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La Maschera Di Cera

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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5 stars This'll be a quick review, but MAN! these guys are actually getting better and better!

When I first started getting into the band LA MASCHERA DI CERA about 10 years or so ago, I liked their style of Italian Prog, and have gotten every album from them since. I used to rate their early albums in the 3-1/2 to 4 star range. Then they took a little break before coming back with "Le Port Del Domani" in 2013, and I thought it was their best album yet; gave it 4-1/2 stars.

Then they took ANOTHER break and come back with this new album "S.E.I." (acronym for "Separazione / Egolatria / Inganno" or Separation / Self-worship / Deception). Phenomenal comeback album!! Better than ever, I say... This has everything any RPI lover could be looking for - warm Italian vocals, classic symphonic prog passages with plenty of mellotron and flute, melodic bass, absolutely fantastic keyboards, unique compositions. Just 3 long tracks over 42 minutes, but believe me, it is worth every minute they invest.

The ending to the album really struck me. I only had a digital version with no song titles while listening through the first time, but the fade out to the last track just reminded me of sort of a death march, but a hopeful and inspiring one, like up the steps to heaven or something. Lo and behold, I see now that the last section of that suite is called "Ascensione" - nailed it, gents!

Excellent, excellent album. I'm throwing 5 stars at this one, though my own early feelings are that this is 4-1/2... I'm rounding UP this time.

Report this review (#2449539)
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars It seems that 2020 is a very good year for Italy. At least regarding the prog rock and more precisely, Rock Progressivo Italiano. Earlier this year we had the amazing "Sadako e le mille gru di carta" by LogoS and now it's time for S.E.I. to shine. La Maschera Di Cera gets better and better with every release and the latter one contains the band's most polished work. Astounding keyboards, delicate flute sounds, amazing vocals and the immortal mellotron are the key to success in RPI. And of course let's not forget about the ending of the album. When I first listened to "Il Grande Labirinto" I thought myself that you simply cannot have a better end for a great album. But hey, you can! S.E.I. ends equally impressive and it forces you to play the album again and again. Great album released in a great year for prog rock. Highly recommended 5-star album.
Report this review (#2455281)
Posted Saturday, October 10, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fabio Zuffanti is back with another release from his most successful prog project. While the band's previous release, 2013's La Porto di domini was, to my ears, a flop (especially for being the successor to LE ORME's highly acclaimed 1973 release, Felona e Sorona), the compositions, recording, and performances here are fairly strong.

1. "Il tempo millenario" (21:43) opens with a very familiar heavy feel and sound Š la their previous album, La porto di domini. At 1:20 it moves into a prettier, more laid-back pastoral flute-centric passage before reverting to bare bones for the vocal section to begin at the end of the third minute. The vocals are pretty good! At 4:00 we move back into an up tempo, rather ominous section until 4:30 when everything takes a surprising turn into a pulsing, PINK FLOYD-like jazz-rock passage--with even the saxophone and organ perpetuating the PF vibe. The toned down section beginning in the seventh minute is pretty with its sparsely populated drawn out instrumental spaciousness. I like this very much. Imagine a pregnant GENESIS passage with Peter Gabriel performing his theatric storytelling and then the instruments bursting out from their hiding places to punctuate the drama of PG's epic story. Piano and harpsichord lay out a new and different (more Il Balletto di Bronzo-like) motif in the twelfth minute before we move into a clavichord-supported and Mellotron-drenched vocal section. I don't care for these heavily affected vocals--but they quickly withdraw from these for a spell before shifting at 13:30 into high speed romp into Hammond and sax rock and roll. The power vocals here try to be theatric but feel a little over top (as the music is a bit under-the-top). Just weird Hammond play and solo (more like a Halloween parody). Even when the pace and sax redouble at the 16:00 mark I am distracted by the weird, almost comical Hammond--which, unfortunately, detracts from the power and force being attempted in the vocal in the early eighteenth minute. The pensive passage that follows is better--great drums and sax help to almost drown out the Hammond. At 18:27, then, we downshift into a floating soundscape that lends itself to the sensitivity of Alessandro's vocal--but then once again it breaks into a kind of triumphant celebratory passage at 18:20--very RPI and Genesisian (think La Coscienza di Zeno and Supper's Ready's As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs). There are definitely some great parts to this song--and a mastery of "classic" prog and RPI forms and palettes here--but not enough to make the whole stand out on its own as a new classic. (35.25/40): - i. L'anima in Rovina - ii. Nuvole Gonfie - iii. La Mia Condanna - iv. Scparazione - v. Del tempo sprecato

2. "Il cerchio del comando" (9:57) a very strong, stereotypic RPI song whose good quality and appeal, unfortunately, for me, drop significantly once the vocal joins in; the melody and performances in the choruses are just weak. The TULL-like passage around the 6:00 mark is its only saving grace. (17.25/20)

3. "Vacuo senso" (13:30) (27.25/30): - i. Prologo (3:35) (8.5/10) - ii. Dialogo (1:50) - gorgeous slow section with one of Alessandro's best vocals. (5/5) - iii. Nella rete dell'Inganno (3:05) - RENAISSANCE meets & plays COLTRANE's "My Favorite Things" (literally) and then turns into TRAFFIC jazz! Don Pullen! (4.75/5) - iv. Il risueglio di S (1:30) - some powerful IL BALLETTO bravura. (4.5/5) - v. Ascensione (3:10) all bass & 'tron Neo Prog cheese. Bring it home, boys! (even though it's been done a hundred times before). (4.5/5)

Total Time 42:41

Trying to overcome my usual biases against this band due to their past inconsistencies is a challenge--especially when the music on this album only serves to reinforce those biases. One GREAT song, two okay, all three long playing, two epic suites (my bandcamp version of "Vacuo senso" is 13:30.) Still, I have to agree with other reviewers that this band keeps getting better.

An excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Report this review (#2456868)
Posted Saturday, October 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rock Progressivo Italiano is my favourite prog rock genre and La Maschera Di Cera is my favourite RPI band. So when I have heard about this new album from them I was more excited than ever. And my expectation were highly rewarded. Although this new release is very different from their last release (Le Porte Del Domani) in terms of structure, SEI is equally good and rewarding. There are only three songs but epic ones, regarding the lenght, the shorter one being 10 minutes long and the first is about 22 minutes long. As you can guess, the album is full of grandiose vintage keyboards, great vocals and a perfect bass. Of course the italian language is compulsory for a RPI release. Separazione / Egolatria / Inganno is by far my favourite album of 2020 and it can be my favourite La Maschera Di Cera album. Time will tell. Strong five stars album!!
Report this review (#2463802)
Posted Saturday, November 7, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars La Maschera Di Cera is a great band from Italy and their new album S.E.I. brings nothing less than epic prog music.

The album begins with Il Tempo Millionaire and it's an over 20 minute epic which begins with heavy and grand distorted bass and Hammond and flows into relaxing sounds of acoustic guitars, mellotrons, synths and flutes with some great sax moments. As the song goes forward it delivers various mood changes and it's all combined perfectly. When epics are composed the emotional world sometimes wanders on the verge of debauchery, the instrumental excursions are sometimes impeded in epic overload but this is exactly where the strength of La Maschera Di Cera lie, in their entirety the peaces are always convincing and the band can turn the corner at exactly the right moment and this is one of the reasons why this album is a masterpiece.

The three tracks on the album are very complex music pieces, combining compact, dark moments with an atmospheric feel. They deliver various styles of prog from symphonic, jazz to heavy all followed by great keyboard work, rhythmic patterns, and powerful distorted bass that makes up for the absence of the electric guitar.

This is one of the best releases of 2020.

Report this review (#2483933)
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars This acclaimed Italian formation was founded in 2001 but between its debut album from 2002 and this new album entitled S.E.I. (Separazione, Egolatria, Inganno which means Separation, Selfishness, Deceit) the band only released four studio efforts, the previous one Le Porte Del Domani (also released as The Gates Of Tomorrow) is from 2013, a gap of seven years so it was about time for La Maschera Di Cera to present a new album to its many fans.

Listening to S.E.I. (Separazione, Egolatria, Inganno which means Separation, Selfishness, Deceit) I remember the words of a fellow proghead and Tron-maniac, in 2003: he had visited the Belgian progrock festival Spirit Of Verviers and was blown away by La Maschera Di Cera, "with 3 Mellotrons on stage" he yelled euphoric! Well, perhaps these 3 Mellotrons were in the recording studio during S.E.I., incredible, what a mindblowing Mellotron drenched sound, always a bonus for me! This new album contains 3 long tracks, with a running time of almost 43 minutes, that reminds me of the good old vinyl era.

The first composition Il Tempo Millenario is the epic of the album, close to 22 minutes. It sounds mainly in the realm of Old School symphonic rock, with lots of changing atmospheres: dreamy with folky flute play or tender piano, accellarations featuring powerful saxophone or flute soli, and sumptuous outbursts. Often these intense eruptions are layered with majestic Mellotron choirs, for me this is Tron Heaven! The swirling Hammond organ sounds like a tribute to Keith Emerson. While the agressive bass work from the prolific musician Fabio Zuffanti reminds me more of King Crimson, and Anekdoten. The final part is very compelling, delivering a slow rhythm with synthesizer flights, and again majestic Mellotron choirs. Wow, this is outstanding Italian prog, an 'eargasm', topped with inspired, slightly theatrical Italian vocals that match perfectly with the mighty Mellotron sound!

The second track Il Cerchio Del Comando often brings the alternating and dynamic folky prog of ńnglagŚrd to my mind: between mellow and bombastic featuring lots of flute play, Hammond, Mellotron violins, and a growling bass, with powerful Italian vocals. In the end a build-up with a wonderful Mellotron, piano and flute, and a bombastic closing section featuring Hammond, powerful bass and sparkling flute.

The final song Vacuo Senso is the most varied, alternating and experimental, with hints from Anekdoten (lush Mellotron violin sound), early King Crimson (jazz and avant-garde inspired), Classic Italian Prog like PFM and Banco, embellished with omnipresent saxophone work, a wonderful Mellotron violins interlude, and lots of interesting musical ideas. The final part is trademark La Maschera Di Cera featuring a compelling Mellotron drenched symphonic rock atmosphere, wow!

It's incredible how this band has matured, in 2002 I got their first album as a CD-R (while writing for Dutch prog magazine iO Pages), it sounded promising but a bit unstructured at times. Almost 20 years later this new La Maschera Di Cera album turns out to be a very pleasant and well structured musical experience, recommended to Tron-maniacs and Italian prog aficionados.

Report this review (#2607370)
Posted Sunday, October 24, 2021 | Review Permalink

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