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MAD FELLAZ

Eclectic Prog • Italy


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Mad Fellaz biography
Founded in Bassano Del Grappa, Italy in 2010

Initially an experimental trio formed in Bassano del Grappa in 2010, Mad Fellaz, comprised of Emanuele Pasin and Paolo Busatto on electric guitars and Marco Busatto on drums, soon added Carlo Passuello on bass, Enrico Brunelli on keyboards and Rudy Zilio on flute and clarinet. The group are influenced by a diverse range of vintage worldwide progressive artists such as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Italian legends Area and Banco del Mutuo Soccorsso in addition to newer bands like Opeth and Porcupine Tree. Jazz, blues, metal, electronic and classical Italian progressive sophistication are all combined to fascinating results by this band, their objective being to find the highest creativity without musical limits or specific genre categorization, and always looking to express music naturally in exciting ways.

Improvised, yet carefully focused and recorded completely live with little in the way of overdubs, the full instrumental debut self-titled album from the band is comprised of five songs running an hour. The longer suites contain everything from smooth jazzy meanderings, playful grooves, ambient dreamy atmospheres and ethnic flavours with stirring electric guitar soloing and shimmering keyboards. Other shorter numbers are energetic jazz-fusion workouts and quirky eclectic rockers. The constant use of flute and classical piano aligns the band with numerous other RPI greats, and it is comparable to the recent debut by Progenesi. It works equally well as a background listen or a compelling musical experience, and despite incorporating a range of styles, the album holds together as a cohesive whole.

2015 saw the band add female vocalist Anna Farronato, taking their music on their second album `II' in something of an eclectic Rock-in-Opposition/Avant-Garde direction with a healthy dose of the Canterbury sound, Zappa and 80's King Crimson, but still maintaining all the instrumental flair present in the band from the beginning.

Highly recommended to fans of daring and unpredictable music, the Mad Fellaz are a professional and talented young band brimming with endless potential, already producing exquisite and sophisticated cultured progressive music.

Biography by Michael Hodgson (Aussie-Byrd-Brother)

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

4.15 | 79 ratings
Mad Fellaz
2013
3.90 | 113 ratings
Mad Fellaz II
2016
3.90 | 160 ratings
Mad Fellaz III
2019
4.04 | 18 ratings
Road to Planet Circus
2022

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

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MAD FELLAZ Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Road to Planet Circus by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.04 | 18 ratings

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Road to Planet Circus
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by RelayerFr

4 stars Italian Progressive Rock...a separate category! A genre that was born in the early 70s whose emblematic references are LE ORME, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (PFM) and BANCO DEL MUOTO SOCCORSO. A style that often approaches the category of Prog eclecticism, sung fluently in the original language with English taking a more prominent place nowadays. It is most often characterized by the priority given to keyboards, by the care given to the quality of the melodies, and also by a marked preference for solo singing over choral singing and carried by folk, neo-classical or jazz. , depending on the group. MAD FELLAZ is no exception to the rule by taking up these standards to merge them into a sophisticated sonic pot where almost all genres simmer with an elegant lightness. These transalpines from the city of Bassano del Grappa (Venetia) present their fourth opus with a summary of 11 titles, the longest of which barely exceeds six minutes.

Originally this group was a trio which became a septet surrounded by many guests; we can well imagine the strength of the troops and the quality offered during the concerts! With this new draft, MAD FELLAZ made profound changes in the structure of their compositions, and some friends tell me they were a little disconcerted when they first listened to this new album. I can't wait to let you know my impressions!

China invites itself in "The Animal Spell" with its xylophone and its whirling and repetitive guitar. This haunting declension will be offered to us until the arrival of Luca BRIGHI's vocals with his particular and bewitching timbre. This groovy and warm voice will take us on a journey from Chinatown to Harlem under jazz/funky tinsel with a touch of gospel. A passage will make you think of YES for its legendary choirs. Short walk in Manhattan, but oh so contrasting and tasty (8.5/10). "Free as a Dog" is surely a snub for the famous Beatles song... "Free as a bird". This piece merges in joy and good humor, but also in musical genres. The tempo changes are frequent and pass cheerfully from funky to Latino by well-paced instrumental sections, but always accompanied by this expressive voice and guitars infiltrated in the right places singing the wah wah as if to remind us that this group also likes rock ( 8/10).

