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Opus Avantra - Lord Cromwell (plays suite for seven vices) CD (album) cover

LORD CROMWELL (PLAYS SUITE FOR SEVEN VICES)

Opus Avantra

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's somehow strange thing for me to be the very first one to review this album. Many people here tell me they appreciate a lot this fine, curious and unusual italian prog band, but there is no comment in the band's page. Ok, this is not their most famous work. It's nevertheless the second effort, released in 1975 after Introspezione. I'm not a follower of the avantguard prog and I do own few albums of such a genre. But alas I love to investigate and to check out the huge amount of surprises risen and rising from the italian scene.

And it's interesting to notice how much italian this album is. A fine work, as I said before, representing a good mix between avantguardist-experimental stuff along with a strong classical vein and with, sometimes, a remarkable melodic taste. Still an excellent italian product from the seventies. Some Chopin and Brahms flavour to enrich the instrumental passages. Donatella Del Monaco's vocals replaced by a chorus.

Lyrics and music now are written by Alfredo Tisocco who also provides a wide range of keyboards (piano stenway, piano fender, hammond, synth and pipe organ). The idea is fascinating: to put in music the seven mortal sins. Pride, avarice, lust, wrath, gluttony, sloth and envy, are all well translated in music. In a very good manner, that's my humble opinion. Just listen to "Avarice", for example, which starts with few, sparse and disorganized musical piano points then evolving into a dramatic classical scene, finally fading out in disorder as it opened.

Angelic choruses, violins, cello and flute make of this avantguard work something very enjoyable also for who is not really a lover of this genre as I think I am. It's impossible not to love "the ethereal "Gluttony" and its melodic sad atmosphere.

3.50 that I perhaps should round up to 4, just to make justice of that unique 2 stars rating without any explanation. The risk could to make people avoid this album.

Report this review (#101433)
Posted Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
laplace
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Whereas "Intrespezione" opened in a stark and challenging way, "Lord Cromwell..." chooses to unfold in a serenely, stately manner with a neo-classical arrangement for piano, flute and... well, timpani. This should send up a warning flag but happily the song morphs into rock and cycles through several different textures before its melodic and pleasing conclusion in a fairly EL&P or Le Orme-like way. No "sophomore album" problem for Opus Avantra, then.

This one appears to be a concept album as the song titles gel with that of the record. I'm not versed in italian so I can't tell you how lyrically deep this delves but I can confirm that each of the tracks synonymous with one of the sins sounds rather like its sinner, ie, "Avarice" sounds like the soundtrack for the life of a mercenary man with a great desire for power and "Envy" is a challenging, staggering piece that cleverly expresses inner bitterness and rage.

This one is twice as rocky as their previous endeavour and a better starting point for the more orthodox prog-heads among us.

Report this review (#114331)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars No sophomore slump for Opus

Opus Avantra is one of the heavyweights of the RPI scene who get far too little attention for reasons I can't identify. As their name implies this is a group which mixes classical and opera with avant-garde passages and traditional melodies. To break it down even more Opus Avantra really have two sides to them on these first two 70s releases. There is their avant side which can sometimes be compelling and sometimes quite irritating, with instruments pressed into pursuit of the seemingly random. Their other side is what draws me in and makes them one of my favorite RPI groups: the simply drop-dead gorgeous classical and opera over heavenly piano and flute melodies. The band was born in 1973 Veneto and is most known for famed vocalist Donella del Monaco and composer Aldredo Tisocco, but quite a large number of musicians have participated over the years. After their first two mid 70s albums came a long break before two more studio albums appeared, one in the late 80s and another in the 90s.

"Lord Cromwell" is their sophomore effort and it is spectacular, I actually prefer it to their more widely acclaimed debut which featured del Monaco. (She was absent from this second album) This is a conceptual work based on the seven deadly sins and it has a more determined, motivated feel to it-they really went for it here compositionally speaking. Most of it works very well and sometimes they remind me of Australia's Rainbow Theater in their approach. The "avant" sections of their first two albums have moments that annoy me to no end because they often break the flow of the heart-achingly beautiful classical sections. They don't wreck the experience completely, they just nudge it down a bit. I also feel that the avant sections are not going to be quite radical enough to please what the Avant-Rio genre fans of today are used to, thus making Opus Avantra most useful to fans of classical and opera music with some prog feel and general moments of weirdness. A good description of their sound follows: "old-school synthesizers, sawing violins, piano, very clear electric guitar, flute, percussion (both rock and classical) and a highly theatrical but largely vibrato-free American-accented soprano. On top of that, its influences are atypical; where avant-prog usually draws on composers from the first half of the 20th century and sometimes from the Renaissance, Opus Avantra seem to be more concerned with the Baroque and Classical periods and the avant-garde of the 50s and 60s. Sometimes these styles are cleanly separated from each other, as in the lyrical Bach-goes-symph "Gluttony," or "My Vice," in which 60s-style analog synths slide and whir behind an atonal harpsichord part. In the longer pieces, styles are thrown together almost willy-nilly: "Avarice," for instance, starts out sounding like Boulez circa Structures Ia, but passes through some tempestuous pseudo-Beethoven and then melds the two together with blurry atonal synth parts and droney pedal points in the piano." -Alex Temple, Progweed

