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(46:30 / 'GT' & Maracash Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Agartha 9:22 2. Mental Hygiene 5:56 3. My Own Shelter 4:47 4. SPQA 6:27 5. Belly Botton 5:47 @6. On the Wings-1 4:41 7. On the Wings-2 4:22 8. Bourgeois 4:58 LINEUP: Claudio Mirone - guitars; vocals Giovanni Gregorio - keyboards Marco Castaldo - drums Aldo Ruggiero - bass
Prolusion. Claudio Mirone, the founder / primary mastermind of Italy's GECKO'S TEAR, considers 1999 to be the year of the project's birth, although with the reservation that the group as such was in embryo up to 2004, having undergone numerous lineup changes during the first four years of their existence. In any event, their lineup stabilized only in the summer of 2005, not long before Gecko's Tear began working on their first full-length album, "Contradiction", which was launched last year through their native Maracash label.
Analysis. Slightly paraphrasing the bandleader, the musical aim of Gecko's Tear is to merge together vintage Art-Rock (Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, etc), modern Prog-Metal (Dream Theater and Pain Of Salvation) and the avant-garde ideas of Frank Zappa, having given a completely new direction to the results. I must admit the band has successfully dealt with that task, and while some echoes of each of their mentors-in-absentia can here and there be heard on the album, the influences are for the most part transitory, while Gecko's Tear's own discoveries are in abundance. When describing their music however, Signor Mirone should also have mentioned their interest in mainstream Rock, generally speaking. Although that style is never predominant, it is still part of most of the disc's eight songs. I believe it is only the opening number, Agartha, whose musical content perfectly blends with Mirone's description. The sole largely instrumental track in this set, plus being on average almost twice as long as any other, this is in every respect a mind-blowing composition, at once ever-changing and highly cohesive, indeed joining vintage Symphonic Progressive and Prog-Metal which is nowadays almost unanimously regarded as being pioneered by Dream Theater (by Black Sabbath, in my honest opinion). There also are some classically influenced string- and piano-laden arrangements, as well as Eastern music-inspired tunes, to be found on Agartha. The band shines with their exceptional artistic flair; their technical skill appears to be impeccable; the vocals are good, no matter that only two quatrains are sung there. But why haven't you guys played in this style everywhere on the album? My Own Shelter is texturally (only!) similar, possessing a lot of virtues to like it too, - unless having once familiarized yourself with classic Dream Theater, you can't already tolerate a style that serves as a bridge between Rock & Roll and Prog-Metal - certainly Hard Rock. The said song alternates progressive Hard Rock with organ-, piano and synthesizer-driven symphonic art-rock canvases (these at times send shivers up my spine), occasionally revealing counterpoint melodies and pleasingly intricate meters too, but there is only one episode that directly concerns you have already guessed what. On their instrumental level, three of the five yet-to-be named tracks, Belly Botton, On the Wings-1 and On the Wings-2, are both innovative and interesting enough to be highly appreciated, each standing out for some fine jazzy inflexions, but at least to my taste, Mirone is too much keen on his vocal clownery, in some old-fashioned style, or else the latter piece could've been viewed alongside the opening track. Save for much of the vocals, the other two songs shine with their own virtues, even though Belly Botton has few hard movements (not counting a kind of metal Rock & Roll), whereas On the Wings-1 is free of any heaviness at all, drawing something that Gentle Giant could have done had they ever used traditional classical-like interludes. The remaining two cuts, Mental Hygiene and Bourgeois, each have their fine moments, but nonetheless they aren't very interesting. Both are overloaded with those vocal extravaganzas, additionally indulging in too many repetitions, and are generally rather straightforward. The former, with its a-la jazz vocalizations (into the bargain of all the other clownery), funky and some other trifling tricks as well, seems to be just littered with various styles.
Conclusion. Personally I think Signor Minore should cardinally change his approach to singing and stop flirting with any non-progressive genres. He has a gigantic potential as both a composer and player, but I'd recommend him to engage a producer who would look at his work from an exterior point of view. Then Gecko's Tear might get very many chances to become one of Europe's leading progressive acts. Instrumentally, no less than two thirds of "Contradiction" is both a very enjoyable and cognitive listen.
VM: July 30, 2007
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