dreamy piano solo shows the incredible lyrical talent that Macor can display on the celebrated keyboard, gliding effortlessly like a virtuoso. Andrea Monetti gets to show off his flute skills as well. This is another peak performance that deserves repeated plays to truly appreciate such a bombastic finale. Hardly plausible but the next track is the monstrous 22 minute part 2 of the "Il Viaggio.." that started off the maze in the first place. Deliberately a slow burn, this massive epic follows all the key elements, each layer is a ratcheting up of the tension, the energy growing in majesty until the main theme is brazenly espoused and clamored without any restraint. Once that peak is achieved, its time to let the breeze in, sweeping back up into a massive coda propelled by a sibilant synth sortie that whizzes like a bumblebee over the arrangement. Another valley of peaceful musing is only the platform to launch another orgasmic crescendo of symphonic bliss, with that confounded Zuffanti bass slithering into the deepest recesses of your brain's audio receptor and causing extensive but euphoric damage. The mood gets hectic verging on insanity with noodling galore at times almost improvisational and then swerving back into the maelstrom. Again the fiery after burn of the deranged mellotron will sear your ears, once and for all (lucky you are). A plaintive oboe takes the theme into another landscape, with folksy simplicity, searing the lament deep into the soul, loaded with hopeful melancholia. A finale to die for, full of lusty operatics that is showing the door to freedom, escaping from the harrowing web. A short bonus track ,the sterling "La Consunzione" seals the labyrinth's access until the next time mythology needs to flavor our prog. 4.5 Minotaurs

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#176314)
Posted Monday, July 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A success.

The Mask of Wax did better with their second effort, although the same dark ingredients are used: anxious flute and mellotron, powerful Gabriel-era singing, thick fuzz bass lines, great analog keyboard textures. This record is solid proof that using the same ingredients can be stirred into something better, if blended and cooked properly.

What strucked me first in the record is the withdraw of a certain amount of melancholy and energy, replaced by quieter but tastier instrumental moments. These appreciable segments are showing more of the melodic and dramatic skills of the band, instead of insisting too much on the King Crimson sadness of the first eponymous record. Here we have more varied music, with oboe, guitars and Hammond Organ, not to mention some excellent melodies that makes you hasty to play it again; the hypnotic end of track 5 for instance, reminding me the intro of Par Lindh's Bilbo album.

Closer to Foxtrot than In the Court of Crimson King, Maschera di Cera is showing a brighter, mature and applicated side of their exceptionnal talent, telling us that they want to be taken seriously from now on.

Varied and subtle; that's why I'm so fond of it.

