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ARCHANGEL

Neo-Prog • Italy


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Archangel biography
ARCHANGEL is the brainchild of former THE WATCH and current UBI MAJOR keyboardist, Gabriele Dario Manzini. Manzini began studying the piano in 1984 and took inspiration from a wide array of progressive and classic rock bands of the 70's. In 2000, Manzini joined THE WATCH and recorded the album "Ghosts" with the band. He left after the tour for the album to join UBI MAJOR. He has released two albums with that band.

In 2007, he began recording his first solo album based on the history of Numenor from J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. For the recording of his album "The Akallabeth" he assembled a group of musicians from THE WATCH and UBI MAJOR, as well as from the band WINTER MIST. He also gathered a group of singers including Damian Wilson, Ted Leonard and Zachary Stevens, among others. The album was released in May of 2009 and Manzini spent some time touring the album among Italian radio stations. At the end of October, the album was nominated for the 4th annual ProgAwards as Best Debut Album.

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The Elite EPThe Elite EP
Prophecy Writings/ Ground Level Leaders 2013
Audio CD$10.00
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ARCHANGEL discography


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

2.83 | 12 ratings
The Akallabeth
2009
2.81 | 5 ratings
Tales of Love and Blood
2013

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ARCHANGEL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tales of Love and Blood by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.81 | 5 ratings

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Tales of Love and Blood
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars `Tales of Love and Blood' is a well performed and produced concept work by former The Watch/current Ubi Major Italian keyboard player Gabriele Manzini, operating under the project name of Archangel. With the help of other players, the musician has composed a range of dense extended works and branching suites of music, as well as some cover versions, that run through a range of power AOR, heavy progressive rock, Neo prog and classical gothic sophistication. Gabriele is certainly influenced by the bombastic symphonic rock of artists such as Ayreon, Lana Lane and Arena, but he still brings a typical Italian flair to his keyboard and piano playing, and there's even little traces of doom metal kings My Dying Bride and the Alan Parsons Project worked in throughout. It's no surprise to find that the album is especially keyboard dominated, but there's also plenty of opportunities for the other musicians brought in to offer nice contributions. Sadly a number of issues stop the album and band from achieving the best results, but there's so much potential on display here.

`The Countess Bathory Suite' covers the first four tracks of the album, and there's numerous standout moments. Opening with a narrated passage that details the background of the notorious historical figure before a fanfare crescendo, the blustery and stomping AOR rocker `When The Night' kicks in, a serious and theatrical vocal from Gianluigi Girardi over Gabriele Manzini's pulsing Hammond runs and some stirring electric guitar soloing. Then a sombre take on the Blue Oyster Cult's `Nosferatu' features a truly beautiful opening floating keyboard and creeping Mellotron introduction and a darkly crooned vocal from Joe Salati that brings a sense of flair and dark drama. `Misplaced Love' has lovely chiming Neo flavoured acoustic and 12 string guitars, a superior and touching vocal from guest Damian Wilson with some dazzling Rick Wakeman-styled Moog solos in the first half. The middle twists into a heavy instrumental that races through urgent tempo changes, ghostly piano and searing Mellotrons. This suite is easily the highlight of the disc!

Unfortunately, although the almost 14 minute `The Night Scythe' is probably intended to the crowning achievement of the disc, it's one of the least interesting pieces on offer. Several long stretches feature unmemorable melodies, over-wrought vocals and dragging repetitive passages, it's seriously plodding and rapidly grinds the album to a near-halt. It's a shame, because it starts out very promising with some sinister My Dying Bride-styled brooding guitars, has lovely fluid bass throughout and there's endless beautiful piano passages to Manzini's credit.

The `Love and Blood Suite' quickly improves things again. With a soothing melody that greatly resembles `Green-Eyed Angel' from `Pendragon's `Not of this World', `The Black Bride' is another classy Damian Wilson-led ballad with sadly romantic piano and rising electric guitars. It moves through a melancholic and tasteful cover of Roxy Music's `My Only Love' (always an underrated track from that band) with glistening electric piano, ripping Hammond and dynamic guitar solos in the finale, before closing the album on the intense and stalking `In Loneliness', full of doomy riffs and hellbound organ with a classic Neo- styled dreamy bridge.

Regretfully, the band also includes a bonus track, a well played but utterly cringe-worthy and overly polite cover of Black Sabbath's `Wheels of Confusion' that is completely devoid of all the scuzzy charm of the original. Sigh...

Although I've praised many sections of the album, sadly this sort of overbearing AOR/hard- rock is rarely my sort of thing, and I have a very low tolerance of similar acts like most of the Anthony Aryen Luccassen-styled projects. Despite being very impressed by numerous sections, I still find much of the histrionic and deadly serious vocals quite draining, with just a slight hint of blandness creeping in a little too often as well. The cover versions are well- done but distracting and totally unnecessary, because the band already displays more than enough confidence to stand by their own work. But I can truly appreciate talented musicians performing complex arrangements, and there is no doubt Gabriele Manzini is something of a virtuoso musician, and frequently (and thankfully) his playing is subtle and restrained. I have a feeling he's slowly honing his craft and will soon make a truly defining and grand musical statement all his own in the future.

