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SEMIRAMIS

Rock Progressivo Italiano • Italy


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SEMIRAMIS is one of the many "one-shot" bands of the 70's Italy. Their only album is one of my favorite albums of the 70's Italian art rock. Combining elements of Italian folk, heavy progressive passages (especially in the middle of the album), Baroque church music, jazz, classical, and a good dose of insanity. "Dedicato A Frazz" pounds every sense, challenges every synapse in a flurry of ideas. There are more symphonic, keyboard-led parts as well where SEMIRAMIS may sound closer YES, GENESIS or BANCO. A fantastic album...!

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Dedicato a FrazzDedicato a Frazz
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Disk Union 2004
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4.03 | 201 ratings
Dedicato a Frazz
1973

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SEMIRAMIS Reviews


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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Guldbamsen
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

4 stars Hi Ho Silver Italy and away we go!

After having left the borders of France I am now absolutely thrilled to be located in one of the most diverse and colourful prog scenes: Italy's. Going back and forth through my lps and cds - I find my myself verging on delightfully vexed hysteria and then again somewhat confused - simply not knowing where to start in all of this.... I run through so many listening habits a year, that I'm always listening to some Italian music one way or another. What many people fail to realise - something that the RPI collaborators as well as the more well versed members continuously attempt to highlight, is that the Italian take on progressive music in the 70s was infinitely more than what the 3 biggies Le Orme, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso were all about. They certainly did not make the blueprint for the Italian way. That's not the case at all - not even remotely true.

Semiramis' sole album Dedicato a Frazz is THE album I always put on, when my body screams for that good old Italian vibe. It's as foreseeable as the first rays of the summer. The weather gets more orange and humid, flowers start emerging on trees, and I immediately start searching maniacally around for this little gem.

With a cast of mere teenagers, this album is chuck full of youthful exuberance - lost masturbation seances channelled through music. The force of this band approaches the carefree proto punk of The Stooges, but then again it's much too shapeshifting and complex to be considered part of that possy. Oh and can you imagine playing prog when you were 17? Back then my friends were either playing hardcore punk or grunge - none of them capable of dreaming up something as huge and tightly woven as this little baby.

First and foremost, Dedicato a Frazz slaps you upside your face with a nonchalant hard hitting prog rock that simply storms out of the pit. Like a great big buffalo it rumbles through the prairie with flashes of Italian colour bursting out the seams by way of joyously played acoustic guitar segments, pacing classical piano runs or a zany twist of exotic vibraphone. Still the overriding principles of this album are about fury and youth - simple unassuming energy.

Vocalist Michele Zarrillo too sports a wild possessed fury. His singing brings to mind fellow countrymen Cervello, Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno and Il Balletto di Bronzo - it has that nasal fiery quality to it, coming off like an Italian version of Arthur Brown. I'm not sure many remember how melodic Brown actually was, instead they seem to recollect his crazy ways more than anything, but there was a sense of melody there quite unique, which oddly enough brings me to Michele's guitar..... Yup there's a sip of the ol wine in the fabulous electric guitar codas, licks and solos. You better believe it honey!

There's not a dud on here, every track seems to burn brightly with furious rock n commotion - mad vibraphone fuga like sections, soaring melodic vocals and some of the most carefully applied synthesizers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Around the time this record was made, the synths had jumped on board the prog vessel like a huge tentacled monster lashing out on all fronts of the rock sphere. I mainly blame Emerson, but that's another tale altogether. On here the crunchy loud earth shattering rock blast is only embellished in small parts with these spacey robotic laser beams, and each time they feel like jumping on an elevator heading for the top of Kilimanjaro ZOOOOOOOOM!

With some serious Jon Lord organ flirtations, although infinitely more swirly and Italian at those, you additionally get a powerful thick melody enhancer in the second Zarrillo brother, Maurizio. This cat can really swing, I'll tell you - he jumps on that organ like a real schizophrenic rocker. With Maurizio, as well as the entire band, you can easily picture some headbanging involved during the groovy saucy gulps.

Semiramis should please the heavy prog aficionados - the Atomic Rooster believers, even if these cats pulled off a release that I personally think is completely original. Any progger worth his salt, should have this in his collection. I genuinely mean that. Just look into that beautiful green mug, and tell me you don't want at least a little snuggle?

