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Crossover Prog • Italy

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Nova Malà Strana biography
NOVA MALÀ STRANA was a 90's Italian progressive group. The band consisted of Baccio Astengo (acoustic guitars), Stefano Bertoli (drums), Max Fattorini (electric & acoustic guitars), Stefano Mori (keyboards) and Antonella "Nona Luna" Suella (vocals & bass). They released two albums in the nineties for the Mellow records label. Their music is highlighted by the operatic vocals of Antonella Suella and the metallic electric guitar.

The album "NeMeSi" is the better of the two albums they released. Both albums are progressive with a slight heavy metal edge and the latter one called "NeMeSi" being also slightly more symphonic of the two. There is especially some expressive neo-classical electric guitar playing on both albums.

The music is not essential but both albums are an enjoyable listen nevertheless.

: : : Markus Mattsson, FINLAND : : :

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NOVA MALÀ STRANA discography

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2.04 | 4 ratings
Nova Malà Strana
3.00 | 2 ratings

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 NeMeSi by NOVA MALÀ STRANA album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.00 | 2 ratings

Nova Malà Strana Crossover Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars 90s Gothic RPI

This second Nova Mala Strana album turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. The band is from Genova I believe, and existed from the early 90s to the late 90s but beyond that there is little bio info.

NeMeSi is a large improvement across-the-board over their 1994 debut album. The material and playing are better as is the sound. In my old review of the debut I noted that occasionally it sounded like the band were "recorded with a single hand held mic pointed at the opening of a 200 foot mineshaft where they were jamming at the bottom." They apparently did escape that mine for the recording of this one, thankfully.

This is really heavy fantasy music, I love it. Think of those 90s Italian bridge bands that were beginning before the RPI resurgence, so there were metal, post-punk, and neo-prog influences. This band certainly has some of that but there is also a heavy Gothic vibe, a "dark" feel similar to stuff like Antonius Rex and Akron. Dark and heavy metallic tinged, hint of symphonic dramatics mixed with the exuberant theatrical flair as only the Italians can do it. The long tracks build with mood and sinister feel, get very heavy and rocking, and again will fade to a longing uneasy emotion. There are simply gorgeous instrumental passages of keyboards and guitar that assure this unheralded gem will be played often around here. Spooky, foreboding, and dramatic. Dio would have loved this band opening for him! There is a bit of that kind of Dragon-ey vibe to the whole affair. The songs enchant by changing motifs several times per track, they keep it very interesting rather than just locking into one groove and riding it. They may rock for a while and then suddenly these spacey keys and piano, vocal improv back and forth with guitar or key leads. They can and do try everything to conjure an exotic beauty, something mystical. If often succeeds. "Blood and Tears" was a favorite with the soft keys, hand drumming, and exploring guitar lead just drifting for long periods.

As with the debut however, many music fans will not get past the powerful (sometimes overbearing) operatic vocals of Antonella Suella. (She wrote the songs as well.) I had described her as having some attributes of Siouxsie and Patti Smith but she is coming more from the classical realm, in fact in the 2000s she was an operatic vocalist for an experimental contemporary classical/electronic outfit. Here she wails to the heavens from the top of thunderclouds, commanding these songs like a Goddess. Personally, I freaking love her vocals as I do the pure ballsy approach of the band on NeMeSi.

There are still some sound and production issues here, common to many of the independent progressive 90s bands, but all in all this is a big improvement over the first. I would urge anyone interested in this band to start with this second album, if you love it, then maybe go back and try the first. I would love this group of people to make a new album with today's technology, it could be fascinating.

 Nova Malà Strana by NOVA MALÀ STRANA album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.04 | 4 ratings

Nova Malà Strana
Nova Malà Strana Crossover Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars Nova Mala Strana's first album for Mellow Records is some pretty bizarre stuff. The sound is very heavy, pretty abrasive, sometimes downright obnoxious. It has almost a punk attitude and sound mixed into its prog-ness and also a gothic metal feel.

To be blunt, many of you will not be able to get past the vocalist. Antonella Suella has a caterwaul style of singing that can channel Siouxsie (of Banshees fame) or Patti Smith combined with the operatic Italian style, and I'm someone who usually loves the large Italian vocals. Another huge problem here is the production which is ridiculously Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes it's fine but other times the band sounds like they were recorded with a single hand held mic pointed at the opening of a 200 foot mineshaft where they were jamming at the bottom. Translation: not good. Some of the keyboard sound choices are also unfortunate and many of the songs simply sound poorly mixed and unprofessional--the band certainly is passionate and I'd like to hear their next album, but here it is tough going.

The 10-minute closer "Opera Macabre III" is fairly interesting. Starting with a heavy galloping rock over synths I try to ignore the vocals until the 2 minute mark when we get a wailing electric guitar solo. The guitarist is easily the most talented member of the group. About a minute later everything falls away save some echoing cleanly picked chords, joined shortly by Antonella doing better in this mellow part. It gets very spacey for several minutes. After 7 minutes the band charges back in with the power chord gallop and the final vocals are belted out with power.

There are some interesting moments sprinkled throughout along with some good heavy rock and avant-garde weirdness but it's not quite enough for me. I could only recommend this to the most adventurous listeners who also happen to love the more gritty side of weird music and hard/punkish rock. I truly believe there are some people out there who will consider this album good but I think it's a rough start. Vocals are in English and lyrics are included in the Mellow Records cd reissue.

This band has an interesting feel and their next album is said to be an improvement, but I'm afraid this one doesn't cut it. I give them a second star for their adventurous spirit but that's it.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Joolz for the last updates

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