"Jokepot" immediately makes us tap our feet by alternating funky and acid jazz on tunes ' la JAMIROQUAI. Lively atmosphere and dancing pop, luminous saxophones, trendy choir under infusion of YES nectar as on the 90125 album, guitars set back but perfectly inserted and precise, all under the cover of surprisingly prog arrangements, and this, despite this impression to be under a disco ball! (9/10).

With "Sips of Confidence" you take all the ingredients mentioned above, you add a James BROWN throat ending, a pop and rhythmic chorus, jazz that merges with everything that moves, a song as diverse as the he proposed instrumental, scores that go off in all directions with incredible velocity and dexterity, in short, an exciting piece that shakes up all genres with its multicolored palette (9.5/10). "Rise and Shine" is a soft and fresh pop piece played with acoustic, banjo and electric guitars. A few keyboard melodies come to accompany a choir without words, the orchestration develops and intensifies to become definitively electrified (8.5/10). "Tuareg's Dance" is a patchwork piece with Afro tendencies with its wooden tubes and wind instruments with Saharan reflections. But the essential is not there... we will once again note the performance of Luca BRIGHI with his decisive voice for the coherence within the orchestration. It coordinates perfectly with a classy piano, sharp saxes and a guitar that plays well-tempered jazz/rock tunes (8/10).

With "Exodus" we migrate towards South America, to hear salsa tunes, a voice that speaks to us of the beaches and the Brazilian sun, a nostalgic Argentinian accordion, a trumpet that flies in the wind, an electric here and there. It's well done but not really prog nor really transcendent... (6/10). From the beginning of "Candy Store" I have this sudden impression of listening to one after the other... Frank ZAPPA, JAMIROQUAI and THE BLACK CROWES. Then follow banjo keys played like in New Orleans, a minimoog over which flies a flute agitated. But the highlight of the show will come from a memorable drum solo cut by powerful and surly guitar riffs (8.5/10).

"Babylon" starts like a Broadway musical with a large panel of wind instruments, overinflated by a big, well- paced bass. A pretty repetitive melody of five notes will be interpreted instrumentally then and/or in the manner of Steven Wilson. A kind of enjoyable and organized cacophony will end this very particular title... why not?! (8.5/10) What about "Rise Again"...? Voices, a maracasse, a bass drum and that's it! On the other hand, the singing is magnificent, this is a polyphonic and superimposed production with the added bonus of a female intervention coming to fit into this myriad of perfectly synchronized voices, it's well done and engaging! (8/10). With this last title, "Tennouheika No Sakura" offers us beautiful melodies with classic prog arrangements, guitar solos with this feeling of listening to AL DIMEOLA skillfully merging jazz and rock, or a Jeff BECK torturing his neck to extract all the quintessence. Surely the track that most resembles what we have already heard on the previous album "III" (9/10).

The watchword for this fourth livery: evolution! An itinerary that is refined from album to album with a clearly audible style progressing openly in an integral fusion. With "Road to Planet Cyrcus" MAD FELLAZ has changed to take on a new skin, and take a new direction that suits him well! I have the feeling that this group has just taken a new turn and really enjoys composing innovative blends, new nuances in terms of fusion that go all over the place, modeling careful and successful experiments. First-time fans may be disconcerted at first listen, but you will have to persist and ignore your beliefs about this band. The voices are warm and expressive, the musicians play their score perfectly, the realization is a success and the production is of high quality... but what are you waiting for to rush to your record store?

 Road to Planet Circus by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.04 | 18 ratings

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Road to Planet Circus
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars Hey, now here we are on the 'Road To Planet Circus', with a whole lotta groove on board. Without exaggeration I can say that MAD FELLAZ from Italy are belonging to my favourite contemporary bands. This due to the offered sophisticated songwriting skills, either resulting in a rather complex eclectic attitude, however also being highly melodic and catchy in the same way. Also, what you can rely on, they are not repeating themselves with every new album. All in all, on this occasion they are tending to the more accessible side, which is including proper Jazz, Pop and Funk imprints, However, hereby they never ever will completely leave the main orientation, the progressive rock paths. The band's line up hasn't significantly changed compared to their previous third album from 2019. And so the album sees a core of seven musicians this time, additionally supported by a bunch of guest appearances. That also includes excellent news, because lead singer Luca Brighi is involved again. His voice has evolved to a real trademark in the meanwhile, eh, I dare to say, just in the way it exemplarily was with David Longdon for Big Big Train. Where all the lyrics are in English language completely, as usual.

