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Caravela Escarlate - III CD (album) cover


Caravela Escarlate


Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 21 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Caravela Escarlate's III is a vibrant and enticing blend of classic 1970s keyboard-driven prog (ELP, Genesis, Greenslade, Banco, et al.), but also infused with a percussive Brazilian drive. As such, the album's greatest strengths are also its slight weakness; III establishes an aesthetic early and barely deviates from it throughout its runtime. But if their unique musical timbre appeals to you, you'll find much to enjoy and appreciate with this record.

The tonal setting for III generally involves shimmering, atmospheric keyboards (mellotrons, synths, electric keyboards, organs, etc.) that drive the melody, with punchy and dominant walking basslines, and drums that swing with a jazzy breeze, almost melodic in its oercussive construction. Paiva's vocals acquit themselves very well in service of the material, although his range feels a bit caged when compared to the expansive and exploratory musical compositions.

Speaking of the songs, Caravela Escarlate themed their album on the lessons of history and mythology, and what humanity can derive from the wisdom of their past. Sometimes the album displays a critical eye, while at other times providing a more nuanced take, but at all times the historical past commands one eye while the undetermined future beckons the other. Even the band's name, which translates to "Scarlet Caravel", invokes both a ship and a sojourn through spacetime.

"Bússola do Tempo" (Time Compass) opens the album in a big way, and immediately sets a tonal backdrop that remains for the entire album: primarily Paiva's reassuring but distant voice, carried by the winds of Rodrigues's swirling keyboards and the thunder of Cáfaro drums. The tonal ambiance enchants with its dreamy, foggy, almost transporting character, lending the music an air that is more contemplative than commanding.

And it's a strong opener too. Emphasizing the importance of traveling back through history to learn from the past, it excoriates those who over-glorify the past, holding myths and legends as sacred, at the expense of historical truth. After all, men wrote these books; history is written by the victors, not necessarily by the historians. And amid all of this rumination, the uptempo jazzy drive and atmospheric keyboards generate an ambiance of gamely navigating historical seas with momentum and purpose.

With its waltz-like time signature and prominent piano underneath a layer of synth, "Castelos do Céu" (Sky Castles) almost recalls traditional folk songs and even a hint of Vince Guaraldi, amid the sturm and drang of the orchestral nature of the music. It's an engaging listen, but at 7 minutes in length it begins to wear out its welcome earlier than it should with a bit of unfortunate repetition. Thankfully the Melltron outro goes a long way to making those elements seem less intrusive.

"Sonhos Medievais" (Medieval Dreams) maintains a similar cadence as its predecessor. This track in particular feels closer to Brazil to my ears. Heavier, darker tones make themselves immediately known, which is particularly fitting for the subject matter. Here the band is recalling in wonder the great battles of history, the romanticism of idealized knightly battle, but also reflecting on how people remember the wars but not the warriors. Battlefields are prized more than traditions, it seems. Still, it succeeds as a contemplation on the romanticism of courage and valor, how idealized dreams of the past can inspire courage to slay the dragons of the future. "Sonhos Medievais" is a standout track here, and at eight minutes it seduces the listener with musical momentum and melodic allure throughout.

"Mandala" is the first of two instrumentals on the album, engaging in a host of keyboard variations to weave its tapestry. Whether this is reflective of a Catholic or Buddhist mandala, or something wholly other, I'll leave that interpretation elsewhere. The wholeness of all things in God or nature seems to be divided into patterns or maybe segments, like looking at different areas of a painting. Or perhaps like looking at one singular work of art through multiple lenses. The segmentation of the song accentuates these patterns successfully, although I would have enjoyed hearing the song develop further beyond its limited runtime at under five minutes. We enjoyed the germination, but are left wanting to witness more of its growth and maturation.

"Cruz da Ordem" (Cross of the Order) refers to the red Portuguese Cross, which was proudly displayed on the sails of the country's exploration fleet. It's an ode to those legendary navigators who braved the unknown dangers of uncharted oceans to arrive in Brazil. The song also recognizes the blend of religious and political motivations driving explorers to claim territory in the name of their homeland. Is it turning a blind eye to the ensuing colonization, subjugation, and genocide on behalf of their home and country? Perhaps. Or maybe it's implicitly calling them out with blatant flag-planting imagery. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

Either way, "Cruz da Ordem" is the album's 'epic' number, and remains the freshest, least constrained, and most engaging track on the album. Reflecting more South American tonality but aligned with strong progressive rock proclivities, the song engages with some prominent nods to Keith Emerson and welcome zither tones at the outro. We don't get enough of them these days. Zithers, I mean. Not outros.

"Ciclos" (Cycles) displays some of the least amount of musical growth on the album but it does present Paiva's most impressive and engaging vocal performance. One of the album's lesser tracks, "Ciclos" uses imagery of a flower petal falling from an ipê tree as a metaphor for life's ephemeral but cyclical nature, its fleeting beauty and transient delicacy. I just wish the music was as compelling as the poetry and vocal performance.

The album closes with "Filtro dos Sonhos" (Dream Filter), the second and final instrumental track. It's a solid closer, with a spotlight on Paiva's bass work as it leads into Rodrigues's piano dreamscape and an austere organ solo. Oddly though, it ends rather abruptly, and on the final song on the album such an ending feels a little too much like a jarring interruption. Or maybe, that was the point. The dream has ended. The song is over. The album is finished. Time to wake up.

I spent a lot of time listening to III before writing this review, absorbing its poetry and its musical character and allowing the work to permeate deeper with each iteration. Caravela Escarlate demonstrate a masterful command of instrumentation, poetic lyricism, and thematic content, marrying the lot to a classic 70s prog sound but tempered with contemporary sensibilities. There are moments of repetition, and the tonal homogeneity detracts from the experience by making the album seem somewhat smaller and more caged-in. But if you remain aligned with their compositions despite those constraints, III provides a rich and rewarding experience for lovers of classic symphonic prog rock.

Hokeyboy | 4/5 |


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