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ARIES

Aries

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Yet another Fabio Zuffanti project. the Italian band Aries' eponymous debut album comes out as one of the most pleasant novel prog surprises for the year 2005. The album's repertoire is elaborated in a musical frame that sets a sort compromise between modern symph prog and melodic pop-rock, with an added touch of emotional density that helps to provide a special aura for the compositions and arrangements. It is not complexity, but subtlety what Aries are more interested in creating and performing. The general ambience is one of intimacy and reflectiveness, not one of explosive dramatism or pyrotechnical ostentation - the chord progressions and basic harmonies run smoothly. It doesn't mean that this album is not without its moments of sheer intensity: both the longest tracks, 'The Eye of the Storm' and 'When Night is Almost Done' do so. But even in these particular passages, the band prefers to handle the momentum with a serene density, instead of getting too dramatic or angry: Aries' music is soaring, not absorbing; captivating, not aggressive. Contralto-ranged Simona Angioloni makes her vocal deliveries are very fluidly integrated with his instrumentalists partners' inputs: her moderately gloomy style somewhat reminds me of Tori Amos, albeit Simona's singing sounds a bit more educated in comparison. The first two tracks set the mood for the whole album, properly serving as accurate tasters for the listener. Track No. 2 takes the melancholy trend to a more overwhelming level, due to the clever use of languid keyboard layers and delicately sober melodies: a similar course is recreated by tracks 4 & 5. But again, it is the longest tracks that fulfill the most ambitious facet of Aries' music. The 13- minute 'The Eye of the Storm' has an edgy feeling during its first half, pertinently punctuated by the mysterious synth leads and the powerful drumming - at times it reminds me of the Scandinavian vibe of White Willow and Sinkadus, but let's keep in mind that Aries never intends to gets too somber. The song's second half shifts into a calmer pace, although some shades of tension prevail on a subtle level. While the aforementioned track included an occasional increase of tension, the 17- minute closure 'When Night is Almost Done' enhances the frontal melancholy that has been present in almost the entire repertoire. The recurrent languid atmosphere may remind the listener of post-rock's usual patterns, but the eerie keyboard layers and leads, together with the Floydian guitar solos keep the track right on the path of prog. My overall balance for "Aries" is quite positive: I formally label it as a very nice album, full of beauty in a most lyrical expression... although I don't see it as properly excellent. In ProgArchives language, this is worth a 3.5-star grade.
Report this review (#35014)
Posted Monday, May 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aries is one of the side projects from italian Finisterre's Fabio Zuffanti who is also involved in projects as La Maschera di Cera, Hostsonaten and the prog rock opera Merlin. Aries's music can be described in short as very accessible, atmospheric,dreamy and melodic.

They are often compared to Mostly autumn probably because both bands have a very good female vocalist and the guitar playing is influenced to a certain extent by Pink Floyd in both bands. Nevertheless there are some import differences between both bands, whereas Mostly Autumn has lots of up-tempo songs and also some celtic influences Aries's music generally consists of slow moving melodies with a dreamy, often melancholic even sad atmosphere. Also Simona Angelieonie's voice resembles Tori Amos's voice more in my opinion than Heather Findlay's , as was already accurately noticed by one of the other reviewers.

The compositions on this album are somewhat similar to each other, creating a specific dreamy mood soaking through the whole album. The vocal sections are great because of Simona's outstanding vocals in good english,generally accompanied by mellow organ, piano or acoustic guitar. The band also show their teeth in the instrumental sections with rich intricate playing of various instruments.

Characteristic of these instrumental sections is the frequent use of the chorus-synthesizer especially at the end of the songs which often serves as a background for various floydian guitar or moog solos giving the music it's special atmospheric and dreamy feel. Especially in the longer songs there is room for other instruments such as flute, piano and organ as well.

In the first most vocal oriented song, Simona really sounds like Tori Amos with her haunted dramatic singing, in this track bells are used to emphasize the melody at the end, beautiful, my favorite of the album.

The third composition reminds me of Finisterre at several moments especially in the opening minutes, it's somewhat faster and more complex than the other tracks.

The sixth piece really focuses on instrumental playing with Simona wailing on top of the instruments in the middle (like Heather Findlay and Angela Goldthorpe use to do in Mostly Autumn), it has a long beautiful floydian ending.

The other tracks are shorter, there is a terrific loud guitar/organ ending in the second one, in the fourth the vocals are of special interest. The fifth song shows the band from it's most dreamy/introvert side with just singing, mellow organ and an interesting drum beat. It has a nice mellow flute outtro.

It is a pity that no lyrics were included in my package of the album. I also have been unable to find them on the internet. From what i understand of them (english is not my native language) they are generally about things as fear,loneliness, the changing of night into day and the feelings that accompany these changes.

