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Aurora Lunare

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Over thirty years is a long time to take to release a debut album for a band formed in the late Seventies! That's the case with Aurora Lunare, an Italian progressive band who got together way back in 1978, sadly at a time when interest in adventurous rock music was mostly on the wane. After regrouping a little while back and proving their worth on various tribute albums to such bands as Yes, Marillion and the Flower Kings, 2013 now finally brings us their superb proper debut, and it's more than worth the wait. The self titled disc is a keyboard dominated tour-de-force with charismatic theatrical vocals in the typical grand Italian romantic fashion, with symphonic Genesis and E.L.P flavours and even some surprising moments of tasteful darkness more along the lines of Goblin. Add in a use of narration, classical drama and unpredictable experimentation to put it firmly in the proud RPI tradition of daring genre-pushing releases. Only a questionable lapse of judgment right at the very end of the disc stops it being virtually faultless, but read on and make your own decisions.

What a showcase opening track `Evasione di un'idea' is for both keyboard players in the band Mauro Pini (who is also the singer) and Stefano Onorati - an exhausting display of whirling duel- tracked Moogs, twinkling electric piano, coarse Hammond organ and fierce Mellotron blasts. The piece has a rollicking snap to it, like the classic P.F.M pieces of old such as `E Festa', with plenty of thick bass, punchy drumming, and a pleasing vocal chorus that is both triumphant and stirring, mostly due to the relishing menacing roll to Mauro's theatrical-styled vocals. The melancholic classical piano dominated `Eroi invincibili...' offers very Genesis-influenced regal pomp, with wistful flute reflections and an epic Moog/church organ solo in the second half. Hostsonaten and La Maschera di Cera's Alessandro Corvaglia provides his distinctive raspy croon for a touch of class to good effect as well. Instrumental `Mondo Fantasmatico', with it's upbeat boppy tempo and buzzing Moog, recalls the quirkier synth-pop moments of Italian legends Goblin, some trilling flute also giving the piece a real spring in it's step. It unexpectedly turns into an ambient synth-scape in the middle, full of Gregorian-styled chants and howling winds, before an E.L.P-inspired epic finale.

The gloomy `Riflessi Indicativi' is full of tip-toeing piano, uneasy bass and washes of Mellotron behind more blistering Moog runs, Mauro's voice conveying sad longing throughout this spectral piece. We then hit a run of slightly shorter numbers, starting with `Corsa Senza Meta', a creeping and slightly malevolent experimental piece with darting flute, mocking spoken-word passages and wavering electronic effects. By comparison, `Secondo Dubbio' is a Hammond/Moog soaked groover with a catchy melody and foot-tapping playfulness that demonstrates the confidence of the band. `Interlunio' is a brief dirty and thrilling flute improvisation over low-key organ, the ghostly `Sfera Onirica' brings back the slightly kitschy dark Goblin theatrics with wicked Mellotron choirs and driving electric guitar soloing. So, eight superb tracks in a row, surely that means the band will finish on their best piece yet?

Frustratingly, the band decide to close the album on a cover of Le Orme's `All'infuori del Tempo / Ritorno al Nulla'. Now, it's not a lazy remake at all, they've given the pieces their own flair, the first more joyous and especially lovely. Guest female vocalist Greta Merli is a delight here, and there's a sweetly romantic quality when she and Mauro come together, complimenting each-other beautifully. They've also got Le Orme member Tolo Marton to play some guitar on the second piece, who brings a dangerous spiky sound, and the rest of the band add a ferocious energy to it. But due to their inclusion here, it means that much of the attention on this album will go to those cover versions, stealing the focus away from the strong original material of the band. The band should have been confident enough with their own material, or maybe just included the Le Orme numbers as bonus tracks. Well, they're right at the end of the disc, so let's treat them as bonus pieces!

