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FEM Prog Band - Sulla Bolla Di Sapone CD (album) cover

SULLA BOLLA DI SAPONE

FEM Prog Band

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian combo FEM PROG BAND started out as La Forza Elettro Motrice back in 2007. Following an initial phase of members coming and going they solidified into a steady unit in 2010, and work then commenced on the creation of their debut album. Following an initial EP in 2012 their full-length debut album followed in 2014, released through the Italian label Altrock Records' "Fading" imprint.

FEM Prog Band is a quality addition to the ranks of bands exploring a vintage-oriented variety of symphonic art rock. There's plenty of keyboards throughout, lots of organ and a fair amount of Mellotron, used in compositions that first and foremost appear to revolve around a style that points back to the likes of Genesis and Camel, but with some harder edged excursions and a touch of jazz-rock here and there for additional flavoring. The compositions come across as vibrant and energetic, and fairly accessible in nature and expression too, and come with a general recommendation to those who treasure vintage-oriented symphonic progressive rock.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#1212494)
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sometimes there comes an album thats so good you just want to scream to the whole world about it, you just want everybody to know how good it is. This is one of those albums. When the band FeM goes in to the third song "Microgen parte 2", I'm just sitting and smiling to myself thinking this is the reason I love progressive rock.

FeM is one of those rare bands that not only can they write great songs, they have the knack for creating just these killer moments that makes you want to rewind instantly. I was driving my car back to Stockholm, and I had to reach for the rewind button on the CD-player to hear just that moment one more time. Very few bands can achieve that for a seasoned vet progressive rock listener.

There are 15 songs on the album, most in the shorter span but many of them are segued to each other so they are in fact longer than they first appear. 60 minutes of music is something that all bands can't manage keeping the quality up, but there are no fillers here. Of course in such a long album some songs could have been cut away to reduce the length but there is no deadweight so to speak. They also manages to play using the full spectrum, from lighter piano-based songs to almost getting in to hardrock, they can play light happy songs and they can get really gritty and complex. They also manage to keep it all together so it feels like one band with one style. I like how the band can spring up and surprise me with a beautiful melody, coming out of nowhere in the middle of a song.

The band uses the full arsenal of guitars, keyboards, bas, etc with brass, flute, acoustic guitar and lots of great keyboard sounds like moog, Hammond etc. The vocals are handled by Sabbatini who has a stellar voice that complements the music perfectly.

Soundwise they are firmly based in the great Italian progressive tradition, perhaps a bit more uptempo, try mixing La maschera di cera with ACT. I would compare them to other fellow Italians like Unreal city, La coscienza di zeno and LogoS.

Be patient when listening to the album, the really goody stuff starts at the second half of the album. All in all; great songs, great sound and a great album! This comes highly recommended and is firmly at the top of the best albums of 2014. This is a feast of Italian progressive rock.

Rating: 4,5 stars (I rarely give away 5-star ratings unless it's a timeless masterpiece).

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Send comments to Andis (BETA) | Report this review (#1218997)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Among prog sub genres, I am especially fond of the Italian prog which seems to get air from its own sphere and I have noticed that I easy use to like this music. Because it is that they sing in their own language that is so geunine, the though of not doing that is just stupid. Forza Elettro Motrice which FEM stands for is a new prog band which record "Sulla Bolla di Sapone" is the next record for me to encounter. I have heard it twice and most say I like it.

They are five guys in the band and I most say the music is quite keyboard and guitar driven. The music is similar to pop prog as The Flower Kings with catchy symphonic lines in particular performed through the keyboard. The cover of this 2014's record is quite nice with a landscape we see in a bubble. I also like the sign of FEM, I don't think the similarity with PFM is a coincidence.

But how to value this record? Yes, It is lengthy, contains a lot of music and the material is ambitious. I notice that the band has worked a lot with it and all the songs are parts of an easy flow. I think Massimo Sabbatini is the lead vocalist and he does a great job. His voice is powerful and rocky. Even if melodies are there and they are fine, do I find all the songs perhaps a bit too similar. They don't challenge me and don't get the deep interest, to be honest. It is fine material for sure so if you like modern symphonic prog, this is certainly something for you. I'd say it is worth three stars!

"Il peso della Conoscenza" is one of the record's best tracks and one that I would recommend as well as "Un viaggio lungo un instante" or "Ritorno al Giardino".