So come on now and join the Italian troops, where we all are looking forward to show you the pleasures of music, that will have you doing somersaults and power yoga with pure unadulterated joy. 4.5 stars

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Delightfully Frantic Guitar-Based Italian Prog

Semiramis was a one album classic-era Italian Prog band led by vocalist and guitarist Michele Zarillo. The outfit was actually started by his older brother and some friends but had their moment in the sun when the younger prodigy joined. Michele not only sings, plays the some of the greatest prog guitar on record, but apparently wrote most of the material as well. All of the band members were still teenagers when this was recorded (Michele 15) and the youthful energy, wonder, and lack of inhibition are all over the sound. In fact, this may be the best record from a point of view of "Wow that just sounds cool" in the entire classic prog era.

Most Italian Prog is romantic and keyboard driven. Semiramis is intense and dominated by guitar. All the other instruments get their full share of the spotlight, but Michele's guitar really steals the stage. The number of complex guitar riffs and licks on this record are unmatched until the metal era quite a bit after this. The key players aren't afraid to rip and experiment either, and we get some really dissonant sections, some open free form wierdness, and traded lines that again look forward 15 years. The beginning of track 4 "Per un strada affolata" is about as pure proggy instrumental goodness as there is. (Think Steve Hackett's "Ace of Wands")

As great as this is, it can get a little ragged. This isn't a musical journey transporting the listener to new emotional planes. This is a record of monsterously talented kids loving every minute of what they're doing and just letting it rip. The sounds here have all been done before, but never with this much raw joy. There is still plenty of humor, plenty of rock n' roll get up and move spirit. The composition and songwriting is extremely solid, with a willingness to get wierd, but still clearly within the norms of the genre.

Of the 15 or so RPI albums I own, this is one of only two that I get random urges to put on. This is a 4.5 star I album I rounding down because it just doesn't hit that masterpiece button.

But again, highly highly recommended.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by greetingsfrombergen

2 stars This band sounds like a bunch of teenagers high on sugar! I love it. I hate it. The performance is really good and with a wonderful, young energy. But the album is hopelessly lost in a plethora of fragmented ideas, seldom fullfilled. Many ideas are pure brilliant, but they could have been developed, or let say progressed more:-) If you meet a confused person who tells you every thought in his mind all the time, you will be exhausted after half an hour. This is how this album makes me feel. The vocals are a bit to feminin for my taste as well, even if I normally do like the sound of a tenor. The overall sound is not bad, however On Luna Park there is a disturbing clapping noise through the second half of the tune, not even in beat. Conclusion: This is mediocre and I would have loved the more matured Semiramis!

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I was bowled over to discover that Semiramis were only teenagers when they recorded this album! Musicians decades older than them have tried and failed to produce similarly excellent albums in a similar vein. Granted, it's not the most original of Italian prog albums of 1973 - Trespass-era Genesis is the primary influence yet again - but the passion and the skill with which the band take to this particular musical field and make it their own is a joy to behold. Whilst the vocalist isn't much to write home about, by and large this is very capably performed and interestingly composed pastoral prog that didn't deserve to be overlooked in the Italian prog boom of 72-73, but sadly was.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by coasterzombie

5 stars From the moment you lay eyes on the macabre album cover, you realize Dedicato a Frazz is not going to be a typical prog album. Semiramis still manage to haunt and amaze me with this 1973 odyssey every time I hear it. Even more amazing is that mere teenagers wrote and recorded a masterpiece, none more impressive than the 16-year-old Michele Zarillo. Zarillo puts on a veritable guitar clinic and is able to achieve feats those twice his age couldn't. And though his singing is quite capable, his guitar talent is nearly unsurpassed except by the greats - Fripp, Howe, and Hackett - and equal to that of Corrado Rustici in my opinion. In fact, Semiramis evoke the sound of Rustici's group Cervello in their daring and unabashed zeal for pushing the envelope; a sense of one-upsmanship is at play but never to the point of impetuousness. And like Cervello's Melos, Dedicato a Frazz will require many repeated listens to fully appreciate. The album may feel schizophrenic upon first listens, but makes sense with time. I promise.

