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4 stars As much as I love progressive rock, I have to admit that too many modern-day bands emulate a specific period - the first half of the 70's - a bit too closely. Sure, their work is always intricate and appealing, but they usually rely too heavily on tricks made famous by genre's leaders like Genesis, King Crimson, Rush and Yes. Few acts in the genre take notable pages from other eras and styles, and even fewer do it as well as Italian proggers Dropshard. Their second studio instalment is called "Silk," and it is a wonderfully diverse, joyous and complex journey that manages to meld vintage traits and contemporary vibrancy and superb, unique songwriting. It's a really great album.

Formed in September 2007 by guitarist Sebastiano Benatti, bassist Alex Stucchi and drummer Tommaso Mangione, Dropshard set out to "dropping into unconventional music." Their debut "Anywhere But Home" managed to make a good breakthrough for the band. But with "Silk" the band is ready to open new horizons by showcasing a work of significant variety, innovation and passion.

"Insight" is a wonderfully inspiring and original way to to start. The instrumentation is a hypnotic and robust journey from a subtle arrangement to an enticing buildup that carries the same blithe spirit and dazzling timbres as the music of the mentioned heavyweights of the genre crossed with its contemporaries (Haken comes to mind).

"Eyes" ventures into a surprisingly different direction, with alt-rock tones and a pensive, spacey atmosphere. Enrico Scanu layers his vocals exquisitely, adding a bit more emotion to the playing patterns. His vocal style is reminiscent of Anathema's Vincent Cavanagh. "Cell 342" begins on a similarly quiet and reflective note that echoes Anathema influences once again, but it soon piles on the progressive rock virtuosity and madness with frantic drums and synths, and equally spastic guitar work showcasing how eccentric and ambitious Dropshard can be.

"Seat," "Pepetual Dream," and "Get Out and Run" form a batch of shorter tunes (all under three minutes), opening space for "The Endless Road," the first out of two songs that clock over ten minutes. It builds slowly from a short ambient part, over through the beautiful Fender Rhodes passage to a real progrocker, what turns to be one of the most multifaceted tracks here, revealing every side of Dropshard in one magnificent package. The other epic, "Memento" builds on atmospheric motifs constructed around various narrative parts.

I could go on and on about Dropshard, praising every moment of every song for being confident, enticing, adventurous and hearty. "Silk" is a record that exposes more and more brilliant nuances with each listen. It's a wise and tricky balance that allows the album to feel charmingly familiar yet also extremely valuable.

Report this review (#1302685)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars ... dreams like butterflies in the sky ...

DROPSHARD are from North Italy, somewhere between Lago Di Como and Milan, to take it more precisely. Known for its mediterranean climate including lakes and mountains nearby, probably the best circumstances to bring out something extraordinary. I already came across their forerunner album 'Anywhere But Home' which I would describe as a heavy progressive and metal hybrid including influences from Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree. Especially the title track engaged me to write a review in due course ... where later I had to realize that they even had ventured on the task to remix their debut. Fantastico, amici! The sound is clearer, obviously better, just to mention the drum presence for example. Anyhow, don't want to open a competiton, as the focus is on 'Silk' here of course.

'Well done - you haven't moved an inch!' a young woman claims at then end of Seat - Yes and No! Okay, this will be a perfect description when it comes to that particular song on its own, which is an ambient spacey interlude. But nowhere near can't be assigned to the entire album! Where 'Anywhere But Home' offers way more metal elements, this one certainly goes towards an art rock and neo prog direction. At first let me say, Enrico Scanu's vocals are amazing me. On one side there's a little charming accent to consider, though furthermore his expressive style is really really fascinating. As I generally would agree with lovers of Italian bands and prog music who are looking forward to native lyrics ... sometimes it's also suitable to use the English language, and this, presented by Enrico, eventually offers an important DROPSHARD trademark.

That's the way it is. But maybe even this will change furthermore, who knows? Now let me say that 'Silk' is an amazing album, varied, the songs are emotional, entertaining, elaborated. Eyes is a mainstream oriented exemplar, akin to bands like Moongarden, Believe, Quidam. Featuring an intriguing guitar intro Tied Together comes in the same, more mellow outfit. 'Take off your white coat and let me see' ... ehhhh ... the nested Cell 342 appears to be my top favourite, simply a prog masterpiece as for my appreciation. And Enrico once moves entirely close to growling, only once. They are getting started with a nice piano/vocal duet which always gives me the shivers, yeah!. Featuring heavy riffing guitar the mood then suddenly changes. The engines are running now at full stream, the song evolves to a rollercoaster behaviour, plus spaced out interlude somewhere in between - this one makes my day!