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Send comments to DrömmarenAdrian (BETA) | Report this review (#1239245)
Posted Saturday, August 09, 2014 | Review Permalink
Progulator
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars If you've been getting the itch to hear some new rock progresivo italiano that goes all out to give you mountains of synths, crunchy guitars and Hammonds, and the high standard of vocals that we've come to expect from RPI bands, you've stopped at the right place. I present to you Forza Eletromotrice, or FeM as they more commonly call themselves. With their debut full length record, Sulla bolla di sapone, FeM delivers a lengthy feast of symphonic prog based on the story "On the Soap Bubble" by Kurd Lasswitz. Interestingly enough I was introduced to their EP a couple of years back and pretty much dismissed it as being a bit bland, but my-oh-my am I glad I got a second chance with this Milan-based quintet. While their sound certainly is richly influenced by their forefathers (Banco, PFM, and Le Orme), the songs are convincing, masterfully performed, and emotional as they present a complete album that maintains a wonderful flow while effectively incorporating prog, fusion, and classical.

If you're anything like me you won't have to dig deep into this album to really get into it; right from the start FeM dives in with a trio of pieces that waste no time in going all out. "Il giardino delle consuetudini" shows us right from the get go that this is a powerful group as they deliver an assault of blaring Hammonds, jazz elements, and a catchy chorus that you'll find yourself humming along to. As the album seamlessly flows into "Microgen" 1 and 2 the band shows that they can swing from in your face guitars and keys to a latin feel and an epic outro replete with choirs, swirling synth leads and a pounding dirge featuring powerfully high vocals.

Just as quickly as FeM can get explosive they can also surprise you with subtle, beautiful tunes such as "Il mondo bianco opaco," a romantic piano piece that shows off Alberto Citterio's knack for both delicate melodies and technical runs, nicely augmented by a soft synth pad and glockenspiel interjections. Much further down the road in this album I was excited to hear "Riflessioni," a piece that almost feels like an intended follow up to "Il mondo bianco opaco" (which it might intentionally be for all I know). Moving from flutes to piano, acoustic guitar and glockenspiel, the melodies are simple, yet powerful.

It's always hard to choose favorites on a good concept album, but if there's a particular section of Sulla bolla di sapone that comes to mind, it's right around the middle of the album, starting a little more than half way through the instrumental "Il signore dei pensanti" and ending with the close of the following song, "Processo alla verita." What caught my attention about the former is the fantastic execution of dark, cinematic brass interwined and doubled with lead guitar that painted a very powerful musical image before flowing to what is perhaps the most distinctly Italian sounding piece on the album: "Processo alla verita." The interplay between choir vocals, instruments, and solo voice is brilliant, and the flawless transitions from tron and moog to organ and brass are magnificent as they receive effective support from bass and guitar riffs. As the piece moves towards the finale it becomes absolutely menacing as the shouts of "Sacrillegio! Pazzia!" continue to ring in our minds while Sabbatini delivers the final repeated lines "Ecco il tempo del Microgen" over dense atmosphere of swelling synth bass and swirling keyboard lines.

In the end, FeM is simply an an amazing group of musicians where each player really delivers on their end of the field. The rhythm section shows Borsati and Buzzi to be a strong duo, whether it's Borsati's powerful groove that's demonstrated right from the top of the record or Buzzi's ultra tasty bass licks that really shine on Reviviscenza." Colombo shows head-spinning riffing on songs like "Incontro con i saponiani," however his true power lies in his ability to subtly lay down meaningful lines that support each and every piece whether they are his distinguishable fusion interjections or well arranged chords filling in the background. On keys, Citterio proves himself to be a forced to be reckoned with in the prog scene. The closer, "E il mondo scoppiera," is proof of his clever and effective arranging and playing as he provides nuanced arrangements jumping from Hammond to glockenspiel and an arsenal of analog synths which culminate in a powerful Mellotron theme that recalls just a bit of Genesis' "Watcher" intro but in a much more delicate context, really capitalizing on the contrast of quiet to make each chord shift count toward an introspective closure of Sulla bolla di sapone. Let us not forget to mention once again the contribution of Sabbatini's stellar vocals, blending the Italian tradition of the likes of Banco with a sense of modern expression that you'll find familiar if you've been listening to contemporary RPI bands like La Conscienza di Zeno and Barock Project, culminating in a captivating theatrical ride.

With Sulla bolla di sapone , FeM certainly finds itself among the high quality symphonic acts of their countrymen and leaves me anxious to hear more from them in the future.

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Send comments to Progulator (BETA) | Report this review (#1287522)
Posted Saturday, October 04, 2014 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Formed back in 2007, Forza Ellectro Motrice (or F.E.M, because all the cool prog bands have three digit abbreviated names!) made an early splash back in 2012 with a short 22 minute EP entitled `Epsilon'. Breezily in debt to the vintage Italian Prog acts, it displayed plenty of potential and was positively received by RPI fans. But for their proper full length debut two years later, `Sulla Bolla di Sapone' (`On the Soap Bubble', loosly based on a 1887 tale by Kurd Lasswitz) shows the band stepping up in a big way, offering a lengthy work full of colour, liveliness and endless variety, but best of all bringing more personally distinctive characteristics of their own for their modern take on symphonic prog.

