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


Ingranaggi Della Valle


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.06 | 263 ratings

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4 stars Tempestuous, lusty, odorous, exalted, earthy, sophisticated and brash. You have to hand it to the Italians, they are a special breed, seemingly highly adept at pushing boundaries and doing it with a sense of perpetual style. Whether food, fashion, style, automobiles and music, they seem to forever reach for the stars. In terms of progressive music, the Italians have a long and bright tradition that easily rivals the Brits but where the big difference lies is that young Italian musicians are still flocking to master the RPI School, showcasing another generation of players who keep the flame alive. We all know the main classic players as they have a whole section to themselves on PA (the only country to do so BTW!) but recent years have produced a plethora of amazing new talents such as La Coscienza di Zeno, Il Labirinto di Specchi , Il Bacio della Medusa, Gran Turismo Veloce, Unreal City, The Former Life, Il Giardino Onirico, L'Estate di San Martino, The Redzen, Soulengine and countless others.

This new addition is called Ingranaggi della Valle (Gears of the Valley!?) from the Eternal City of Rome, and as befits this incomprehensibly busy megapolis, the music here offers everything under the sun, from jazz-rock with organ flurries, brooding labyrinthine prog-rock with theatrical vocals, a front and center slithering violin that gives it a powerful classical feel, all conspiring to make a difficult call when coming to review this musical recipe book. It's quite hard to describe really, sounding like nothing else, though one reviewer here stated that this was 'nostalgia' and 'everything is too dully old-fashioned, too been there, seen that". Kind of startling assumption in view of the fact that nothing is really new anymore but this is not radio-friendly pop music by any stretch of one's flowery imagination. The music is typical full-force progressive-rock with some strong jazz, RPI, space, medieval and psychedelic tendencies, presented in a no holds barred, 'shaddap youface, if younolike, va fa....'' attitude. You have to remind yourself the lads are from Rome and well'.... They are a cocky lot! They also have the bravery to invite VdGG's David Jackson and Anglagard's Mattias Olsson as guest soloists.

The style is highly Mediterranean, with a plethora of Arab and Middle Eastern influences as befits the subject matter, the Christian crusades against the occupation of Jerusalem by the Saracen infidels. Therefore the music interprets cleverly the battles, the intrigues and the hypocrisy of war for war's sake while infusing a strong sense of musical history (would that be the violin, do you think?). Typical prog album, right? With a story and a theme! What a shocker!

The highlights include the ballsy 'Cavalcata', a brash musical cavalcade where the violin reigns supreme, tight assistance from the rhythmic frenzy played by the guitars, bass and drums, moody lead vocals that span the gamut from gentle church singing to expressive operatics from the supremely talented Igor Leone and finished off by a devilish axe solo from Flavio Gonnellini.

'L'Assedio di Antiochia' is truly epic, going in a variety of directions, at first featuring marshalling drums, Emerson-like organ dexterity and that nasty fixated violin. The mood quickly turns funky a la Booker T & the MGs , classy rhythm guitar riffs colliding with whooshing organ ramblings , all glued together by some tight bass and drums. This track is probably the gentle outsider, taking the arrangement into more spooky areas, especially obvious when the 'harder' section kicks in around the 4.30 mark and then Leone does his best Russell Mael imitation (he of the Sparks), while the slick wah-wah pedal strolls along and blooms into a shrieking solo. Yes, the whole is quite eccentric and lunatic but that is what makes this album so out of the ordinary.

The album's core (four amazing tracks in a row) starts with 'Fugga di Amman', giving the arrangement a sweltering Bedouin feel, referring to the hot capital of Jordan. Guitarist Gonnellini shows off considerable skills with a strong penchant for the more mind-bending styles of Holdsworth, Beck, McGill and company, while keyboardist Mattia Liberati unleashes his muse on a barrage of ivories (the list shown in the booklet is analog heaven). Comparisons to legends Arti+ Mestieri are rife and correct as both Shanti Collucci on drums (he thinks he's Furio Chirico's reincarnation) and the buzzing bass guitar from guest Simone Massimi are re-mindful of the 70's greats. . Then comes the exhilarating 'Kairu'van', where the bass leaps over the sweaty sax, swerves by the piano and the madcap percussives to finally graze in a jazz-infested field of endless inspiration. Leone proudly emotes in his own imitable way, as the organ, violin and guitar stroll together, hand in hand. Seriously brainy jazz music with lots of spunk, where obvious technique finds itself enthralled by passion. The acoustic guitar fadeout is just sensational. 'Musqat' steers further into a more Crimsonian territory, a tropical oasis where raspy guitar, bubbly bass , Brufordian-drum stick work, a violin that smells like David Cross (what a name for a crusader, wot?) and some drop dead stunning soloing from Flavio . Terrific jazz- rock with immense creativity. 'Jangala Mem' is where they decide that it's time to goof it up a notch and insert some wobbly bass rumblings, some 'stop and start' rhythms courtesy of Mattias Olsson , as the obsessive violin dances in the Calcutta night. The guitar wails are poignant, deranged and mystical. There is a quasi Mahavisnu Orchestra vibe here which is perhaps a bit obvious.

'Il Vento del Tempo' veers back into outright blitzkrieg jazz-rock, tight as a scrooge and yet generous with the pleasure playing. Leone sings again like a man possessed, slightly dissonant and a bit fractured as the manic bass underpins his vocal folly. Less groove, more insanity, per favore! The bizarre vocal noises emit a Zappa feel (Frank was Italian after all) that only furthers the craziness. 'Finale' puts this masterpiece to rest with a glorious violin-led melody, sheer unadulterated beauty within a snug beat, jazz-rocking with feeling and occasionally sung with gusto. It's also the longest piece here, clocking in at 9 minutes and 33 secs. Chanted manic voices, mellotron and criss-crossing violin keep the pace thrilling and expansive. This where David Jackson unleashes one of his typical sax solos, bordering on insanity and utter delirium. Fans will be beside themselves with joy.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother, Todd and Kev all were bowled over by this landmark RPI monument. Funny how Italy never stops producing sensational progressive rock. They never fail to disappoint, for even if there are occasional lulls, the scene just seems to gear up for another splurge. This album will take quite a few revisits to sink in, there is just so much going on through its grooves. A perennial future favorite for the RPI boys, with superb artwork to boot.

4.5 Godfrey of Bouillons

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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