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Antonius Rex - Zora CD (album) cover


Antonius Rex


Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.79 | 37 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Probably one of the more controversial albums in the Antonius Rex catalogue, `Zora' is a messy, incoherent and unfocused album that still manages to provide several exciting pieces of horror tinged music. It's easily the band's most varied and colourful release, jumping back and forth between uneasy comic-book style horror schlock, dark gothic moody passages and more traditional Italian prog. It's got a bad reputation for being a bit of a dud, but I've always found every Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton Jacula/Antonius Rex work stands on it's own unique personality, and this one is no exception.

With it's pounding beat, tinkling hallucinatory piano, eerie synth solos and sound effects, opening track `The Gnome' sounds like almost no other Jacula/Rex piece the band ever worked on. Worryingly the beats are quite disco-oriented! The piece is highly kitsch and has a very B-grade horror/sci-fi sound, probably complimenting the album cover perfectly. Melodic but mumbled male vocals throughout make the track sound like a poorer version of `In Einsteinesse's Memory' from the later album `Ralefun', but that was a lot more pleasant and sophisticated than this one. Lively acoustic guitar and grooving bass amongst howling winds in the middle is the highlight.

While Antonio's typical Jacula/Rex narration and deep chanting opens `Necromancer', it's full of thick spacey synths from Dorin Norton that gives the track a very floating quality. After some passionate Italian sung vocals from Bartoccetti, we're back to more strange disco percussion with some quirky and very insane guitar melodies. The track then diverts into truly bent jazz directions, with some loose and upbeat piano soloing from Norton and both wild ragged electric guitar playing alongside clean crisp melodic runs from Bartoccetti. Like `Pactus' from the previous album, once it gets going it sounds almost nothing like the sort of gloomy music the band are usually associated with.

The beginning of the unnerving `Spiritualist Sťance' is similar to the previous album's `Devil Letter' - full of theatrical horror movie sound effects over low-key musical accompaniment. In this case, Norton's lonely and moving church organ, which even has a slight Rick Wright/early 70's Pink Floyd-like quality to it. This track even seems to have a very murky sound quality that gives the piece an even more unpleasant touch. The organ gets more wild, messy and downright violent as the piece progresses. The final few minutes are a vile storm of crashing percussion, glistening psychedelic keyboard effects, echoing flute, dirty wailing electric guitar and tormented possessed female cries before a very abrupt and uninspired fade out. Truly a dark piece that makes you feel like you're losing your mind.

The title track is a surprisingly tasteful, sprightly and almost upbeat Italian poppy prog rocker, with pleasant passionate Italian vocals and warm acoustic guitar more along the lines of P.F.M. The beginning and end sections have repetitive and maddening clean guitar riffs, ghostly washes of stylish synths and frantic piano solos. `Zora' would not have sounded out of place on the wonderful `Ralefun' album, which is the one in the Antonius Rex discography that comes closest to `traditional' 70's Italian prog.

Beginning and ending with a vile scream, `Morte At Potere' is a remake/new interpretation of the track `U.F.D.E.M' from the second Jacula album. This time the piece is more deeply psychedelic, with supremely thick and dirty electric guitar, wilting flute and foul organ, while Doris Norton records another take of her throaty tortured lead vocals from the first version. There's enough differences to make it interesting enough to stand on it's own.

The bonus track `Monastery' that comes with the CD version is a long floating synth/piano piece that almost sounds like electronic music in places. Programmed percussion pumps alongside swampy country acoustic guitar and bluesy electric solos. The beats make it fit with almost dancier synth pieces like `Angels and Demons' on the more recent Rex albums many years later. Although a welcome bonus, I don't think it's fair to consider this part of `Zora', as it not only sounds nothing like the rest of that album, but it clearly comes from a later recording session as well.

Special mention must go the astounding vintage 70's comic book erotic horror album sleeve! Sadly this album is the `black sheep' in my collection, it's the only album from this artist I have on CD, and it's the one I truly would have appreciated on vinyl due to that front cover! Sadly, even the vinyl reissue from a few years ago I stalled on getting is long since sold out and commands a lot of money.

Listeners unfamiliar with Bartoccetti and Norton's work should certainly not start with this album. I think even collectors of this artist should leave this until last - and even then approach with caution! It's an album that's severely underwhelming and confusing on first listen but eventually proves to be a worthy release in it's own right, and even compliments some of the later `Ralefun' album. As I always point out in my reviews, each of the Rex/Jacula releases has it's own identity and sound - `Zora' is psychedelic, colourful and schizophrenic, and a real one-off in their fascinating and worthwhile discography.

Three stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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