One of the instantly standout qualities on the album is the youthful lead vocals of new singer Massimo Sabbatini. Although still theatrical, he actually brings a snarling, energised and buoyant young presence instead of the more pompous and stuffy vocals often found on Italian prog albums (that's not actually a criticism!). The band offer a mix of spirited and strongly melodic vocal pieces with lengthy instrumental passages throughout, as well as fully instrumental tracks too, all seamlessly weaving together with no breaks in between. It's a lot to take in on initial listens, but repeated plays not only reveals a successfully flowing work, but also plenty of complexity and fresh ideas. The band race through a series of symphonic prog arrangements with plenty of classical sophistication and prettiness, little moments of harder guitar bite, lightly jazzy diversions, psychedelic quirkiness and orchestral bombast, most constantly up-tempo and full of spontaneity.

Looking at several of the highlights, `Il Giardino delle Consuetudini' is a punchy little melodic pop/rocker opener, then the psychedelic two-part `Microgen' starts by exploding with Alberto Citterio's liquid delirious Moog, organ and Mellotron runs over Emanuele Borsati's thrashing drum-work, the piece taking on a loopy quaklity that wouldn't sound of place on a Flower Kings album), before a forceful vocal spits with deranged menace. Delicate classical piano solo interlude `Il Mondo Bianco Opaco' allows the listener a brief moment to catch their breath from the noise of the previous tracks, before launching into the upbeat and up-tempo `Consapevolezza', then `Inctontro...' that blasts back and forth with violent heavy guitar riffing, pounding beats over swirling synths and intimidating Mellotron choirs.

`Neella Citta' moves through a range of tempos and moods, at heart a joyful melodic rocker powered by Paolo Colombo's driving soloing guitar runs alongside delirious Moog noodling with victorious themes, and `Il Signore...' introduces booming brass that recalls the orchestral pomp of the Alan Parsons Project. `Processo Alla Verita' has Marco Buzzi's murmuring bass, forceful heavy guitar, piano pops and disorientating group vocals that rise into the air on Mellotron wings. Especially take notice of the following stretch of blissful tracks in the last quarter of the album. The gently dreamy `Riflessioni' floats on clouds with twinkling jazzy piano and breezy flute, `Un Viaggio Lungo ' cruises along on mellow grooves with dazzling synth spirals and `Reviviscenza' offers nimble fingered darting bass and trilling Moog ripples, again very much in the style of the Flower Kings and other modern symphonic bands, with some lovely drowsy bluesy guitar like early Pink Floyd. The final two pieces close the album with symphonic power and grandiosity, leaving the listener to consider the exhausting amount of talented playing and ambitious compositions they've just witnessed!

Perhaps it's a little too long (15 tracks!), but along with younger bands such as Unreal City and Ingranaggi della Valle, F.E.M are offering classic Italian prog influences successfully mixed with modern sensibilities, all performed with a youthful vigour and spirited energy. Respectful of the past without simply slavishly remaking it, fans of the older vintage acts should give this band a listen to see how the proud tradition of the past masters is in good hands and carrying on in a grand and promising fashion. Bravo to Forza Ellectro Motrice for changing their approach and ensuring that `Sulla Bolla di Sapone' crackles with energy, inspiration and potential. One of the strongest symphonic prog albums of 2014, and certainly one of the more happy surprises to discover amongst Italian prog in 2014!

Four stars.

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Send comments to Aussie-Byrd-Brother (BETA) | Report this review (#1302654)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
andrea
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars La Forza Elettro Motrice (in short F.E.M.) came to life in Meda in 2007 from the ashes of a band called QK, on the initiative of Alberto Citterio and Paolo Colombo. After some live experiences on the local scene and a first EP in 2012, in 2014 they finally released their first full length album on the independent label Altrock/Fading Records with a renewed line up featuring Alberto Citterio (keyboards), Paolo Colombo (guitars), Marco Buzzi (bass), Emanuele Borsati (drums) and Massimo Sabbatini (vocals). It's titled "Sulla bolla di sapone" (On the soap bubble) and it's a conceptual work loosely based on a short story by German writer Kurd Lasswitz, Auf der Seifenblase. Although this work is divided into individual tracks, it does function as a whole and the music flows away without interruptions as in a long suite. As you can guess, the album stems from many years of hard work and is the result of the distillation of a myriad of influences but the band managed to throw enough of their own originality into the mix to keep their compositions and arrangements forward looking and interesting from start to end. Sometimes the vocalist seems to struggle to interpret all the different characters of the story showcasing a good theatrical approach but this does not spoil the pleasure of the listening. The artwork by Dario D'Alessandro is beautiful and in some way describes the content of the album portrying a dreamy world in a soap bubble...