So it's three stars for me personally, but any fans of the above mention Ayreon-type artists can probably add another star to this rating, and they may find this album the perfect way to pass the time until the next proper Arena or Luccassen albums.

Oh, and Gabriele - ditch the covers and let your own talent shine!

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 Tales of Love and Blood by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.81 | 5 ratings

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Tales of Love and Blood
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by Dr. Gothic

4 stars Somebody called him "Genius". Not far from the truth indeed. "Tales of Love and Blood" is well-crafted project based on horror tales, misty legends and melancholy stories. Nothing new of course, but the grace and writing skills of Gabriele "Archangel" Manzini have managed to portrait nine atmospheric tracks bound together in 3 suites. Under the progressive structures of the songs lies the love for the classic heavy dark-rock of the seventies, all mixed with the sound of the 2k heavy music. I can't find anything related to Arena or some other new-prog combo. It is more related to Rick Wakeman or some new dark wave like The Sisters of Mercy, or a progressive version of Paradise Lost. A really daring experiment to mix some famous traks like "Nosferatu" from The Blue Oyster Cult and "My Only Love" from Roxy Music. They perfectly fit the plot and the athmosphere. The italian singers work fine and Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace, Ayreon...) is the absolute matador as always. The progressive "Misplaced Love", the ghostly "The Black Bride" and the long and doomy "The Night Scythe" hand us a great work. Archangels has greatly improved from the first good CD "The Akallabeth", from a writing and a production point of view and this is an absolutely suggested purchase!

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 Tales of Love and Blood by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2013
2.81 | 5 ratings

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Tales of Love and Blood
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

2 stars - First Review Of This Album -

ARCHANGEL is [led by] Gabriele Manzini, the keyboard player from The Watch and Ubi Maior, and this is the second album (which by the way seemed to have a double entry here, with two different covers). The Watch, originally a Genesis cover band with a very Peter Gabriel -sounding vocalist, was familiar to me in advance, otherwise the artist is a new acquaintance for me; just another of those CD's I've received for reviewing.

True, this music is pure Neo Prog, reminiscent of ARENA and PENDRAGON and their ilk, but worse. In principle the 62-minute keyboard-oriented album is a well crafted, clean-sounding and finely produced conceptual work, fairly listenable all the way if not the most original and mature one. The main problem is that it's all too typical and clichéd to rise above hundreds of similar Neo albums from two or three decades, from any country between the UK and Poland. As such I probably wouldn't rate it higher than three stars even if a couple of irritating features weren't there.

1) I dislike the vocalists Gianluigi Girardi and Joe Salati. Girardi is a pretentious drama queen tenor with an overdose of silly vibrato (compare him to the SHADOWLAND vocalist), Salati is slightly better but still quite uninteresting bland of an average rock vocalist and someone like Jon Bon Jovi. Damian Wilson beats them both, and his tender and emotional tenor voice suits to the music. Anyway, a waste to have three rather similar vocalists that don't much widen up the whole thing together, as three more different vocalists would.

2) The themes and moods are sooooooo naive and clichéd that even Arena feels very grown up in comparison. 'Ouverture' has spoken narration about horrible events in 1611, about a blood-thirsty woman who naturally becomes known as Countess Dracula. The proper songs follow in that vein. Like in a very cheap horror flick inhabited by vampires and evil persons. The lyrics don't even function as "tales", they're just dark, mock-historical mess to me. I was just about to write "only dragons are missing" when I spotted that word, ha! I can always forgive stupid lyrics and just ignore them if the music is enjoyable, but here the music is painfully faithful to that rubbish concept. Do I need to add that the whole leaflet is almost entirely black-coloured?

One nice surprise there is. A sad, atmospheric version of Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry song 'My Only Love', sung - pretty well, for change - by Girardi. But I'm sure this CD won't survive long in my collection.

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 The Akallabeth by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2009
2.83 | 12 ratings

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The Akallabeth
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Archangel is the moniker used by Italian keyboardist Gabriele Manzini.His career started in late-90's as a founding member of Ubi Maior, while he also spent time as a member of The Watch, playing on ''The Ghost'' album and touring with the group all over Europe as well as in Central America.Around the time of Ubi Maior's second album, in 2009, he also released his first album ''The Akallabeth'' on AMS, inspired by the eponymous chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's ''The Silmarillion''.His guest list is quite impressive: Ettore Salati (guitar) and Marco Schembri (bass) from The Watch, Stefano Mancarella (guitar), Gualtiero Gorreri (bass), Alessandro Di Caprio (drums) and Mario Moi (vocals) from his own band Ubi Maior, Francesca Naccarelli on female voices from Dunwich, as well as Emiliano Laglia on bass, Davide Martinelli on drums and Alessandro Dovi on guitars.But the star members appear in the vocal section: Threshold's and ex-Landmarq's Damian Wilson, Enchant's and Spock's Beard's Ted Leonard, Zachary Stevens of Savatage fame and the Prog Metal vocalist Gianluigi Girardi.

