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Höstsonaten - Alive In Theatre CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.67 | 10 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars With some regret, I have to admit that I never got around to picking up the most recent Hostsonaten studio album `The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', an interpretation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's classic poem. I've always enjoyed Fabio Zuffanti's reflective and sublime instrumental project and their albums such as `Winterthrough', and when I read that album was very vocal heavy, I kind of dismissed it. So when an announcement arrived that this work would be released as a live concert DVD, and a theatrical ballet/dance accompaniment at that, I decided this would give me more incentive to explore this work further. So not only do you get to see and hear a bunch of talented current Italian progressive players in action (many who have been involved in numerous outstanding modern RPI works), but you also witness Susanna Tagliapetra's simple, restrained and effective stage direction that compliments the soundtrack perfectly.

Instrumental opener `Prologue' is equally bombastic and classically grand, frantic and uptempo one minute, sedate and reflective the next. Full of whirring synths, imperial Mellotron and grand gothic piano, it gives an early taste of the supreme keyboard flavour that Luca Scherani plies all over this performance. Then it's straight into `Part One', which is very comparable to the most recent La Maschera di Cera album `Le Porte Del Demani', not surprisingly as this 13 minute section features the same raspy, dominating vocals of Alessandro Corvaglia. Weeping violin, soaring electric guitar solos that climb to the skies, marching drumbeat tension, a haunting piano solo in the middle and a darkly dramatic pained vocal outro comprise with wondrous piece, as well as a lovely reprise of one of the winning themes from the opening introduction track. Drifting acoustic guitar, heavenly piano, sprightly grinding time changes and Gianmarco Farne's strident vocals highlight `Part Two', with plenty of spiraling Moog solos, intimidating Mellotron blasts and a chest-beating finale.

`Interlude', a newly written piece that was not included on the original studio album, begins with the same pleasant tones of Camel's `Snow Goose' before a dark unsettling piano passage and wilting violin bring some dark gothic classical romantic atmosphere.

The soothing vocals of Marco Dogliotti purr around a grand electric guitar theme, gentle flute and a sprinkling of thoughtful piano in `Part Three', before unleashing in a more bombastic and booming direction not unlike fellow Italian band Quasar Lux Symphonie's `Abraham: One Act Rock Opera'. Marco's voice turns shrieking (worryingly sounding close to Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow in a few spots) and the music grows wild and unhinged, a pumping beat, searing violin and devastating keyboard soloing tearing through. This is the part of the production that drifts the closest to outright heavy rock. A placid flute solo from Joanne Roan and melodic yet restrained bass soloing from Fabio calm the piece down again, before wrapping on walls of majestic Mellotron and exploding deranged synths over hearty vocals and a soaring guitar theme. Running water over a sobering accordion solo and the slightest of ambient synths open `Part Four', with a creeping piano, morbid violin and an eerie Peter Gabriel circa `Nursery Cryme'-era Genesis female vocal from Simona Angioloni ensures this finale is quite uneasy listening. The rising violin/piano section that follows is highly emotional with Simona's voice full of longing and desperation. The slow- building sedate piano build before the regal Mellotron and vocal choir climax is expertly performed and ends the show in a suitably epic and overblown way befitting a show of this stature.

Although you get the audio CD of the show with this package, the real selling point is the captivating theatrical stage footage recorded at the Teatro Verdi in Genoa. Through the dancers, alternating singers and the band (placed off to the side, but always easily seen), the performance successfully translates the story, allowing the viewer to visualize the magic words and music of the poem through multimedia elements, dance and stage actions. However the bonus backstage feature is a letdown, consisting of a barely four minute collage, first of the crew/band/performers setting up, and then an annoying two minute mix of them all screaming directly into the camera, `warming up' for the show no doubt, but it doesn't mean we want to watch more than 5 seconds of it! Sorry, this is a very minor and petty criticism though!

Sadly, there are just a couple of factors that do let this ambitious project down slightly. The biggest offense of all is the use of the English language. The Italian language is one of the defining characteristics of proper RPI music, and it would have worked beautifully here, considering how poetic and romantic that language is and would have sounded in this theatrical setting. Other than that, I do think Fabio's bass could have been mixed a little louder, and I probably would have enjoyed a few more fully instrumental, vocal-free passages to break things up a little. Also, the DVD is cut up into ten minute chapters, so you can't directly go to the start of a specific track.

There is no denying this is a complex and sophisticated work, and like the most recent Le Orme album `La Via Della Seta' reminded me, grand, pompous and classically inspired epic Italian prog can still be immensely satisfying and impressive when done well. The theatrical production and the talented musicians involved here makes `Alive In Theatre' a supremely classy and elegant effort.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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