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MINSTREL

Rock Progressivo Italiano • Italy


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Minstrel biography
The Italian progressive rock band MINSTREL was founded in 1991. However, it was not until in 1997 that the band released their 1st output in the form of a demo-tape called "New Life". The first and only album so far called "Faust" was released in 2000. It is a fantastic symphonic progressive concept album. Definitely among the best Italian albums released since the 70's. In this album the band consists of Gianpaolo Pasini (drums), Marco Fiorina (bass), Mauro Ghilardini (keyboards & voice) and Michele Savoldelli (guitar). The music of MINSTREL is concentrated in the wonderful operatic vocals of Ghilardini and the guitar work of Savoldelli. Mauro Ghilardini can be considered as one of the best voices in progressive music whereas Savoldelli has his own sound. The rhythm section is solid. It is the operatic vocals that make their music sound like a rock opera and therefore also very original.

The album "Faust" is a rework of the same title by Goethe. Among with Mauro Ghilardini who is playing the role of Faust there are also other vocalists participating in this album playing the other characters. The nearest comparison from the 70's would probably be ALUSA FALLAX; it has the same kind of medieval feel in it.

MINSTREL is working on a new album called "Moby Dick", also influenced by literature (Melville). They have added a new keyboards player Arrigo Magli and Mauro Ghilardini will handle only the vocals. Highly recommended!

: : : Markus Mattsson, FINLAND : : :

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MINSTREL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MINSTREL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.12 | 34 ratings
Faust
2000
3.73 | 17 ratings
Ahab
2009

MINSTREL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MINSTREL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MINSTREL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MINSTREL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
New Life
1997

MINSTREL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars As most of the Minstrel members were involved in several other projects, 9 years of silence would pass before the group would return with a second album.For some time keyboardist Arrigo Magli would perform with Minstrel, but he only appears in one track in the new ''Ahab'' album, while bassist Marco Fiorina was replaced by Alberto Bigoni.As expected, the new album was a concept one, based on Herman Melville's ''Moby Dick'' and it was released on BTF/AMS.

A more powerful and still bombastic side of the Italians would be presented here with strong orchestral themes and crystalline, operatic vocals by Mauro Ghilardini, much in a Heavy/Symphonic Rock style with vibes from BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO's early albums and links to the style of compatriots PRESENT.Dynamic, pounding musicianship with complex changes and endless piano interludes/preludes, delivered in a thetrical mood with a Rock Opera aura.Here Mauro Ghilardini performs a long monologue of Captain Ahab, being definitely one of the best operatic singers to be around.Despite the clean metal riffing at some point, the album contains excellent salvation parts with smooth melodies and dreamy piano lines, keeping a lovely balance throughout.The music can be rhythmic, angular or mellow depending on the track.Classical influences are all over the place and ''Ahab'' is also full of some majestic piano/guitar interactions of the highest level.Not that on the last track, the deeply atmospheric 16-min. ''Morte'' there is a guest appearance by Ghilardini's son on vocals.Beautiful, cinematic, orchestral, grandiose Progressive Rock with Classical-influenced variations, bursting the pure energy of electric guitars and offering Soundtrack-like movements with a great atmosphere.

Minstrel' career was put on ice after the release of ''Ahab'', as Ghilardini & co. were absorbed again by other musical activities.This album should easily appeal to all fans of powerful, Classical-based Progressive Rock and it will sound even better if you don't mind a touch of Metal in the menu.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Well, "Faust" in my opinion is a very interesting work but for the band it was very difficult to perform it on stage on account of the many characters and voices. So, after the release of their debut album the band started to work on a new opera but this time they decided to conceive it as a kind of monologue with the voice of the protagonist backed only by a choir. The new album, "Ahab", was inspired by Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick and was released in 2009 with a line up featuring Mauro Ghilardini (lead and backing vocals, piano, keyboards), Michele Savoldelli (electric and acoustic guitars), Gianpaolo Pasini (drums) and Alberto Bigoni (bass). The overall sound here is sharper than on the previous album but the final result perfectly fits the storyline and Mauro Ghilardini's operatic vocals are magnificent.

