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Clepsydra - The Gap CD (album) cover





3.85 | 58 ratings

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3 stars Swiss-Italian neo prog collective CLEPSYDRA boasted a formidable run of 4 acclaimed albums between 1991 and 2001, albums that together constituted an intensive course in how to do neo prog the "right way". With emotive and skilled vocals, keening guitar leads, atmospheric keyboards and a flair for composition and arrangement, they left their sweet scent on the scene and then...nothing. The last 5 years have seen a flurry of updates and, finally, with a lineup 80% identical to that of their last and best studio recording "Alone" some 18 years ago, they have emerged anew with "The Gap".

Well, it's like no time has passed at all; all the pieces are in place and functioning in synch. Aluisio Maggini's voice is as distinct as ever, and continues to be an anchor of the group's integrity. New guitarist Luigi Biamino caught the baton passed by his predecessors, with expressive languid leads. Keyboardist Philip Hubert continues to aerate the arrangements and might be slightly more prominent than in prior releases, while the rhythm section is capable as ever, muscular when called upon.

While CLEPSYDRA generally espouses a temperate style with a preponderance of dreamy passages over raucous interludes, they earned my ardent attention in the first 30 seconds of "When the Bells Started Ringing". A plodding, metallic riff, perhaps the most assertive in their history, kicks off a dynamite 11 minutes, which are punctuated by more typical melodic passages, solos, and even ambient interludes. Unfortunately, their attempts at other epics meet with more mixed success as they did on the weakest of the earlier releases, "Fears". The strategy of blending moderate length tracks into a continuous epic reached peak fruition on "Alone" and the excellent "More Grains of Sand" mined a similar vein. The band's strong suit is in the low to moderate complexity numbers, but they appear to be conflicted by the belief that, among prog fans, more is more. I have seen this in the more recent releases by other groups that are more or less of this ilk. I do hasten to add that every track here has much to redeem it, with the best of the rest being "The Spell" and "Millenium", even if the latter could have been pruned by 1/3 to its benefit.

While CLEPSYDRA tends to be judged as an "imitator" rather than innovator in neo prog circles, it remains that they are one of the more recognizable bands in this sub genre, due mostly but not only to Aluisio Maggini's voice. Therefore a new CLEPSYDRA album is well worth celebrating, especially after a gap of almost 2 decades. 3.5 stars.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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