But oh those pretty songs... "Flowers on Pride", "Lust", and "Gluttony" are three of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. Gorgeous male and female choirs take the place of Donella on this album and they do just fine. The approach of the American choir worked splendidly basking in the glory of the strings, the dancing flutes, and the beautiful piano melodies of Alfredo. Occasionally the vocals will offer up spoken word narration to emphasize some dramatic buildup. The more experimental sections are less interesting to me but "Avarice" is a stunning, lengthy piano solo with plenty of twists and turns. "Ira" approaches sheer instrumental madness in places for almost 8 minutes. Overall the music of "Lord Cromwell" swells with the spirit of the 1970s Italian scene: bold, beautiful, and a bit outrageous in places but always retaining a bit of the calming reserve that comes from the lovely piano. This is an album that should thrill any RPI fan who loves gorgeous classical infused music with little rock content. I can't in good conscious give it 5 stars on this site but in my own heart it is a masterpiece. The Artis pressing features passable sound and a bonus track, but this title really needs a quality mini-lp sleeve remaster, and soon! If you've heard and enjoyed the debut you will certainly want to hear "Lord Crowell" too.

Report this review (#229606)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Opus Avantra is considerated one of the top avant prog bands from Italy from the old school. The second album of this discret band, issued in 1975 and named Lord Cromwell (plays suite for seven vices) is an odd treat for me, even not bad overall. The music offered is among the most avant prog I've listned recently and quite difficult to grasp on one spin or two, combining elements from aformentioned genre with classical music, weird arrangements and operatic vocal passages here and there. Lots of flutes, cello , violins combined with more traditional instruments makes Opus Avantra music quite a chalenge for my ears. There are some great songs here that I like , Flowers on Pride or Gluttony, but are some that I really can't get into like Ira or My Vice, to avant and experimental for my taste. Anyway I do consider this album fairly decent and most of the time enjoyble, but I can't find myself listning to this odd music very often. 3 stars is best I can give, good but hardly essential or groundbreaking for me. Strange gatefold cover aswell as the music.

Report this review (#969204)
Posted Sunday, June 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Lord Cromwell' is 'Avant prog' taken to the extreme. It's a difficult listen despite being piano and flute led. Skilled musicians abound within 'Opus Avantra'. It seems however that they've devoured a handful of hallucinogenic mushrooms before picking up their instruments to record this one. Oh, and a bottle whisky too...

The cover sleeve is superb in its 'Alice in Wonderland' oddness and sums up the hullaballoo within quite well. Much more so than their other releases where you'd expect something far more demure and docile before being rudely awakened by the cacophony within.

'Lord Cromwell' begins off promisingly enough with those distinct and strong vocals of Donella Del Monaco. They're beautiful and totally at odds with this Frankenstein's monster of an album.

As with all 'Opus Avantra' recordings the musicians are clearly professionals and play with complete control of their instruments. Why then, does it sound so discordant and demented? This is one truly bizarre album, even more so than their first outing, which was pretty wild and inhospitable in itself.

In parts the boisterous approach is very much of its time with pretty Italian tunes played with a straight 4/4 beat before going completely crazy doing summersaults through hoops.

The vocals lull you into a false sense of security as all sorts of staccato shenanigans occur with classical instruments. Screeches, thuds and acoustic stabs fly out in all directions. There's even some machine guns thrown in for good measure.

There's a huge variety of instrumentation used in this overly bombastic album. Despite being 'Classical' there's keyboards and sound effects used throughout. For the greater part it sounds like it's played by once famous musicians who have been confined to that hospital that Jack Nicholson visited in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'.

'Opus Avantra' had a unique and distinct sound unlike anyone else. God knows what the public must have thought of this in 1975.

It's a tough and difficult album to get to grips with despite the clearly professional approach by all involved.

Report this review (#1459072)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2015 | Review Permalink

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