The opener "Vendetta" (Revenge) is full of dark energy. You can imagine the protagonist, Captain Ahab, pursuing his white obsession crossing a ghastly sea. He looks for revenge, he wants to kill the white whale that injured and humiliated him. He can't give up his crazy dream... "Oh, My God, you know"! / I feel in my limbs blood, sweat, and tears / They devour my bones bent by memories...".

The short instrumental "Presagio" (Omen) lead us to the departure of a wild, cursed hunt across the sea... On "Partenza" (Departure) we can hear the captain shouting his orders... "Hey! Raise the anchor! / The wind will see us off! / Starbuck at the helm!/ Ishmael on the pontoon! You, on the lookout! And you, up there... And you, to the topmast! Go! Forward! Hey! Raise the anchor!". Wind and sunlight now swell the sails and the land rapidly vanishes behind the ship while the call of the see resounds in the air. The adventure begins with a frenzied rhythm and a dark feeling...

"Oceano" (Ocean) is a long, complex instrumental track that describes the ship sailing across the sea. It begins calmly and the mood is dreamy, then the dream turns into a nightmare and aggressive electric guitar riffs announce a storm and a troubled night.

"Alba" (Dawn) is dreamy and melodic. As dawn breaks and the light shines through the clouds the voice of Mauro Ghilardini delicately soars from a calm piano pattern drawing hopes and doubts. Memories flows inside the protagonist as a river that looks for the sun. Then he makes a vow... "I will sail forever pursuing this dream / As long as I have strength and breath / I won't forget this promise / And I'll win this wager / And I'll seek the knowledge / Until I'll understand the true meaning of life...".

On "Caccia" (Hunt) the rhythm rises again. It's a piece full of energy that describes the ups and downs of an endless, cursed ride across the ocean looking for the white whale... "Go on, never stop! Go on and on, you'll never lose your prey...Vile is the harpooner and vile is the captain if the blood of his prey doesn't stain his hand!... My hand, you can't fail / Take hold of the gleaming steel and strike... / Fury of the seas, listen to me / The time of revenge has come... Cruel fate, you turn us away from our course! But who seeks justice finds glory and renown...".

"Rampone" (Harpoon) describes the inner conflict that is raging in the heart of the captain. The music is evocative and dark. Melodic passages alternates with fiery guitar riffs and "deep reed" colours. You can hear an infernal smith forging a magic, evil harpoon... "Forge the point in pagan blood / I want a harpoon in mortal temper / Baptismal blood, save the baleful iron that marks every inch of me... Wind, renew my thoughts of violence! Rain, refresh my warrior instinct!... Following my mind, my fatal vow / I shall die, but I'll be free...".

"Tempesta" (Storm) is an evocative instrumental track featuring a sparkling electric guitar work that leads to "Delirio" (Madness), a monologue with narrative vocals and an orchestral background that describes the madness of the captain and the horror feelings he experiences when he looks at himself in a mirror. Eventually he comes back to consciousness for the tragic grand finale.

The last track "Morte" (Death) is a long, complex epic. It begins with a heartfelt recitative part where the voice of Mauro Ghilardini is backed and counter-pointed by the powerful rhythm section. Wave after wave, memory after memory the captain realizes that his hunt for knowledge is useless and that the unknown is still an enigma for him, "a past overflowing with mystery that returns like a wave on the shores of the present, thence surrounded like valiant, naive men by the dark sky of hope that wraps bodies like a clean shroud...". Now Ahab begins to feel guilty and his words sound like a lay prayer to Mother-Nature but it's too late! Now the music describes the fighting between the men and the white monster... Then the struggle gives way to a calmer part and melodic, operatic vocals soar... This time there's nothing more to say, there's nothing but the sea, no harbour on the horizon, no time left to regret, no goal to reach... "It's an everlasting trial... / An inner battle to discover / A doubt to abandon / A new faith to set off towards oceans of light / Immense but fragile expectations...". The captain's obsession leads him and his crew to perdition and death. When the sounds of the battle fade away we can hear a child playing and singing as a final message of hope. A dreamy, instrumental coda concludes this excellent work. On the whole a really good album featuring a beautiful packaging and a booklet full of drawing and images related to the plot. Do not miss it!

