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Phaedra - Ptah CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.56 | 24 ratings

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4 stars Phaedra is an Italian prog band from Trento that began life in 1993. After many troubles, line up changes and a lot of work in studio, in 2010 the band released a self produced album with a line up featuring founder member Claudio Bonvecchio (bass, guitars, backing vocals) along with Stefano Gasperetti (keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin), Stefano Dalcanale (drums), Davide Tabarelli (keyboards, theremin), Fabrizio Crivellari (flute), Elisabetta Wolf (violin), Antonio Floris (violin, viola) and Claudio Granatiero (lead vocals). This work, titled Ptah, is a concept album telling a science-fiction story written by the vocalist Claudio Granatiero whose atmosphere reminds me of some novels by the French writer René Barjavel as "La nuit des temps" (The Ice People) and "Le grand secret" (The Immortals) or the sci-fi TV series "Space:1999". The music flows in a long suite where calm acoustic passages alternates with more aggressive parts. The overall sound could recall some historic Italian bands such as Locanda delle Fate or Maxophone and features a very good use of flute and violin...

The excellent instrumental "Overture" set the atmosphere and draws some melodic lines that will be developed later... "They say that once upon a time the sky was blue / They say that the sun was shining / There were green lawns over there and there was a river as well... They say, but for me it's just a dream... They say that there were many children... And now I'm alone...". On "Dicono" (They say) the very particular voice of Claudio Granatiero interprets a lonely child on a dying planet, victim of the human ambition. What happened to the Earth?

The next track "Sotto un cielo stellato" (Under a starry sky) takes us far back in time, on another planet where some people are leaving their advanced civilization to seek for another world where they can live and start again. The people of that planet had defeated maladies and aging but they couldn't survive to a sudden natural catastrophe provoked by their endless quest for knowledge. The vocals are broken, almost out of tune, when depicting a sad farewell and the nostalgia for what was left behind while the music in the middle section describes a journey through the space.

Next comes "Il reietto" (The outcast) that describes in music and words a strange character, one of the people who left the doomed planet when he was just a child... "We escaped from Death / We tricked our fate / We wondered through the space looking for a better day / Nobody run after us / Nobody regretted us / But fear has not left us since then...".

"Un mondo nuovo" (A new world) is a beautiful instrumental track featuring nice flute passages. The music here tries to describe the feelings of joy and relief that the space- traveling survivors prove while they're getting closer to the Earth. Then they go down from their starship to explore the new planet and realize that they are finally ready for a new start...

"Come un bambino" (As a child) describes the meeting with a primitive form of life whose strength is the brain: man. The survivors don't get old but they are not immortal and they are not able to breed anymore. They "adopt" men as children, they start to manipulate their DNA to accelerate their evolution to build up a new civilization... "Life is growing up, new hope / Offspring of the Earth and of an ancient science / Here men will live their innocence / They will grow up strong, they will be mighty / Our leadership will make them wise / We will be free again...".

"La costruzione di Atlantide" (The construction of Atlantis) is another instrumental track which begins with a nice marching beat, then soaring melodies played by flute, violin and synthesizers interact painting a busy scene with "Renaissance colours". The music tries to depict a scene where the survivors and their new "children" build up a new city and a new civilization.

On "Uomo!" (Man!) the tension rises. Something goes wrong between teachers and pupils. Men get old and die while their masters are always young, immutable and strict. Seeds of rebellion are spreading... "How many years have passed by? I still remember my defeat... It's sad when you see the work of a whole life destroyed by a son who can't understand / That all what you were doing was necessary to give him a better world and a happy life...".

"La distruzione di Atlantide" (The destruction of Atlantis) begins with an acoustic guitar arpeggio. It's a dark, sad instrumental track that marks the end of the new civilization. All the masters but one are killed, dreams explode and Atlantis crumbles... The men escaped from Atlantis go back to their nomadic primitive life and the knowledge of the masters gets lost in a few generations. The memory of Atlantis survives just as a myth...

"Dilemma interiore" (Inner dilemma) describes the pain of the only master escaped, Ptah. For many centuries he shunned men. His feelings were contradictory: hope, fear, disappointment, love. But eventually despair gives way to hope... "Leave the past behind you / Dream again / Don't let fear rule over you / You will find all the strength you need inside you...".

"Il saggio errante" (The wondering wise man) is a nice instrumental that describes the peregrinations of Ptah while he tries to transmit his knowledge and help humankind undercover. From the Egyptian city of Qena to Benares in India, to the dark sea of the coast of Norway...

The next track "Preghiera" (Prayer) deals with the issue of Faith. It begins with organ chords and a church like choir, then from a strummed acoustic guitar pattern heartfelt vocals soar... When Ptah came back seeking contacts with men, after centuries of solitude, he realized that humankind had developed the faith in God. Of course, God was just a distorted memory of the old masters, but he started to think about it for the first time... "I don't know if you can hear me, if you exist or you're nothing but a dream / Many people believes in you / No one can know if you are real / But listen to the pain which is destroying me / It doesn't give me any hope... Give me hope... Knowledge has always been my only faith, my only God / But when everything falls down and time bestows on you the gift of eternity / There's no reason to go on living and fighting / Please, give me a sign...".

"Il peso del rimorso" (The burden of remorse) describes a spiritual struggle. No sign came from God and Ptah wonders whether is it better to give up trying to transmit his knowledge to humankind or not... Ptah can't bear the burden of the remorse, he feels that he must help what he still consider his children, he has to help men...

"La decisione" (The decision) concludes the album. Thanks to the hidden help of Ptah, men were able to build up a new advanced civilization that could even compete with the one of the old masters. When Ptah reveals himself nobody believes him and a new destructive war is going to begin. The impending doom closes the circle and you can now imagine Ptah talking to the wind clod in a crimson cape while beside him a child dreams of a better world with green lawns and rivers and other children to play with...

Well, on the whole this is a very good album although the vocal parts are not flawless. Claudio Granatiero wrote the lyrics and the liner notes in the booklet that contribute to explain the plot but in my opinion he should have shared the vocal parts with other singers since he had to interpret too many characters and passages in this "rock-opera" and the result is not always convincing...

andrea | 4/5 |


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