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4 stars Anyone happening to listen to a Court album will acknowledge the frequent blending of their powerful electronic impact with the acoustic shadows conveyed by the flutes, the recorders, the oboe, the classical and acoustic guitars and folk instruments as their main sound features.

The above quote from the CD booklet pretty much defines the essence of the band - a synthesis of disparate styles that relies heavily on the free use of woodwinds and acoustic string things. Oboe, recorders and mandolin bring eastern, medieval and folk atmospheres to the proceedings of 'Twenty Flying Kings' respectively, but fit together naturally.

Those readers familiar with the band will recognise from the track list that 'Twenty Flying Kings' is a collection of old tracks, culled from their first two albums and from the Colossus 'Inferno' project (I must check that out, the storm and stress of 'Anastasius' Epitaph' is counterpointed beautifully by the aching electric guitar riff of 'The Great Bear Rising'), although they have all been re-recorded. There's nothing new in that idea of course, Le Orme did something similar with 'Amico di Ieri' but I think Court pull it off better. The question for me is: How do they manage to give inspiration to old material?

Well, the album was recorded between 2007-2012 but is the product of a project begun in 2006. It was originally conceived as part of a 2-CD release; one disc was to have consisted of new material and another disc of acoustic versions of old songs. The project was abandoned as being over-ambitious although it saw the release of 'Frost of Watermelon' and the recording of some of the acoustic stuff here.

The band's intention was to better articulate the mood of the songs, so for example on the opening track 'Cries' there are no longer any sampled sounds of a victorious army marching home and there is no extended intro of garageland guitars. We're thrown straight into the thick of the action with rabble-rousing cries of 'Tell me! Tell Me! Where the soldiers have gone to die... Wasted! Wasted! Wasted the lands behind them / Now the king is satisfied.' This 'in the middle of things' device enlivens the track and combines with the battle of wills between acoustic and electric guitars to convey the anti-war strife.

The album also gives Court the chance to really stretch out and expand some tracks, giving more space to explore their musical vision. The album's symphonic centrepiece 'Sumptuous Moment' is their reading of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and concerns man's exploitation of nature. It has been greatly extended from its original version so I won't try to trace the disorienting trajectory of its 22-minutes but it conveys a sense of wandering lost in a perilous forest. If Court's original plan for this album was overly ambitious, there's certainly no poverty of ambition here either.

The album is broadly themed around encounters with kings and it also represents a chance for listeners to meet new vocalist Marco Pedrini; all vocals are in English, which is of course something of a mixed blessing but given the importance of the narratives it's a good thing overall. For instance, the epic 'Alviss' Revenge' is based on eddaic poetry and concerns the story of Alviss and his two brothers, their valkyrie brides, stolen rings, the envious king Garm etc., and google translate simply wouldn't have cut the mustard.

This year's new prog releases have set the bar pretty high but don't overlook 'Twenty Flying Kings' - it's a fine album and should be of equal interest to Court newcomers as well as fans looking for new material hewn out of old.

Report this review (#875028)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Twenty Flying Kings" is the fourth studio album by Court, from Varese. It was recorded during several sessions that took place between 2007 and 2012 and finally released in 2012 on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records with the renewed line up featuring Marco Pedrini (vocals), MosŤ Nodari (guitars, oboe, recorders, vocals), Jacopo Favrin (bass), Marco Strobel (guitar, mandolin, keyboards) and Francesco Vedani (drums, percussion, keyboards) plus some guests such as Luigi Bonacina (bass), Andrea Balliano (classical guitar), Giandomenico Fraschini (piano) and Andrea Cajelli (percussion). The album summarizes the history of the band, whose roots date back to 1990, and marks a new starting point. In fact, it features four pieces from their early period re-arranged by the new line up, two tracks originally released on the Colossus-Musea themed album "The Divine Comedy Part I - Dante's Inferno" and one previously unreleased track...

The opener "Cries" is a shortened, condensed but not less effective version of a piece from the 1993 debut album "And You'll Follow The Winds' Rush 'till Their Breath Dwells", a heartfelt complaint against war and tyranny. There's no glorious victory that can revive the dead nor heal the ruin left behind by the armies fighting in the name of their whimsical kings...

The following "Anastasius' Epitaph" and "The Great Bear Rising" are linked together and come from Dante's Inferno. Their source of inspiration is the Canto XI of the Divine Comedy that describes the meeting between the sommo poeta and Pope Anastasius II. In a damned place where even spring has a strange smell words like heresy and betrayal hide an obscure meaning...

"Sumptuous Moment" is an extended new version of the wonderful epic from Court's second album "Distances", where the band manage to develop some ideas and showcase great maturity and gusto. It's a visionary celebration of the power of Mother Nature, inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, where "a thunder storm combines the charms of winter and of hell"... Here folk influences and classical flavours are combined with the energy of rock instruments to conjure up a dreamy atmosphere and bring to life wandering shadows lost in the woods under the moon...

The first version of the melancholic "Lovers" was originally released on the debut album and here the band gives new life to the tragic story of a princess that preys night and day for the return of his beloved knight who is gone abroad, over the see, to fight in the name of the his king. When the army comes back without him she jumps down from the tower to fly away and meet her man...

The short, delicate acoustic ballad "Dream Tale" is the only original track and tells of a child who dreams of being a brave knight in a fantastic world full of adventures... It takes to the re-arranged version of another long epic piece from the debut album, "Alviss' Revenge", inspired by Norse Mythology and Nordic sagas. It tells a bloody story of rings and vengeance, kings and Valkyries, robberies and murders and ends an album that is really worth listening to.

Report this review (#2541725)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2021 | Review Permalink

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