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UNREAL CITY

Rock Progressivo Italiano • Italy


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Unreal City biography
The idea for UNREAL CITY was hatched in 2008 by keyboardist/vocalist Emanuele TARASCONI and guitarist Francesca ZANETTA, the line-up later completed with the arrival of Francesco OREFICE (bass) in 2010 and Federico BEDOSTRI (drums) a further two years after that. A self-released EP by the Parma-based outfit in 2012 brought them to the attention of Italian prog lord Fabio ZUFFANTI who was subsequently involved in the production of the band's recent debut album ''La Crudeltà Di Aprile'' (2013) for Mirror Records.

The young members of UNREAL CITY project something of a retro-modern image and their music also enjoys the best of both old and new. The tracks on ''La Crudeltà Di Aprile'' display a similar present day consciousness but they do so with reference to the traditional RPI creed. That epic tradition manifests itself through typical Italian lyricism and the unrestrained expansion of lavish arrangements adorned with Mellotron, Moog, church organ, violin and lute. The texts scrutinize dark themes of psychological conflict (the trauma of Oedipal separation, corruption, the mediation between the conscious and unconscious realms) and draw inspiration from encounters with shadow forces (Faust, primitive deities, witches' Sabbaths) although these related stories ultimately present a narrative of personal growth. The lyrical themes also seem to release the collective imagination of the band and the end result is a phantasmagoric Italian Symphonic Prog with a dark gothic bias.

Looking at UNREAL CITY in the context of new Italian groups it might not be too much of a stretch to describe them as the archetypal modern RPI band, and ''La Crudeltà Di Aprile'' is an absolute must-have for fans of the genre. Currently available in CD format and to download/stream via their bandcamp.

- seventhsojourn

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Il Paese Del TramontoIl Paese Del Tramonto
Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$18.49
$17.11 (used)
La Crudelta Di AprileLa Crudelta Di Aprile
Audio CD$18.07
$16.22 (used)
Ephemeral SubsistenceEphemeral Subsistence
Eulogy Recordings 2008
Audio CD$3.00
$0.69 (used)
Ephemeral Subsistence by Unreal City (2008-11-25)Ephemeral Subsistence by Unreal City (2008-11-25)
Eulogy Recordings
Audio CD$23.61
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UNREAL CITY discography


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

4.24 | 271 ratings
La Crudeltà Di Aprile
2013
4.15 | 217 ratings
Il Paese Del Tramonto
2015

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UNREAL CITY Reviews


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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

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

5 stars Two years ago, a young Italian group based in Parma, under the guidance of modern RPI notable Fabio Zuffanti, released an incredibly vibrant and confident debut album `La Crudelta di Aprile'. That band was Unreal City, and it ended up being one of the Italian Prog highlights of 2013, as well as a thrilling progressive rock work in general. Full of a dazzling variety of instrumental flair, charismatic vocals, winning melodies and ambitious symphonic arrangements, thankfully the band have delivered another winner of an album with their follow-up `Il Paese del Tramonto' (The Country of Sunset). While it holds to some of the format of the first album, this time around the band adds even more theatrical moments, longer jazzier passages and carefully cultured qualities that brings it closer to the rich history of music from their home country. Considering their young age, the band show a complete devouring and knowledge of vintage RPI bands both popular and more obscure, virtually overdosing on those sounds and applying it to their own contemporary style. It's retro by way of a sleek modern sound, all played with youthful vigour and presented in an attractive package that will likely instantly appeal to both a younger audience and established veteran prog rock and RPI listeners.

Right from the opening instrumental `Ouverture - Obscuris Fio', frontman and keyboard player Emanuele Tarasconi is front and center, covering the piece with his swooning yet sombre classical piano, spinning Moog dashes, Fender Rhodes splinters and orchestral Mellotron blasts. Federico Bedostri's drums skitter with driving purpose once the piece jumps up in buoyant tempo, and female player Francesca Zanetta offers a tease of the symphonic guitar greatness to come. With a case of Banco-like schizophrenic musical multiple-personality, `Oniromanzia' may open as a gutsier tune with initially bluesy guitar soloing, electric piano and a reflective lead vocal from Emanuele, but it quickly diverts into energetic jazzy drumming and fiery Hammond organ runs, early King Crimson-esque regal fanfares and all manner of whirring synth goodness. Darker gothic moods permeate `Caligari', Dario Pessina's bass creeping and lurking, eerie Antonia Rex/Goblin- like synth weirdness playfully trilling and imposing organ booming. Stately flights of fancy in the manner of early Genesis rise around a prancing theatrical vocal purr and Francesca's guitar whimsy before the piece careens away into nimble piano runs and a snarling heavy finale.

