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The Balmung - Le Porte Della Noia CD (album) cover


The Balmung


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.71 | 31 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars `Le Porte Della Noia'...You'd have to be a little worried about an album title that translates to `The Gates Of Boredom', but fear not, progressive rock fans! Andrea of the Italian Prog Map website has provided us with an explanation - "Boredom is a synonym of adulthood and it contrasts with the magic world of childhood...Memories from a lost childhood begin to emerge and you can have a quick look at them through the keyhole of a hidden door, beyond the gates of boredom...". This alone should reassure the listener that they are in for a dynamic and richly lyrical album, and Claudio Pelliccioni and fellow band-members of Italian band The Balmung offer a rewarding debut album that mixes the passionate classical Italian progressive sophistication with a modern and relevant sound. Most of the tracks dart back and forth between lighter passages and darker moments, shorter vocal sections and extended instrumental play, providing a lot of light and shade for varying emotions. The vocals are in Italian and full of typical RPI fire and conviction, giving the surreal lyrics an added poetic tone and welcome warmth.

`Brown Jenkin' opens the album with soft chiming guitars, gentle percussion and plodding bass gradually rising from the background. A lovely and melodic lead guitar winds it's way through the classic 70's rock influenced extended intro, with very positive vibes all around. Uplifting piano and Pink Floyd-styled drumming dance about before the piece turns wild and unhinged with heavy chugging guitars and super-thick synths. Vocalist Claudio Pelliccioni enters with a raspy and commanding lead vocal, the piece then alternates between mysterious dreamy passages with glistening electric piano and harder searing lead guitar solos, with a tasteful synth run near the finale. The character of the title is described as an evil long-haired creature with the appearance of a rat who speaks all languages, from the H.P.Lovecraft short story `The Dreams In The Witch House', so there's plenty of vivid imagery for the band to draw inspiration from on this one!

`St Patrick's Day' is a lovely synth-heavy Celtic influenced instrumental with fiery acoustic guitar, but especially listen out for the suspenseful middle section with droning wordless vocals, drifting flute and very prominent creeping bass.

Strong Pink Floyd references on `Sogno "Fugale" with the laid-back David Gilmour-inspired guitar and pulsing synths. A lovely vocal from Claudio really sits nicely alongside typical RPI passionate deliveries, and there's plenty of harder-edged drama in the second half. It's quite a tasteful and accessible track, a nice pause from the more involved pieces.

Despite a moody sinister stalking bass line in the intro, `Il Dono' quickly changes it's mind and becomes a more straight-forward rocker. It's a little monotonous in this first half, with a slightly dull vocal melody, but stick around until the final minute for the dancing Camel-like synth solo and upbeat spirit!

`Sola' is about a lonely girl who gets lost at night, with Italian lyrics that translate to "You run alone looking for me, I am the dark night that lives in you". The serious vocal and edgy mood conveys these striking words well, and the whole track beginning to end has incredible bluesy guitar playing so full of emotion and compassion. A chilling gothic church organ solo in the finale makes the listener wonder if tale did not end well? Even the ominous title means `Alone'.

The introduction of `Quelli Come Me' (Those Like Me) reminds me a little of the modern Kaipa albums with it's mix of proggy playing blended with folky elements. A defiant protest song, the piece quickly turns into a chugging rock song more along the lines of Mostly Autumn with the addition of a spoken-word middle. Listenable but a little bland and uninteresting.

Much better is the warm acoustic reflective ballad `Frammenti Di Una Vita' (Fragments Of A Life), jammed with humming synths and lovely hearty lead vocals. Very foot-tapping and sure to put you in a great mood!

Now the one we've been waiting for - a beautiful and thrilling 14 minute instrumental! Beginning with pompous dramatic piano (always one of the highlights of many 70's RPI albums) and soon joined by lead guitar solo wailing a majestic repeated theme, `Suite For Siegfried' runs through chugging power chords and hard-rock bluster, regal flute fanfares, grand synth themes, reflective classical acoustic guitar passages and swirling keyboard solos. A dozen ideas worked together to create an exciting piece full of memorable movements and grand storytelling, without ever needing a single spoken word.

The stomping title track has a 70's hard rock kick overloaded with Hammond washes and Pink Floyd styled floating hazy diversions. Shimmering keyboards, dreamy guitars aiming straight for the skies, while lovely murmuring bass, crystalline electric piano and funky wah-wah guitars weave their way through the longer instrumental stretches.

Strangely the album ends on an ambient soundscape with throaty droning wordless vocals. `Thoughtful Himalaia' sounds somewhat out of place and may have worked better incorporated into one of the longer pieces?

The album cover by Buhauevych Yaroslav and Roberto De Cristofaro is absolutely stunning, full of typical progressive rock dynamism and a surreal flavour that's open to all sorts of interpretations. I would dearly love to see this album released on vinyl, as the cover begs for the attention that larger format brings. Even the writing style used on the title and band name is very attractive.

Although a little underwhelming on first listen, repeat plays reveal a rich and confident album with endless ideas and terrific playing from a talented group of musicians. Sure it's too long, a little repetitive in places, and sometimes suffers from an occasional flat production, but fans of modern retro/vintage influenced bands with thick prominent keyboards and huge guitar solos like Arabs In Aspic may find much to appeal here, as well as lovers of Italian progressive music in general. It definitely bridges 70's RPI flavour with modern sensibilities to create an impressive statement of intent, and we can surely only look forward to even better albums from the band in the future. For now, this very assured debut album with a few truly stunning tracks will do just fine.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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