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Pandora - Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.11 | 86 ratings

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4 stars Enter Pandora and what springs from the box!

Pandora is a 4-man band from Cuneo that began in the fall of 2005. Claudio and Beppe Colombo along with Corrado Grappeggia started the project based on their love of '70s progressive rock but with an eye to the future as well. In early 2008 they signed with AMS/BTF and welcomed the addition of guitarist Christian Dimasi to the fold. By the end of the year their debut work "Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco" was released and the band is getting some good early buzz in Italian prog fan circles. On their webpage the band lists influences such as Genesis, Yes, PFM, New Trolls, Dream Theater, and Banco. The mission statement from their site contains one sentence that explains well what they are shooting for as a goal: "to explore various expressions of progressive rock: from hard rock to medieval compositions, jazz and symphonic melodies that inspire large fabulous events and infinites of soul with texts strictly in Italian that go between the personal problems of all of us to the fantasy stories inspired by the symbol of Pandora's box." Homage is certainly paid to the 1970s greats, both Italian and English, but to my ear Pandora is rooted in the present with an eye on reaching the new generation of prog fans.

After a "Wish You Were Here" style "radio-scape" that opens the album the band lunges for a powerful stride immediately. The first two tracks are filled throughout with chunky power chords and distorted semi-metallic riffs from the SG of Mr. Dimasi, the boy can play some guitar there is no doubt about it. Sharing these bold, aggressive introductions are the upfront keyboards and drumming, all pushing things to a very brisk chugging pace. It certainly does seem Dream Theater-inspired at this early point in the album making me think of Rudess and Portnoy. Some Italian bands that come to mind at this point are the more recent works of bands like Moongarden and Ubi Major (think Nostos) who bring a more muscular twist to the Italian symphonic and neo-prog genres, no doubt a reaction to the success of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, and prog-metal in general. Sometimes this direction is not to my taste as the production tendency in some modern recordings is to have the drums too loud in the mix and the sound more mechanical than organic. I've noticed the trend in comments from younger listeners who sometimes talk disparagingly about "old prog" and how the production values and instrument choices are old-fashioned or boring somehow. I find the opposite to be true generally. But I'll spare you the opinion piece on sound dynamics! Back to the album, which by the third track "Cosi Come Sei" will shift often to a more traditional and elegant mode for much of the balance of the album, though still pushing into jam mode frequently. Now I am beginning to hear older influences like Banco, Locanda delle Fate, and Genesis as the tracks take on epic qualities and begin to slow down and breathe. Bridging from the old to the new makes me think of recent releases of Zuffanti projects like Finisterre (Meccanica Naturale) and Maschera di Cera (Lux Ade) although the latter lacks the bold electric guitar presence in Pandora's sound. We begin to hear mellower passages creep in with acoustic guitars and even a folkish sound to "Breve Storia di San George." We will get some excellent spacey synthesizer landscapes courtesy of Colombo and Grappeggia. As it unfolds further we are treated to some piano which is always refreshing to hear after lots of electronic keyboards. Corrado Grappeggia's vocals have a warm, sure-footed feel with just a touch of gravel at times which I like very much, and of course the decision to stick with all Italian vocals (over English) is an excellent one, grazie for that Corrado! As a fan, I have to note the distinction (as I have before, begin eyes rolling) about the feel of modern interpretations of "classic" sounding progressive albums to the originals in the area of the "surprise factor": that weird, unpredictable, avant-garde madness that defined those albums from '72-'74. So many of those albums have the ability to truly surprise and sometimes shock even today's well rounded listeners, whereas many of today's albums, even those as fine as Pandora or Maschera please the listener but rarely make them flinch or cower in fear. I think it can only be ascribed to the motives and social influences of the classic period: those bands were competing for the mantle of the strange and they were living in the times and situations that encouraged that approach over desire to entertain. There had to be an explanation for which bands like Area or Semiramis could bloom by pushing people's buttons. This is not a slam of today's bands but simply a distinction. Think about "Ys" or "Melos" or "Palepoli." Old prog jumped out from behind corners, grabbed you by the throat and throttled you. Newer prog in the "symphonic" realms walks up to you, smiles, and shakes your hand. It's much more refined and pleasant, it's just not as devilishly provoking to the masochistic desires of avant-loving devotees. A simplistic generalization perhaps, as there are always exceptions on both ends of the spectrum. I bring it up only because I know people like myself who want that irreverent edge in their music. Many others do not, so judge for yourself. Honestly I can and do appreciate both, for different reasons. But regardless of whether you prefer mostly-friendly music or the borderline obnoxious variety, the last four tracks on this album in particular are beautifully constructed and executed examples of melodic progressive. There is much energy and enthusiasm here and they are constantly looking for new avenues to hit, zigging one way and then back another in their team jamming. The moods can be dreamy and thoughtful one moment, dramatic and powerful again in the next-at times the pace will simply make your head spin with delight. Just take a look at the title track "Dramma" which moves from gorgeous piano over simulated strings backed by thrilling guitar leads, built upon a frame of masterful drumming from Claudio Colombo. The near-14 minute closer "Salto nel Buio" has more of this exciting drum work and more wonderful acoustic guitar creeping in. I need more time to thoroughly absorb the composition of Pandora; I am writing this review earlier than I normally would to get some information out there and get interest stoked in this impressive new work. But I know that our own Sinkadotentree will be providing the required and thorough play-by-play of each track that they let's have it John! (You're gonna love this album, JD)

Concluding, "Dramma" is a modern symphonic winner that is going to be a knock-out for many prog fans with its combination of beautiful sounds and bold jamming. This album is going to be a hit and this band is only just beginning I predict. For those interested in Pandora, their myspace page features a 4-part web documentary on the making of the album which was interesting to take in. The CD itself comes with a modest lyrics booklet and a deluxe paper mini-lp gatefold sleeve. Had Pandora come out earlier in the year 2008, I am certain this title would have shown up on more "best of '08" lists and surveys. To Pandora, my congratulations for this debut!

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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