Violin and accordion strains bring echoes of more folky Italian music of old throughout `La Meccanica dell'ombra', with creeping bass strolling around the background, sitar-like echoing guitar strains, thoughtful delicate classical piano and no shortage of schizophrenic synth delirium! The band don't always feel the need to dial the instrumental prog-outs up to 11, and the dreamy vibes that float through `Il Nome di Lei' show just how well the band do calmer and more direct tunes, with gorgeous ringing electric and soothing acoustic guitar soloing and some prancing harpsichord prettiness that tickles of classic RPI. The deranged `Lo Schermo di Pietra (Kenosis)' is full of hyperactive instrumental explosions, break-neck tempo changes and punky boisterous vocals, and the orgy of keyboard orgasm all over it makes it the `adult movie' of modern RPI by way of hyperactive good-looking youngsters overdosing on filthy battery-acid energy drinks!

But once again, just like on the first disc, the group save the best until last, and the twenty-plus minute four part suite `Ex Tenebrae Lux' is the highlight of the album. Dynamic and daring, playful and determined to impress, the longer running time allows the band to more calmly explore new directions without trying to cram in quite so many quicker racing passages and shorter pieces. Everything from malevolent spectral piano tiptoes, easy-going breezy jazzy electric piano and light jazz/fusion bass grooves, fiery guitar and rippling Fender Rhodes duelling back and forth are included, and some drifting electronic drones hint at new and daring directions the band should consider exploring more in the future. With a greater sense of build, atmosphere and emotion, the music here is truly joyful, and this epic is a big step up in maturity and sophistication for the band while also showing greater subtlety.

Some listeners may find it a little disappointing that, considering Emanuele is an impressive vocalist full of flair, there's more emphasis placed on longer instrumental sections. But this is a case of band really showing what they can do musically as a proper group, giving attention to all the players and letting their abilities shine through. Considering there's a great buzz around the band, they could have focussed more on shorter, more simplistic vocal pieces, or (even worse) chosen to sing in English in a misguided attempt to appeal to a wider audience. But instead, they've delved even further into more ballistic, self-indulgent and pompous Italian prog rock than ever before, and progressive listeners will be in absolute heaven! The first album might just have the edge with stronger tunes, and this one may lack the initial surprise that hit when their debut first arrived, but `Il Paese del Tramonto' is a gifted band taking their own sound, influences and supreme musical talent even further, and it's just as good as the debut while promising so much more exciting music to come in the future.

Another five stars for a shining light in the modern RPI world!

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by aristide

5 stars Second album of the young band from Parma, Italy that confirm all the good impressions of the debut cd. We speak about Italian Progressive rock at highest level, but with a close high to the future. The music has a strong classic heritage, but it is also the fusion of several different sources, from blues to hard rock and more. In that respect, the definition of IPR may be somehow incorrect, as Unreal City have a wide musical culture that is quite difficult to define. Tarasconi , the keyboardist, is the leader, no doubt, but the sound is so monolithic that each member of the group has his own importance in building the structure of the music, Zanetta (finally a girl that just plays !) has a great development from the first album. More solos, more confidence for her Floydian guitar. The rhythmic part is accurate and precise, with punctual drums and a bass that deliver some amazing solos. High quality of the sound mix and a crystal clean production . In general I consider this album a gem in to-day prog landscape and I feel that we will get more fantastic music from this band. They will be in Canada early next year and I do hope to have the chance to be there?.

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by felonafan

5 stars This is the second album of the marvelous RPI band. Like the debut release, it develops 'nervous' and 'dramatic' sides of the genre: Unreal City is closer to Museo Rosenbach and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso than Celeste and PFM. Sometimes this music is rather dark, although almost always beautiful and melodic. All tracks of the album are excellent. Each track contains brilliant compositional ideas, melodies remained in a memory, an interesting development, and sophisticated arrangements. 'Il Paese Del Tramonto' is full of beauty, power, and energy. Unilke the debut release, there are no boring fragments. Personally I strongly like melody from 'Oniromanzia' repeated in the end of 'Ex Tenebrae Lux'. It is one of the best albums of 2015 although weaker than the classical releases of Le Orme, PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, and some other 'giants'. 4.5.