The Animal Spell kick-off comes with a prog typical repetitve motif, at some point Luca Brighi enters the scene with his accent-free vocal appearance. Free As A Dog then is tending to a pop rock appeal featuring some calypso touch, but also fantastic guitar solo activity everywhere around. Jokepot was the first track to be offered prior to the album release, rather wind instrument dominated, and provided with nice straightforward grooves, still a favourite of mine. And then somebody has formed a spendid a capella ensemble, just for letting it Rise Again, very touching! Finally Tennouheika No Sakura looks like a contribution for or from Japan, but I couldn't detect any translation for that. This album offers eleven exciting new songs again, great vocal arrangements, skillfull instrumental presence. So much potential available regarding those MAD FELLAZ, still! Now I'm eagerly waiting for the day to see them live in Melle-Buer.

 Mad Fellaz III by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 160 ratings

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Mad Fellaz III
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Mad Fellaz III" is the third album by Mad Fellaz and was self-released in 2019 with a renewed line up featuring Paolo Busatto (electric and acoustic guitar), Marco Busatto (drums), Ruggero Burigo (electric guitar, electric sitar), Carlo Passuello (bass), Enrico Brunelli (electric and acoustic piano, synthesizers, Hammond organ, Mellotron), Rudy Zilio (flute, sax, synthesizers, backing vocals), Lorenzo Todesco (percussion) and Luca Brighi (lead and backing vocals) plus some guests such as Luca Ardini (sax), Davide Baratto (12 string acoustic guitar), Jacopo Mazzarolo (oboe), Mattia Marangon (French horn), Sergio Orso (violin), Louise Antonello (violin), Elena Ceccato (viola) and Rolando Moro (cello). During the recording sessions they were helped by producer Fabio Trentini (Moonbound, Le Orme) and the result is a rich, colourful and refined sound that emphasizes the skills of the musicians. In some way this work can be considered a concept album telling the story of a man who tries to fight against his madness. All the pieces follow a thread and the artwork by Marco Tosin could give a clue of its musical and lyrical content...

The opener 'Es / Frozen Side' starts by a frenzied instrumental section, then the mood becomes dark as the music and lyrics evoke the inner voices haunting the protagonist, invasive ghosts tormenting him, sneaking into his dreams in the frozen side of his brain. He can't stand it any more, he tries to escape but there's no way out, his inner demons want to take control of him and surround his consciousness suggesting to surrender with soothing words... All in all, madness is a friend!

The melancholic 'Leaf' describes the protagonist wandering around like a leaf lost in the wind, a broken man waiting for his chance but with no master plan to escape... Then the following 'Liquid Bliss' with its Latin rock influences and an electric guitar solo that could recall Santana conjures up subtle, diabolical temptations... Have a drink and relax! But alcohol addiction or the use of other chemical substances can't save the protagonist from his inner ghosts...

Next comes 'Fumes From The Ruins', an excellent short instrumental track with a melancholic, dreamy atmosphere that leads to the folksy 'Under These Clouds', a beautiful piece that begins by a soft acoustic guitar arpeggio, then soaring vocals and a good flute work depict a growing inner emptiness that makes the protagonist cry and feel terribly bad... He's stuck under grey clouds of sadness, his world seems nasty, he left behind his memories, he lost everything, and now there's no one that can rescue him...

The dramatic 'Frost' begins with a mysterious mood and an Oriental flavour, then the pace accelerates as anger blurs the sight... The protagonist wants to escape but he can't. A softer, dreamy middle section follows but the dream soon turns into nightmare and the rhythm rises again, faster and faster, he's falling down, breaking down. When the rhythm calms down he realizes that we're all passengers on a train that somebody calls life. Now he feels cold, he can't tell anguish from happiness, all the bridges have been burnt and now he's alone and cries his eyes out because he doesn't want to die...

'Sweet Silent Oblivion' starts by acoustic guitar and flute. The mood is dreamy, memories fade away. The protagonist got out of control, his mind opened to the evil waves and he was dragged down... Then the rhythm rises announcing a last desperate struggling to survive but a spectral marching beat leads to a finale where you can guess who the winner is... 'Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win...' (quote from Stephen King, "The Shining").

On the whole, a very good work!