It's a shame this album was released right at the end of 2013, as last year had already had several high-profile, high-quality releases such as the Ingrannagi della Valle and Unreal City debuts earning much of the attention. So let's pretend this came out in 2014 and start giving this exquisite release the same attention as those other two. `Aurora Lunare' is everything a symphonic progressive rock fan could ask for, and with setting the bar so high for a debut release, one has to wonder where the band can can go from here. Not bad for a group already over thirty five years into their career! Better late than never, and if this is what the band could have achieved back in the vintage era of the 70's, they'd possibly be being talked about as something very special from the heyday of the RPI genre now.

Four and a half stars.

Report this review (#1155154)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was really hoping Aurora Lunare would join the elite RPI 2014 releases that encompass such names as Logos (wow!), Nodo Gordiano, Ad Maoria, Ego, Phoenix Again and Zuffanti, but forced to admit that it sits on a secondary tier, together with the similar Laviantica, even after multiple spins and revisits. Two keyboardists, a prominent bass maestro in Luciano Tonetti as well as your typical RPI manic drummer named Marco Santinelli, as well as some fine and well respected guests should have been a recipe for stardom. There are some fabulous pieces here that are outright classics such as the flute-saturated "Mondo Fantasmatico" as well as some lesser successful stuff, so it will create a feeling of being a mixed bag for me.

It all starts out quite promising with four real kick-ass tracks, beginning with the splendid opener, "Evasione di un' Idea", a parping synthesizer-led extravaganza that also features conspicuous bass and lead keyboardist Mauro Pini's effusive vocalizing. Well-constructed to maximize effect, the martial drums intone a harsh feeling of impending liberation, the intense keyboard symphonics definitely leading the parade, and the controls are set for a very pleasant ride. The quality truly stands out after multiple spins, a memorable workout full of charm, edge and delight.

The pace keeps on with the excellent "Eroi Invisibili", a track has many highlights such as the devilishly clever piano section courtesy of the masterful Stefano Onorati, a nearly 9 minute of sonic excursions that has little hints of past classics like Curved Air's fabulous "Metamorphosis", in that the piano orchestrates the arrangement first and then veers it into a more conventional prog piece, complete with that by-now familiar voice of Alessandro Corviglia of La Maschera di Cera fame. He does a crack job at elevating the emotions, aided by extended flute and synthesizer soloing. Another damn good uplifting track as the voluptuous church organ supplies added sensational depth.

The apex is reached convincingly with "Mondo Fantasmatico", as it has everything you want from RPI, clever melodies wrapped in mysterious contrasts (the choir work blending in with stupendous bass phrasings is to die for), strong groove tendencies and sizzling keyboard work that will satiate your prog cravings into many multiple revisits. When the electric piano shoulders the groove and everyone jumps on board, you get a Stealy Dan meets RPI feel that is out of this world, funky, driven, resolute and dynamic. Gianluca Milanese's magical flute flutters brilliantly, a stellar track that just kills me every time I get near it. Delicioso!

"Reflessi Indicativi" keeps the angst front and center with slightly more dissonant tendencies, though still loaded with magical ivory playing, stellar rhythmic interplay as well as emotional vocal expressions. The Moog literally sizzles throughout, swirling, cavorting and caressing manically, ably duelling for attention with the elegant piano, mellotron washes notwithstanding. Onorati spits out some electric guitar colorations that only add to the fun. Tonetti's rapier bass is thunderous here as well as throughout the album, a constant beacon of precision and melody.

From this moment on, here is where the album takes a slight dive that has lingered despite many attempts at altering my first impression. This next chapter contains 4 shorter tracks, some great, some not so, and a final Le Orme tribute that is totally out of place with the previous material, as mentioned by my mate Aussie-Byrd-Brother (who as usual, is perceptive to the nth degree!), an obvious puzzling decision to our ears anyway.

The decidedly unsavory "Corsa Senza Meta" is not my favored style, too dissonant and experimental (though I do enjoy those attributes, I dislike senseless noodling), a sonic 'papier-mâché' of weird noises, growling voices, hushed laughter, clichéd accented English quotes and really just a nuisance more than anything. The piano is chaotic, the editing all over the place in terms of structure, I really don't get it. Why?