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Angelo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Symphonic progressive rock has been one of Italy's many successful export products for years. Even though I am not one of the people who literally make it into a daily consumption, I have enjoyed my share of progressive rock from Italy the past couple of years. It's not difficult to appreciate the older bands there, like Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Formeria Marconi (PFM) or Museo Rosenbach.

When I was actively monitoring Unsigned Bands on ProgArchives, I also got to know bands like I Pennelli di Vermeer, who took a completely new angle on progressive music by mixing symphonic rock with ska and musical style things, and J'Accuse...!, who took a more psychedelic than symphonic approach.

And now, with Unreal City, there is another young band that makes me feel glad the country from which my name originates has entered my collection. This time, it is a band that is rooted very much in symphonic, keyboard oriented rock that we know from the seventies, but who manage to completely overhaul it to a 21st century sound and structure - and quite succesfully so.

As can be expected, the leading role in the compositions of this band go to the keyboards and guitar - played by band founder Emanuele Tarasconi and Francesca Zanneta. They cannot exist without the rhythmic foundation of Dario Pessina (bass) and Frederico Bedostri (succeeded by Andrea Gardani after recordings of this album were finished).

The music that Unreal City presents on this album is contains everything from melancholic piano pieces, to almost ELP-like craziness, and from folk like tunes to full blown rock. All of this pieced together in 7 tracks, varying in length from 5 up to 20 minutes.

The instrumental opening Overture: Obscurus fio already contains a lot of the above. A rhythm pulse laid down by the drums and bass seems to drive the keyboards, only interrupted briefly for a guitar solo.

On Oniromanzia the keyboards lead once again, from the start, but soon quiet down to let Emanuele demonstrate his fine Italian his voice. After an organ solo we are treated to some full blown rock before Emanuele returns to complete the story he is telling in the (unfortunately for me Italian) lyrics. A similar build up, yet still a completely different song, is shown in Caligari, another great rock piece - that invites to turn up the volume. After that, La Meccanica dell'ombro starts in a more folky fashion - containing both Greekish folk tunes, as well as middle eastern tunes on the keyboards and guitar. After an emotional piece of singing, the keyboards once again explode to finish off the song.

Then on Il Nome de Lei, for the first time the guitar is the leading instrument, with two very tasteful solos by Francesca, that seamelessly go in and out of the vocal parts. This serves as a relatively relaxed intro to the rockiest track on the album, Lo Schermo di Pietra. Bombastic, with whirlwinds of drums and keyboards, but also with a soft, piano accompanied vocal part hidden in the middle. This is easily my favourite song, and I would love to see Emanuel pull of the keyboards and vocals (interacting with each other in the finale).

The finale of the album itself is a 20 minute epic called Ex Tenebrae Lux. This one requires a good listen - but there is no background music on this album anyway. Great vocals, nice interaction between guitar and keyboards and once again a mix of ELP-like keyboard punishment interleave with quieter parts. To top it off, Francesca lets here mellotron have the last word.

Cross posted from my blog on www.angelosrockorphanage.com

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 La Crudeltà Di Aprile by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.24 | 271 ratings

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La Crudeltà Di Aprile
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is UNREAL CITY's debut album released in 2013 and it certainly created a buzz back when it came out. I really like the cover art as well as the picture of the band in the liner notes. Unfortunately all of the written notes are in Italian so I can't relay any information from there. I really like the fact that I can hear some of the classic RPI bands at times when listening to this album but there's also a modern flavour in the Neo vein at times. So while i'm very impressed with this recording i'm also not blown away by any means. Great singer here singing in Italian and lots of mellotron which I appreciate. Some guest violin on a couple of tracks as well.

