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La Torre Dell'Alchimista

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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5 stars Italian 70s symphonic music with modern sound. This band can capture the old Italian prog sense and make a real vintage album. Some nice ballads and instrumental cuts, excellent and changing tracks (specially the homonymous) and a happy prog pearl, the four minutes piece "Lo Gnomo". One of the better stuffs from this time. For me, an amazing album highly recommended.
Report this review (#19381)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2003 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
5 stars After reading the hype surrounding this new release, I decided to buy a copy. LATORRE DELL'ALCHIMISTA have received alot of favorable reviews from the underground press, and they just recently played an East Coast Prog festival in 2002. But after the first spin, the music didn't really sound that impressive. My first impression was that although the musicians were top-notch, the themes and vocals were average compared to the classic Italian prog bands that they were being compared to. After repeated plays, though, something strange started to occur. The album quickly started to reveal its beauty, and after a good half-dozen plays I was hooked. All of the tracks here average 6 minutes each, and feature a group of musicians who are determined to keep the 1970s Italian prog movement alive. Although the music here rarely apes groups like BANCO, LOCANDA DELLE FATE, PFM, MO.DO., and Festa Mobile their influence is noticeable. I also hear hints of ─NGLAGARD, BUBU, and even BACAMARTE during some of the instrumental sections. TDA's music is in the symphonic prog style. Most tracks feature playfully melodic interaction between hammond organ, Moog synth, flutes, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Vocals are present on 8 of the 9 tracks. And as unimpressive as the vocalist sounds at first, I quickly grew to like his voice and melodic style, although there is a 6-minute track entitled "Il Volo" which still sunk in. TDA managed to live up, somewhat, to the hype. If you do decide to check out TDA, keep in mind that they are not that impressive at first, though Italian progressive rock fans will find the music impressive.
Report this review (#19382)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, with all my respect for the production by Raul Caprio (Kaliphonia Records), concerning excellent, even though sometimes prolix bands like H20 and Deus Ex Machina, by adding some remarkable works by Consorzio Acqua Potabile (often-actually- I don't get crazy for all these works, especially when the production is so close to that one by seventies!!), this time I'm a bit disappointed about it!!Certainly I always hope to find any new band in Italy,still able to let me be enthusiast (for example bands like Il Trono dei Ricordi or Aufklarung, belonging to the best romantic tradition in Italy, were able to do that...),instead once again I have to listen to a remarkable derivative work, with an "old production"!! It seems naturally another work in regress, even though the music features -that We have always loved- are included inside the present album. However the sense of tiredness, due to this strong emulation of the best 70's classic prog stereotype (the same defect regarding works like "La Maschera di Cera", that I've already reviewed...), is hidden behind the corner...nothing diverse within our progressive front in Italy, but it never minds!! Everything has been written about this attempt of rebirth and I don't want to add anything else...

