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(54:01, Black Widow / Bloodrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Il Ballo di Caterina 0:55 2. Gods of War 4:45 3. Maybe Tomorrow Maybe One Day 5:06 4. Keep on Moving 4:20 5. Across This Land 3:12 6. The Sky over Dublin 4:52 7. Sticking with You 4:33 8. I'll Find a Way 5:03 9. Time to Die 5:48 10. Ocean's Tides 5:44 11. Stay 5:51 12. Winter Song 3:52 LINEUP: Andrea Ciccomartino Ц vocals; guitars Francesco Zagarese Ц guitars Danilo Petrelli Ц keyboards Michele Raspanti Ц bass Alex Giuliani Ц drums With: Massimo Alimandi Ц flute
Prolusion. The Italian quintet GRAAL first came to prominence in 2005 when it released its full-length debut album "Realm of Fantasy". Since then the band has hooked up with its native label Bloodrock Records, and two more productions have seen the light: "Tales Untold" in 2007 and "Legends Never Die" in early 2011.
Analysis. Placing a band within a set context can be a challenging task. In this particular case the end result of the relatively few clues available outside of the music on the disc itself didn't help out too much, and the music will have to do the talking exclusively. Which, for me, places this band well inside the retro-oriented hard rock universe, a rather eclectic one however: A few touches of southern rock Molly Hatchet-style, some details heralding a plausible Deep Purple influence, others with similarities closer to Iron Maiden and early 80's UFO, with occasional additional flavoring with more of an art rock origin, sporting the odd detour into folk-oriented territories to boot. The latter mainly by way of brief, acoustic-based pieces with Across the Land as the prime example, a piece featuring gentle acoustic guitars, flute soloing and the occasional medieval-sounding passage. Elsewhere this disc is mostly about well-made hard rock: bass lines that make me think of Pete Way and Steve Harris being a central feature, steady and solid with a slight boogie touch or a more energetic galloping expression, depending on pace and intensity on any given song and segment. The guitars have a clear 70's sound to them, more hard rock than metal, with circulating motifs and recurring constructions regular features, often reminding me of so-called southern rock for some reason, now and then dropping down on the scale to a sound with slightly more of a vintage Black Sabbath-inspired sound. The organ hovering in the back is a regular feature, underscoring the retro mood of this production quite nicely and yet not resulting in a sound that reminds too much of legendary acts like Deep Purple or even Uriah Heep. A few nods in the direction of both can be found, but not to the extent one might expect from a band exploring an expression with such a distinct 70's-sounding flavor, featuring both guitar and organ motifs in interwoven thematic constructions. As the disc unfolds, symphonic-inspired keyboard backdrops start showing up while the compositions to a greater extent sport contrasting themes, most commonly gentle verses with clean or acoustic guitars underscoring the lead vocals, with the riff patterns taking over in the instrumental parts and the chorus. Sophisticated instrumental soloing is another feature of these excursions; in sum totaling an expression with some art-rock sheen to them. Personally I found Graal to be most inspired albeit sticking to the less elaborate parts of its repertoire, the energetic Maybe Tomorrow Maybe One Day being the highlight of this production to my ears and the rather more pastoral Across This Land another fine effort.
Conclusion. Despite the slightly eclectic scope of this disc, I would be hard-pressed to describe Graal as an innovative band. Its musical foundation would appear to be 70's-oriented hard rock, and while it has occasional visits to art rock-inspired realms I suspect its main audience would be found amongst fans of acts like Deep Purple and to some extent Uriah Heep, especially those among them with a relatively broad musical taste.
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