 Mad Fellaz II by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.90 | 113 ratings

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Mad Fellaz II
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The second album by Mad Fellaz is entitled Mad Fellaz II and was self-released in 2016 with a renewed line up featuring Paolo Busatto (guitar), Marco Busatto (drums), Jason Nealy (guitar), Carlo Passuello (bass), Enrico Brunelli (keyboards), Rudy Zilio (flute, clarinet), Lorenzo Todesco (percussion) and Anna Farronato (vocals) plus some guests such as Flavio Brun (sax), Alessandro Brunetta (sax) and Sean Lucarello (trumpet). The artwork by Maria Todesco perfectly fits the musical content, a magic brew of different influences ranging from jazz to classical music, from Santana to Jethro Tull and many more...

The long opener "Hollow Shell" is a good mix of exoticism, jazz, folk and psychedelia evoking a dream world where time passes by through dangerous love affairs, ephemeral feelings and vain efforts to fill a life that could be perceived as empty when you get lost in a constant search for pleasure without the project to form a family or other goals...

The following "Blood Pressure" is a long suite divided into two parts that starts softly. In the first part the mood is relaxed, then the rhythm section begins to pump up the pressure, the tension rises and the stroke is just behind the corner as your heart seems on the verge of explosion trying to keep up the pace...

"Me Gusta" is a nice instrumental track where fiery Latin rhythm patterns are combined with hard rock, jazz and oriental flavours. Then it's the turn of "O.V.O. (Of Virtual Omniscience)", another long piece where you can find many changes in atmosphere and mood taking you on winding, endless roads across oneiric realms...

Two instrumental tracks close the album. "Moslem Sabbath", as you can guess from the title, combines hard rock and Middle-Eastern influences. After a heavy start marked by powerful electric guitar riffs and a sudden change in rhythm, it veers to more peaceful passages and represents a very strange call for a day of rest and prayer while the following "Meet The Gooroo" takes off like a glider and tries to lead you towards an inspirational source revealing the meaning of life...

On the whole a very good work, even if the jazz trained vocals every now and again could sound a bit out of place. Anyway, have a try and judge for yourselves... You can listen to the complete album on bandcamp!

 Mad Fellaz III by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 160 ratings

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Mad Fellaz III
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Mad Fellaz III is unselfconscious, professional, and very musical eclectic neo-prog from Italy. And did I say 'eclectic?' Definitely eclectic. The only Mad Fellaz I'd heard before was the fun, groovy instrumental 'Banda Scavejoni' ('longhair band' or 'hippie band') from their 2013 self-titled debut, so that's where my expectations were for this one. But halfway through my first listen, I had Mad Fellaz III pegged as a heavy-prog album, even if 'Leaf' was a little mellower. Certainly ''Es" / "Frozen Side" and "Liquid Bliss" were heavy, but it wasn't until later that I recognized how 'Liquid Bliss' signaled that this album would have a decidedly jazzy aspect as well - - even if that jazziness would be integrated with some near-metal riffage, as on 'Frost' and over the last two minutes of 'Sweet Silent Oblivion.' On the whole, if 'eclectic prog' is by definition an approach rather than a genre, I'd classify the album as 'neo-prog,' especially since there are some of the symphonic touches (such as on 'Under These Clouds') that often mark that subgenre. But here's an unusual case where I think 'eclectic' is the best label.

I've struggled with choosing between three and four stars for this album. Generally, to decide on a rating, I think about an album's performances, production, and compositions. The performances on Mad Fellaz III are top-notch, the sound quality and production are great, and the compositions are quite good, but good enough for four stars? Who knows - - I may change my mind in the future. But I've erred on the side of four stars because of how well the eclecticism is carried out - - specifically, how smooth the transitions are from one style to the next.

In a nutshell, Mad Fellaz III is a fun album. Its running time of three-quarters of an hour is perfect, its energy is palpable, and musically, the playing is very tight but not at all uptight. I'd suggest that any fan of prog rock give this one a listen.

 Mad Fellaz III by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 160 ratings

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Mad Fellaz III
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Mad Fellaz is an Eclectic Prog band from Italy founded in 2010. The band has seen some changes in it's line up, but for the most part, remains the same. Currently, the regular line up consists of 8 members; Paolo Busatto (guitars), Marco Busatto (drums), Ruggero Burigo (guitar, sitar), Carlo Passuello (bass), Enrico Burnelli (keyboards), Rudy Zillio (flute, sax, synths, backing vocals), Lorenzo Todesco (percussion), and Luca Brighi (vocals).

