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Minstrel - Faust CD (album) cover



Rock Progressivo Italiano

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erik neuteboom
4 stars Here's a great album from 2000 by the Italian band Minstrel. It turned out to be their swansong, just another promising one-shot band from Italy!

1. Preludio (Una Selva Una Storia) (1:20) : This one contains spoken words in the Italian language.

2. Atto I, Scena I: Bellatrix (5:28) : The start is with twanging acoustic guitar, typical dramatic Italian vocals and wonderful keyboards. In the end a splendid 'finishing touch' featuring a fiery and very compelling electric guitar solo.

3. Atto I, Scena II: Mefistofele (8:55) : This track delivers an exciting tension between the acoustic piano and propulsive electric guitar. Also very moving is the acoustic guitar/piano interplay and a moving guitar solo, supported by a beautiful string sound. The final part is bombastic, in the great Italian progrock tradition!

4. Atto I, Scena III: Il Castello (6:52) : An up-tempo rhythm with fiery electric guitar, then a mellow part with piano, moving electric guitar and soaring keyboards. The vocals are great and the 'grand finale' carry you away to a progwalhalla!

5. Atto II, Scena I: Faust (9:49) : The intro features bombastic keyboards, then a mid- tempo with echoes from mid-Genesis, remarkable is the wah-wah drenched guitar solo.

6. Atto II, Scena II: La Neve (7:52) : First twanging gitars, dreamy vocals and mellow kebyoards, then a compelling bombastic atmosphere delivering a wonderful electric guitar solo.

7. Finale (Ogni Viaggio) (4:17) : This one only features piano and spoken words.


Report this review (#44114)
Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This happens to be another magical/mystical and seemingly underappreciated Italian prog masterpiece from 2000. Allegedly, a new album has been due for a while ("Moby Dick") but until the hen lays the egg, "chick" out this one! Minstrel brazenly tackle the Faust epic (made famous by both Goethe-the book and Gounod-the opera, both stalwarts of the artistic world). After a brief spoken prelude so typical of opera, the story kicks off with utter splendor as "Bellatrix" unleashes an immaculate vocal melody, "Splendi Ancor" sung by keyboardist Mauro Ghilardini , compounded by an astounding guitar rampage by Michele Savoldelli. What an entrance and an outright prog classic! "Mefistofele" introduces Satan's famed envoy with a searing ensemble riff, elevated by a massive aria that will make you shudder (this Mauro can wail!), huge synthesizer sweeps, ornate piano colorings and an explosive fret lead. When Faust and Mephisto (voice of Davide Ferrari) face off vocally, you know that you are witnessing rock-opera at its finest! "Il Castello" fuses wicked guitar arpeggios with majestic piano flourishes, with Mauro's powerful voice booming with unrivaled emotion over almost Brian May-ish guitar blasts (I joke not!), buoyed by some resilient organ/synth/harpsichord embellishments. The title Track "Faust" is the piece de resistance, a singularly genial lead melody with Mauro now singing in German, with Giorgio Sala adding Pater Estaticus' role and Mephisto adding his devilish temptation and bellowed laugh while Satan watches perversely amused! The finale now escalates in fervor, with Mauro's Faust pleading desperately. Unexpectedly, the next verse is sung in English (Shakespeare Love Sonnet n39), with heavy guitar fueled barrages galore, pile driving the story forward! "La Neve" introduces an ensemble vocal work, with individual solos (the voluptuous Margherita) and some additional stellar axe exaltations. When the two vocalist exchange arias, the goose bumps finally make their entrance, the ideal duet for one of the most stunning vocal melodies ever tracked by rock musicians(a return visit to "Splendi Ancor"). The narrator brings this amazing work to roost, piano delicacies drawing down the velvet curtain. 5 damned souls
Report this review (#163587)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A soaring power-symphonic feast