As for the heavier parts implemented, also fans of Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Toxic Smile, to name a few, might have a lot of fun listening to this album. Two songs are reaching behind the ten minute border. The Endless Road is made of variation again, including transitions to mellow flute and acoustic guitar doninated parts, but also a fulminant powerful peak towards the end. Memento starts way more eastbound oriented, probably at Baikonor or so, when considering some Russian speech incorporated. An entertaining piece in any case. Sorry, I've only mentioned the singer yet, though all the involved musicians are having a horse in the race of course. Definitely a highlight in 2014. With 'Silk' DROPSHARD have dropped an almost perfect album to the table, which affects me much. 4.5 ruthless stars.

Report this review (#1341043)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2015 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
5 stars 4.5 stars

Dropshard's "Silk" is a top ten of 2014 album for me. There: I put it out there. I do not consider 2014 a very good year for prog, with notable exceptions, of course. Dropshard's album fell into my mailbox a few months ago, and I didn't hear it until November or December due to a busy life. Once I put it on, I knew why it was sent to me, and I knew I had found one of those exceptions.

The band is made up of Enrico Scanu on vocals, guitars, and flute; Sebastiano Benatti on guitars; Valerio De Vittorio on keyboards; Alex Stucchi on bass; and Tommaso Mangione on drums. These guys instantly appealed to me with similarities to my favorite bands, like Riverside. Alex's bass is easily one of the highlights here, as is Tommaso's drumming. This rhythm section is dynamic, crazy, and all over the place in everything except quality. Add soulful guitars from Sebastiano and Enrico and peaceful, beauteous keys from Valerio, and you get a huge range of sounds. The last piece of the puzzle, though, is Enrico's emotive, expressive voice. Enrico sings gorgeously, and he is especially good at singing conversationally with perfectly placed vocal lines.

Tracks such as "Eyes", "Cell 342", and "The Endless Road" are particularly attractive with amazing instrumentals punctuated by stirring lyrics and vocals. Emotions rage and delicate feelings are expressed. Heavier in some tracks and fragile in others, "Silk" appeals to all the senses.

So, if you like modern progressive rock with a bit of an edge, get "Silk" as soon as possible. Dropshard has their own sound and their own footprint. Don't miss this, as I think you'll be hearing the name of this band more and more in the near future.

Report this review (#1354819)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian band DROPSHARD have, in their own words, been "dropping into unconventional rock since 2007". Following two initial demos they released their debut album "Anywhere But Home" in 2011. "Silk" is their second studio production, and was released in 2014.

I recall Dropshard's debut album as a fine and promising production by a progressive metal band with an accessible sound and style, one of the numerous quality albums that comes my way during a year that was a solid experience with a fairly large potential audience. Three years have changed a few aspects of this band however, and the most profound change is that the style explored on this album is one that by and large isn't progressive metal.

Apart from a few short interludes and atmospheric laden additions, the compositions on this album see Dropshard develop from a progressive metal foundation over to one with a stronger connection to neo-progressive rock. While I actually don't regard the band as substantially much different as of 2014, my experience is that the focus and foundation have been given a shift. So there are still harder edged passages present, and quite a few with more of a distinct progressive metal vibe as well, but these are now additions and expansions rather than a fundamental trait as I experience them.

Most of the songs here has a tendency to open in a more careful manner, Vocals and piano or acoustic guitar, or accompanied by relatively gentle instrumentation in sequences that may well be described as melodic rock rather than progressive rock as such. These soon expand into arrangements that have more of a neo-progressive character to them, with careful guitars and accompanying keyboard textures supplementing the strong and distinctive lead vocals that is an important aspect of this production. From there and on the compositions develop with a bit more variation, but a common trait is that some harder edged guitar riff and keyboards arrangements will appear at some point. Not always as a a distinct progressive metal run, but at minimum a harder edged and darker toned one. Some of the tracks, especially the longer ones, will then alternate back and forth between passages of varying intensity and stylistic orientation prior to coming to a close, while the shorter cuts have a stronger tendency to develop in a more straight forward manner with less of these quirky structural developments.

With the aforementioned more delicate interludes, as well as at times liberal use of sequences with more of a cinematic character, the end result for me at least is an album I'd categorize under neo-progressive rock, as my impression is that the ties to this segment of the progressive rock universe are most defined this time around. Not in a manner like Marillion however, but rather with similarities to the kind of material a band like Sylvan explored a few years back. And my recommendation is aligned with that view: Fans of bands like Sylvan and perhaps also later day RPWL is what I regard as a key audience for this album.

Report this review (#1533748)
Posted Sunday, February 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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