"Dell'Innocenza Perduta" opens with piano as outbursts of power come and go. They then get in this groove until it settles back before 2 minutes then the laid back vocals arrive. Mellotron follows and it will come and go. Some nice guitar after 3 1/2 minutes then it all picks up 5 minutes in sounding like classic RPI with the drums and organ out front. Violin 6 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Atlantis(Conferendis Pecuniis" starts with mellotron as synths, piano and drums join in. The guitar starts to solo slowly over top. Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes as it settles back but then it quickly turns more powerful. Great sound 3 1/2 minutes in with the vocals and mellotron shining bright. A cool instrumental section follows then vocals are back after 5 minutes. Lots of synths and vocals in the second half of this song. "Catabasi(Descensio Ad Inferos)" features lots of organ and drums to start as vocals and mellotron join in. It kicks in at 3 minutes with the violin over top. Passionate vocals follow with a heavy sound. A calm before 5 1/2 minutes as the mood changes completely with fragile vocals and a lighter sound. I like the guitar after 7 minutes as it reminds me of Conny Veit's playing.

"Dove La Luce E Piu Intensa" is uptempo at first with lots going on. It settles with mellotron a minute in as vocals follow. It picks up again at 3 minutes but this is different from the beginning of this track. Another change after 4 minutes, vocals too. It picks up again with vocals a minute later. "Ecate(Walpurgisnacht)" opens with some gorgeous mellotron as piano and drums join in. It starts to pick up, guitar too. Vocals after 2 1/2 minutes as it has settled back some. Mellotron too, as we get a light and catchy sound. An interesting soundscape after 5 minutes as it turns dramatic then it picks up again around 7 minutes with vocals. A heavy ending to this one. "Horror Vacui" is the almost 18 minute closer. Synths and a fairly heavy sound a minute in as the mellotron rolls in. Catchy stuff. I like the piano/mellotron combo that comes and goes. Some aggressive guitar before 4 1/2 minutes followed by vocals as it settles, lots of synths too. There's an excellent pastoral section from around 10 1/2 minutes to 14 minutes when the guitar, drums and mellotron spice things up.

Without question this is one of the better modern RPI bands out there and this their debut is a very solid 4 stars in my opinion.

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by RolandoM

5 stars Second step of Unreal City,very young band from Parma, Italy. Confirmation of the first cd in all the aspects, but with a natural development and a more mature approach. Now the structure of the music is more coehent,with a better use of all the instruments The center remains the keyboard wizar Tarasconi, who wrotes both music and texts, but Zanetta (finally a girl!) , with her simphonic guitar is now more confident in several fantastic solos and she strikes hard when the music turns into heavy rock, with some punk influence. Pessina makes a great job with his bass, often rised to the top level with some great solos. Drummer Bedostri (that left the band after the cd recording ) , is again the center of the rithm with a perfect level of measure.'' Il paese del tramonto '' is a concept album that describes the onirical elaboration of a love murder. Texts are deep and sometime difficult to understand without a good knowledge of the band. It is a pity that the foreiners will not enjoy this second side of Unreal City that is as important as the the music. Best tracks :Oniromanzia,Il nome di lei, Schermi di pietra, and the final suite Ex tenebre lux, most probably the best piece ever in UC production. No need to say that expectation around this very young band (less that 23!) is rising sky high, as they are already now at the top and they just reconfirmed the amazing quality of debut album. Are they the new kings of modern prog? For sure they already are at the top of RPI. 5 stars of glory....

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars This album has disappointed me. I raved about the fresh new voice coming from Unreal City's debut album two years ago but still felt that the young men had some growing to do. The 'growth' on display here is not the direction I hoped for. Here I see far less presence of vocals--which mystifies me when such an outstanding voice as Emanuele Tarasconi is available. Plus, there is often a poor mix of vocals into the music (recording, engineering sound mix is not yet a strength of theirs). I find myself reacting irritably to an unusually long list of "old" or "cheap" keyboard sounds (as if trying to step into the shoes of 1970s BANCO DELLA MUTUO SUCCORSO using keyboards from the 80s or 90s like Casio and Ensoniq). Also, sometimes there seems to have been the choice made to go the easier route rather than the more impressive and complex way. Too bad! Then there are other times where rather odd and unusual, even discordant choices were made to fit passages into songs in ways that just feel . . . odd and discordant. Still, this is not a bad album by any means. There is a high standard of ideas and performances on display here. There are even a few five star songs, like "Caligari" (10:05) (9/10), "Lo schermo di pieta (Kenosis)" (7:54) (9/10), and the album's ultimate epic, "Ex tenebrae lux" (20:35) (9/10). I would just like to see/hear less jumping around, more cohesive coherence, less reliance on the sound and sounds of their RPI predecessors.