Over the course of the past decade, the band has released 3 albums, the first one was all instrumental, and for the 2nd album, they added a lead singer (Anna Farranato). For this album, "Mad Fellaz III", they have a new vocalist in Luca Brighi. This album consists of seven tracks with a total run time of 43 minutes, with tracks lasting from under 2 minutes to over 10 minutes.

"Es/Frozen Side" starts off the album with the first part of the track acting as an introductory section. It is a powerful instrumental with complex rhythm, some great guitar and organ. The sound is somewhat heavy and every changing. It finally settles in to a simpler rhythm and vocals come in around 3 minutes. The vocalist is powerful and dynamic and has a good voice. The middle section gets dark and more pensive with spoken, whispery vocals. After this, there are several meter and tempo changes as the band shows off it's progressive side. This is a great opener.

"Leaf" begins on a more settled theme, quite a bit softer with a guest saxophonist. Even though it is softer, the melody still is more complex than the standard fare, and the musicians make sure you know they are in this for the progressiveness. The track moves from quasi-folk to heavy progressive, so there are a lot of styles in this one track, hence the Eclectic Prog designation. The sax solo in the middle is catchy and complex just like the track, but it stays clean and allows for the flute to come in also.

"Liquid Bliss" starts out immediately with a progressive riffs interspersed with soft responses, a sudden chaotic passage, and then settling to a main theme sounding like something from "Umphrey's McGee" with a lot of playfulness between the vocal melodies and the instruments. There is a progressive jazz fusion feel to this, and an amazing guitar solo that approaches the sound of "UK"s Alan Holdworth at one point.

There is a short 2 minute track up next with the instrumental "Fumes from the Ruins". This is a surprisingly stately track led of with keyboards and then a nice, heavier guitar theme. Just like the longer tracks, there are a lot of mood and musical changes throughout. Another relatively short track follows with "Under These Clouds". This one is led off with a single acoustic guitar and vocals, later joined by keys and flute. The vocalist's vulnerabilities stand out quite a bit on the softer track.

Turning back to longer tracks again, "Frost" has a bit more of a symphonic edge to it at first, but strengthens as the passionate vocals start in. After a few verses, we go right into a jazz style guitar solo on a mid tempo beat that later gets disrupted by a more experimental phase before the mellotron sweeps things up and then a really fast moving section takes us into a new vocal theme which flies along at a good clip. Progressiveness ensues with another complex instrumental break, much heavier this time. Continuing with constant change, things go pastoral before the vocals come back again.

The last track is the longest and is called "Sweet Silent Oblivion". This one features a small orchestra consisting of some strings, French horn, oboe and a 12 string acoustic guitar, all of these played by additional guests. After playing a somewhat pastoral lilt, the vocals start with a complex theme and very lyrical content. The music stays on the softer side as the small orchestra drive things forward. On the first instrumental break, the guitar gets to play a nice solo, then things get a bit more complex as the meter gets a bit tricky here. More vocals, then a real rousing guitar solo until the keys and synth take over for their own bit of showing off. This goes on for a while, then the music turns a bit psychedelic and experimental while the drums play a complex march rhythm, and what results from this when the guitars and the ensemble take over is excellent and results in a very impressive finale that you wish went on for at least another 5 minutes.

This band and this album is surprisingly good. The music is complex, yet mostly accessible, the musicians are quite impressive, the music is highly progressive, and the lyrics and vocals are all top notch. I have to say that I was not expecting anything near as good as this album was.

 Mad Fellaz III by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.90 | 160 ratings

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Mad Fellaz III
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

5 stars Aiuto, Anna, dimmi, dove sei? Eh, I'm missing Anna Farronato somehow. I can remember, was fairly surprised about the new presence, recognized her impact as a pleasant change when it comes to the prior album. Okay, three years are gone in the meanwhile, and they are known for undertaking some shuffle each time. MAD FELLAZ are a huge crew in any case, featuring Pablo and Marco Busatto, plus Enrico Brunelli, Carlo Passuello, Rudy Zilio and Lorenzo Todesco constituting the core during recent years. Furthermore guest musicians of about the same number are aboard as well. And Luca Brighi appears as the new lead vocalist, a very good move so much the more.