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 Faust by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.12 | 34 ratings

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Faust
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

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 Ó 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...

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 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I was quite impressed with their debut album released some ?nine years prior this one (" Faust"). This one is also a concept album which is built around "Ahab": the captain of the boat chasing the famous white whale "Moby Dick" (written by Herman Melville).

When I listened to the opening number ("Vendetta"), I wondered if I was listening to the same band. From Italian symphonic prog, I was drawn into deep metal music with no link at all with the music I was waiting for. And "Partenza" just confirmed the feeling. More metal, unfortunately. Bizarrely (but very well received), the last two minutes are delicate and feature passionate vocals and intimate piano. Quite a mix!

The long instrumental "Oceano" is also a dual track: at times quite, at times violent. But in both cases it is very well performed and the guitar is just fabulous. On the smooth side, the piano is extremely relaxing.

We are brought back again into the most gentle Italian symphonic genre with the beautiful "Alba". The vocal part from Mauro Ghilardini is formidable. A monument of emotions and skills. The instrumental breaks are not shy either. Guitar is again the strongest element. A highlight. What a great track!

"Rampone" is another one which combines opera-like vocals, metal lines and sweet passages. Vocals are the highlight (once more). But be warned: this song (and this album) features quite dual music. I am not sure that these two extremes (metal and Italian symph) will please a lot of prog ears. These combinations are not quite frequent to say the least.

As you might have expected, "Tempesta" (storm it means) is quite devastating, even brutal. It is a speedy and escalating instrumental which is extremely well built and performed. Fasten your seat belt! The next song is perfectly described in the title: "Delirio". It is the weakest track of this album.

The long "Morte" is the climax of the story (but maybe not the highest point of this release). It is a good synthesis of the whole work. Metal style is on the forefront ( a bit too much IMHHO). After six minutes of a violent treat, things are calming down and the band is offering again the other facet of their music: needless to say that I prefer this side of their moon... The long closing instrumental combines some fine acoustic work.

"Ahab" is an album quite difficult to rate. It is flirting with the four stars if you're a metal freak, more on the three stars side if you're an ISP lover. I guess that you understand that my rating is three stars even if I would have loved to rate it with seven out of ten.

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 Faust by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.12 | 34 ratings

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Faust
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Minstrel's second album is another close-to-masterpiece.

This Italian band is on the theatrical end of the RPI scene where they combines the best of literature, opera and RPI. One third of each, I would say. Ahab is a concept album, as Faust was. The music is symphonic and in the opera tradition. It is also very heavy within the RPI tradition too. Richard Wagner meets Osanna, in other words. Mauro Ghilardini operatic vocals gives Minstrel their own very special identity. So does Michele Savoldelli's guitar solos too. In short, the line up on this album makes it a very special Baroque RPI album.

The songs are all great on this album. Oceano and Morte is the strongest songs here with their brilliant melody lines. I am missing a true killer track here which would had elevated this album to a classic album status. But this album is so strong that I just falls over in pure joy anyway. Put this album alongside the two other best RPI albums from this century on a rostrum. It is that strong.