Report this review (#19383)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have seen the concert of this band at Gouveia Art Rock 2004, in Portugal. I liked it a lot and I bought the only album they have. Today it is one of the albums I like most in the progressive rock. I hope that they make more music, it's a pitty so much talent with only one album. Excellent album.
Report this review (#19387)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great ProgArchives!!!.... I bought this album right when it came out and loved it since then. It┤s classic 70┤s keyboard based prog with influences by the similar classic italian and british bands (Le Orme and Emerson Lake & Palmer. I was blown away by the keyboard player skills. Gladly has the oportunity to see them live on Gouveia Art Rock Festival in Portugal and confirmed the best impressions I already had about this band. THey have a new album, a live one, and it┤s about time to a new studio one appear.
Report this review (#19388)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fantastic Italian Symph band that has a bit of the new and old in their sound. Mutti's keyboard work is from the Emerson school and is very dominate yet he doesn't overplay, he allows Ceraolo to take the lead with his flute, yes flute! In fact, there's no lead electric guitar to speak of, mostly acoustic and very mellow at that. Every song except one, ('Il Volo' a ballad) has multiple time changes and are very upbeat and pastoral, imagine if PFM were starting out in 2001. Giardino has a very pleasant voice, not in the operatic style of Banco or the softness of PFM, just unassuming and warm. Two things for me that stand out is the wonderful flute work and the cathiness of most of the tracks. The only misgivings are the bit of 80's type Neo keyboard work in the first half of the opening song 'Delirio' and the meandering towards the end of the final song, 'Acquario'. Otherwise, this is an excellent first album by an Italian Symphonic band in the new millinium. I'm looking forward to their next album....hint, hint!!
Report this review (#84862)
Posted Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars By coincidence I just noticed that I have reviewed the live CD USA .. You Know? (2005) and the new studio album entitled Neo (2007) but not La Torre Dell'Alchimista their eponymous debut CD from. The focus in the nine melodic and tasteful compositions is on the keyboards by Keith Emerson aficionado Mutti Michele, he makes impression with fluent Hammond organ runs, flashy synthesizer flights and sparkling Grand piano work along delicate play on the ubiquitous Mellotron and distinctive Fender Rhodes electric piano. Another omnipresent but less dominant instrument is the flute, at some moments evoking early Camel. Other references in La Torre Dell'Alchimista their sound are ELP, Banco, Trace and even Supersister because of the more jazzy approach in teh final track Acquario. A promising debutalbum but I miss a bit tension and refinement, this band has to mature in writing compositions, the music depends too much on the splendid keyboard parts.
Report this review (#126176)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars When you listen to the opening number (but not only), the sound of ELP fully surrounds you. Maybe this is something one wouldn't expect from an Italian band but I have to say that it sounds really pleasant. These keys are superb, but it will be so during the whole of this album. A true symphonic one (just a bit jazzy during "Acquario").

But it is not only Michele who is great; all the other band members are on par. Very nice fluting, complex drumming, strong bass and good vocals. Another highlight in the genre (fluting I mean in the great "Delirio").

The whole of this album is a great return back to the middle seventies and the golden age of the Italian genre. What a nice journey back in these great days (IMO). The highlight might well be the gorgeous title track. If ever there were one brilliant song out of this album, it is definitely this one. Emotion, passion, skills. Anything else you want?

Passionate vocals are the major trump of this album. So convincing even if you don't grab a single word out of it. I guess that this is the difference between average and great vocals.The Tull influence is of course not to be ignored ("L'Apprendista"). Same skills. Same powerful and great music. A highlight, no doubt. A real gem of this genre (and that's very difficult to achieve).

This album is such a fine to listen to than each of the track can be considered as (almost) a jewel. The album is of course fully dominated by Mutti Michele : a real maestro this guy. The dominating parts are vocals and keyboards. If ever you would be a fan of delicate vocals (as I am) combined with sophisticated, powerful, bombastic keys: this is probably a combination you would just love. As I do.

And how couldn't you be in love with such a track as "I Figli Della Mezzanotte". Such a magical combination of incredible vocals and subtle, though jazzy oriented instrumental parts.

Lots of nice and melodic passages, short format songs for the majority (except "Acquario" ) which gives the sensation of a extremely varied and sophisticated album. In this respect, a song like "Lo Gnomo" is fully representative of their whole style. Another highlight. One more. Complex, upbeat and these magical. Great fluting as well. A jewel.

This is a very good debut album. Four stars.