They are acting true to their line of approach again. No, not driving themselves mad, or even us, to make sure, for example due to a weird cover image. But delivering melodic and accessible prog songs, showing finesse and uniqueness, nearly being without equal. They are utilizing a short warm up during the opening track, and then the second part Frozen Side and the following Leaf will present them in full blow, eh ... that's exactly what I dared to hope. Formidable! Liquid Bless then sounds like coming from the prospering US band Umphrey's McGee being at their best. As for the mellower parts, for example when Rudy Zilio fetches his flute or saxophone, they are close to the likes of Big Big Train.

Diverse unpredictable moves are to notice, which after some time qualify as genius compositional skills, you bet! Hence I'm on the way now to make sure that the closing song Sweet Silent Oblivion will remain anything but this, what the title may provoke, for whatever reason. My favourite excerpt, Luca Brighi in best shape, as one aspect. This one covers so much, I would say all their skills at once! A highly entertaining album, disappointment solely will come up when this is running out. But there's a chance for a retake anyway, yeah, no problem! Awesome production. This year's session starts very very promising, just let me declare the first masterpiece in 2019.

 Mad Fellaz II by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.90 | 113 ratings

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Mad Fellaz II
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars I was one of the mad fellas who fell in love with this unique Italian prog band's 2013 debut , a curious style that had both familiar and original features, the spirited playing of an all-instrumental set list of epic sized pieces that simply blew many fans and critics away. Everything about "Mad Fellaz" was inspiring: beautiful cover art, a 'squaddra' featuring a dual guitar approach, sensational bass and drum tandem, a flute/ clarinet to add some flavor , two monsters epics to start off with a bang and a general feel of sophistication. I, among many other reviewers, gave this an easy 5 star rating, a very well-deserved appreciation, especially for a debut album. It took three years to come up with a follow-up, a pretty much intact line-up with only a few minor changes but one major one: a lead singer! Anna Farronato sings in English (maybe a hindrance, maybe not), which threw everyone somewhat off guard, at first.

Just like the first album, the Mad Fellaz initiate the recording with another two sizable back to back epics, proving a point of style I guess. The first is the 14 minute "Hollow Shell" , a whopping instrumental that continues where the band left off, hurling inspired notes at break neck speed and oozing with class and flair. Lavish percussion and electric piano always gets my attention, so it took a mere 3 seconds to get me fixated on Paolo Busatto's stinging guitar as the bass and drums impel the theme forward. The vocal does take a few seconds of adaptation, as her style has a strange tone, a squeaking, girlish rant that hints at Annette Peacock or even Kate Bush perhaps, definitely frantic and deranged at times. Lots of perfected details here, Carlo Passuello's chunky and rambunctious bass guitar muscles along beautifully, amid the intricate drum patterns from Marco Busatto (who shines throughout) and stellar keyboard work from Enrico Brunelli, who also provides a mind blowing sax solo. These well- oiled elements do coalesce into a more Canterbury-like sound, complex rolls and loops that give way more width and depth than other more RPI like bands. Jagged, blurred, distorted, angry and then suddenly serene and almost apologetic, the roller coaster intensity is a unique pleasure to discover and rediscover again. It only gets better with repeated listens anyway.

The second opus is a two-part affair, "Blood Pressure I and II", a swooning and otherworldly voice haunts the fluid acoustic guitar phrasings on the short Part one, before that delectable bass rumble sets the wheels in motion for a shockingly delirious ride, doctored with that unmistakable band characteristic of combining comfortable and original in one whopping missile of music. Stinging and biting rhythms while the organ ruffles a few feathers, Anna blasts angrily into the fray, seemingly unafraid of the musical maelstrom being surgically placed at her feet. The electric guitar performs like a scalpel, devouring sinew and tissue alike, blistering and obtuse, hinting at some Italian cousin of Allen Holdsworth, while Anna resorts to sadistically emote urban poetry into the mix, the sax sounding like a car horn gone berserk in a traffic jam (trust me Italians know how to drive and are the world's best at beeping the bejesus out of their klaxons). Penetrating sounds, forcefully intimidating and pulsating furious with unabashed zeal, this is some kind of devilish progressive rock. This track is also a shocker.

