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Area - Arbeit Macht Frei CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.26 | 591 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars After many twists and turns and recommendations popping up in various threads at various times, Area finally made it into my collection. The praise spoke of high-class intensity and world-class musicians and naturally, even though this isn't a symphonic Italian band, just the tag Italian represents a certain attraction, but most importantly often a deviance from many of the norms of the established genres, wherever the band itself is placed.

Stunning, intensely fiery, extrovert and refusing to sit still in its jazz-prog/fusion home, Arbeit Macht Frei just nailed me to the wall during the first listen. If damaged by the music, don't expect any insurance money. They will instantly claim force majeure. In part this surprise originates in that I haven't dabbled much in J-R/fusion or in the jazzed up, more avant corners of the Canterbury scene, but fact remains; this is an immensely powerful and passionate record.

Tight, interesting bass and frantic drumming rumbles up an impressive momentum on which complex guitar, saxophone and keys can freely head out in organised chaos. But if the Canterbury and J-R/Fusion bands manage to do this with at least equal intricacy, they don't stand a chance against the emotional quality of Area. Being a very politically active band, out on the left, this definitely helps in transmitting the raw aggression and passion to the listener in what feels like a perfectly honest way. It grabs you by the throat, calling for action and understanding, but never in an unpleasant way; all these feelings may seem compulsory, but they come to you in the most voluntary way. I guess this is why I like it so much compared to my other experiences of musically similar bands. They end up in that complexity-for-complexity's sake trap: interesting, sure, but it just doesn't reach me on an emotional level. Even the experimental and stripped musical passages, often with twitchy, probing performances from all the instruments, are charged with emotion. Uncertainty, suppressed anger and something darker and more sinister. It's hard to put you're finger on.

The jazzy parts are dominating, but it's very refreshing that they rarely stray into inward noodlings, something I find very hard to tolerate. It happens, but they're soon back with full throttle again via another one of those tasteful bridges. Also noteworthy is the groovy, slightly rockier character of Arbeit Macht Frei, which creates that powerful drive and direction I otherwise actually would have missed.

As in most reviews of this album, Demetrio Statos deserves some extra credit. His voice is uniquely expressive and dramatic, and with his range he often performs well beyond the call of duty, blending with the rest of the music like another instrument. The same man is also responsible for the organ on Arbeit Macht Frei. Together with underrated keyboardist Patrizio Fariselli, the assembled keys also deserve mentioning; they are quite close to the sound familiar from much of RPI! Often warm and rich when they get a place in the spotlight.

In many ways a perfect album, and at first it felt like one. But with repeated listens the jazzy parts have a tendency to dominate just a little too much, and sounding a little too much like the others. This isn't really a problem. It's more a matter of taste. It's not repetitive, but after a while a lot of structural and stylistic similarities emerge from the record. Had they used a little more of the ethnic qualities, epic connotations and rhythms found on the stand-out tracks of stand-out tracks - Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (nero) - this would easily reach masterpiece levels

.but 4 well-deserved stars really aren't bad.


LinusW | 4/5 |


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