What talent on display! Minstrel is an Italian band who began in the 90s and released this gem in 2000. It has been described by others as a rock opera and it certainly sounds like it in places, but it also just a very good heavy symphonic prog album. Based on the famous play "Faust" it is a dramatic feast of amazingly talented vocalists, especially the lead man Mauro Ghilardini who just has this booming operatic voice that would bring any room to their feet. It unfolds like a typical play with various scenes acted out with narration and superb vocal interplay. The music I described as soaring because it really does have that dramatic, larger than life, emotional feel to it. It is like Fiaba in that theatrical sense though much more symphonic than folk-metal. There is a slight metal edge here only in the guitar playing of Michele Savoldelli, who perhaps was influenced by 90s prog-metal guitarists. But the metal edge is only very slight in the occasional solo and sound of the chug. Mostly the guitar work is just very lush and dreamy, the solos delivered with great emotion but very disciplined restraint. As powerful as this music is there is always a good balance of light and heavy, and no musician ever gets carried away or selfish. For an independent project the quality of the composition and production are truly top notch. My only complaint is that it might be too good on that front, perhaps a bit over-polished and precious at times. In need of a bull or two in the china shop.

"emphasis laid squarely on classical melodies, operatic vocals and rocking guitar solos....high on drama and very operatic in nature, but not succumbing to the worst excesses of that genre. The music is gentle and romantic, with delicate acoustic guitars and subtle orchestration from the keyboards. Michele Savoldelli plays neo-classical solos with remarkable restraint, having all the technique but none of the arrogance and bluster of so-called "masters." Gianpaolo Pasini provides powerhouse backing on the drums, but always knows when to step off the gas. The whole piece is thoughtfully constructed, with plenty of contrasting sections, and includes some nice clarinet from Guiseppe Peracchi for that added authentic orchestral touch." -Dave Sissons, DPRP

This was a Tszirmay recommendation and he gave the album 5 stars. I can't go quite that far personally, but Tom is right as usual that this album is a gem. It will please all fans of melodic, high class, heavy (and romantic) symphonic progressive rock. The booklet provides nice liner notes and dialogue but only in Italian. This is an indie production distributed by a small label, so my advice is to get this sooner than later if it sounds interesting to you. It may not be around forever.

Report this review (#229694)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolutely fantastic.

1. Preludio: Italian spoken words open the album, talking generally about the story. Nothing more.

Mark: none.

2. Bellatrix: the first true song of the ablum, starts with very soft guitars and Ghilardini's voice, and goes on for about two minutes. Then it stops and enters the distorted guitar with wah-wah, making a solo until the end.

Mark: 4.5/5

3. Mefistofele: well, here starts the real ability of the band. The song begins with a quite "enigmatic" piano riff, followed by mid-high distorted guitar notes. Then enters Ghilardini again, mixing both his voices (operatic and non-operatic), and around the third minute it begins a three minute long instrumental piece, with fast guitars in the end, introducing the second character of the album, Mefistofele. A dialogue begins between the devil and Faust, following the melody before, and the last minute is characterized by a choir saying "Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!", words taken from the 7th Canto of the Inferno, Divine Comedy.

Mark: 5/5

4. Il Castello: this is my favourite song of the album. It opens with a guitar riff on the armonic scale, and gradually becoming softer and softer after every beat, until when Faust starts singing again. The whole song is maybe the most complex of the entaire cd, in some parts it may record classical music, thanks to the word of Ghilardini with the keyboards.

"Oltre il vento, sopra le fobie, da lassł la tua luce mi dona energie."

Mark: 5+/5

5. Faust: this is the climax of the album. It may sound tipical progressive metal in some parts, because of the fast guitar solos (one is also made with tapping), the powerchords in the beginning, also the dark lyrics of Mefistofele. But the most interesting thing is that it is in a constant raise of rhythm, with the summit around the 6th-7th minute of the track. It's important also to note that lyrically speaking three languages have been used, German in the beginning, Italian during almost the whole song and English in the end, with a part of the Sonetto 39 by Williamo Shakespeare.

Mark: 5/5

6. Neve: "Pace dopo la tempesta", I would say in Italian, that means "Peace after the storm". Infact after the monumental title song, the apex of trepidation, we have a generally calm peace, soft voices, soft guitars, and a new female singer, Margherita.