Concluding i can say this is a terrific album, the highlight of 2005 for me even better than bands like Riverside, Opeth and PT. As i said before the album is very accessible, i liked it on the second listen, loved it on the third.After many listens it's still as fresh to me as in the beginning.

So if your music must be really complex, original or even weird with many twists and turns stay clear of this one.On the other hand if you like bands like Mostly Autumn, Pink Floyd or Camel then you probably do well to pick this one up.

For people knowing Zuffanti´s other work with bands like Finisterre and La Maschera di cera, this band is to a certain extent like a mellow version of finisterre ,quite different from La Maschera di cera.

Personally i think the album is close to 5 stars. To be honest though i can imagine that people may have some problems with the similarity in the songs. So 4.5 stars it is, rounded down to 4.

Report this review (#89195)
Posted Thursday, September 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This Fabio Zuffanti guy is the real italian "origin of storms". Isn't he?

With his many projects he, virtually, can be considered as the prog mastermind of nowadays: La Maschera di Cera, Hostsonaten, Finisterre, La Zona, Buc-Ur, Aries...his visiting cards!

Of all his works, Aries eponimous debut is one of the most romantic, mellow, soft and delicate symphonic prog efforts. Still exciting for the master use of keyboards and appreciable synth' solos, even if not at the very same level of the Hostsonaten project, in my humble opinion. A similar intimate record but less varied and acoustic than that. That's why, I presume, Aries' "lack of variety" risk to change into, sometimes, "good monotony".

On about the music' structure: a whole album dedicated to an interesting mix between classical ethereal and atmospheric symphonic prog within more commercial parts as, mainly, in the feminine sad (and beautiful) vocal parts.

Two long compositions as the self-explanatory "The Eye of the Storms" (12,53 mns) and the small epic "When Night Is Almost Done" (16,53 mns). Great musical journeys enriched by wise and not too loud use of (light) electric guitar. Pure symphonic pleasure.

Incredible but true: still another little gem from the "so-much-prolific" italian contemporary prog scene.

Highly recommended! 3.75 stars.

Report this review (#111917)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars Aries is a project that lays bare the contradictions in Fabio Zuffante the composer and arranger. The Finisterre work strikes me as a bit clinical, while Hostsonaten seems to most naturally blend that cold classical inspiration to warmer progressive rock. But both work as consistent entities.

The main problem with Aries is that songs set out to be gentle symphonic affairs and abruptly change direction, but not in a good way. There does not appear to be any focus for the album, but rather an insistence on alternating between gorgeous, if sometimes calculated, passages with female voice, and harshly played synths and guitars, neither of which are particularly noteworthy anyways, but they might work OK if they were on separate songs. As it is, they seem to hurt each other fighting for recognition. In the end it adds up to an album I don't much want to listen to.

The dichotomy is shown in all its flaws in the second track, "Coming Back to Life", a relatively short piece which just gets us down and mellow before ripping us apart. I'm not saying a more uptempo break was a bad idea, but the lack of flow is glaring. "The Eye of the Storm" is more of the same, as is the laughably disjointed closer "When Night is Almost Done". I am also just generally not enthused about the guitar style used on this album. I don't expect every guitarist to sound like Hackett, but the solos here lack all sensitivity. He has an on-off switch and that's about it.

"Morning Song" , "It Struck me Every Day", and "Crossing the Bar" all buck the unpleasant trend but also expose another flaw. This album tends to veer away from the Romantic style of Renaissance in which Annie was a vehicle for the moods, to the "let's use our sweet female voices" approach of Karnataka. Nice, yes, but where is the feeling?

Aries is an example of an album that should have been great on paper, but really lacks in composition and execution. Another Hostsonaten album anyone?

