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Una Volta Eravamo In Sette - La Ballata Del Vecchio Marinaio CD (album) cover


Una Volta Eravamo In Sette


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.45 | 9 ratings

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4 stars 'La Ballata del Vecchio Marinaio' is a concept album based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's chilling poem about an ancient mariner condemned to wander the earth and tell his strange tale whenever the impulse seizes him. The vivid imagery of the poem seems to lend itself to musical treatment and has inspired works by Iron Maiden and David Bedford among others. I would urge those who are unfamiliar with the poem to read it, as doing so will hopefully increase the listener's appreciation of the music. As with any concept album, the question for me is how well the idea works with the music. Well let me tell you, these guys pull the concept off big-time and you don't even need to understand Italian to get the gist of things.

The poem is concerned with the violation of nature, in the form of the albatross, and the resulting effects on the ship's crew. There are several important themes underneath the surface of the story but basically the mariner is psychologically shipwrecked after he kills the albatross and has to go through certain ordeals before he can return to society. He undergoes a process of sin and restoration, or a 'psychological crack up and recovery' in the words of Joseph Campbell. The band successfully represents this with changes in tempos and dynamics that reflect the transformation that occurs in the mariner over the course of events.

Supernatural elements play an important role in the poem and the spooky electronics during the opening part of 'Overture' immediately create an otherworldly atmosphere, although there is an apparent contradiction when these effects are replaced by the Eastern- sounding main theme. For a voyage that would probably have started in Bristol the music is strangely exotic, but this only adds to the mysterious atmosphere with the ship heading into the unknown. 'Dadi D'Ossa' (Dice With Bones) also centres on the spirit world as Death and Life-in-Death play their macabre game of chance for the souls of the crew. The album makes fairly sparse use of vocals - the mariner is alone for much of the time and the lack of human voices emphasises the sense of isolation - but this is the only fully instrumental track. It's a skittish piece constructed around several different riffs and syncopated beats as the skeleton and naked lady roll the bones, and there's a neat flute accelerando to finish as 'The souls did from their bodies fly'.

The albatross also represents the spirit world and 'L'Alabatro' is a carefree, dreamy track that reflects the temporary harmony between the spiritual/natural world and the crew of the ship. The albatross is the Hermes guide that leads the ship out of the rime but the mariner kills it on an impulse and the Polar Spirit punishes the whole crew for this misdemeanour. The ship is becalmed in uncharted waters and this is represented by the rather eerie, scant arrangement of 'Silenzio Del Mare' (Silence of the Sea) that centres on a hypnotic tempo of roomy drums and fuzzed-out guitars very much in the vein of Radiohead. The relaxed pace on this suggests the slow passage of time and the weariness of the mariner, and the overall predominance of haunting music is suggestive of the doomed voyage.

Natural retribution is another recurring theme and when the mariner stops the wedding guest he begins by telling him how the ship was hit by a storm as it crossed the equator and was driven southwards into the rime. 'Nella Tempesta' (Into the Storm) starts with some rain effects and a tumult of drums and guitar, before organ and flute roar in to add to the general sense of turmoil. This contrasts with the impressionistic piano of 'E Quanto E'Immenso L'Oceano' (And How Vast the Ocean of Ice) that really captures the essence of the rime. It reflects its cold, desolate and disorienting nature and the intermittent chords seem to represent the 'mast-high' ice floating by the marooned ship. The closing section of this track simultaneously reminds me of Jethro Tull and Latte e Miele; the flute melody is a bit like the former's 'Bouree' while the spoken word vocals remind me of the ritornelli on the latter's 'Passio Secundum Mattheum'.

'La Ballata del Vecchio Marinaio' is a striking example of a successful union between concept and music. It's available as a free download but please guys, bring this out on CD!

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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