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Deus Ex Machina - Devoto CD (album) cover


Deus Ex Machina

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Devoto is a different album to what we are accustomed from Deus Ex Machina. Apparently easier. A quiet CD, less cumbersome and more affordable that others before. Your listening leaves a residue of "savoir-faire". Latin language has been abandoned, the structures are more linear and the Piras' voice is far less "sharp". Along with Imparis, posiblmente is his most mature album. But not in quality, but in the sense of taking things calmly and reveling. There is a special tendency to polish the edges, but not eliminate them.

Musically the group looks back. Towards their first two albums. But, in this case, in a completely voluntary way. Not in the way of "in search-of-a-sound". There are fewer jazz, the same quantity of rock and more jazz-rock. In many moments they lie in that middle ground between Mahavishnu, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. But beware, without losing a dot of his personality. I think it is Colina who has taken the reins in the aspect of composition, and with him, the album oozes blues, zydeco, Brazilian rhythms and other American roots sounds. It is not an obvious influence, but the strength of this album is basically in the details. Details as, in the past, were made to Ligeti, the funky and the Downtown (closest musics to the former keyboardist Fabrizio Puglisi).

And it should also keep in mind the recovery of a more progressive and electronic musician as Ricardello instead of Fabrizio, a jazzman. This significantly changes the sonic palette.

One more time confirmed, DexM is a unique and unrepeatable group. They do things with patience (more than one would say with "vagrancy"), but each disk evolve, and this is, to me, a sign of authenticity.

Report this review (#1609324)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Alberto Piras(vocalist) related how the band had run out of steam after the release of "Imparis" some 8 years ago. So they took a long break and decided to make music that was less ambitious shall we say. And they succeeded in making a more straight forward record but that fire and emotion is still front and center. Piras says "We tried to compose easier songs, still full of emotion and intensity. We want our fans to feel our blood flowing on this record..." and you will. I find the music here to be so mysterious and I'm really drawn to the emotion and adventure that is on display here. There's quite a strong LED ZEPPELIN vibe that pops up at times, especially from the "Houses Of The Holy" period. Four guests help out mainly with horns.

"Devoted" has this cool little keyboard melody that's joined by a powerful and complex soundscape. Vocals follow. So good! Some strong organ runs come and go. This is actually catchy after 2 minutes. Violin before 3 1/2 minutes as the vocals step aside. How good is this! "Subterfuge" is only 1 1/2 minutes long but man I like the melancholy as the strings drone. Some crazy keyboard stuff here as well then back to the strings. "Multiverse" is uptempo and full of depth. The violin comes in over top and it will come and go. Love the calm before a minute, very LED ZEPPELIN-like as the vocals join in. How about that instrumental break from before 2 minutes to after 3 minutes. Man this is good. Check out the guitar before 5 minutes.

"Distracted By Me" sounds incredible at first, love that opening mood then the violin comes in followed by horns. Vocals and guitar take over as it settles before it builds with blasting horns, organ and more. It settles again as themes are repeated. A change before 4 minutes as a driving rhythm kicks in with some nasty organ. The vocals are back after 5 1/2 minutes followed by a guitar solo then blasting horns, bass, drums and synths. "Eternal Return" is uptempo with intricate guitar and violin mainly before vocals, violin and picked guitar take over quickly. Eventually we get more sounds, mandolin too. The guitar and violin take the spotlight after 2 1/2 minutes.

"More Equal" has a nice heavy guitar led start as the organ joins in then the tempo picks up and the vocals arrive. The vocals and organ stand out here. Powerful stuff. An instrumental break starts before 3 minutes and it includes some excellent guitar. Violin joins in around 4 minutes then the guitar led theme returns. It turns all instrumental, almost funky then organ comes to the fore before 7 minutes. A spacey section takes over including some electronics before the drums kick in along with some nasty synths before 9 minutes. "Transition" hits the ground running, lots of organ here. A LED ZEPPELIN vibe comes in before a minute then back to the organ but contrasts will continue. It settles some with vocals 2 minutes in then the violin starts to come and go. Another LED ZEPPELIN moment then the vocals turn passionate before 5 minutes before they step aside and the guitar solos. Ripping guitar from around 6 minutes to the end.

"Author Of The Future" features guitar expressions that echo as they come and go. The vocals arrive before a minute and they are relaxed, piano too. The vocals and sound become more powerful as the violin joins in. Themes are repeated. A real LED ZEPPELIN inspired section arrives just before 4 1/2 minutes then the vocals return as they rock hard until 5 minutes in when it calms right down. Some female vocals late. "Sons" has a really good drum intro then the horns, vocals and more join in. Some fast paced vocals will come and go. A violin solo starts before 3 minutes and check out the guitar/ drum section before 4 minutes. The violin follows lighting it up then the vocals return before 5 minutes. Some interesting guitar ends it. "Four Small Hands" is pretty much guitar throughout and it is impressive. The man can play!