Report this review (#134719)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I purchased this debut album, liked it but sort of got lost in various shuffles, both personal and among other prog priorities, so it took a long drive through Tennessee today to chuck this into the car CD player and push volume to the hilt ( car's rented, so damn the woofers!). The Alchemist's Tower is an eclectic combo from Bergamo that doesn't follow the standard prog line-up in terms of musicians, even though keyboardist extraordinaire Michele Mutti is the outright leader (By the way, the lads stumped everyone on the booklet by spelling their names Chinese/Hungarian style: last name coming first (Fooled ya!), so I'll set it right). His dexterous style seems to favor laying down tons of the Hammond C3 organ but unlike maestros John Novello of Niacin or Keith Emerson, who like to thicken the sauce somewhat, Mutti sounds more like Focus' Thijs Van Leer (very apparent on the title track!) and the illusion is compounded by the massive use of flute courtesy of Silvia Ceraolo as a co-lead instrument. So they do sound like an Akkerman-less Focus because there is no electric guitar (lead or rhythm) anywhere, only a few distant chords on acoustic guitar on a couple of tracks. My PA colleagues also have correctly cross haired Le Orme as a possible reference (their early material had no guitar also) but these guys are way jazzier as witnessed by the deft, solid but never heavy drumming of Norberto Mosconi and the nimble bass four finger magic by Davide Donadoni. But what really sets these wonderful musicians apart is the smooth vocal work by Michele Giardino, owner of a warm voice that elevates the specific qualities of the Italian language, displaying emotion, control, fluidity and tone. The opener "Eclisse" illuminates the road through this impressive debut, laying down thick slabs of whirling organ and piano tinklings offering barometer counterpoint in the finest Emerson/Fritz tradition. The agile flute and the effective vocals veer this composition into a highly original space, especially as the bubbling synths add a little further coloring. "Delirio" features ripping piano waltzing jointly with the flute over some jazzy pastoral horizons, setting the table for another seductive Hammond melodic sortie. The cracking title track (also the bands moniker) starts out with mellotron and gentle flute before bursting into a Van Leer-like C3 excursion with a rapid-fire main theme that gurgles passionately (Hammond fans will pee their pants!), all juiced up by a gentle mid-section showcasing some beautiful melodies both on vocals and on breezy synths, remindful of my friends the legendary Consorzio Acqua Potabile. The effortless and hyper-melodic "Il Volo" is a majestic vocal piece about the sea that, while seemingly too plain for some other reviewers, fulfill my angst ridden needs (of course, understanding Italian helps me). All Italian prog bands owe at least one track to their tradition of "canzione", simple folk-popular songs, decorated with minimal proggy artifices, a bit like PFM's "Just Look Away". The next track returns to the jazzy flute-organ duet program, a little ho-hum IMHO and my least favorite track here. "I Figli della Mezzanotte" is a short, tension-filled organ romp that purveys tortuous flute and zippy synths thus combining some more of the same ingredients that give this recording its unique flavor. The next one is a delightful grand piano etude that hints at Wakeman, Tout or Jobson, a two-handed tour de force that will please fans of this tremendous instrument to no end. The good-humored nature of the C3 is displayed once again on the "Lo Gnomo", your knickers maybe dry by now but as Peter Gabriel once so correctly stated, "Here comes the flood"! The hooker in you will love his organ, for sure! (oops! Censors!!!). The 8 minute finale "Acquario" does labor a bit, veering off into various moods that could of benefited from some much needed Sturm und Drang, showing up briefly near the end with a Greenslade-ian multi keyboard barrage (wobbly synth married to heavy organ) that suddenly dies on an e-piano ennui. Ending a prog album on a high note is "vewy, vewy" important but hey, it's a debut that deserves praise, applause and 3.5 powderboxes.
Report this review (#159538)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars La Torre dell'Alchimista is an Italian prog band from Bergamo that was formed in 1997 by Michele Giardino (vocals, acoustic guitar), Davide Donadoni (bass) and Michele Mutti (keyboards) who were later joined by Norberto Mosconi (drums) and Silvia Ceraolo (flute). The members of the band managed to shape their own original compositions following the great tradition of classic Italian prog bands like PFM, BMS and Le Orme while adding their personal touch and an up to date sound. This eponymous debut album was released in 2001 by Kaliphonia and the result is definitively good.

The beautiful opener "Eclisse" features piano, drums, organ and flute leading to a tense and "dusty" atmosphere... "The air gets filled with human fear / Drums run after the beating of the hearts... A blade writes on my belly the scream of the people / And the impassive stone drinks blood and vigour...": lyrics depict a human sacrifice during an eclipse of the sun. Well, when listening to this track try to imagine the scene of the sacrifice in 2006 Mel Gibson's film "Apocalypto"... Anyway the acoustic guitar brings a sense of hope in the end: "A new light is rising / And it will heat pale and frail shapes"... A kind of soft and delicate wake up after a nightmare!

