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(77:07, Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Fever Called Living 6:32 2. Eldorado-1 4:34 3. Eldorado-2 1:41 4. Last Knowledge-1 3:18 5. Last Knowledge-2 3:23 6. The Judge 5:10 7. Valley of Unrest 6:07 8. To Helen 1 & 2 7:34 9. Alone 6:00 The Masquerade Suite: 10. Masquerade-1 2:23 11. Intro 1:36 12. Slave of the Holy Mountain 4:26 13. Dreamland 7:12 14. The Haunted Palace 4:43 15. Masquerade-2 13:27 16. Masquerade-3 4:21 17. Masquerade-4 3:32 18. Masquerade-5 2:15 19. Masquerade-6 2:31 20. Masquerade -7 0:48 LINEUP: Maurilio Rossi – vocals; keyboards; bass, guitars Francesco Diddi – flute, sax; violin; guitars Antonio Vannucci – keyboards Tommaso Baggiani – drums Louis Magnanimo – bass Gianni Rossi – guitar With: Several additional musicians
Prolusion. A brainshild of the Rossi brothers, Maurilio and Gianni, GOAD was formed in the Italian city of Florence at the tail end of the ‘70s. “Masquerade” is the band’s seventh album to date – not counting “Who Can It Be”, which is a collection of covers.
Analysis. Like either of Goad’s previous two outings, “Masquerade” is a long recording, covering most of the CD space, featuring more than a merely solid number of tracks of different duration, all of which are also Maurilio’s creations, and the lyrics, as before, are inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Musically, however, the album is not the same as those, at least not throughout. To be more precise, more than a half of it suggests a continuation of the band’s stylistic explorations that typify its predecessor, "In the House of the Dark Shining Dreams" from 2007, while most of the rest of the material sounds, well, rather unusual – to be described in due time. The sextet’s approach to the style of mid-‘70s Van Der Graaf Generator (and I mean all of the albums the band released from 1975 to ’78) is often in a manner harsh, due to the relative numerous hard guitar parts present, which are displayed on the instrumentals Last Knowledge-2, Masquerade-2 and Masquerade-4, and also on the songs Fever Called Living and Masquerade-3, the last-named one that’s that’s quite heavy throughout. In short, the music is hard-edged Art-Rock, and I must say, it offers a lot of contrast between Maurilio’s versatile (not always Hugh Banton-like) organ playing and Gianni’s often aggressive riffs. The keyboards are primary lead instruments, and are highly active throughout, regardless of whether the music is hard at the moment or not. Nevertheless, they are especially impressive in a soloing context with the guitar riffs: sometimes the dialog between them is like a boisterous conversation, and other times like an implacable battle. The rhythm section is impressive too, building framework and, when necessary, increasing the energy level. Of course, the expansion of instrumental, as well as – partly – stylistic, ingredients (traditionally, courtesy of reeds and strings) also takes place, but the matter is more evident on the tracks that are free of heaviness, namely Valley of Unrest, Last Knowledge-1, The Haunted Palace and Alone, the last of which is another, yet not the last, instrumental. All played by Francesco Diddi, the flute and saxophone parts are often akin to David Jackson’s, and the violin ones to Graham Smith’s, but are all wonderful. There are several very nice moments when this multi-instrumentalist picks up one, then another of his items, etc. The instrumental Eldorado-2 and the song To Helen combine (original) art-rock and progressive hard rock arrangements, which are in turn influenced by Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath respectively. Although the latter piece, within its heavier section, finds the band ripping off the main riff of NIB from the metal Godfathers’ self-titled debut album, it is overall very good too, only slightly inferior to the former one. The songs Eldorado-1, Slave of the Holy Mountain and Masquerade-6 are classy hard rock numbers, all coming with a strong symphonic message. The musicians are still quite versatile instrumentally, especially noteworthy in the guitar riffing, organ soloing and vocals, which are simply superb. I wouldn’t dare to compare this music to anyone else’s, except for Maurilio’s singing, which reminds me to a certain degree of a cross between Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty and Brian Johnson of AC/DC. Now, however, I must add that the man’s voice has a lot of his own colorations too, and is generally as distinctive and expressive alike as those by, well, it’s clear who. The Judge and Masquerade-1, are both mellow in overall nature, but are creations of a genuine inspiration. The arrangements are fairly inventive, so the songs are on a par with most of the ‘70s classic hard rock ballads. Intro is an excellent acoustic guitar piece. Masquerade-5 in another fine instrumental, only featuring organ and flute, while the short Masquerade-7 is a kind of its vocal reprise. As a curtain falls, I must tell a few words on what is seen in a way as a fly in the ointment. All of the tracks that have a common title, i.e. the ones that are declared as parts of the semi-epics (let alone those – numerous – that ‘form’ the Masquerade ‘suite’), are so varied-to-motley in style that they in no way remind me of concept creations. Furthermore, almost a half of them are instrumentals, often separated from their ‘allied’ songs by a pause. As a result, at times I get an impression that the band winds down a bit, which wouldn’t have taken place if those tracks had been titled differently. This, in fact, explains why I didn’t give the album a full six-star rating.
Conclusion. Be it composition, arrangement or musicianship, “Masquerade” is overall a very solid effort, strong on all fronts, so to speak. One of the ten best 2011 releases that I’ve heard so far, it is an easy recommendation for connoisseurs of Art Rock and related styles.
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