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(50:01, Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Patogenesi 7:13 2. Ohne Zuckerzusatz 7:28 3. Song for an Angel 4:31 4. Ekpryrosis 6:25 5. W8less 7:26 6. Oniros 8:58 7. The Doll 7:58 LINEUP: Alessandro Seravalle – vocals; guitars Camillo Calleluori – drums Marco Ferrero – stick Pino Mecci – bass Raffaello Indri – guitars
Prolusion. Led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alessandro Seravalle, Italy’s GARDEN WALL is one of my favorite rock music acts ever. “Aliena(c)tion” is their seventh album to date, released last July. I won’t be verbose here, as there is plenty of information about the band on this site, and you can visit their official homepage or see their discography with links to reviews of all their other recordings, depending on your wish.
Analysis. Made up of three studio and four live tracks, all of which were recorded in 1999, “Aliena(c)tion” would have been issued already in 2000 on their then home label, Music Is Intelligence, if the company had not gone bankrupt in that year. Thanks to Mauro Moroni, the manager of Mellow Records, this release wasn’t missing in the dreamy annals of might-have-been events. Besides being valuable in itself, as a piece of art, it sheds more light on the history of the group’s evolution, the play on words which is contained in its title reflecting another, this time quite a radical, modification of their style – towards the distinctly heavy, dark and aggressive sound that, be it put from the perspective of the recording’s actual time of creation, is being further developed as well as changed, again and again, on their later outings. Combining a variety of ‘metallic’ directions, “Aliena(c)tion” is an inventive and inspired album with a distinct progressive message, full of superb musicianship and technical precision few contemporary bands can match. These Italian guys have always been living in their own musical dimension, but I’m willing to cite several, arguably more widely known, artists as relative references – mainly for the neophytes, of course. Of the three new pieces, Patogenesi, Ohne Zuckerzusatz and Song for an Angel, the first two are simply jewels. There are two main planes of play going on in both cases: an edgy, techno metal-based approach (representing a fascinatingly complex and intensive interplay between all the musicians) with a dual guitar attack and a dispersal of more gentle moves and atmospheric, at times seemingly liquid, landscapes with no drums involved. As regards the pieces’ instrumental level, the sole more or less suitable point of comparison I find here is Mekong Delta circa “Dances of Death”, perhaps with some ‘trails’ of “Steps” by Sieges Even and metrical oddities reminiscent of King Crimson. Alessandro’s full-throated singing has a certain Hammill-esque quality to it (indeed: think Peter at his most hysterical), while when delivering something halfway between singing and whispering he may evoke King Diamond. The largely instrumental Song for an Angel reveals a few darkly-atmospheric interludes also, but is a kind of techno-thrash-y piece for guitar histrionics in the end. This is the only one track from the ensemble’s entire song list that I find to be somewhat far-fetched and it’s not Seravalle’s creation, I’m pretty sure. The band’s older songs, Ekpryrosis, W8less, Oniros and The Doll, performed on stage, aren’t mere ‘live’ copies of their original versions, but are variations on those, noticeably more frequently combining (their characteristic) complex rhythms and quirky melodies with distinct metalloids. While there are more sections with soaring melodic themes and less techno thrash-y moves on these, all sound overall much like the two songs described first, which can partly be explained by the fact that, atypically of Garden Wall, no keyboards at all are deployed on this release. What is more, when remastering the CD from the original master tapes the band omitted all the ‘unwanted sounds’, such as applause, etc. So all in all, regardless of the mixed nature of its content, “Aliena(c)tion” appears not as an EP with a number of extra tracks, but as a full-fledged, plus stylistically near-completely concept album.
Conclusion. Garden Wall never pursued any commercial purposes and so has gained the reputation of a truly creative and innovative band. All over the years or, rather, periods of their activity (unceasingly is the word), they have been changing their – originally exceptional – style, with no fear of failure, but exclusively with success, and “Aliena(c)tion” is yet another proof of the ensemble’s versatility, to say the least. While being somewhat inferior to any of their other outings, it is nonetheless an almost unflawed release from any viewpoint. Those who are well familiar with the band’s work and feel their creative evolution seems to be lacking some link, be sure “Aliena(c)tion” is that very ‘lost’ bridge between “Chimica” and “Forget the Colours” you miss. Highly recommended: to all open-minded prog-metal lovers.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 13, 2008
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