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Antonius Rex (Italy/UK) - 1974/2003 - "Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex"
(43 min, Black Widow)


1.  Nequer Semper Arcum 8:37
2.  Pactus 8:31
3.  In Hoc Signo Vinces 4:25
4.  Non Fiat Voluntas Tua 6:56
5.  Devil Letter 9:09
6.  Aquila Non Capit Muscas 5:52

All music: by Bartoccetti & Norton.
All lyrics: by Bartocelli.


Antonio Bartocetti - electric bass & guitar; vocals
Doris Norton - Church organ, piano, & Moog
Albert Goodman - percussion (+ vocals on 5)

Produced by Goodman.
Engineered by C. Coldweis at "Mondial Sound", Milan.

Prolusion. During their existence from the end of the sixties to the end of the seventies, Antonius Rex has released seven full-length albums (see discography below). After the band recorded "Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex", there was the five-year hiatus in their creation, to say the least, so I am going to return to this topic below.

Synopsis. Since having gotten acquainted with the music of Antonius Rex (and also Akron - a little earlier), I see that the whole realm of Progressive Rock was out of my knowledge of the genre until now. The album consists of seven tracks, one of which is fully instrumental, and presents a completely unique Symphonic Progressive - with tambourine and congas instead of a drum set, a poetic narration instead of vocals, and many other unusual things. However, most of the tracks on the album contain little narration, and the term of Symphonic Progressive as such isn't that apt to define the stylistic feature of Antonius Rex's music. The parts of Church organ are in the basis of most of the arrangements on the album and sound really solemn - in all the meanings of this word: serious, ceremonial, impressive, dark, and sacred (cathedral is the word). The main soloing instruments are: Moog with its immediately recognizable sound, acoustic piano, electric guitar, bass, and clavier (though it's most likely still the same Moog). With the exception of Pactus (2), to which I'll return a bit later, the music is for the most part simultaneously slow and complex, symphonic and heavy, tense and hypnotic. Quite often, it is emphasized by infrequent and as if muffled bits of tambourine and - seldom, yet, periodically - is accompanied by the moan of the wind. Most of the tracks are opened and closed with Doris Norton's massive, multi-layered passages of Church organ reminding me of those in Classical Music in Bach's time, while the band's joint arrangements cover usually the central (and the largest) parts of compositions. With the exception of Devil Letter (in French), the lyrics are in Latin, and Antonio Bartocetti's performance of them is very artistic. To my taste however, Antonio's solos and riffs on electric guitar are much more impressive than his unusual way of reproducing lyrics, and tempo contrasts between the fast guitar solos and slow, dramatically majestic passages of Church organ are among the central hallmarks of this output. The stylistic palette of the album is as follows. The songs Non Fiat Voluntas Tua and Aquila Non Capit Muscas (4 & 6), and also the only instrumental piece here In Hoc Signo Vinces (3), are the representatives of a unique blend of Cathedral Symphonic Art-Rock (which is unique in itself) and Doom-Metal with a little of something indescribable, which, nevertheless, later became one of the essential parts of music of some, if not many, performers of RIO. Neque Semper Arcum (1) is about Cathedral Symphonic Art-Rock where there are only elements of Doom-Metal (as well as those of Classical Music, though), and the style of Pactus (2) is surprisingly nothing else but Classic Symphonic Art-Rock, which, moreover, is romantic rather than dramatic in character. Like some of the other tracks on the album, Devil Letter (5) begins and ends with grand passages of Church organ and those of Moog, but the core of it consists exclusively of varied 'sinister' effects and noises (steps, creaking doors, etc) and sounds like an audio excerpt from a horror movie. I really wonder why the band didn't meet the wishes of the people at Vertigo Records to remove this track from the album and, instead of having a 'major' release with all the subsequent events, has practically canceled its further musical career.

Conclusion. If you are at least preliminarily ready to accept music, which is both dark and very, very symphonic, this album will be a revelation for you. The lovers of classic organ music will find plenty of moments here that will just carry them away to heaven. Those wondering what sort of things is Cathedral Symphonic Art-Rock start with Antonius Rex, and then you'll be able to bravely move towards the comprehension of Akron's >"Il Tempio di Ferro", which is in a similar style, but is a much more intricate album.


"In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum" - 1969
"Tardo Pede In Magiam Versus" - 1972
"Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex" - 1974
"Zora" - 1977
"Anno Demoni" - 1978
"Ralefun" - 1979
"Praeternatural" - 1980 

VM: October 6, 2003

Related Links:

Black Widow Records
Antonius Rex


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