Ti Piace? (You like?) "Me Gusta" (I like it) is, at first, a welcome relief after the 2 previous cataclysmic pieces but these fellaz like to keep the blood pressure on high, providing a rollicking promenade of exotic and ecstatic themes. At times, it sounds almost like Santana on steroids, complete with brassy blasts in a Latin frame of mind, slashed by an old school guitar solo that will bring your house down and a drum solo that winks at Michael Shrieve at Woodstock. This owns not only class and style but humor as well. Daring, adventurous and cool.

"Ovo" offers another 11 minutes of exhilarating enjoyment, giving the piano a chance for Enrico to show off more of his talent. Combining with flute is always a great concept, as the two work well together. As the luxuriant percussion?fueled beat intensifies, the electric guitar starts beaming its illumination in all directions, with Anna adding smooth vocalizations that throb and excite to no end. There is no doubt that there is a pronounced National Health vibe here, not exactly the worst influence one can hope for, as that British band certainly carved a reputation that is now legend. Burdened with endless stops and starts, twists and turns, this a perhaps exhausting labyrinth to deal with but if there is one absolute characteristic of Mad Fellaz, it's definitely their loyalty to ingenious insanity. Note the athletic drum work, the roiling organ forays a la Dave Stewart, the booming bass monster keeping everything in check.

The brutal and austere "Moslem Sabbath" could easily be a soundtrack to some Middle Eastern tragedy (like Aleppo), the lethally pounding drums akin to the devastation falling from the skies, the guitars raging and bloodied, all hammering mercilessly. And then there was ambient serenity, a mournful Arabic-sounding wisp of clanging hand percussion, glittering electric piano ruffles and aromatic flicks of the wrist over the guitar strings. The mysterious blare of the saxophone reprises the sense of forlorn doom displayed earlier, the sinuous clarinet offering prayer to the almighty and finally, the exotic entrance of both the electric guitar and the whirring organ, blasting a linear passage through the Kasbah of sounds. There is a quasi Mahavishnu Orchestra vibe going on here that is exquisite. The short finale resorts to more playfulness, though maintaining the oppressive feel, almost like a Post-rock exercise, slashing guitar panels throbbing wildly in some kind of agony. The theme grows into a crescendo and then, basta! Wow!

I stayed away from comparing this sophomore release to their magnificent debut, and even though it took many repetitions to finally feel comfortable to critique this album on its own merits, I can truthfully announce that it's a marvelous continuance for one of Italy's most promising acts and a beacon of unending entertainment for those who worship originality and style. The sublime cover art maintains the fine reputation that began with the first album. This is one hell of crew, certainly deserving of an avid following in Progland.

5 likes

PS. this review is dedicated to Aussie-Byrd-Brother, a hopefully kindred spirit who never steers me wrong. Ever!

 Mad Fellaz II by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.90 | 113 ratings

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Mad Fellaz II
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

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

4 stars Italian group Mad Fellaz began life as an all-instrumental group six years ago, releasing a superb self-titled debut in 2014 with `Mad Fellaz', an eclectic mix of vocal-free rock suites that incorporated everything from fiery jazz-fusion meanderings, playful grooves, ambient dreamy atmospheres, ethnic flavours and sophisticated RPI inclusions. But while they were always a stretch to consider ever being a true RPI-sounding group, two years on sees a rather surprising change in the set-up of Mad Fellaz with the addition of female vocalist Anna Farronato (controversially singing in English) that takes the group in something of a Rock-in-Opposition/Avant-Garde direction with a healthy dose of the Canterbury sound, but still maintaining all the instrumental flair present in the band from the beginning.

While those above mentioned styles are all present here again, the band citing Area and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso as original influences still holds in many respects, with a schizophrenic anything-goes variety of changing musical directions constantly in place, but always remaining melodic and avoiding the more shrill, jagged and loopy outbursts of many avant/R.I.O groups (we're not quite talking full-blown Henry Cow here!). Everything from Zappa, 80's King Crimson, Hatfield and the North and the Ozrics are worked in with a constant grooving finesse here, and you have one of the most punchy, fun and colourful discs of the year.

Opener `Hollow Shell' sets a template for much of the disc - diverse and frantic instrumental bursts wrapped around Anna's purring, menacing and whooping girly squeal. You get everything from electric piano trickles and spiralling synth soloing, trumpeting funky sax blasts, and brief twirling flute still holding traces of the proper RPI tradition that occasionally revealed itself on the debut. Constantly fluid murmuring bass grumbles and turns with power and aggression in an instant, slow-burn guitar embers smoulder with bluesy heaviness and grooving saunters, a gleaming Adrian Belew-era King Crimson-like ambience pervades, and there's no skimping on exotic, busy and constantly ballistic drumming - just listen to the 11:00 minute mark!