Absolutely, unshamedly recommendable...unlike the movie sporting the band's name starring Paris Hilton.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#191405)
Posted Monday, December 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars La Maschera Di Cera's sophomore effort remains my personal favorite up to this day, and let me add that their most recent release "Petali Di Fuoco" pleased me dearly. Anyway, now I'm in the mood for reviewing "Il Grande Labirinto", the album that incarnates LMDC's nuclear sound firmly established at its most epic pinnacle: in many ways, this item should be regarded as the definitive epitome of retro-progressive rock album since it brilliantly combines the loyalty to the standards of the most creative 70s Italian prog and the inspiration for great tunes and splendid arrangements, and this combination in turn benefits from the resources of solid musicianship and fluid connection among the musicians involved. There is pretty much an attitude of reverence and homage to the major old points of reference (Biglietto, Alphataurus, Museo Rosenbach, a bit of PFM and BMS as well), but mostly there is a creative reinvention of the quintessential Italian symphonic prog all through every note, beat and mood accomplished in this great labyrinth ("grande labirinto" in English). One thing you can notice in comparison with the eponymous debut album is that the instrumental scheme comprises the presence of guitar in some calculated spaces, either provided by bass player Fabio Zuffanti (the Italian Steven Wilson) or by keyboardist Agostino Macor (or by an occasional guest). Also, there is a strategic utilization of spacey moods that are patently inspired by the spirit of post-rock (a genre that Zuffanti loves so much that even he would form a post-rock unit not too long after this LMDC album). Anyway, all in all, the main role at elaborating melodic developments continues to be assumed from the keyboard and flute departments, and Zuffanti's bass guitar remains the most powerful stringed sonic source. Well, now we'll go and take a look at the tracklist, shall we? 'Il viaggio ne'll océano capovolto' is the album's central opus, distributed in two separate parts that complete a 36 minute span together. Part 1 starts with the chaotic sound of a machine that is just being turned on, with the first main motif revealing a slow, ceremonious example of dramatic density. Next is a creepy section featuring wild flute and unquiet mellotron washes, which in turn leads to a succession of symphonic ambiences and creepy jazz-rock dominated by synth, flute and mellotron. Sea sounds fill the track's dark coda. The 10- minute long title track initially features brutal bass lines that effectively steal the limelight from the other instruments. Even though this track has similar dark moods to those of track no. 1, it contains a more fluid management of the motifs' variations and tempo shifts, which means that the running symphonic splendor bears a more "natural" architecture. 'Il canto dell'inverno' is a brief interlude that starts with an avant- garde piano motif and distant mellotron layers (very much a-la Pierrot Lunaire), and then a beautiful oboe melody appears which many will fall in love with immediately (don't be frustrated when it ends, it will resurface greatly later). 'Ai confine del mondo' kicks off with an agile funk-rock dynamics; things will remain this warm all the way toward the end, even benefitting from jazz-oriented embellishments somewhere in the middle. Part 2 of 'Il viaggio ne'll océano capovolto' is the album's perfect climax: many have pointed out this notion and I absolutely agree with them. I always smile whenever I remember portions of this epic while I'm preparing a class or correcting an exam or just watching a landscape or thinking about nothing? The track starts in a lovely melancholic mood, with Corvaglia delivering the gentler side of his gigantic vocal style. Then, a sustained crescendo leads to a post-rock inspired motif displayed over a pulsating rhythmic framework, which serves as a bridge to boost the musical development toward an alternation of bombastic slow passages and enigmatic languid moods: this ambitious series includes an explosive moment when the band states a RIO-oriented refurbishment of Bliglietto-meets- Alphataurus-meets-Crimson. Bizarre!! ? both the whole thing and each individual passage, I mean. After the intense last sung section, a beautiful 6 minute litany closes down the epic, based on the oboe motif that we had previously met in track 3. This time, we can enjoy the melody in a recurring scheme that builds a powerful crescendo where fuzzed bass, rhythm guitar, flute, mellotrons, synths and piccolo come joining in over a gradually louder drum kit. The dramatic ending brings the chaotic sound of a machine being turned off with flying colors. This is how the "Il Grande Labirinto" experience should end, but if you want to move to the (fake) bonus track, that's OK: you'll be treated with a brief reminder of a motif from the opener's main body. I bet that I'm smiling while I'm finishing this review's draft: I'll let that hypothetical smile and my 5 star grade express this review's overall conclusion.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#281479)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After getting to know this outstanding italian group through their latest CD, the brilliant Petale Di Fuoco, I started to look for their previous works to see what they had brought up before that modern masterpiece of prog. Going backwards on a band´s discography can be a frustating efford, since rarely we get the same thing as their latest arrival. Not so much in the case of Il Grande Labirinto (2003), their sophmore release. Surely this is no match for Petale Di Fuoco, but still it is very good.

All the basic elements are here: excellent musicanship, strong songwriting, tasteful arrangements, terrific singer in the person of Alessandro Corvaglia. He is definitly one of Italy´s best nowadays, at least prog wise: he has a fine voice, very good vocal technique and a very convincing and passionate delivering. However, it is also clear that the band was still a bit green and their writing still needed some ajustments. This is far less accessible than their last CD, but among all the tracks you´ll find very good melodies all around, specially on the strong hooks they have. This time the music is heavier, more obscure and less concise. And the King Crimson influences are much more evident too.

It took me much more time to fully enjoy this CD, but in the end I did. Even if all the experimentation and dark/heavy passages were not exactly my cup of tea, they already had developed a very strong sense of melody, their song structures were never lost to pointless jams or boring noodlings. There are a lot of vintage sounding keyboards (most notably the vast use of the mellotron) and also lots of flute. Not much guitar, though. Again the tracklist is very well balanced, with no real highlights, neither any weak stuff. All the songs have good and not so good parts, but mostly they are highly enjoyable.

Rating: something between 3.5 and 4 stars, really. But I´ll round up to four since their stuff is far superior than a lot of is being made today.