4.25 stars

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 Faust by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.12 | 34 ratings

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Faust
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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

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 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Propu

5 stars After almost 10 years, here is the Minstrel's second album, Ahab, which tells the story of the main character of Melville's novel. At first some listeners might be surprised or also disappointed of the radical style change, the differences between the previous album, since there are much heavier guitars, less operatic voices, less keyboards and more ferocious bass slapping. That's what happened to me, and for about a month I didn't listen it. Then, with random song selection of the music player I discovered the magical piano intro of Caccia, followed by the marching guitars and an incredible voice. So I did it again, selected the first song, Vendetta, and listened again. These are my opinions about every song in the album:

1.Vendetta: the first song of the album, which announces the main differences between the old and the new Minstrels. Ghilardini has a stronger voice, more similar to the Sala's (Mefistofele in Faust), rocking, but still with the operatic echo, making him, again, one of the most brilliant singers Progressive Rock has ever had. Here we can also notice the amazing skills of the bassist, featuring some really strong slaps.

2. Presagio: this is actually a kinda psychedelic passage song, which lasts only two minutes and doesn't give much contributes to the album itself.

3. Partenza: ok, here we go. This is the third song, which translated means "Departure". Here we can listen to a brilliant multitrack work of Ghilardini, who put all together some of the lowest notes of his vocal range, showing again (and again, and again) his incredible skills. The song is divided in two parts, in the second the piano is the only rhytmic instrument, and Ahab is singing on it. Sublime.

4. Oceano: the second instrumental song of the album (if you consider also Presagio), this time showing the skills of Savoldelli, the guitarist of the band. There two parts here too, the first rappresenting the calm and the quite ocean, the second the tempestuous one, with much more anger with the chords and the solos, returning then to the calm.

5. Alba: this isn't actually a song more than a crescendo. It begins with soft piano and soft vocals, until the multitrack choir enters again (the same of "Partenza"), with "Nasce l'alba", giving more life to the music, which finds it apex with the 7/4 part with all instruments at the end. My favourite song of the album.

6. Caccia: I've already said about the very beginning with the piano, the marching guitars, and the incredible singing of Ghilardini. The song goes on with a fully progressive rock part full of guitar solos, time changes, until it fades slowly to the end.

7. Rampone: it starts with the heaviest and most ''metallish" chords I've ever heard of the band, featuring also dissonances with both electric and classical guitar. The vocals are also quite rude and strong, but all this fades with the chorus, which creates an atmosphere of hope. Then starts again the strong part, but it is immediately stopped and we return to have feelings of hope and peace. Briliant.

8. Tempesta: a 3 minute passage song, full of guitar solos, time changes, all typical progressive rock things, which prepare the listener to the end of the album.

9. Delirio: a dark monologue of Ahab, who is sure of his imminent death. Another passage song that preannounces the end of the album.

10. Morte: "Death" in English. This is the ''Faust'' of the album, if you remember that song of the previous album. It begins with another much longer monologue of Ahab, before his death, who thinks about his life and if what he had done had or didn't have sense. It is divided in two parts and also here there is the multitrack duet, this time with his high notes. After the second part of the monologue, there is a long incredibly complex part of piano solos, guitar solos, bass solos, time changes, everything, showing again the great skills of this unknown band. Then the music suddenly changes, only the piano, the classical guitar and a harp remain, playing a silent melody, which introduces the last words of Ahab, resigned words. Another progressive crescendo, with more and more instruments, with higher and higher vocals and more and more harrowing words, "Per navigare sono costretto a soffrire, per soffrire costretto a cercare, per cercare sognare, per sognare morire.", "To sail, I must suffer, to suffer, seek, to seek, dream, and to dream, die!", leaving the scene to a 6 minutes instrumental piece with classical guitar and other acustical instruments.

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 Faust by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.12 | 34 ratings

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Faust
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Propu

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 lass¨ 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 lass¨, tu non sei pi¨ 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.