The brilliant opener "Il giardino delle consuetudini" (The custom's garden) sets the atmosphere and conjures up the image of a beautiful garden where we meet two men and a child. It's pleasant to sit quietly in this garden for a while and let things slide, you can relax and sit down. The child is playing with soap bubbles and suddenly asks a question... "Uncle Wendel, uncle Wendel! Just look at the soap bubbles, the wonderful colours! But where do the colours come from?". In a while certainties and untouchable truths start to crumble for a man that is not used to think of the sense of an endless reality. It's the starting point for an incredible journey...

The following "Microgen" is divided into two parts. The first is an instrumental one that begins by a dazzling sound of synthesizers and draws you in a mysterious atmosphere. Then, on the second part, the music and lyrics invite you to try, try hard to think of the world in a different way. One of the two men in the garden, uncle Wendel, is a very peculiar genius, half alchemist and half scientist, who has discovered a tool that can make everything very small and that's called microgen... Each of the conscious capabilities would be altered so that all qualitative perceptions remained the same, but all quantitative relationships are reduced in scale. He maintained that he could shrink any individual he chose - along with their view of world - to one millionth, even one billionth part of normal size... "Do you want to discover Microgen? / Do you want to try Microgen? / Can you understand microgen? / Here you are! It's microgen's time...".

The dreamy "Il mondo bianco opaco" (The white, opaque world) is a beautiful instrumental interlude based on a piano pattern that takes us on a soap bubble. Then, on the following "Consapevolezza" (Consciousness) the rhythm rises while we're approaching a strange new world. Slowly we land on it, we're surrounded by a landscape of glycerine, the earth looks like a frozen sea, the white sky is like curtain. In the fog we can see some strange shapes coming forward...

"Incontro con i saponiani" (Meeting with the Saponiens) is an aggressive instrumental track that describes the meeting with the inhabitants of the soap bubble, the Saponiens, and leads to the following "Nella città" (In the town). Here the music and lyrics describe a surreal world where different realities clash into each other. The quiet garden is far behind: now we're not just living in a dream but we're entering in a kind of theatre of dreams, we're entering in an unknown, crowded place and every blink is a mosaic of the picture of the mysterious town... Then the Saponiens noticed our presence and gathered round us with many questions, displaying their obvious desire for knowledge. Understanding between us was made the more difficult because their limbs, which possessed a certain similarity to the feelers of polyps, moved in such peculiar ways that even gestures were hard to make out...

The heavier, dark instrumental "Il signore dei pensanti" (The Lord of the Thinkers) takes us on a trip to the capital city where the head of state of the Saponiens, who bears the title Lord of the Thinkers, resides. It's a good chance to learn more about this strange civilization. In fact, the Saponiens call themselves The Thinkers for the study of science is held in the highest regard and the whole nation takes a keen interest in the scientific disputes of their learned men. Later we have the chance to attend a trial against a local scientist called Glagli: the music and lyrics of the following "Processo alla verità" (The truth on trial) describe the trial. In some way it recalls the trial of Giordano Bruno or GalileoGalilei where conservative, obscurantist thesis prevail on rationality. Beware! During the trial one of the protagonists speaks up and commits the error to get involved in the argument backing Glagli's innovative theories and tells the assembly the story of their journey to the soap bubble... "Outrage! Blasphemy! Madness!" echoed all around, and inkwells flew at my head. "He's mad! The world a soap bubble? His son made it? He pretends to be the father of the creator of the world! Boil him! Boil him!". Well, it's time to get back I fear... "Here we are! / It's time of the micrgen!".

"Riflessioni" (Reflections) is a beautiful instrumental acoustic piece full of classical influences and delicate nuances that leads to "Il peso della conoscenza" (The weight of knowledge) where the music and lyrics invite you to reflect about your experience and to look at the world with an open mind and a new awareness. Now subtle sounds drive your thoughts, you can hear the voice of conscience telling words that seem void but bear the weight of knowledge. Knowledge can mean responsibility and revolution, wisdom can be misunderstood and confused with madness, we can find threatening what we can't understand... It can't be understood, I can't explain it to you; it would be no use. People remain people whether large or small. They never look beyond themselves. Why should I let it cause trouble?

During the ethereal, spacey instrumental "Un viaggio lungo un istante" (A journey that lasts a moment) you're still lost in your thoughts, then another beautiful instrumental track, "Reviviscenza" (Revivescence), brings new life and strength. The music and lyrics of the following "Ritorno al giardino" (Return to the garden) take you back to reality. After your dangerous journey you know that an absolute truth does not exist and that this is the true principle of freedom. "E il mondo scoppierà" (And the world will burst) concludes the album with a nice drumming and a new energy, now you can feel a new consciousness and you can turn your eyes to your land as a new man... "How many transparent bubbles around us? / Can you see them?...". Uncle Wendel laughed, the bubble burst - and my little son blew another...

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#1306717)
Posted Friday, November 14, 2014 | Review Permalink

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