Conclusion: A very good CD from this terrific modern italian band.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#423687)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Il Grande Labirinto' - La Maschera Di Cera (8/10)

Even first judging by the album cover alone, it is clear that 'Il Grande Labirinto' may see La Maschera Di Cera wander into stranger territory than they did with their self-titled debut, an album I found myself quite impressed with. All the same, 'La Maschera Di Cera' did not see this skilled quintet modify any formulas that the Italian progressive rock scene had not already refined to a fine science. 'Il Grande Labirinto' holds true to the band's origins in vintage 1970's-style prog, but the stakes are raised with a few quirks and surprises along the way. Although La Maschera Di Cera's debut was fairly easy to pinpoint as a traditional RPI record, here we see the group take a more challenging, and potentially rewarding route.

Now just eeking over the hour mark, La Maschera Di Cera has really toned up their ambition with 'Il Grande Labirinto'. In the years since its release, it seems to have earned its throne as the most respected of the band's accomplishments, and when compared to my previous experience with the band's debut, I am seeing this band outdo themselves. Even so, this more left-of-centre approach to the vintage prog sound is not executed quite well enough to merit that fabled 'masterpiece' rating for me that many have given it. 'Il Grande Labirinto' is an overall improvement from what they did before, but I am finding that, in their expansion to new sounds, they have sacrificed some of the immediate charm that first endeared me to the debut. Regardless, it goes without saying that 'Il Grande Labirinto' is an album that begs for a listener to pursue it in-depth; with a two part epic bookending the album that stretches well over half an hour, there are no holds barred with the band's approach this time.

Comparisons to Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso may still be made, although La Maschera Di Cera do seem to have broken out of that pure 70's worship mindset here. All sounds heard here are those of the classic 70's Italian prog, but the music often focuses on dark atmosphere over musicianship and traditional composition. La Maschera Di Cera still retain their penchant for letting their epics run wild and loose, although with the less solo dense performance, the music becomes easier to settle into. This time around, keyboardist Agostino Macor deserves the highest props, for delivering both lush rhythm orchestrations and tastefully energetic synth solos. As was the case for the debut, the guitars here feel a little too subdued, often letting Fabio Zuffanti's throbbing bass work take over. While not a fault in the music perse, it would have been nice to hear the sound of the guitar find a place in this music.

Although 'Il Grande Labirinto' does not quite reach the plateau of being one of my favourite RPI records ever, I would say that it's damned close, and may even become one of them, should it grow much more on me. La Maschera Di Cera are evidently an incredibly technically skilled act, but I was not expecting them to incorporate such a tasty dose of atmosphere into their music as they have done here. This is an album that becomes more enjoyable as the various ideas become more familiar to the listener.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#751088)
Posted Wednesday, May 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
andrea
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4 stars La Maschera di Cera's sophomore album, "Il grande labirinto" (The great labyrinth), was released in 2003 on the independent label Mellow Records with the same line up of the previous one featuring Fabio Zuffanti (bass, acoustic guitar), Agostino Macor (piano, organ, mellotron, moog, harpsichord, synthesizer, guitar), Marco Cavani (drums, percussion), Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals) and Andrea Monetti (flute, recorder). During the recording sessions they were helped by some guests musicians as Antonella Trovato (oboe, arrangements) and Nick Le Rose (electric guitar) who added more musical colours to the overall sound and the result is excellent. Although the music draws abundantly on the Italian prog legacy of the early seventies it would be unfair define this album as merely derivative or nostalgic since the sounds here are mixed with poetry and new ideas to conjure up evocative, timeless images and stir emotions and feelings.

In the booklet you can find a quote taken from a poem by Russian Romantic poet Fyodor Tyutchev, "A Dream At Sea", that in some way explains the conceptual thread of the album... "Our boat was being tossed by the storm and the sea. Sleepy, I was abandoned to the full caprice of the waves. Deep within me two immensities met and willfully they played with me... I flew deafened in a chaos of sounds but above the chaos of sounds my dream was borne... Through the rays of my fever it unfolded its world: the earth shone green, the ether grew bright. There were labyrinth-gardens, pillars and halls. And myriads of silent crowds seethed...". The art cover provides another clue to find out more about the subject matter of this album. It's taken from a tableaux by the Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, O Grave, Where Is Thy Victory, which portrays a dying man half-hidden behind two young women who are trying to free him from life, while the figures on the right represent his earthly resentment, envy, jealousy, hate, love and conflict. Well, that said, the transcendental journey described in this work can begin. Are you ready?