A perplexing combination of Eminent, vibraphone and 12-string guitar opens "La Bottega del Rigattiere." As Zarillo starts to sing a thunderous drum roll announces the beat, and does the beat ever drop hard. Just when you start to bang your head to Zarillo's heavy riff, the song abruptly shifts to a playful interlude and back. Get used to that. Dedicato a Frazz will transform an inordinate number of times, some transitions more jarring than others. The fabulous "Luna Park," one of my favorite songs in the entire genre, leaves a burnt trail of destruction in its path as Zarillo and company torch through numerous tempos and time signatures. The level of creativity is so high at times I can't picture a group of kids sitting down and brainstorming it. "Luna Park" is truly astounding and something every prog fan should experience.

The madrigal "Uno Zoo Di Vetro" features tympani and a heaping helping of Eminent before Zarillo drops a bomb at the 1:25 mark. His guitar riff is so devastatingly raunchy I can't even describe it but the closest thing I can think of is "Epilogo" from Il Balletto di Bronzo's Ys. A magical break three minutes in sees Semiramis in a symphonic mode, shedding any heavy prog tendencies. A brief vibraphone solo then bridges to "Per Una Strada Affollata." This is another fascinating and exhausting exercise but one that pays dividends for the patient listener. Again Zarillo steals the show, executing a poignant classical guitar solo with experience well beyond his years. The representative "Dietro Una Porta Di Carta" summarizes everything to this point well, and still manages to create an identity all its own. "Frazz" impresses with a sublime chord progression in the middle; this section really personifies to me what RPI is all about, and though it only lasts a minute it leaves a lasting impression. "Clown" offers almost too much of a good thing, but before you know it the album is over. Dedicato a Frazz leaves you wanting more, which is the hallmark of a 5-star album to these ears.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Semiramis - Dedicato a Frazz (1973)

And you thought the cover-art was good... inside my fold-out vinyl edition of this rare Italian prog record can be seen one of the best surrealistic land-scapes filled with mysterious beings ever drawn for a progressive record. That having said, this packaging of this one- shot RPI wonder is very good.

Now, the music. Semiramis plays symphonic progressive rock with Italian vocals with influences of Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. This is a rare combination, since symphonic beauty is often followed by crazed out instrumental passages. The title of the album, dedicated to madness, fits the music very well. The guitars can be quite heavy. Drummer Paolo Faenza also plays vibraphone on the low volume themes, which is another characteristic of this album. Bass-player Marcello Reddovide often plays fast arpeggio's of the chords which gives the music a lot of speed, even during mid-paced moments. The vocals of Michele Zarrillo are honest and intensive, but not too trained.

The compositions often lack cohesiveness, especially on side two, but they are often original. The energy this band must have had was well recorded, and the record sounds fresh and exciting. The recording-quality is however a bit poor, which made it a bit hard for me to get to like the music. The main problem are the many themes with slightly out of pitch instruments. Often the Moog-sounds are false, as well are some of guitar parts. For a musician like me this can be painful on some moments, others might not even notice. I do thing the point made by others about this band sounding a bit amateurish has largely been based on this problems with the pitch of some of the instruments. Perhaps the naive song- writing also played a role. Finally I would like to comment on the poor key-instruments used, especially some the organ-sounds that sound very dated. But I can't blame the band for this.

My brother and his wife just visited me and my brother somehow came to like Semiramis quite much as he asked for it again. I had to think again for my own opinion and I've come to the conclusion that I will give this three stars. The artwork is amazing, no - perfect! The style of the band is likable, but I just can't fit the word excellent in it. So let me put it this way; this is a great addition to your RPI collection, but if you aren't particularly interested in RPI this is just a good/non-essential addition to your collection. A small three and a halve stars.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

4 stars Ok Karl, I'll play!

For me, Prog Archives is a long-term obsession and I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at the ''Last 50 reviews'' on the home page. I particularly enjoy reading other members' reviews of the classic albums, but the front page is also great for sourcing those obscure gems that prog fans like me always seem to be searching for. Now and again it also throws up a review of an album that I'm familiar with but possibly haven't paid enough attention to. Such is the case with Dedicato a Frazz (1973) by Semiramis. This album was actually well down my pecking order of ''RPI albums to review'' before I read a stimulating review of it yesterday.