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 Ahab by MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Ahab
Minstrel Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Minstrel waited for 10 years before releasing their sophomore follow-up to the fabulous "Faust", an absolute shiny icon in my prog collection. That can be a ridiculous interval but so many prog musicians have day jobs and family obligations that one can only patiently wait, even though I must admit I was fearful of another one-shot wonder. Their lusty combination of operatic vocals, driving rhythm section and scorching guitar is a formula to die for, and it is maintained on Ahab in spades (and clubs and diamonds and hearts!) , wasting little time is setting a tempestuous story line adapted from Melville's obligatory classic Moby Dick (was the working title for quite awhile (or should I say 'a whale' !). We all know the story so I won't bother with it, just the music will be appreciated. There are some rampaging tracks here, full of ribald saltiness and maritime thunder, the Brian May-ish blasts from Michele Salvodelli, perpetuating the Queen images in a proggier vein with incredible opera vocals from the leather-lunged Mauro Ghilardini, who is a splendid keyboard player to boot (may I add a delightful gentleman also as per our ongoing messages!). When any album starts off with a track called vengeance, ("Vendetta") you know it won't be a pastoral prelude but a fulminating foray into the raunchier side, getting the frustrated Captain Ahab obsession into the spotlight for all to understand. There are some breathtaking pieces here like the fluid "Partenza" (Departure) and the stormy "Oceano" (obvious) , where all the instrumentalists really shine, a manic guitar wand and unending rhythmic twists and mood turns that immediately reassure the hungry fan that this is primo stuff! On the magnificent "Alba", the audience gets to see another one of those magical moments that was the hallmark of Faust, a gorgeous melody, fragile and elegant, perhaps even sorrowful, a progressive attribute I particularly respond to. The screaming lead guitar only compounds the pain, riding shot gun on the pleasure train, Mauro singing with confident brilliance, like a man possessed (opera will do that to you!). The pace is complex and swift when needed and redolently gentle at other times. "Cacchia" (Hunting) is a serious wink to their compatriots Universal Totem Orchestra, who on their 2 albums really shook my world with insane vocals and choir, brutal guitar/bass/drum onslaughts and machine-gun lyrics sung with fervor. It bucks, weaves and blows like a ship in the torment of a sea hurricane, with a sudden and unexpected wah-wah guitar funk job that stuns by its originality. The singing is out of whack, howling at the moon like some deranged sailor, screaming his agony and despair. Fantastic hard-hitting stuff, this! The steamrolling "Rampone" is where it gets heavy, the phosphoric guitar streaming between the cascading drum buoys, anchoring an insistent drive into the mind with devastating accuracy, Mauro's hell-bent voice ripping in the wind, with occasional lulls of gentle wisp. The devilish laugh is sizzling as well as the drilling synth solo (very Manfred Mann) but the chugging axe flight is the highlight, totally present and unrelenting. "Tempesta" is where the ragazzi want to show their considerable skills, some razor sharp shifts create this aura of uncontrollable power, like a raging tempest, a harpooning guitar doing most of the damage . "Delirio" contributes the more legend based delirium, hushed vocals narrating the senseless fixation of a vengeful, bitter man. The symphonics are lush and memorable, the mood exhilarating. The disc ends with the 16 minute+ "Morte" (Death), a recap of all the previous songs as well as the moral of the sad story, the instruments merging into a rock opera of the finest caliber, craftly conveying the realities of the storyline. Musically, it translates into a more Ferrari racer approach in transmitting the message, some may be turned on or turned off by the harder approach but I believe it suits the band's style well, as they know when to be ruled by restraint. The final effects, acoustic guitar work and suave piano lines are glorious and enchanting; the contrasts are note worthy and maintain the loftiest interest level. On my next run through I will be sailing with the Alberto Bigoni bass, see if that changes anything. While "Faust" remains an untouchable monument, the Ahab adventure has found a coveted niche next to it, lovingly embraced by the masterful artwork, poster and booklet. I am blown away by the quality of the music here and I would like to thank Mauro for contacting me via PA and asking for my verbal (at times verbose) opinion. Guys and gals, get this ! A 4.5 armada sailing directly into Port 5

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