Musically ''The Akallabeth'' lies at the Neo Prog side of Progressive Rock, quite different from the deeply symphonic sound of Manzini's Ubi Maior, and sounding a lot like SHADOWLAND, LANDMARQ and CASINO, that means there are also some light AOR vibes throughout, although the prog tendencies are the major driving forces of the album.Often regarded as a Rock Opera, the album lacks the depth and extreme maturity of the best albums of the style, while no Folk elements or external acoustic textures appear in the album, despite the fact that the chosen concept serves fairly these kind of additions.On the other hand ''The Akallabeth'' offers some great tracks with amazing keyboard parts, refined melodies and orchestral and quite cinematic themes.The experienced line-up of singers guarantees impressive performances behind the microphone, I really can't find a weak performance related to the vocal parts of the album.Guitars are also nice with interesting leads, heavy groovy parts and melodious solos.The musicianship is pretty solid, the arrangements rich and tight and the combination of lyrical passages with passionate instrumental lines is definitely efficient.Although the keyboards' king are the synthesizers in here, there are also doses of organ and Mellotron added for good measure.No complex ideas or sudden breaks, this album offers well-crafted keyboard-driven Progressive Rock with decent tracks from the start to the very end.

Questions rise about fitting this kind of concept with an overall Neo Prog attitude.However the great music is the leading factor of purchasing an album and Archangel's ''The Akallabeth'' contains plenty of it.Warmly recommended.

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 The Akallabeth by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2009
2.83 | 12 ratings

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The Akallabeth
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by jack bauer

4 stars At last! Finally I've managed to put my hands on this CD. You won't be disappointed. "The Akallabeth" is a tasty selection of songs spanning more that 60 minutes. 12 tracks which tell the story of the Fall of Numenor, one of the chapters of "The Silmarillion" by professor J.R.R. Tolkien. The style adopted by Gabriele Manzini, the keyboard player/writer of this opera, is a progressive-hard rock, sometimes new prog (Pallas, IQ), sometimes heavy-folk ala Manowar and sometimes retroprog (ELP, Uriah Heep...). There are not too many prog-technicism but the writing is very careful to the final melody of the track. The "famous" three lead singers are very good in taking the various role of the concept. Damian Wilson (Threshold) is absolutely fantastic and dynamic, Ted Leonard (Enchant) gives a touch of melancholy to the dramatic character of Ar-Pharazon, while Zachary Stevens (Savatage) is a really scaring Sauron. Also the italian singers Francesca "Elayne" Naccarelli (Dunwich) and Gianluigi Girardi give lymph to less fundamental yet important characters. The sound is rich and fresh. Maybe a better budget could have provided a deeper sound, anyway the listening is enjoyable. The lyrics are very faithful to the original story and very evocative. I think that "The Forbidding", "See myself in you" (it could be a great single, very Within Temptation style), "Red clouds war" are really good tracks. Probably my favourite songs are "The Downfallen", 9 epic minutes, and the melancholic final track "The Price" with Damian Wilson absolutely over the top! An unmissable CD for Tolkien fans but also a suggested title for hard-progressive rock lovers.

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 The Akallabeth by ARCHANGEL album cover Studio Album, 2009
2.83 | 12 ratings

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The Akallabeth
Archangel Neo-Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars The Akallabeth is the first venture by Italian project band Archangel, and all diehard Tolkien fans should be aware that it is a concept album - based on the fall of Numenor from Silmarillion, unless I'm much mistaken. For me this is probably the most interesting aspect of this production as well though, as the musical contents with a few notable exceptions left me rather cold.

Most of the tracks here are constructed in a very similar pattern: Mellow symphonic or symphonic-tinged passages are contrasted by harder hitting sequences from various parts of the hard rock musical family, usually with 2 or 3 segments of each stylistic expression within each composition. The gentler parts range from new age tinged atmospheric ventures to Genesis light in expression, while the harder hitting ones range from generic hard rock and AOR in style to excursions inspired by more sophisticated artists like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Eloy.

Sadly, at least in my ears, it's not that well made. The compositions generally come across as cliched, and while the various forms of keyboards and synths utilized can at times be highly intriguing and generally of good quality, the drums are mechanical and onedimensional, the guitar primitive in sound and at times also in performance in my view. The lead vocals are a mixed bunch as well - at best good but also with overly dramatic and slightly out of tune performances. Power Within representing the latter to perfection in my opinion.

A few decent efforts pop up now and then though, and on the almost epic length creation The Downfallen, all the pieces assembles almost perfectly. A nicely evolving and changing venture, the most sophisticated effort on this album by far and also the track with the best lead vocals. Too bad about the lyrics though.

While the writings of Tolkien are the inspiration behind this production, the lyrics are pretty far removed from the quality of his books. Cliche is a word quite fitting to most of the lyrical content here, with Manowar as a clear and distinct reference, most notaly in the energetic folk-goes symphonic-goes hard rock effort Raise the Sword, but also very much present in most of the other compositions here.

When that is said - those fond of the melodramatic and akin to like the less sophisticated parts of the progressive realsm might find this stuff to be rather interesting. And will probably be the major potential buying audience for this effort - alongside truly dedicated fans of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

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