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Ingranaggi Della Valle - In Hoc Signo CD (album) cover

IN HOC SIGNO

Ingranaggi Della Valle

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.06 | 263 ratings

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saboliver
4 stars Italian progressive rock has maintained a very high standard in recent years, with a few absolutely stunning albums. In Hoc Signo, at this time the only album released thus far by Ingranaggi Della Valle, is one such piece. It is a restless, intricate, every-changing and yet very cohesive album, heavily influenced by fusion, with a heavy edge but with jazz sensibilities. A lot of classic RPI themes and instrumentation are prominent, but there are also touches of early-to-mid Santana throughout with maybe even a hint or two of Mahavishnu Orchestra. The band has very much its own sound, one which sounds so we developed and confident that it is hard to believe that this is a debut.

Cavalcata bristles with energy, at times restrained - even the stillness of the middle section has tension until the beautiful vocals enter - at times unleashed. Organ runs are used liberally, giving way a fusion guitars as the song takes flight again towards the end. The song is a taste of things to come.

Mare in Tempesta opens with an almost heroic theme on the synth, on suggestive of a journey to be embarked upon perhaps, which gives way to a gentle verse. Those might be waves lapping as the cymbals sound. The understated opening quickly yields to busier drums and an exchange of violin and guitar leads before the synth takes the centre stage. The instrumental section typifies this album with each musician contributing significantly to a cohesive whole. The song lasts for little more than three minutes but covers a lot of ground, with the violin reviving the opening theme, this time a little more reflectively and with a touch of melancholy.

Via Engatia opens with a slower pace and a heartfelt guitar solo with a bluesy, Gimour-esque feel. The drums, a high point throughout the album, signal a change to something with a little less of a sense of stillness for the first verse. The drummer brings Nick D'Vigilio to mind at times. There is a busy-ness and restlessness to the playing that particularly appeals to me. The drum set is as important an instrument as any other, not simply the rhythmic backbone to the song. Jazz and fusion sensibilities are present everywhere. As many of the songs on In Hoc Signo do, this one builds, before taking a sideways step with a more classical, Spanish guitar and violin section with shades of Rodrigo in a rustic mood.

The opening three songs carry a thematic unity and feel very cohesive and yet they also cover quite a wide range of ground musically. After a few seconds of rolling toms, L'Assesio di Antiocha opens with a bright organ figure and a rapid almost military snare pattern before getting a little heavier for the verses. The violin is every present here and contributes to heavier riffs just as much as providing soaring melodic line. As with every performer the singer gives a sterling performance, passion and energy in his voice. No one section ever lasts for long and a slightly funky section gives space for some soloing on the organ. Anyone who likes classic instruments will enjoy the way in which they are liberally sprinkled throughout the album even if solo spots are rarely extended. Ingranaggi Della Valle cram a lot of musical ideas into a three minute song, so eight minute provides a very broad canvas. The vocals over the stabbing violins about five minute in, bring the listener to the edge before stillness returns again. The contrasts and changes of pace are extremely well handled throughout the album contributing to its cohesiveness. Due to this consistency it is hard to think of particular songs or moments that stick out.

Fuga da Amman, an instrumental, opens with an aggressive synth, quickly progressing to a tense, biting riff. This in turn lasts only seconds before a lilting and melancholic violin takes over before soloing over a hypnotic pattern that could have sustained an early Santana album. Kairuv'an starts with the omnipresent busy drums and more slightly jazzy bass, with the organ yielding to a piano lead. It is the jazz and fusion heart of the band that makes this such a good album. The performances are excellent and gel together well. After about two minutes the song becomes a classic piece, highly reminiscent of the early seventies. This wouldn't be out of place on a Premiata Forneria Marconi album. The the dark, quiet guitar pattern that comes in just before three minutes is one of the best parts of the album to me. There is such a range on this one song, as there is through the whole album, that it is captivating listening, though it can also be fatiguing at times if not in the right mood. Find the right mood and this is a superb album. There is always something interesting happening. The violin solo that follows is exhilarating.

Musqat opens in slightly edgy 5/4 time with gritty guitars and violin, before slowing down then accelerating into a bass and violin section. The violin is very prominent throughout the album and is an essential ingredient in the sound. A piano takes up the main theme before getting a little more chaotic and playful. A fuller fusion sound follows with organ and lead guitar. Santana comes to mind again, in a very positive way. Vocals are used economically and sung passages do not follow the standard verse/chorus structure; they appear where they fit. The singer has an expressive voice. Jangala Mem has a more mystical opening and drifts slightly into atonality and ring modulation before flitting between themes, never settling for long on one.

Il Vento del Tempo begins with chimes and intimations of the wind. A muezzin-like call is heard and there is a Middle-Eastern influence embedded in places. A slower tempo an sparser arrangement allows room for the vocals to shine. Finale is probably the highlight of the album - as befits the longest song - with a captivating opening, with its dark, folk theme which almost immediately disintegrates to a jazzy section with vocals to follow. The middle section starts hesitantly and then accelerates, maintaining an barely-controlled edge to it, before the opening theme returns. The intensity grows with saxophone outbursts. The song and album ends with an uplifting violin and flute duet.

This is a truly excellent album, one of the highlights of recent RPI. To fully appreciate it you need to have a liking for fusion and heavy jazz influences. Someone who enjoys classic RPI, early-to-mid Santana and Mahavishnu Orchestra will delight in In Hoc Signo.

saboliver | 4/5 |

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