Thankfully, "Secondo Dubbio" is better, a wilder yet more composed piece loaded with typical Tony Banks ?like synth melodies, a churning Hammond challenging the rather operatic Pini vocals, a cool flute solo and altogether a fine bass ?fueled piece, though somewhat predictable. I would have preferred seeing this piece earlier in the set as an interval between the sweeping giants.

The very short "Interlunio" is a tasty flute salad, something Didier Malherbe of Gong would concoct. Flute fans will love this exercise! The broken glass leads into "Sfera Onirica", an uplifting 4 minute ditty that spotlights the stunning keyboards available, while Onorati picks up the electric guitar again to underline the chaos and the enigma that exudes from the grooves. This is primo quality material once again, sort of the cavalry rushing in to the rescue , only to find the chuck wagons in ruins, smoldering in defeat. Now, I love Le Orme like most prog and RPI fans but this should have been clearly labelled as a bonus track, as it does not sound like Aurora Lunare but rather like the originators themselves, especially with the presence of Tolo Marton on guitar. Do not misunderstand me, the song is a stunning accomplishment, the female /male vocal duet (Pini is joined by Greta Merli) is beyond stellar, playful, emotive and gorgeous. The "Ritorno al Nulla" section from "Felona e Sorona "is enchanting, the solo is devastating but it somehow doesn't jive with the rest of the menu . Even after multiple return engagements, I still have that lingering aftertaste of dysfunction.

Looking forward to their next one though, as all their inherent elements are sheer delights.

4 moonlit awakenings

Report this review (#1206271)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Aurora Lunare come from Livorno and began life in 1978 on the initiative of a bunch of friends in love with the music of bands such as EL&P, Yes, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Le Orme or Area just to name but a few. In that period progressive rock was on the wane but the band went against the tide and remained active on the local scene until the end of the eighties. In those years they hadn't the chance to release an album and it wasn't until 2006 that Aurora Lunare could manage to self-release a double CD with their non-professional old recordings to keep the memory of the band alive. In 2007 a real reunion followed and after years of hard, passionate work in 2013 the band finally released an official eponymous debut album on the independent label Lizard Records with a line up featuring Mauro Pini (vocals, keyboards), Luciano Tonetti (bass), Marco Santinelli (drums) and Stefano Onorati (piano, keyboards, electric guitar). During the recording sessions they were helped by many guests such as Tolo Marton (guitar), Gianluca Milanese (flute), Alessandro Corvaglia (guitar, vocals), Corrado Pezzini (synth-vocals), Graziano Di Sacco (vocal effects), Nicola Santinelli (classical guitar), Greta Merli (vocals) and Valentina Cantini (violin) who contributed to add more colours to the musical palette of the band. The result is excellent and I'm sure that Italian progressive rock lovers will not be disappointed by this album. By the way, in the booklet you'll find many pictures and some paintings by Luciano Tonetti that describe the content of the music and lyrics...

The beautiful opener "Evasione di un'idea" (Escape of an idea) begins by a marching beat that seems coming out from the mists of the past. In fact, according to the liner notes, the first part of this track is taken from an old tape containing a live recording from 1980 but after a minute and a half the mist gives way to a brilliant symphony of lights and shadows evoking the eternal struggle between dreams and reality, youth and maturity. As a gust of wind blowing away the cry of a man, an idea rises over the void that surrounds you. It shouts, trying to erode heavy metaphorical stones and negative memories and you can feel that soon a song of joy will break through, one day or another...

The following "Eroi invincibili... son solo i pensieri" (Invincible heroes... They are just thoughts) is in the same mood and begins by a piano solo pattern, then soaring melodic lines and heartfelt vocals lead your through indescribable landscapes where you can find lost temples and wide meadows burnt by the fire of a thousand emotions. You have to walk the beaten tracks, crawling on layers of madness and taking the risk of drowning in the sea of your lost chances... A church like organ solo passage ends this track and introduces the next one, the wonderful instrumental "Mondo fantasmatico" (Phantasmatic world) where you can let your imagination run free following the notes of a magic flute until you get lost in time and space.

