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Aries - Aries CD (album) cover

ARIES

Aries

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.47 | 32 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There must be something about spring in southern Europe, "primavera" seems to be constant word in the Italian vocabulary and Fabio Zuffanti has titled two Höstsonaten releases with English titles such as "Springsongs" and "Springtides", so there is actually a fascination for the "first green" of the year. Why start a review with such seasonal concerns, you ask? Well, this Zuffanti project is titled simply "Aries" and, even though I am not horoscope- inclined, I do know that it's a spring sign. The titles on the album also shed light (an after winter pun) on the inspiration , the first 2 being " Morning Song" and "Coming Back to Life", so I guess there is merit to my argument. Typical of the Finisterre bassist who has a Clive Nolan-ish catalog of sister projects (Finisterre, Zaal, La Maschera di Cera, Quadrophonic, Merlin: the Rock Opera, Höstsonaten, LaZona, Buc-ur and a solo album) , the Aries concept is completely different in style and tone. The product here is very pastoral, bucolic, and dreamy, closer to Celtic-tinged Brit groups such as Mostly Autumn, Iona and Karnataka by also featuring a female English speaking vocalist as the main focal point, in this case the splendid (and hardly accented) Simona Angioloni. Fabulous fretless Fabio has also enlisted Roberto Vigo on keyboards, flutist Carlo Barreca, lead guitarist Fabio Venturini and Pierpaolo Tondo manning the drum kit. The first song certainly lays down the appropriate mood, with Simona's fragile voice ushering in the new beginning where the sun finally gets to shine, a joyous buzzing lead from the e-guitar adds to the excitement and a huge melody that sticks savagely to the cortex. Add a modest adornment from the flute, a tubular bell finale and an uncomplicated synth solo that supplies the necessary "coup de grace". The next piece is my favorite, led by a genial piano statement that sounds very Wakeman or Jobson, before literally exploding "back to life" halfway through with a slithering fuzzy guitar solo that, while not necessarily overtly technical really pushes all the passionate buttons and elevates this piece into the highest peaks. The first extended epic is "the Eye of the Storm", a more audacious 13 minute foray into austere atmospheres, highly evocative of the turbulence emanating from an agonizing winter, with loads of contrasts: gentle harpsichord guided laments overcome by stubborn synth and guitar tempests, massive mellotron flounce and sudden fluted moments of sheer peace as befits the title. The multiple melodic lines are of very high caliber with Simona's voice progressively increasing in agony. A long sibilant synth solo coda takes this to a gentle conclusion. Bravo! Another two short pieces, the seductive mourning of "It Struck Me Every Day "with a Franco Falsini (of Sensation's Fix)-like dripping lead and a heavy choir 'tron backing as well as the sweet "In the Court of the Crimson King" lilt of "Crossing the Bar", both nicely set up the massive 17 minute finale that consecrates this exceptional recording. "When Night is Almost Done" is sheer ambitious splendor, with an evident Michael Giles like feel in the drum & cymbal work, a repetitive piano platform for an extended lyrical guitar solo from Venturini, all held together by a reflective vocal performance. A cosmic Moog solo adds to the folklore, paving the way for an astonishing operatic wail that goes on forever, goose bumpingly hinting at the sacrosanct Pink Floyd gem "the Great Gig in the Sky", before Richard Wright-ing another synthesized folly. In true progressive epic fashion, the early piano motif theme returns for a bombastic closing crescendo with a hallucinating fuzz drenched solo that will capture your attention, as it is played with such raging feeling! To stay indifferent to this would be incomprehensible but, hey, stranger things have happened to Ruth. (Will someone please warn me to stop blending famous proggy titles into my reviews).To again quote my respected Dutch PA colleague Erik Neuteboom : "This is Prog Heaven "! While far from being experimental as Zaal or absently peculiar as LaZona, Aries will definitely appeal to the folksier side of progressive, especially fans of the afore-mentioned British bands. While perhaps not everyone's panacea, I love this kind of stuff. 4.5 horned Tuscan rams.
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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