"Guarda lassł, tu non sei pił sola, ma sei aiutata da altre stelle vive!"

Mark: 5/5

7. Finale: spoken words start the end of the album, but here are also accompanied by orchestral instruments, such strings, flutes, clarinets, maybe oboes.

Mark: 5/5

Conclusion: My top ten albums are thos who everyone knows, Thick As A Brick, Selling England By The Pound, Animals... Well, I consider this one at the same level of those. This means that I also want to convince every single prog listener I know to listen it, and by now many of them have my same ideas about it.

Report this review (#263034)
Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Minstrel's debut album was ambitious, to say at least. A kind of a rock-opera based on Faust, one of the biggest characters in the history of literature. There has been countless other works made on Faust too and this album will off course automatic be judged upon these other Faust works.

......But Minstrel manages to pull it off.

Minstrel has put Faust into a classic RPI setting at the same time as retaining the theatrical Faust, the opera, feeling. Add some heavy prog metal like guitars too as their underlining of the lyrics. The vocals though is the bearing elements on this album. All the vocals are truly excellent. Some vocals are clear and some are opera. They are also in Italian and that is a good thing for this album. The sound is baroque throughout with the use of baroque instruments together with more modern instruments like synth and electric guitars.

I think there are too many of these modern instruments involved. I would had preferred a more baroque approach with more acoustic instruments. Hence me not giving it five stars. But the songs are great and this is a truly great RPI album. It is one of the best new era RPI albums.

4 stars

Report this review (#298953)
Posted Monday, September 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A concept album about the "Faust" myth. Why not?

It is remarkable that from such a dark theme, the music played on this album is so light, fresh and optimistic. The best example is the wonderful "Bellatrix" which features superb vocals and such a moving guitar finale. Truly poignant my prog friends!

The band doesn't ignore to play some bombastic parts either. But at no moment it sounds pretentious: on the contrary, the music is delicate and pretty much enjoyable. The balance between passionate vocals and excellent instrumental parts is a pure delight.

Even a piece like "Mefistofele" which should be dark, is positive, melodic and frankly sublime. Remarkable keyboards parts and a beautiful melody are on the menu. And what to say about the superb guitar work from Michele Savoldelli? This leaves me voiceless.

The tone is a bit harder during the title and longest track. Some prog metal lines can even be heard. But not too many, fortunately. Mauro, in the lead vocal role is again perfect and so passionate. A great song by all means!

This is a very good album from the naughties. Four stars.

Report this review (#307743)
Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Minstrel began life in Bergamo in 1991 playing covers of bands such as Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Whitesnake, Queensryche, Savatage and Helloween to name but a few. As years passed by the band added many other influences and musical colours to their musical palette. In 1997 they released a first, still immature, demo tape, "New Life", featuring their own early original compositions. After some line up changes and many troubles, in 2000 Minstrel released their real debut album, "Faust", a rock opera inspired by the work of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. On this album the line up features Mauro Ghilardini (piano, keyboards), Michele Savoldelli (guitars), Gianpaolo Pasini (drums), Marco Fiorina (bass) plus the guest Giuseppe Peracchi (clarinet). Five singers share the vocal parts interpreting the different characters of the opera: Mario Bertasa (narrator), Mauro Ghilardini (Faust), Davide Ferrari (Mefistofele), Giorgio Sala (Pater Ecstaticus) and Silvia Semperboni (Margherita). On account of the low budget the album was recorded in less than a week, probably not enough for such an ambitious project. Nonetheless, thanks to the great musicianship of all the people involved in the recording sessions, the result is excellent.

Minstrel's "Faust" is an opera in two acts that opens with "Preludio ? Una foresta, una storia" (Prelude ? A forest, a story), a short spoken track where a narrator introduces the story... "I was born among spires of high gliding cathedrals...". The mysterious narrator, dressed as a medieval bard, invites you to listen to his words experiencing the emotions that only the old art of storytelling can give. That said, he bows and leaves on the first chords of the opera...