"Riflessi indicativi" (Indicative reflexes) draws in music and words a surreal tableau reflecting images of distant worlds in the morning light. You can see black corals, crystal nets and strange buildings all around you while your memories start to get blurred... Then comes the dark, crazy experimentalism of "Corsa senza meta" (Running without a goal), an instrumental digression where dreams seem to turn into nightmares.

On "Secondo dubbio" (Second doubt) the rhythm rises again and the atmosphere is definitively brighter. The music and the hermetic lyrics conjure up images of hope shining through an suffucating mist and old memories from a tormented past. The following "Interlunio" is a short instrumental track for organ and flute that leads to another beautiful instrumental, the dreamy "Sfera onirica" (Oneiric sphere). The final track, "All'infuori del tempo / Ritorno al nulla" is a cover taken from Le Orme's masterpiece Felona e Sorona and represents a tribute to one of Aurora Lunare's most important sources of inspiration. It's enhanced by the presence of former Le Orme's guitarist Tolo Marton and by the female vocals of Greta Merli.

On the whole, this is an excellent album where historic pieces from the old repertoire of the band and some new tracks have been arranged and performed with painstaking care and great musicianship for the pleasure of the listener: a must-have for every Italianprog fan!

Report this review (#1393802)
Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. For some musicians they get into the music business for the girls and the money or you get bands like AURORA LUNARE who are simply into it for the love of music. Formed in 1978 they composed their own music but for the next decade or so played a lot of live gigs covering the music of their heroes like PFM, LE ORME, GENESIS, ELP etc. before breaking up in the early nineties only to reunite in the 00's and still it was another decade before finally releasing this their sole studio album in 2013. A labour of love indeed. Most of the songs are from the late 70's that have been given a modern makeover. They end the album with a two part LE ORME cover that ends the record perfectly in my opinion.

While I would describe this as symphonic music they do change it up, I mean they were fans of AREA as well and we get that vibe on a couple of tracks. Lots of synths, great melodies, classic vocals in the Italian tradition that make me proud. Lots of guests helping out like the LA MASCERA DI CERA guitarist and singer. How about the guest guitarist on the LE ORME closer Tolo Marton who won the world-wide guitar competition in Seattle put on by the Hendrix family in 1998, yes this man can play. By the way the keyboardist for this band is a Jazz man playing in a number of Jazz bands while also getting involved with AURORA LUNARE at some point. The original keyboardist while composing some of these songs back in the late seventies has a very limited role here.

Man this music just clicks with me big time, I'm really surprised with this one. It's the whole package though when you get a guy like Mauro Pini who sings with such emotion, just a pleasure really. All seasoned musicians and Mauro adds some unusual synths like synth-glockenspiel on a couple of songs as well as synth-bassoon on the fifth track "Corsa Senza Mota" which is a dark piece with lots of atmosphere and it's experimental. Sounds come and go like whispered words, flute, percussion and more. Piano and bass will also help out and man this is avant before 4 minutes and it will turn powerful with guitar but still "out there".

Another highlight is that opener, maybe their most famous or treasured melody that gets repeated throughout. Marching drums and lots of atmosphere before that melody arrives after 1 1/2 minutes and vocals not until after 4 minutes. Some more beautiful melodies on that second track which is the longest at over 9 minutes but I prefer the third tune "Mondo Fantasmatico" to it with the opening flute before guitar and synths dominate but the flute will return. Some awesome atmosphere here too in this almost 9 minute piece. More darkness on "Riflessi Indicativi" along with melancholy but before that the vocals and melodies are gorgeous. The short 2 minute "Interlunio" is somewhat dark with flute helping out then we get that two part LE ORME closer that is simply a joy and what a way to give a nod to their heroes and at the same time end the album with such class.

Over 30 years coming yet worth the wait? You bet! It's like this was custom made for me. Not sure why I'm not giving this 5 stars like Andrea offered but maybe down the road because this is going with the best of my RPI collection.

Report this review (#2926801)
Posted Monday, May 22, 2023 | Review Permalink

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