There are 7 songs in total, and at just over 6-minutes LA BOTTEGA DEL RIGATTIERE is the longest and it's a stunning introduction to the album. Semiramis manages to cram a lot of ideas into short spaces; this opening song features memorable guitar riffs, superb keyboard timbres, and wonderful interplay between vibes and 12-string acoustic guitar. LUNA PARK keeps up the momentum, but after a frenetic opening it manages to catch its breath with some lovely contrasting sections and changes in dynamics. Piercing guitar solos alternate with rousing organ and delicate vibes. This is a truly superb piece of music. 16-year old Michele Zarrillo's guitarwork is excellent, but what is more incredible is that he composed these wonderfully mature songs at such a tender age.

Although there are clear similarities between Semiramis and some of their Italian contemporaries such as Cervello and the mighty Il Balletto di Bronzo, the footprints of some of the giants of UK prog can also be felt on this album. After some Tony Iommi-style guitar and dentist-drill synthesizer, UNO ZOO DI VETRO reveals a bit of a King Crimson influence with an ambient soundscape of bells and vibes a la Moonchild. In addition, the beautiful cover artwork is highly reminiscent of the first couple of KC albums (see the inner gatefold in particular).

PER UNA STRADA AFFOLATA is probably the most aggressive-sounding piece and is played at breakneck speed in places. There are intermittent acoustic moments, but the general vibe is quite dark with Michele Zarrillo singing like a mad man toward the end. While the album is dominated by guitar, Eminent strings and synthesizer, as exemplified on DIETRO UNA PORTA DI CARTA, drummer Paulo Faenza deserves a special mention for his excellent vibraphone playing throughout the album. This is one of the heavier and more challenging RPI albums, although it's really not too challenging as Semiramis also do melody in a big way. FRAZZ and CLOWN are good examples, with their mixtures of cacophony, uber-catchy riffs, and mellow moments.

Overall this is another excellent Italian album from the '70s. However as Karl says, everyone should be listening to this album, not just the RPI fans.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Back in my teens, I used to spend most of my free time hanging around in record shops and libraries. When selecting albums, I had only two criteria to go by: the first being song lengths, the second album covers. Quite inadequate selection criteria maybe but still they brought me to King Crimson, VDGG, Magma, Schulze and Ange. Not so bad I'd say.

You got to understand we are talking about 1985-1988 here. In that pre-internet and pre-CD age, shops didn't even have individual headphones to sample new albums. And while shop owners might have played the latest Cure album for a customer, I always got a decisive "No, not that guy again!" headshake when I dangled my Jethro Tull and Rush finds in front of them!

Song lengths have become completely irrelevant for me since ages, but occasionally an album cover still attracts my attention. From the first time I saw Semiramis' Dedicato A Frazz make its remarkable appearance on the homepage, I simply had to have it. And of course the music doesn't disappoint!

Sadly enough, there are some issues with the album mix, the drums are way too much in the back and everything has too much medium range and too less vivacity. But the songs are all excellent; the first three are even superb. Never taking up more then 6 minutes, they are nevertheless very audacious and simply packed with ideas. It's sure a difficult album. At best, it won't probably be more then just 'intriguing' at a first listen. But nothing is more rewarding then biting your way through a thick skin to find the delicious fruit inside. (Hear me out, I'm even starting to talk all flowery and fluffy now)

I'd strongly suggest this album would get more regular reviews here. Not only do we need to see this artwork gracing our front page more often, also this music should be heard by the prog-masses.

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Semiramis were one of the many bands of the Italian progressive scene of early seventies. They came from Rome and the line up featured Paolo Faenza (drums, percussion and vibraphone), Marcello Reddavide (bass), Giampiero Artegiani (classical and acoustic guitar, synthesizers), Michele Zarrillo (guitars, vocals) and his brother Maurizio Zarrillo (piano, keyboards). Their debut album "Dedicato a Frazz" (Dedicated to Frazz) was released in 1973. It's a concept album about the dreams and the feelings of an imaginary and strange character, Frazz. Frazz is an acronym made with the initials of the members of the band... During the studio sessions Semiramis managed to shape a very mature sound, blending hard rock, progressive rock and classical influences. The quality of the recordings is not flawless and the music is perhaps not particularly original but the overall result remarkable, especially if you consider that all the members of the band were very young then. The album was not successful but, as years passed by, it become a cult one among prog collectors, not only because of the quality of the music but because of the beautiful art cover as well.