The opener "Il viaggio nell'oceano capovolto parte 1" (The journey through the upside-down ocean part 1) is a long suite divided into four sections. The first part, "La fine del viaggio" (The end of the journey), has a slow pace and marks the end of your life as you know it and the beginning of a new experience. As you become unconscious you get lost in the sound of the ocean and you can hear a sad song soaring in the winter of your eyes... "Just another moment would have been enough / To hang on life / The effort to resist is finished... I feel so miserable as I face these last minutes of existence / I hide myself and I run away from reality... Alone among the mirrors of the ocean... Beyond any glimmer of the world...". You've just set off on an apparently one-way journey towards the unknown leaving behind you a harbour of malady and now a sweet, violent sleep shakes your soul. A short, dark instrumental section follows, "Il vortice" (The vortex). The third section, "La consunzione" (Consumption), brings back melody and new energies. You can't escape from the vortex of unreality that draws you away, there's no horizon, no moon above you, you're scared, you're just a silent prisoner of your delirium and now you look at a seagull which dives in the ocean... "I look at the sky from two dimensions / I would get lost, I would get worn / I would follow the dream / After having revolved in the dark, in the truth...". But the bitter truth is that death can't set you free yet. Your world is crumbling and you fall down, baffled by the waves. Darkness and gloom are all around you but a dim, ageless light still shows you the way. The last section, "Il cristallo" (The crystal), is a nice jazzy instrumental part that seems to forecast new, complicated developments.

The title track is another complex, crepuscular suite. Now you are like a ghost who can't live and can't die, you would like to live again with your truth but you can't remember what you have lost... "Today is another day that I will lose in the great labyrinth... I've lost everything, I can't come back / Look at me, listen to me / Time is running out... You can't see me / But I feel you in my reality / It's true, you know / You can save me...". There are incredible forces and energies that can heal your soul and melt the ice of an eternal winter and you have to keep on searching for them. The rhythm rises, becomes frenzied while electric guitar riffs and powerful organ rides push you forward. Then the music calms down as you reflect and ask yourself how much strength will be necessary to come back to life.

Next comes "Il canto dell'inverno" (Winter song), a short, evocative track featuring piano and keyboards in the forefront and a disquieting mood. It leads to the cathartic "Ai confini del mondo" (To the limits of the world), another complex track where you become aware of your past and of your errors. Now you can remember your time and you realize that you have betrayed the reasons of your heart. If you could come back you wouldn't make the same errors, you wouldn't heed the wrong people and you would do anything you can to avoid the end of your world... "You see, I've learned to love / I've understood the things that destroy time / To the limits of the world...".

"Il viaggio nell'oceano capovolto parte 2" (The journey through the upside-down ocean part 2) is divided into seven sections and is longest track on this work (more than twenty-two minutes). The music and lyrics conjure up visionary images trying to describe the indescribable, the thin path that crosses the abyss between life and death, between reality and unreality. The first section, "Le probabilitŕ" (The probabilities), is ethereal and takes you up in the cosmos, among star clusters revolving around a perfect center, upside-down in the dark. There's no dimension, you can't see or even conceive the void, reality and dream are blurred now... "You will follow me / And you will perceive our origin / Your soul will raise covering the reality...". The second section, "L'ossessione" (The obsession) begins with a burst of energy and tension rises. You can't find a way out, you are trapped in the icy distance that separates the real world from your heart, you have to stop, you're exhausted but you feel that your pain will pass, you feel that you're slowly waking up as you walk calmly on the snow. The third section, "Il porto innevato" (The port under the snow) is melancholic and soft, filled with emotion. In the silence you can rediscover the traces of your past... "Look for them in the corners of oblivion / In the dust of your lost way / In the waves...". The fourth section, "La ballata del vecchio marinaio, parte terza" (The rime of the ancient mariner, part three) recalls the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the surreal image of a ghost ship that takes you back to life. The beautiful instrumental section "L'ultimo giro" (The last spin) leads you to a new life that will appear as a waterfall, now you are waking up! The sixth section, "Il risveglio" (The awakening), celebrates the rebirth of your soul... "In your tearless eyes you show me the come-back... Among the infinite mirrors of the ocean / In the pearly substance of the horizon...". Eventually, the last sumptuous, instrumental section, "L'oceano" (The ocean), leads to a happy end.

A short reprise of "La consunzione", credited as a bonus track, concludes this challenging mix of music and poetry. On the whole, this is a very good album although not the best one from this very talented band.

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#876896)
Posted Monday, December 17, 2012 | Review Permalink

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