Report this review (#125229)
Posted Saturday, June 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There must be something about spring in southern Europe, "primavera" seems to be constant word in the Italian vocabulary and Fabio Zuffanti has titled two Höstsonaten releases with English titles such as "Springsongs" and "Springtides", so there is actually a fascination for the "first green" of the year. Why start a review with such seasonal concerns, you ask? Well, this Zuffanti project is titled simply "Aries" and, even though I am not horoscope- inclined, I do know that it's a spring sign. The titles on the album also shed light (an after winter pun) on the inspiration , the first 2 being " Morning Song" and "Coming Back to Life", so I guess there is merit to my argument. Typical of the Finisterre bassist who has a Clive Nolan-ish catalog of sister projects (Finisterre, Zaal, La Maschera di Cera, Quadrophonic, Merlin: the Rock Opera, Höstsonaten, LaZona, Buc-ur and a solo album) , the Aries concept is completely different in style and tone. The product here is very pastoral, bucolic, and dreamy, closer to Celtic-tinged Brit groups such as Mostly Autumn, Iona and Karnataka by also featuring a female English speaking vocalist as the main focal point, in this case the splendid (and hardly accented) Simona Angioloni. Fabulous fretless Fabio has also enlisted Roberto Vigo on keyboards, flutist Carlo Barreca, lead guitarist Fabio Venturini and Pierpaolo Tondo manning the drum kit. The first song certainly lays down the appropriate mood, with Simona's fragile voice ushering in the new beginning where the sun finally gets to shine, a joyous buzzing lead from the e-guitar adds to the excitement and a huge melody that sticks savagely to the cortex. Add a modest adornment from the flute, a tubular bell finale and an uncomplicated synth solo that supplies the necessary "coup de grace". The next piece is my favorite, led by a genial piano statement that sounds very Wakeman or Jobson, before literally exploding "back to life" halfway through with a slithering fuzzy guitar solo that, while not necessarily overtly technical really pushes all the passionate buttons and elevates this piece into the highest peaks. The first extended epic is "the Eye of the Storm", a more audacious 13 minute foray into austere atmospheres, highly evocative of the turbulence emanating from an agonizing winter, with loads of contrasts: gentle harpsichord guided laments overcome by stubborn synth and guitar tempests, massive mellotron flounce and sudden fluted moments of sheer peace as befits the title. The multiple melodic lines are of very high caliber with Simona's voice progressively increasing in agony. A long sibilant synth solo coda takes this to a gentle conclusion. Bravo! Another two short pieces, the seductive mourning of "It Struck Me Every Day "with a Franco Falsini (of Sensation's Fix)-like dripping lead and a heavy choir 'tron backing as well as the sweet "In the Court of the Crimson King" lilt of "Crossing the Bar", both nicely set up the massive 17 minute finale that consecrates this exceptional recording. "When Night is Almost Done" is sheer ambitious splendor, with an evident Michael Giles like feel in the drum & cymbal work, a repetitive piano platform for an extended lyrical guitar solo from Venturini, all held together by a reflective vocal performance. A cosmic Moog solo adds to the folklore, paving the way for an astonishing operatic wail that goes on forever, goose bumpingly hinting at the sacrosanct Pink Floyd gem "the Great Gig in the Sky", before Richard Wright-ing another synthesized folly. In true progressive epic fashion, the early piano motif theme returns for a bombastic closing crescendo with a hallucinating fuzz drenched solo that will capture your attention, as it is played with such raging feeling! To stay indifferent to this would be incomprehensible but, hey, stranger things have happened to Ruth. (Will someone please warn me to stop blending famous proggy titles into my reviews).To again quote my respected Dutch PA colleague Erik Neuteboom : "This is Prog Heaven "! While far from being experimental as Zaal or absently peculiar as LaZona, Aries will definitely appeal to the folksier side of progressive, especially fans of the afore-mentioned British bands. While perhaps not everyone's panacea, I love this kind of stuff. 4.5 horned Tuscan rams.
Report this review (#163366)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I quite like the works of this prolific Italian musican. The only project I couldn't get into was laZona but from Finnistere, Hostsonaten and my fave one La Maschera Di Cera, most of his output was quite remarkable.

The music which is available through Aries is much more accessible Morning Song and vocals are sung in English. Most of the songs are on the soft edge, and feature delicious female vocals. Simona Angieloni is really the highlight of this album: her crystal voice sounds as a jewel to my ears and combines perfectly with these sweet piano lines (Coming Back To Life). It is concluded with an extraordinary and dynamic guitar solo.

One of the epics starts as a Renaissance track: fine piano lines to back another emotional vocal part from Simona. But this song won't be a long and tranquil journey. It hardens substantially for a couple of minutes which breaks the overall mellow mood available so far. These parts almost sound as Crimson: heavy and dark. Great combination! This is a highlight.

The short has a definite Mostly Autumn structure: a quiet start which evolve nicely into a fantastic guitar solo as if Josh was around.

The second epic includes another vocal feat from Simona. Her voice is really beautiful and charming. The only minus point of this song, is that it sounds a bit too much of the same and it doesn't really kick off (only during short breaks). The whole is nice, well performed of course but I would have liked to get some more variety to be fully captivated. Do I need to say that Fabio Centarini is absolutely wonderful again?

This album features beautiful and melodic music, both vocals and guitar are phenomenal but song writing could have been more diverse. Seven out of ten.