The opener "La bottega del rigattiere" (The second hand dealer's shop) is disquieting and dreaming. It depicts a strange and magical shop where, behind a double-faced window, fantastic harlequins, puppets and other objects can make you live their sinful odysseys and their sad souvenirs... "Old ice-heartened merchant / You have wiped out all the fairy tales / In your shop I can find only lost hopes... My kite is getting lost into the sky / Dancing on the notes of a waltz by that failed musician / Regretted and dead by now...".

"Luna Park" (Amusement park) describes another fantastic bittersweet dream. An innocent theatre allows you to dream an endless play where you can buy even the stars and throw them against the time that passes by... And when the dream is gone you are still searching on the ground for another coin to buy a couple of minutes to remember the lights of that dream...

"Uno zoo di vetro" (In a zoo of glass) starts with acoustic guitar and percussion, then dark church-like organ notes followed by heavy electric guitar riffs invite you to climb up into the sky from where, in an idyllic and peaceful atmosphere you can look below and see insane breathless shadows, lacking of air in a zoo of glass...

The complex and agoraphobic "Per una strada affollata" (In a crowded street) features fiery synthesizer passages and a nice classical guitar solo. Lyrics draw images of dummies looking at the crowd through the windows of the shops while fear flows into the veins of the passers by... "It's fear that flows into the veins / But it falls over in front of the buildings / Closing the way / And knocking on the door of your home!".

Next comes "Dietro una porta di carta" (Behind a door of paper), calm and reassuring... "And into the silence around me / I find back the simplicity, my personality, my boldness / I'm back from my sky / I'm alone in my room / I'm burning my tired ideals / In love with a paper / Left on a white box / Frome where reluctantly goes out a spider...". The instrumental finale makes tension take off again...

"Frazz" features strummed acoustic guitar and a pastoral mood (every now and again this track reminds me of Felona e Sorona by Le Orme). It's a reflection about the contrast between dreams and reality... "Sometime ago I was wandering about a winged horse / That used to bring you on the moon, around the sky / Into a frozen sun among golden clouds...You have many characters in a cartoon world / That smashes you down with its fake stories... At length, why searching for the truth?".

The last melancholic track, "Clown", concludes the album describing the thoughts of a jester after the show... "My comedy is coming to an end... About the love of a bearded old man / Who walks slowly with a stick / Resounding in a dark and empty street... Last spotlight on a jester / Alone, in middle of himself...".

On the whole a very good album. Well, now if look at the beautiful inside cover, painted by Gordon Faggeter, an English artist based in Rome, probably you'll recognize some images taken from the dreams described in the lyrics, like the spider escaping from the white box, the winged horse, the harlequin, the puppets, the zoo of glass, the old man, the clown...

It's very difficult to imagine that it's really Michele Zarrillo the guitarist and singer of this band. Michele Zarrillo is today one of the best known Italian melodic pop singers while Giampiero Artegiani is a successful melodic song-writer and producer as well... What a waste of talent!

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 Dedicato a Frazz by SEMIRAMIS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.03 | 201 ratings

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Dedicato a Frazz
Semiramis Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Nightfly
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars Perhaps my interest in the RPI genre distorts the facts, but to me Italy seems to have produced more excellent one album progressive rock bands than any other country I can think of. Add Semiramis to that list, their album Dedicato A Frazz, released in 1973 was an album I only came across last year, but I'm certainly glad I did as it's one my favourite purchases of recent times.

The compositions are very mature for a band so young as is the musicianship. Dedicato a Frazz sits at the heavier end of the Italian prog spectrum, reminding me at times of Biglietto Per L'inferno, though overall creating a musical onslaught more intense and unrelenting, played with the fire of Il Balletto Di Bronzo. Yes, despite moments of mellow restraint this is a very busy album with fast and furious lead guitar runs and riffs against powerful synths, which while not necessarily a thing of beauty much of the time, create an exciting sound. A dexterous rhythm section follows the many twists and turns of the compositions and the vocals of Michele Zarillo (also providing the guitar) also bring to mind Biglietto Per L'inferno. What's remarkable is the way the band manage to fit so much in to each song without it turning into a disjointed mess, particularly considering that all the songs are so short, the longest being 6 minutes. Add to all this the customary amount of passion that Italian bands seem to play with and you have on your hands one hell of a good album.

It's a real shame that we only have one album from Semiramis; I believe Zarillo went onto mainstream success in Italy in a more pop orientated direction, but Dedicato A Frazz remains an album I can't fault and essential listening to those who enjoy the wilder side of Italian Prog.

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