Next comes "Delirio (In Do Minore)" that is full of "crazy energy", while the third track "La torre dell'alchimista" (The Alchemist's Tower) is a kind of timeless musical journey featuring many changes of moods and tempos: lyrics tell about a kind of pilgrimage towards a place where you can get out from madness... "Step after step your goal is nearer / You have walked along the fields / And the voice of the river was leading you... Now your journey has come to an end / Here they cure every illness / Now you are in the right place / That's the alchemist's tower... Master, cut away the stone / My name is Lubbert Das / I come from a village in the plains / Beyond the river, beyond the walls / I come to cure my folly / Your fame is great / Even far away from here...". Probably - in the booklet there's no reference about it - the lyrics were inspired by a painting of Hieronymus Bosch, "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness (The Cure of Folly)" where you can find the words Meester snyt die Keye ras - myne name is Lubbert Das (Master, cut away the stone - my name is Lubbert Das)... At length, however, this is just another wonderful "musical painting" and the voice of Michele Giardino is like a brush adding touches of colors to the music!

"Il Volo" (The Flight) is a soft and dreamy acoustic ballad featuring a nice flute work. Lyrics and music try to depict an imaginary flight over a beautiful Irish landscape, "beyond the horizon that you can never reach" and into "fogs sweet like honey". A nice track followed by "L'apprendista" (The apprentice), a piece full of energy and "brio" that was built upon a theme taken from a symphony for organ by Camille Saint Saens... "My world has got a soul too / Simple laws, fragile signals...". Then the organ introduces "I figli della mezzanotte" (The Midnight Children), another good track featuring a mild and peculiar Middle-Eastern flavour... "For every snake there is a staircase... Victim and master of my time / I will live inside a tired body"...

"La persistenza della memoria" is a short classical inspired piano solo, a delicate interlude that precedes "Lo gnomo" (The Gnome), another beautiful classical inspired track where flute and keyboards play joyfully leading you into a fantasy world... "Once upon a time there was a merry spirit / Owner of the wood / Master of the river / He used to live serenely into an enchanted mushroom / Sleeping, smoking and drinking his wine...". The last track, the melancholic and introspective "Acquario", is a perfect finale for an excellent album... "Liquid world lost in a drop / That patiently shapes the nature again / While time slowly passes by / And into the water everything is silent / I can here only my voice".

On the whole, I think that this album should find a place in every Italianprog lover collection...

Report this review (#191388)
Posted Monday, December 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3.5 stars...

A relatively new Italian band,playing progressive rock definitely of symphonic realms and trying to recapture the 70's feeling.They were found in 1997 by Michele Giardino (vocals,acoustic guitars),Davide Donadoni (bass,clarinet) and Michele Mutti (keyboards) and a year later they were joined by drummer Noberto Mosconi.In 1999 LA TORRE DELL ALCHIMISTA started playing alive around Italy,while they added Silvia Ceraolo on flutes about the same time.The dawn of the millenium found the band sifning with Kaliphonia Label and on February of 2001 they recorded their eponymous debut...

A refreshing yet so retro-sounding release full of the vintage keyboard sounds of Mutti.You won't find any electric guitars in LA TORRE DELL ALCHIMISTA's debut,as their compositions are centered around Mutti's keyboards,Ceraolo's flutes and some acoustic guitars played by singer Michele Giardino.Their style is a cross of LE ORME and BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO,being melodic yet certainly dramatic at the same time.Nice organ solos and passages,distinctive mellotron parts and some background Fender Rhodes piano will thrill every progressive fan of the old times,accompanied by the good interplays between flutes,acoustic guitars,bass and drums.All these stuff is strongly mixed with the great voice of Giardino,whose vocal chords are very crystalline and intense...A fantastic debut lovers for all the freaks out there,who can't get enough of vintage-sounding adventures!

Report this review (#228628)
Posted Monday, July 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars Greg Walker recommended this to me a some time ago and on his site he refers to it as "Killer 70's style Prog". Even the cover art is classic Italian don't you think ? The emphisis is certainly on the variety of keyboards used plus there's lots of flute. What i'm most impressed with though are the vocals, just the tone of his voice which thankfully is in Italian.