Report this review (#183806)
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
VianaProghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Review Nº 207

First of all I must confess that I'm not a great specialist in Rock Progressivo Italiano. When I began listening to albums of progressive rock in the distant 70's, as I can remember, I only knew a few albums from this sub-genre of progressive music. I mean 'Arbeit Macht Frei', 'Caution Radiation Area', 'Crac!' and 'Are(A)zione' from Area, 'Chocolate Kings' and 'Cook' from Premiata Forneria Marconi and 'Tilt' and 'Giro Di Valzer Per Domani' from Arti E Mestieri. However, and especially thanks to Progarchives, in this moment I have many more albums and I know much more bands from this sub-genre, such as Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Le Orme, Museo Rosenbach, Osanna, Maxophone, Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Semiramis, Submarine Silence, Locanda Delle Fate and this almost unknown musical project, Aries.

Aries is a personal light-symphonic project by the Italian bassist, multi-instrumentalist, essayist and composer Fabio Zuffanti which is very well known inside the Italian progressive rock scene. He worked and was also member of several Italian progressive rock bands like Finisterre, Hostsonaten, IaZona, La Maschera Di Cera, Quadrophonic, Rohmer, Aries, Buc-Ur and R.u.g.h.e, besides his musical career as a solo artist and other participations in some other projects.

However, I just have heard something about Aries on this site and I only bought their debut studio album a couple of years ago. But I don't remember why I bought it. Probably it was due from what I read about the band's biography here on Progarchives, because sincerely, I didn't know anything about this project or about Fabio Zuffanti's projects, either.

Aries is a duo made up by Fabio Zuffanti and singer Simona Angioloni and in 2005 both recorded the eponymous debut studio album 'Aries' proposing a prog rock folk influence. In 2010 they released their second studio album 'Double Reign' that moves the musical proposal towards to a more dark and electronic atmospheres than the previous one.

So, 'Aries' is the eponymous debut studio album of this Fabio Zuffanti's project and was released in 2005. The line up on the album is Simona Angieloni (vocals), Fabio Zuffanti (acoustic and electric guitars, bass and dulcimer), Roberto Rigo (keyboards), Fabio Centarini (lead guitar), Carlo Barreca (flute) and Pierpaolo Londo (drums). All songs has been written and arranged by Zuffanti with the exception of 'Crossing The Bar' with lyrics by Alfred Tennyson and 'It Struck Me Every Day' and 'When Night Is Almost Done' with lyrics by Emily Dickinson.

'Aries' has six tracks. The first track 'Morning Song' set the mood for the whole album, properly serving as an accurate taster for the listener. Simona's fragile and beautiful voice usher the beginning of the album and adds a join and a great excitement to a huge melody that sticks firmly into our heart. The second track 'Coming Back To Life' is a shorter track that takes the melancholy trend of the all album to a more overwhelming level, due to the clever use of languid keyboard layers and delicately sober and beautiful melodies. The third track 'The Eye Of The Storm' is one of the lengthiest tracks on the album. This is a more audacious track with an atmosphere evocative of the turbulence emanating, perhaps, from an agonizing winter in the end of a day. It's a song with great melodic lines that marries perfectly well with Simona's voice, progressively increasing in agony. The fourth track 'It Struck Me Every Day' is the shortest track on the album. This is a very seductive song with another exceptional vocal performance of Simona, talking about some of the things mentioned on the album, such as, fear, loneliness, the changing of night into day and the feelings that accompany these changes. The fifth track 'Crossing The Bar' shows the band from their most dreamy and introvert side with just singing, a mellow organ performance and an interesting drum beat. It has a nice and mellow flute work, too. The sixth track 'When Night Is Almost Done' is the other lengthy track. It enhances the melancholy that has been present in almost the entire album. The recurrent languid atmosphere includes another great vocal work of Simona. Her voice is really beautiful and charming. The song is nice and well performed, making of it a perfect ending.

Conclusion: Aries is a surprising Italian project. Zuffanti with his many projects can be considered as the progressive Italian mastermind of nowadays. Of all his works, 'Aries' is one of the most romantic, mellow, soft and delicate symphonic progressive efforts. Maybe musically isn't as rich as many others, but the strength of this album are based in the extremely beautiful melodies and in the stunning vocals. 'Aries' is a very surprising, mellow and beautiful album led by Zuffanti, a good and very talented Italian multi-instrumentalist musician and wonderfully supported by Simona with a fantastic and beautiful voice. I'm in love with Simona's voice. All the six musical pieces are great with nice piano moments, great guitar parts, beautiful flute sounds and splendid keyboard works led by a unique voice. The musical structure of the album is very delicate with an interesting mix between classical ethereal and atmospheric symphonic prog within more commercial parts as, mainly, in the feminine sad and beautiful vocal parts. It's highly recommended.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2040745)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Review Permalink

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