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Panda Fight Club - Ultimo CD (album) cover


Panda Fight Club


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.94 | 9 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars The amusingly named Italian prog group Panda Fight Club formed in Milan in 2009, with this, their debut album `Ultimo' arriving six years later in 2015, and a confident and boisterous first effort it is - and a concept album at that! While so many Italian groups like to pile on the deadly serious symphonic bluster and swooning theatricality, the Panda's prefer instead to kick listeners in the guts with a tough heavy guitar attack and bold vocals, sharing a similar fortitude to other modern acts like Il Bacio della Medusa and Civico 23, without forgetting plenty of peppy keyboard dalliances in the manner of the youthful sounding La Forza Elettro Motrice/FEM Prog Band.

Performed entirely in Italian and detailing the exploits of the last panda on Earth, the group concoct a vibrant and adventurous soundtrack to their tale, opening with `Heihe 2058', an instrumental introduction of Federico Nespoli's hard- driving Rush-like guitars, Christian Colombo's crashing drums and Lorenzo Nespoli's sleek slithering bass purring amongst Dario Errigo's whirring keyboards. `Fame senza Fine' erupts with throbbing Hammond organ bursts and Simone Pagani's rollicking swagger of a vocal, the darkly chiming guitars and swooning voice of the title track `Ultimo' are quickly swept away by stormy riffing, and the manic pure-RPI blast `Animalisti' throws in some glistening piano and playful bombastic synth twirls around menacing group vocals and relentless hard guitar grooves.

`Caccia Nuova' eventually moves the disc closer to metal with plenty of crushing heavy riffs and up-tempo bursts back and forth, and the energetic `Braccatolla' fuses skittering drums over sparkling Hammond organ and swirling synths all delivered with the same sprightly excitement of FEM's `Sulla Bolla di Sapone' from 2014, just given the addition of a muscular vocal. Lovely pristine piano weaves throughout `Sogno alla Chetamina', only to be quickly obliterated by manic ranting spoken word passages that turn roaring and forceful. It's also a nice slow-burn guitar soloing showcase and carefully builds in grandiosity, perhaps delivering the most symphonic moment of the disc. Finally, `Il Risveglio' wraps the disc with plenty of wounded and weeping vocal heart, as snarling guitar grumbles in unison alongside jazzy bass breakdowns and ghostly piano with skilfully executed dramatic heavy blasts, making it a dangerous and suitably powerful closer.

Panda Fight Club have delivered an addictive gem of a modern styled prog album that doesn't forget to offer nods to the rich history of vintage Italian symphonic music, and it's even better that it runs a welcome vinyl-length 40 minutes as well. The band consider the panda a reflection of progressive rock in general - beautiful, distinctive but now quite rare to encounter. Well, Panda Fight Club will be glad to know that Prog rock is thriving and more vital than ever, so the future looks bright for this talented band that offers a unique and exciting interpretation of the Italian Prog/RPI experience, and their accomplished debut `Ultimo' comes highly recommended.

Four stars - well done, fellas!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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