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(51:51, MaRaCash Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Burning Braziers 5:02 2. Spirit of Decadence 5:36 3. The Dance of the Sacred Elves 4:02 4. Entering the Sanctuary 4:58 5. Knights and Clergymen 4:49 6. Templars Dream 5:39 7. Memories of a Wedding 5:29 8. Master of Ceremonies 4:30 9. Moonlight through the Ruins 5:46 10. Leaving the Sanctuary 6:00 LINEUP: Alex Carpani – keyboards; vocals Ettore Salati – guitars, bass Marco Fabbri – drums Fabiano Spiga – bass
Prolusion. Swiss-born, Italian-based composer and musician Alex CARPANI has been around for a good few years now. Since his first tentative steps as a recording musician back in 1990 he has recorded just over three dozen albums in total in the format of self-released discs, demos and commissioned works. "The Waterline" from 2007 saw him attaining something of a breakthrough amongst fans of progressive rock. "The Sanctuary" from 2010 is the follow-up to that album, issued by MaRaCash Records in 2010.
Analysis. Among the many stylistic expressions sorted under the large umbrella called progressive rock, symphonic art rock is arguably the one best known, mostly due to the commercial success achieved by artists such as Genesis, ELP and Yes back in the 70's. And while some artists try to modernize this type of music by incorporating contemporary-sounding elements to this style, others prefer to explore this type of music within the same compositional and instrumental boundaries as the giants of old. Alex Carpani is an artist who appears to be closer to the latter than the former in this context, upholding the legacy of past purveyors of the style to a great extent, but also subtly incorporating assorted details with somewhat of a more modern touch. On the ten tracks that make up his latest disc, those who love the symphonic part of the art rock realm are in for a treat anyhow. With epic-length compositions just about the only item some might find missing, "The Sanctuary" is a tour de force of the symphonic genre, sporting layered keyboards aplenty, with both Mellotron and organ extensively utilized alongside vintage-sounding keyboards and the token few textures that might indicate instruments originating from more recent years. These are used in songs that are forever changing and developing, with multiple changes in tempo, atmosphere and arrangements. Gentle passages with an almost ambient nature have their place just as much as do massive, majestic parts with multiple guitars and keys, forming detailed and intricate sonic tapestries. Darker, slightly harder-hitting themes, consisting of guitar riffs, underscoring keyboard motifs as well as guitar-driven parts, supported by gentle keyboards, complement the gentler arrangements quite nicely, and those fond of instrumental soloing will be pleased to know that this disc is mostly instrumental and sports its fair share of soloing passages courtesy of guitars, organ and various types of keyboards: gentle constructions with an emphasis on melody just as typical as energetic, swirling soloing on top of a richly crafted main theme. "The Sanctuary" appears to be a solid and well-thought-out production, not quite as challenging as some might desire and perhaps a tad too orthodox for some as well. But while musical revolutions can be both interesting and intriguing, we all have a desire for exploits catering to traditions too, and that desire is accommodated by Carpani and his men quite nicely on this CD, and in the case of The Dance of the Sacred Elves a true moment of brilliance appears as well, the quirky Gentle Giant tendencies of this piece strengthening its impact perfectly.
Conclusion. "The Sanctuary" is a good example of an album that should have a strong appeal among fans of 70's progressive rock of the symphonic variety. In sound and expression those familiar with the giants of the genre will find many recognizable details, while the overall sound and arrangements also incorporate elements of a more contemporary nature. But by and large this is an album that appears to be tailor-made to cater to those whose heart and soul reside among the symphonic giants of yesteryear, most of which should find this CD to be a pleasing and rewarding experience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 12, 2011
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