The two-part `Blood Pressure' suite fuses ethereal sighing harmonies and weeping guitar reaches with muscular grooving heavy riffs and vacuum-like rising/falling electronic distortion over a deranged spoken-word explanation of the medical symptoms of blood pressure - yes really! A soaring extended guitar solo is a highlight in a funky poppier stretch, topped off with a chiming dreamy solo spotlight for Anna, and her frequently spat dangerous catch-cry of `Your f*cking heart's exploding' throughout is sure to impress and annoy in equal measure! Also pay close attention to the gorgeous jazzy piano intro to `OVO', another lengthy workout of stop-start diversions and twisting time-changes that delivers classical sophistication, ethereal crystalline voices, drifting spacey passages, middle east mystery and symphonic power in a piece that sometimes reminds of Canterbury band National Health in little moments.

There's still wholly instrumental pieces - `Me Gusta' sounds like the Ozric Tentacles jamming with the Soft Machine's bursting noisy walls of sax and clarinet in the middle of a dusty desert whilst adding in a few polka, Latin and middle-eastern textures - phew, got that?! `Moslem Sabbath' crushes all in its path with punishing heavy-grooving riffing and monstrous pounding drums before culminating in mysterious drifting ambience and dark jazz blaring sax ruminations with lashings of dirty Hammond organ. Closer `Meet the Gooroo' has traces of Post Rock chiming guitars building in intensity for a victorious and confident finish.

The addition of vocals (and English ones at that) to much of what was a thrilling instrumental act is going to be a difficult thing to accept for some earlier listeners of Mad Fellaz, particularly when the group was doing so well already with the kind of music they were offering on their debut. However, if you pay proper attention, all the same instrumental skill and flair of the first album is always present here, just that it's sometimes in the background behind the vocals, or taking prominence in and out around the voice. Perhaps the group might have considered releasing a two-CD version of the album that included a purely instrumental mix of the main album, or even adopting a different name for this vocal-driven project?

But `Mad Fellaz II' is only disappointing when compared to the all-instrumental debut, and lovers of quirky vocal-focused R.I.O/eclectic rock with endless lashings of instrumental colour, technical skill, a sly sense of humour and unpredictable changes will be completely thrilled by what they find here, and there's no denying this talented group have released another winning progressive-music work. Play it loud, and you just may end up convinced you've discovered one of the best albums of 2016!

Four and a half stars - and bonus points for THE prog album cover art of the year!

 Mad Fellaz II by MAD FELLAZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.90 | 113 ratings

BUY
Mad Fellaz II
Mad Fellaz Eclectic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars Hey, are they kinda mad fellas? The allegory of painting. I mean, providing such a beautiful album with such an ... eh ... let's say odd cover picture? Probably only a matter of creative thinking though. Is this arising from the fact that they are hailing from a land of wine and grappa flowing in cascades potentially? Anyway, then again, who will be really bothered about that, when considering the fine musical content offered on their sophomore album. The most significant change, when considering the debut, may be the decision to invite a female singer, Anna Farronato is her name. Fortunato!

This is a call for a play of words, right? Anna is provided with a rather jazzy voice, which perfectly suits the main orientation music-wise. So what is this in the end? Here we have a blend of jazz, funk and heavy prog predominantly, a classical background is shimmering through here and there. Soaring psych guitars now and then. Woodwind instruments are playing an important role. Additionally, especially on Me Gusta, I mean to smell some polka tendencies. Thus a multi-varied, partially eclectic affair, this due to the rather complex compositions first and foremost.

I recently saw Helmut Hattler (ex-Kraan) performing with his band. Well, interestingly this is similiar in parts as for the soul and jazz impressions, though obviously provided with a heavier vibe (Anekdoten references) and surely deriving from a progressive rock basis on this occasion. It's not recommended to highlight any track actually, though I don't wanted to conceal that recently I loved to listen to Moslem Sabbath again and again. My experience: take one hurdle, ignore that cover image, and reserve your time for a listen. You won't regret!

Thanks to aussie-byrd-brother for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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