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars Second album from these talented Italians and a late (better than never!) review from my part. I have now spun this album more than a few times and it always leaves my ears satisfied: retro- (almost medieval in a way) Italian progressive rock, also influenced from the Brit scene, but maintaining a peculiar dark/gothic, and, at the same time, 'Italian-optimistic' character. To this largely contribute the mellotron and lush keyboards in a plethora of different formats e.g. organ, high-pinched, piano etc.

Somewhat reminding me of my favourite "Eternity" album from Anathema, the album kicks off with a 'dream sequence' sample and a lovely piano intro, followed by a much more dynamic keyboard section which alternates between grandiose and 70's electronica, before setting off to a pure progressive tempo and improvisation. Traditional Italian music, symphonic a-la Genesis progressive rock, jazz/fusion and middle-eastern passages comprise a purely varied album where fear for experimentation is non-existent. Within this mix, there are enjoyable heavy references to Sabbath and Atomic Rooster (see e.g. the closing sections of ''Caligari'' and ''Lo Schermo di Pietra'' or the beginning of ''Ex Tenebrae Lux''), which work exceptionally well with the gothic atmosphere and the revolving theme of dreams.

Despite its long duration (ca. 70min), the variation and ideas of the album are more than enough to maintain interest at high levels. Perhaps a small potential for improvement is the vocals of Emanuele, which are full of energy but at times sound rather rough around the edges or rather too flat. A bit more colour would lift the compositions even higher, but appreciate the youth element here!

Most likely one of the top-10 prog releases in 2015. The 70's RPI pioneers would be proud of their children. Personal highlights: Ouverture, Caligari, Ex Tenebrae Lux

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by MELNIBONÉ

5 stars When they came to Québec city in the Spring of 2014, Unreal City played "La Crudeltà Di Aprile" in full, but also performed a few pieces from their future album. Back home, I wrote to friends that, from what I had heard, I wasn't worried at all about the content of their sophomore album (contrary to numerous other young bands, especially those whose first album had been an equally stunning success). Now that "Il Paese Del Tramonto" is available, I could validate my assertion.

From the outset, I must admit that I'm unable to determine whether "Il Paese Del Tramonto" is better than "La Crudeltà Di Aprile", or the other way around. In fact, the overall quality, the invention and talent displayed, the inspiration and execution are such in both cases that to play the game of "better than" is but a waste of time.

"Il Paese Del Tramonto" defines a state between life and death, a sort of limbo. The concept album tells the story of a man who, having committed a crime of passion, dreams that he is judged and sentenced by his own conscience to eternal damnation into this limbo, where he regresses to cellular life, without any will of his own. Upon this dark and dramatic canvas, the four young musicians have weaved a sonic tapestry which is by turns vivid, gloomy and mournful, dense and delicate. There are frills and laces, but also power unleashed, musical influences from a vast array of horizons, but also a sure and definite loyalty to the band's own musical signature (already !), in other words a richness used with rare aplomb. Even though the pièce de résistance, "Ex Tenebrae Lux", encompasses by itself all the qualities of this opus and its creators, the other pieces that lead to it brim with original motifs, shades, detours and effects that never become formulas. To find such enduring musical maturity within such young musicians is enough to warrant deep respect and admiration.