I like the way "Eclisse" builds as drums join in followed by piano. Organ then takes the lead. A calm with flute after a minute are contrasted with outbursts of organ. Pulsating synths with drums, bass and vocals before 2 1/2 minutes. Great sound here. Strummed guitar comes in later. "Delirio" is uptempo with flute, drums and piano standing out. Vocals after a minute. Love how this sounds.The organ comes in screaming before 3 minutes. "La Torre Dell'Alchimsta" is flat out amazing ! Mellotron to open as flute joins in. It turns uptempo as organ and drums take over. Vocals arrive as it settles before 1 1/2 minutes. Some nice bass and organ follow. A heavenly soundscape 2 1/2 minutes in. Mellotron is back. This is absolutely gorgeous and moving. Vocal melodies before 6 minutes. "Il Volo" opens with acoustic guitar as fragile vocals join in. Some atmosphere here. A change after 4 minutes as the tempo picks up with strummed guitar.

"L'apprendista" is uptempo with drums and flute to open. Organ comes blasting in around a minute. A change to a darker sound a minute later. Nice. It settles as reserved vocals come in. It kicks back in at 3 1/2 minutes. Lots of organ late. Amazing song ! "I Figli Della Mezzanotte" features keyboards, light drums, flute and bass. Vocals before a minute. The organ sounds great here. "La Persistenza Della Memoria" is filled with these inspiring piano melodies throughout. "Lo Gnomo" is uptempo to start with flute, drums and organ standing out. Vocals before a minute as it settles. Contrasts continue. "Acquario" opens with a powerful sound but it lightens quickly with flute, synths and drums. Vocals and organ follow. Beautiful. Deep bass lines 3 1/2 minutes in with piano and cymbals. Cool section. Some heavy organ after 5 minutes. Jazzy 7 minutes in.

I tried to reason out why this isn't a 5 star album, but in the end there are no reasons. A classic.

Report this review (#245220)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars While 2007's Neo was a more compelling piece of work to my ears this eponymous debut from La Torre Dell'Alchimsta released six years previous is nevertheless very good and a surprisingly mature piece of work from a band at such an early stage in their career.

There's no getting away from the fact that here is an album steeped in the traditions of 70's Italian symphonic prog, the warm organic production making it sound more so. However whilst bands like Banco and Le Orme must have influenced them they manage to retain their own identity by not sounding like a direct copy of these or any other bands from the genre. With the absence of electric guitar keyboards dominate with Hammond organ having a strong presence and they make considerable use of flute too. The competent rhythm section hold thing together well enough though sometimes lack the drive to really push things up a notch. The vocals of Giardino Michele whilst adequate are a little bland leaving the weight of the albums appeal leaning on keyboardist Mutti Michele's shoulders. Fortunately he takes up the challenge producing some exciting playing on the nine compositions, providing jazzy touches alongside the largely symphonic style.

Whilst this debut is a very worthwhile album it's far from essential. Nevertheless, still worth a listen but I'd suggest going for Neo first.

Report this review (#637900)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Don't let the title of La Torre Dell'Alchimista's second album (Neo) fool you - this is no neo-prog group, but a symphonic prog-inspired RPI band creating music in the tradition of their forefathers in the golden age of Italian prog. Thanks to Ceraolo Silva's presence on flute, there's plenty of influence from the prettier and more pastoral end of the RPI spectrum, as occupied by bands such as PFM and Locanda Delle Fate, whilst Mutti Michele's keyboard work is often reminiscent of Keith Emerson, especially when the Hammond organ comes into play.

La Torre's mastery of the technical side of this particular style of progressive rock is impressive and displays an impressive knowledge and appreciation of the Italian scene's history. (Even the ELP influences are more than appropriate, thanks to the role ELP played in popularising important Italian prog acts in the English-speaking world through their Manticore Records releases.) That said, there's a certain extent to which the band rely a little too much on stylistic imitation of earlier waves of prog and they don't seem to bring enough fresh ideas to the table compositionally speaking.

Even though this debut might not be the most original album out there, it should warm the hearts of most RPI and symphonic prog fans and is at least worth a listen, though don't expect anything that will muscle its way into the top tier of your collection.

Report this review (#644977)
Posted Saturday, March 3, 2012 | Review Permalink

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