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Deus Ex Machina - Cinque CD (album) cover


Deus Ex Machina


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.07 | 109 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The relative popularity of this fifth studio album by the deluxe Fusion sextet of Deus Ex Machina (currently boasting the highest score in their discography here at Prog Archives, and with twice the number of reviews as the runner up) is really just a consequence of its wider exposure. The album marks their first (and so far only) effort to be distributed in the United States, by the good folks at Cuneiform Records, bless their hearts.

And yet the music itself is hardly more accessible. If anything it's the band's most difficult and challenging album to date, with an even higher proportion of the edgy, angular (and some might say irritating) eclecticism that marks their style. The song "Convolutus" is an attractive curtain raiser, with a catchier than usual melody and chorus. But after that the weirdness only escalates, in the avant-rock "Rhinoceros": all clashing solos in unfamiliar tunings, and with the bel canto tenor shrieking of Alberto Piras in peak form.

His unique vocal styling can have the same memorable effect as fingernails on a chalkboard, alleviated somewhat by the novelty of singing in Latin. The choice of language supposedly made the songwriting smoother. But I would challenge listeners to follow along with the enclosed lyrics to see exactly how each verse was twisted and bent to accommodate the music (English translations are included, and unlike most lyrics are worth reading for their own sake).

In retrospect the album is hardly the best I've heard from this band, but even at its most abstruse it's never less than fascinating. Some highlights worth mentioning: the constipated funk of "Il Pensiero che Porta Alle Cose Importanti" (yes, some of the tunes are in actual Italian); the uneasy instrumental calm of "Luce" (an - almost - unplugged guitar and violin duet, beautifully rendered); and the two-part, eco-friendly "Olim Sol Rogavit Terram", which exemplifies the band's shift away from traditional forms of Jazz Rock Fusion toward something more aligned with 20th century classical avant-garde. (Never mind the long, 'hidden' bonus track, by the way: a bootleg quality, barely audible verité-style rehearsal, caught on an open studio microphone and brutally spliced together.)

Compared to the uninhibited mania of earlier Deus Ex Machina albums the energy level is notably muted here. A sign of maturity, perhaps, but punches were definitely (and deliberately) pulled in the recording process.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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