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(78 min, Black Widow)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Skeletal Landscape of the World 6:42 2. Deceit 10:15 3. Outcast 4:04 4. La Chambre 7:26 5. Snails 7:31 6. Yet I Must Be Something 5:15 7. Ignis Fatuus 11:22 8. Stray Thoughts From a Crossroad 7:24 9. A Grotesque Gift 1:23 10. Someone Lies Here 4:43 11. Pendulum Arc 6:49 12. The Web of Years 5:08 PERSONNEL: Michele Epifani - keyboards; recorder; vocals Stefano Colombi - el. & ac. guitars Simone Antonioni - drums Piero Ronalli - bass With: Luigi Belfotto - trumpet (5, 8)
Prolusion. A CD press kit briefly informs the potential listener that AREKNAMES is a modern Italian band playing academic Symphonic Progressive, after reading which one might arrive at the thought that this is one of those numerous outfits that follow a path paved by such Greats as PFM, Le Orme, Banco and so on. Not a bit of it! Areknames have deviated a long way from their native musical traditions in their work, moving towards the British school of the genre. They can be compared (if comparisons are really necessary) with such representatives of a darker side of the symphonic Art-Rock spectrum as Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and Gnidrolog. "Love Hate Round Trip" is their second outing, following their eponymous debut CD from three years ago.
Analysis. The album contains 12 tracks ranging from one-and-a-half to eleven-and-a-half minutes. The shortest one, A Grotesque Gift, is described in the CD booklet as "a piece of musique concrete, just a collection of filters and tapes" and could've been viewed as a filler if it had not been just an intro to its follow-up, Someone Lies Here, which in turn is a kind of epitaph based on lyrics by an anonymous English poet of the XVIII century. The song indeed sounds as if the words were taken from a tomb in some old English churchyard. This is a sad philosophical song, whose sorrow should be taken as positive though, because (quoting) "life goes on". But let's get back to the beginning of the album. The first two minutes of the opening track, The Skeletal Landscape of the World, may wrongly send you the message that you are in the realm of Doom Metal. The central heavy guitar riff reminds me of Black Sabbath circa 1971-'72 and is one of those perfect-and-irresistible Tony Iommi riffs that, well, so many modern Metal bands are currently armed with. The vocals of Areknames' bandleader Michele Epifani (who also plays synthesizers, electric and Grand pianos, organ, Mellotron and recorder) are both highly intense and strained, bearing a strong resemblance to those of Peter Hammill. Some time around the 3rd minute the tempo becomes slower, leading to a beautiful Grand piano interlude (it just sends shivers down my spine), which soon transforms itself into a complicated Art-Rock ballad, the music being dark, harsh and melodic all alike. The second track, Deceit, is a real masterpiece. It starts off with a slow, melodically pronounced theme in the vein of Genesis's "Trespass" or "Nursery Cryme" - only with Mr. Hammill:-) behind the microphone. Later on, the pressure steadily builds up; the tempo changes constantly, the overall picture plunging the listener into a very convincingly reproduced atmosphere of drama. Outcast is short and is not too exciting musically, but it properly intensifies the somber mood, which is prevalent on the album. La Chambre is also a masterpiece of a track. This time around, the music evokes King Crimson's "Red", though there also is a notable semi-improvised Hammond organ solo somewhat in the style of Jon Lord. How many artists would include a cover song straight in the middle of their album? No matter, but here we go - the fifth track is a rendering of Gnidrolog's song Snails from their "In Spite of Harry's Toenail". Gnidrolog is a remarkable, although obscure, English band, and the said track by them, being disturbing in itself, fits perfectly the album's general aura. Yet I Must Be Something finds the band playing slow-and-airy stuff, which nonetheless is imbued with truly philosophical contemplations, a guest female singer's narration adding a certain charm to the music. The album's longest track, Ignis Fatuus, is another gem. It starts off with only piano, bass and cymbals, which are soon joined by vocals, delivered firmly in Hammill-esque fashion. The singing is full of tragic overtones (Peter's "Over" instantly coming to mind); the instrumentation is rich and thick, with small portions of piano being thrown in here and there. Some jazzy passages infused into basic symphonic fabrics can be heard in the second half of the track. Stray Thoughts From a Crossroad adopts a moderate pace. The bright trumpet solo from Luigi Belfatto, as well as some beautiful interplay between said instrument and the piano, will long remain in my memory. Pendulum Arc concludes the long line of highlights. That being said, this is the jazziest thing in the set, the music steadily transforming into one intense jam. The last track, The Web of Years, has a melodic acoustic guitar in its introductory section chords, while its overall picture is one of academic symphonic Art-Rock. Thematically, this is another shining example of the material's primary emotional atmosphere (sorrow-meets-frustration), thus logically bringing the album to its closure. Sure, just as the songs titles suggest, all the lyrics on "Love Hate Round Trip" are in English.
Conclusion. Although Areknames are definitely well-informed about others' achievements in the field of the style they've chosen, and use them (oh well, who doesn't?), their sound is pretty much their own, quite unique and fresh alike, thus copying or ripping-off is not the issue here whatsoever. I whole-heartedly recommend this CD to lovers of dark Symphonic Progressive, though it will be an excellent addition to any cult:-) Prog-Rock collection. Despite its monstrous length, the disc will keep your attention from beginning to end. And much kudos goes personally to Michele Epifani for being not only a skilled musician, but also a truly gifted songwriter and a poet. Top-20-2006
VM: March 16, 2007
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