This is such an adventerous band. They can let it rip with the best of them yet they always have great ideas. And it doesn't hurt having a vocalist like Alberto. Welcome back boys! I've read many opinions on this one and a lot of people feel this might be the best album they have ever done.

Report this review (#1674361)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
4 stars Deus ex Machina is my kryptonite: were it not for the wide universe of prog, I would give every one of their albums 5 stars. Musically and compositionally, they are in the top pantheon. In my sometimes not-humble-enough opinion, they simply can do no wrong.

As part of my regimen for maintaining my sanity while sheltering in place here in NYC, I have been going through all my progressive rock albums alphabetically by group, and chronologically within each group. When I completed listening to the entire DeM oeuvre, I had forgotten how much of a prog "jam" band they were at the beginning. They then...progressed (matured) through their next two albums and ramped up the progressive dial to 11 to arrive at what is almost certainly their peak - Equilibrismo da Insofferenza, one of the greatest albums in any subgenre of progressive rock. With their next effort, Cinque - on which they got rid of some of their most bombastic (radically progressive, which is not a bad thing) tendencies - they produced a more mature, thoughtful album. On Imparis they fine-tuned even a little more. (As an side, I believe Cinque is much better than it has been reviewed. In fact, if Equilibrismo is their Sgt. Pepper, then De Republica is their Revolver, and Cinque is their Magical Mystery Tour. I do tend to think of things relative to the Beatles.)

With Devoto, they have almost come full circle. Actually, Devoto is basically a compilation of all of their various "styles" over the years, though the overall sound is somewhat more "rock and roll" than almost anything since their first album. (In this regard, I agree with Sean Trane's comment that "There's quite a strong Led Zeppelin vibe that pops up at times, especially from the 'Houses Of The Holy' period," except that I don't hear it quite as strongly as he does. There IS definitely a "rawer" rock sound to some of the material here, but I would say they are also wearing other early influences on their sleeve, including Zappa and Gentle Giant.) There is something for everyone here, from the "rawer," "jammier" sound of their first two albums, to the slightly more progressive sound of De Republica, to the radical sound of Equilibrismo, to the maturer sound of Cinque and Imparis. And although many of the compositions are "simpler" than some of their more overtly progressive ones, they are no less thoughtful and deliberative, and the album also contains some of leader/singer Alberto Piras' best, most interesting and complex melodies and rhythms.

I will not go through the album song by song, except the say that the three stand-outs here are Distratto Da Me (the most overtly progressive of the songs), Piu Uguale (progressive with a strong rock and roll heart), and Multiverso, though everything here is worthwhile.

I had great fun listening to their oeuvre, which I have not done in years. My only regret after re-listening to Devoto was that there were no more albums to listen to. I hope they are hard at work on their next one, whatever it may bring.

Report this review (#2409116)
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Following on from the release of the band's previous album, 2008's 'Imparis', they lost much of their momentum and energy, which was caused in some ways by the departure of long-term keyboard player Fabrizio Puglisi. This led to a period of introspection, and to decide what they wanted to do and in what direction musically they should be heading. Given they have been creating waves in the Italian progressive scene since the Eighties this was never going to be a quick decision, but the return of keyboard player Luigi Riccia Ricciardiello (who played on the band's first five studio albums) certainly helped. This meant that the 2016 line-up was almost identical to the one which recorded 1991's debut, 'Gladium Caeli', with just the drummer being different.

Violin and keyboards are often the lead instrument (the use of a guest brass section has also had a major impact), with the guitar often providing delicate support although there are times when Mauro Collina does allow himself to rock out just a little. There is no doubt that while the music is complex, multi-layered and highly arranged and structured, it is lead singer Alberto Piras who really stands out. He can sing in multiple styles, coming across quite theatrical in nature at times, and with the songs in Italian it is possible to treat his performance as another musical thread given, I have no idea what he is saying. In many ways they are jazz rock fusion, yet there are also plenty of RPI and deep Seventies influences while I would venture that early Twelfth Night fans would also find much on here to enjoy. There are some wonderfully dated keyboard sounds at times, which normally one would associate with Rick Wakeman, and they also add a certain feel to the music. There is little truly progressive in this in that it is looking deeply into the past for inspiration, but sometimes that is all a proghead needs. This is currently their most recent album, but given it is only seven years since this was released it is quite possible there will be a new one coming soon. One for progheads of the old school.

Report this review (#2921939)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2023 | Review Permalink

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