By RPI standards, Unreal City are a generous lot ? "Il Paese Del Tramonto" clocks at almost 70 minutes, which is close to 10 minutes more than the first album. There are seven pieces, the shortest clocking at 5:01, the longest at 20:34, and the others ranging between 7 and 10 minutes. The line-up is the same, except for F. Orefice replaced by Dario Pessina on bass, who seems to be a bit more deft than the former ? he excels particularly on "Ex Tenebrae Lux". Also, guitarist Francesca Zanetta handles the mellotron. It's worth noting that her presence on the album is stronger than before ; she plays more, better and with greater variety, as can be heard particularly on "Oniromanzia", "La Meccanica Dell'Ombra", "Il Nome Di Lei" and "Ex Tenebrae Lux". Emanuele Tarasconi reigns over the keyboards with as much brilliance as ever, showing a stunning finesse and lushness in his orchestrations (that are not devoid of quirky humor ? or glee ?, as can be heard in the otherwise unsettling "Caligari"). Rythmic sequences and ambient variations cascade with frenzy or move one into the other with the softness of some lullaby, but always with a surprising melodic twist. The piano part are simply gorgeous, elegant and remarquably subtle, classic here, jazzy or bluesy there, and the organ parts are second to none, magnificent throughout. Tarasconi may not have the greatest voice among his RPI colleagues ? and he probably knows it ? but he's sensible and intelligent enough to use it as he does : true to traditional RPI singing (somewhere between Le Orme's A. Tagilapietra and Banco's F. di Giacomo), with just enough theatrics and emphasis Italian style (all the while with flawless diction and musicality), but also with a palpable passion and fun that are buoyant and juvenile without shame or restraint. In other words, an invigorating shot of vitamimns ! Federico Bedostri is still as convincing a drummer as he was previously (he does know how to rock the house when need be), providing a solid base without being monolithic, from which Tarasconi and Zanetta can soar and/or plummet at ease without fear that their musical acrobatics might lead them astray, as "Lo Schermo Di Pietra" shows with brio.

With "Il Paese Del Tramonto", Unreal City demonstrate that their inspiration has far from dried up and that their execution of the opus is up to its richness. Usually, that sort of confidence and accuracy is synonymous with more seasoned and experienced musicians, but Unreal City clearly show that "In souls nobly born, valour does not depend upon age". So, until the band visits your neighborhood eventually, do yourself a favor ? buy "Il Paese Del Tramonto"? then play it back to back with "La Crudeltà Di Aprile" and you'll know what is RPI body and soul !...

5 limbos without hesitation

PS By the way, if you feel that tszirmay's review below is overblown ? you're totally wrong ! Although he is as gifted with words as ever, this time his depictions of each track haven't managed to bring out the fullness of what Unreal City have layered in "Il Paese Del Tramonto"? It's that rare sort of album.

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 Il Paese Del Tramonto by UNREAL CITY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.15 | 217 ratings

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Il Paese Del Tramonto
Unreal City Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars This band from Parma has got it all! I will now waste little pretense and gobbly-gook by anointing Unreal City as the next BIG THING in prog, now that the Porcupine has fled the Tree. Their 2013 debut album 'La Crudelta di Aprile' was received by glowing praise and general trepidation by the progressive community and that acclaim was richly deserved. But what really seemed so impressive is that for a band of youngsters barely in their twenties, they seem to have incorporated mountains of hours in reliving the RPI greats of the past and simply learned from their glorious history and forged a new form of RPI. A land where history is evident on every street corner, in every town, this should come as no surprise. Not much has changed on this sophomore release except for a new bassist in Dario Pessina but the maturity of lead singer and keyboardist Emmanuele Tarasconi has already leaped forward by a Mao Tse Tung mile, while guitarist Francesca Zanetta has now assumed much more confidence, once showing timid tendencies both on the previous work as well as in a live setting. She literally smokes on this album, her fuzz-laced tone mindful of past greats like Franco Falsini (Sensations Fix) and Franco Mussida (PFM). Now Tarasconi showed off some incredible piano and synth chops but here he includes incredible organ ramblings as well as astute harpsichord and clavinet where needed. His singing has quickly evolved into greatness, a combination of speed and substance, full of theatrics and sustained emotion. Drummer Federico Bedrosti is a fine basher, masculine and complex when prompted which is often as this gleaming Maserati has an engine that can rocket with the best in the business. All of the tracks are bathing in pubescent exuberance and talent that verges on genius. Within the confines of one track, there is an abundance of diversity, feeling, mood swings and technical know-how that will make your head shake/quake in disbelief. Not even a bum second on this piece of plastic, just a sheer pleasure ride.

"Ouverture" opens the show with a terrific synthesizer fueled instrumental that has classic RPI stamped all over it, imagine modern non-vocal version of Banco at its prime, with Tarasconi doing some weird things to his electronic instruments. Exalted, eruptive, turbulent and sizzling, the mood inducer is just a proper introduction to all the 'sturm und drang' that follows.