"Bellatrix" (Act I - Scene I) starts calmly, with a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio. The curtain slowly opens revealing Faust kneeling, turned towards a star called Bellatrix, in the constellation Orion. The operatic voice of Mauro Ghilardini soars towards the star drawing a beautiful, melodic lay prayer to the light of knowledge... "You still shine / Where the grey sky embraces my pain / You still shine / Dry the cry with your tepid warmth...". Then the heartfelt notes of an evocative electric guitar solo lead to the next scene...

On "Mefistofele" (Act I - Scene II) twelve bell strokes bring Faust back to reality. He stands up and decides to walk looking for his castle, a Kafkaesque metaphor for Knowledge. As he walks his fears dance around him until he's tired and stops... "No friendly hand could trace the never-ending way for us, mortal wanderers dispersed on the sea / There's no wind to push me away / Now I sit down depressed and I slowly close my eyes...". An electric guitar solo leads to the meeting between Faust and the evil character of Mephistopheles who is biding his time nearby. An intense, theatrical operatic duet follows. Mephistopheles leads Faust on the way to the castle while demons and witches slowly appear around them "Let us open the confused dance / With the bitter smell of an ancient time... Pape satan, pape satan aleppe...".

On the next scene Faust approaches the castle. "Il castello" (The Castle - Act I - Scene III) begins with a frenzied rhythm and you can imagine Faust running towards the castle. Then the rhythm calms down... "Cold is the evening / That dark cloud is now gone / Sounds of stones and thorns make endlessly dream / Beyond the wind...". Faust has to face his doubts and his fears. He decides to interrogate what's left of his soul and his fears reply while an electric guitar solo leads the dance of anguish. Bellatrix still shines in the sky and lightens the way giving Faust new energies, pushing him beyond the wind, over the fears, closer and closer to the castle.

"Faust" (Act II ? Scene I) is a long, complex track featuring sudden changes in rhythm and atmosphere. Faust is inside the castle and begins to sing ecstatically in German some verses by Goethe... "Waldung, sie schwankt heran...". Well, the same verses inspired also, among others, Gustav Mahler for the second part of his Symphony n. 8 and Robert Schumann. Anyway here the result is quite different and the fight between good and evil is expressed with all the energy of a rock band and a strong theatrical emphasis in the vocal parts. Mephistopheles claims Faust's soul but Faust repents and is helped by the character of Pater Ecstaticus and by an army of angels. The battle between angels and demons rages on and in the end the angels prevail, helped by the Virgin Mary, Mater Gloriosa. The piece ends with Faust singing in English some verses taken from the Sonnet n. 39 by William Shakespeare... "Oh how thy worth with manners may I sing / When thou art all the better part of me? / What can mine own praise to mine own self bring and what is 't but mine own when I praise thee? / Even for this, let us divided live / And our dead love lose name of single one / That by this separation I may give / That due to thee which thou deservest alone...".

The next track, "La neve" (Act II ? Scene II), opens with a short electric guitar solo ą la Santana, then from an acoustic guitar pattern the voice of Faust delicately soars. The battle is over and Faust goes out from the castle. Now he is surrounded by the snow that here is a metaphor for the troubles of life. Faust is full of regrets and misses an old love... "If I saw her open in flowers / Perhaps I'd flee from my agonies / I'm searching for the dawn...". The character of Pater Ecstaticus appears again to comfort him and a vocal duet follows drawing a melancholic atmosphere. Pater Ecstaticus is moved and he melts in the air. After a while he comes back with Faust's sweetheart, Margherita, then he quits leaving the two lovers alone. A romantic duet between Faust and Margherita follows and the stars of life shine again for them... "You shine on me, since I was a child we whispered in the evening... I live in you... Yes, you live in me... Life starts now... It still shines...".

"Finale (Ogni viaggio) (Finale - Each travel) concludes the opera. The narrator comes back on stage to tell us that every story is like a journey, with its taverns, tears and mists hanging on a pond... And a delicate music that accompanies us and solitary shines in our night. Now we are ready to begin now a new journey...

Report this review (#702203)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2012 | Review Permalink

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