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Three Monks - Neogothic Progressive Toccatas CD (album) cover


Three Monks


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.90 | 43 ratings

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4 stars A new project, and a pipe-organ lover's dream come true

Three Monks are a unique pipe-organ focused RPI band from Arezzo, consisting of organist/composer Paolo Lazzeri, bassist/engineer Maurizio Bozzi, and drummers Roberto Bichi and Claudio Cuseri. Lazzeri was a prog-rock organist in the early 1970s until public attention shifted, at which time he began the study of romantic classical music, both symphonic and for solo organ. His prime influences came from in-depth study of the music of composer Julius Reubke (1824-1858) and his enjoyment of the progressive rock of King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. He and Bozzi decided to form a rock trio which would attempt to combine their love of classical music (neo-Gothic style, German Romanticism of the nineteenth century) and progressive rock. Bozzi has been a professional bassist/composer/arranger since the 1970s and has collaborated in countless studio projects and live tours. They joined with drummers Bichi and Cuseri to form Three Monks and in 2010 released their first work on Drycastle Records, "Neogothic Progressive Toccatas." It was skilfully mixed and mastered by Torben Lysholm at Tune Town studio in Denmark. This is only the beginning; the band says there will be future works.

"Neogothic Progressive Toccatas" will truly be a one of a kind in your progressive rock collection. The project is centered around the incredible pipe organ playing of Paolo Lazzeri supported by a thundering bass/drums rhythm sections and little else. This album is a church organ purist's dream. The various tracks are inspired by baroque composers and stories of cathedrals and their huge, historic pipe organs: the liner notes give specific historical information into each track's inspiration, some human, some cathedrals and instruments. The music is incredibly heavy, vast, formal, and tinged with centuries of age. You feel as if you are walking into one of those centuries old European cathedrals and hearing the bombast of the ancient organ, yet it is swirled into often dizzying progressive rock pieces. There are no vocals other than mysterious monk choirs at the beginning of "Neogothic Pedal Solo." It truly has a "power-trio" feel to it because of the focus of the sound vision, but certainly it is not your everyday power-trio. The substitution of the ancient organs where the electric guitar would typically be assures us of that. Reviewing the composition properly requires much more knowledge of classical music than I possess, as the influences and homages to many great classical composers are found throughout the album, and require someone who can spot Lazzeri's references to comment on them informatively.

The early buzz on the band was that the coming project was going to be something like Jacula, but this is really not the case. Yes the organs do recall the marvelous Charles Tiring, but Three Monks is musically much more disciplined, and lack the more obvious occult undertones of Jacula. Nor does it have the Jacula wailing guitars or distinctive vocals. This is not "dark" music in the occult sense, it is simply heavy gothic grandiosity. It is better compared to the bombast of ELP, Areknames, VDGG, and Il Balletto di Bronzo, but with 100% pipe organ rather than varying kinds of keys or synths, vocals, or guitar. Most of the music is in the heavy vein with eccentric and baroque aesthetics. There are a few moments where the rhythm section gets a bit jazzy, quite fetching with the organ. The opening track "Progressive Magdeburg" is dedicated to the rebuilding of the Magdeburg Cathedral and its fantastic organ, destroyed by bombing in World War 2. What is immediately clear is the color and personality which can issue forth from an instrument so often characterized as only dry. Also remarkable is how well the tones of the organ are beautified further and catalyzed by the warm bass guitar, you can really hear this in the final 90 seconds of Magdeburg.

As a bonus there is a Goblin cover of "Profondo Rosso," the main theme being quite faithful to the original but heavier. This is followed by a tribute variation of the same, the band calling the original "one of the most significant rock compositions for the pipe organ." Some of my favourite moments are the quieter ones, particularly on "Toccata Neogotica #1." The nature of the traditional organ can be a little overbearingly heavy at times (though I love it), and these more serene sections offer a very eerie, sublime shift to moments of contemplative mood. The final 10 minute piece "Toccata Neogotica #7" honors Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, the organist at the St. Florian Abbey (who was buried beneath his beloved organ, according to the notes.) The furiously detailed and building organ runs occasionally stand alone, the rest of the time Bozzi and Cuseri are right there, note for note, pushing the piece as far and as hard as can be. Filled with theatrical drama I keep waiting for Ian Gillan to pop in with some high-pitched wailing as he did with Jon Lord. Instead the piece builds and builds, finally slowing to half speed to set up a spectacular ending with the class and earnest quality that embody the entire work.

Three Monks is a band who should be heard by Heavy Prog fans and fans of serious organ RPI and classically influenced prog. It's an excellent debut and it will be interesting to see where they take this next. The album or download can be obtained from CDBABY.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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