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(60:24 / Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Perpetual Adoration 7:29 2. Damnatus In Aeternum 3:40 3. Switch on Dark 19:28 4. Darkotic 8:55 5. Fairy Vision 14:26 6. Mysticdrug 5:40 LINEUP: Antonio Bartoccetti - el. & ac. guitars, lute; vocals Doris Norton - keyboards, Moog; sampling Monika Tasnad - vocals With: Florian Gorman - drums Rexanthony - piano, synthesizers
Prolusion. One of Italy's very first progressive bands, ANTONIUS REX was formed in 1968. They were at the peak of their activity all through the '70s when they released seven studio albums, "In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum" (1970), "Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus" (1972), "Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex" (1974), "Zora" (1976), "Anno Demoni" (1978), "Ralefun" (1979) and "Praeternatural" (1980). Antonius Rex's brand new album, "Switch on Dark", is a follow-up to the "Magic Ritual" double outing (DVD+CD) from 2004, which has marked the group's return to the scene after a 23-year hiatus.
Analysis. According to the press kit, "Switch on Dark" is a concept album telling a story of a haunted castle and its inhabitants, e.g. witches, demons, wizards, ogres, gnomes, fairies and so on. Indeed, fantastic sounds associated exclusively with ghostly creatures can in places be heard on all six of the tracks present. The music is usually filled with a dark, menacing atmosphere, reminding me in some ways of a cross between a gothic, horror and fantasy novel, although there are few lyric-based vocals here (those by Bartoccetti approaching death-metal growling). The first two numbers, Perpetual Adoration and Damnatus In Aeternum, both should probably be regarded as instrumentals, although each features a brief episode where the whispered phrases, which are as if coming from a few different entities, instantly evoke certain scenes from King Diamond's "Them" and "Conspiracy". Each begins with only piano, acoustic guitar and string pads in the arrangement, but later on the music gradually becomes denser and denser, finally assuming the shape of symphonic Doom Metal with a lush sound, also involving Moog, church organ, electric guitar and drums - all the said instruments being widely used everywhere on the recording. Apart from some (very occasional) lyric-based vocals and the (relatively frequent) vocalizations from Monika Tasnad, all the subsequent tracks reveal in places wordless singing, which seems to be coming from a mixed operatic choir, though I believe these are in fact samples, just used in a very effective way. Nevertheless one of those stands out as being a bit richer in voices that the said two tracks. This is Darkotic whose first two and last sections, using acoustic guitar, church organ and string pads, all have certain common ground with Classical music, while the piece's largest, central part belongs to Doom Metal whose saturation in symphonic harmonies, as well as progressiveness as such, will not leave cold anyone into the genre. The concluding number, Mysticdrug, begins and unfolds similarly, but while later on the emphasis is laid on electric guitars, the group never reaches the intensity typical of the said genre, which though, is just merely remarked on, since the music is very interesting as it is. It would be a long story to describe in detail the title track and Fairy Vision, as they last for 19+ and 14+ minutes respectively. So I only note that both are genuine suites, multi-sectional compositions possessing everything necessary to justify their epic mission and always keep the listener intrigued too. Overall, I perceive this music as a doom-metal take on Symphonic Progressive, though the former track is also rich in elements of Classical music, whilst the latter from time to time reveals genuine doom-metal movements.
Conclusion. Penned by the founding members, Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton, the music on the new Antonius Rex CD is highly original, as usual. I'll name a few references, but please note they're quite relative: early/classic Goblin, Tangerine Dream and Black Sabbath, and also Tiamat circa "Wildhoney". Sincerely recommended.
VM: Agst 8, 2007
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