The first one to hit you between the ears is the enormously appealing "Onoromanzia" that gets you grooving right from the get-go, good sound and a suave delivery. Yes, classic RPI expedited with flair and passion, the vocals simply divine, somewhere near Aldo Tagliapietra meets Francesco di Giacomo. The introduction of funky clavinet within such symphonic confines is irresistible. This is followed up by a tight organ flurry, sensationalist flute and a rollicking electric guitar and synthesizer duet, mellotron haunting the back alley. Needles to repeat again, the vocals are simply off the charts!

The creepy 10 minute "Caligari" starts off in a solemn mode, slowly building up into a frenzy, winking at Roller- era Goblin and then infuses some lovely 'la la la' moments, respectful of their Italian canzone folk roots, with a divine mandolin-like buzz. The stage is thus set for some tight mini soloing where everyone takes a brief turn, combining the past with the future, the fast with the slow, the soft with the hard, all done with immense precision and yet fueled by that peculiar Italian talent of effortless class and natural style. A mind-blowing roller coaster experience where Tarasconi does another fab job on the vocals. The last two minutes in particular are gently awe-inspiring, going from serene to volcanic in a Pompeii heartbeat! Let the lava flow!

On the 9 minute "La Meccanica dell' Ombra", a trilling synthesizer and choir mellotron are both propulsed by the tight rhythm section, while Zanetta shows off some slick licks and guest violin does the Italian 'dolce vita' soundtrack circa 1961 (another reviewer wrote about a Jewish dance style of music, which is not a bad analogy). This then seamlessly morphs into a more somber affair with gloomy guitars serving a stark mood. But when Tarasconi sits down at the piano and adjusts his tuxedo tails, cracks his knuckles and gets it done with expressive piano ornamentals. Then he grabs the mike and delivers a haunting vocal, gauzed in that gorgeous language we all love so much. As if that was not yet enough, he then masturbates his synthesizer into gurgling out effervescent liquid bubbles of sonic madness. He then lays the screws to the organ and tortures it courteously. Finally, Zanetta pushes this into the ether with her celestial guitar foray. Mamma mia, this is dramatic and so hot!

The heat is kept on with the enchanting "In Nome di Lei", a perfect template for Unreal City's vision of new RPI, a clash of Titans, with harpsichord and violin ushering in electric guitar themes that seem to come from heaven, mellotron haunting in the forefront (why stick it in the back, eh?), an endlessly evolving style that leaves no stone unturned, and then infusing modernisms that identify the current times, mostly found in the youthful and powerful vocals. Zanetta flashes a lovely bluesy lead that has that Falsini feel mentioned earlier and combines with the melodic voice to simply kill it. Wow!

Check out the video for "Lo Schiermo di Pietra" and you will immediately understand where these crazy Italians are coming from and just how close they are to being the next big thing! Emmanuele looks like a fiendish madman as he assaults his keyboards but his facial and corporal expressions are a tribute to the theater and the drama stage, otherworldly, bizarre, punky and slightly deranged. Please remember that old adage 'Italy is not a country but a series of civic theaters"! The delivery goes from insane, speedy and fiery to the opposite end, lush, symphonic and intense. And then back, of course! What a ride!

They ended their debut with an epic, the gripping Goblin-esque "Horror Vacui", so why change the successful menu, bring on "Ex Tenebrae Lux" (out of the darkness, light)? A 20 minute rampage that spares no prisoners, pillaging everything in sight with magical displays of technical fire, showing their mastered progressive rock heritage with unabashed pride and inventive creativity. Sweeping synths enter the room, almost ambient in nature as a distant drum beat announces the road ahead. The mood then [&*!#]s to symphonic/gothic and then, much to my surprise into a funky, clavinet-led jazzy exploration that is just jaw-dropping! The synthesizer then takes over and rolls the train forward, mellotron, bass and drums in tow, in a truly classic prog motif, traversed by another violin scratch that hits the spot. Tarasconi embraces his microphone with confidence, singing his heart out, old-school organ burning the pace, then nimble piano, slippery Moog runs. In fine prog tradition, he mentions the debut album 'La Crudelta di Aprile' in words and then propels the whole into an entirely new atmosphere that brings images of ELP, Deep Purple and all the classic RPI paragons out there.

The cover art is drop-dead beautiful, the sound ecstatic and musically, a glaring omission of any kind of occasional blandness or prog-by-the-numbers. The end result is possible the finest RPI album in recent and past memory, full of bravado, courage, balls and delight. A classic prog album.

5 Lands of decline

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