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(51 min, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Almost-I 6:37 2. Almost-II 3:12 3. Not a Good Sign 7:54 4. Making Stills 6:43 5. Witchcraft by a Picture 7:37 6. Coming Back Home 5:52 7. Flow On 6:07 8. The Deafening Sound of the Moon 4:33 9. Afraid to Ask 3:08 LINEUP: Paolo ''Ske'' Botta – keyboards; glockenspiel Francesco Zago – el. & ac. guitars Gabriele Colombi – bass Martino Malacrida – drums Alessio Calandriello – vocals With: Maurizio Fasoli – piano (3, 5, 9) Bianca Fervidi – cello (5, 7, 9) Sharron Fortnam – vocals (5)
Prolusion. Italy’s NOT A GOOD SIGN (NGS from now on) is yet another collaboration to emanate from the precincts of Altrock Records, designed by the label’s manager Marcello Marinone and two members of the RIO outfit Yugen: keyboardist Paolo Botta and guitarist Francesco Zago. Their main goal is to play more melodic music in the traditions of ‘70s Symphonic Progressive. Comprised of nine tracks, the band’s self-titled debut album was released a few months ago.
Analysis. Being the masters of RIO (which is a more complicated type of music than probably any other progressive rock genre), the musicians easily coped with the task. Disc opener Almost-I, one of three instrumentals presented, is an absolutely brilliant composition, a kind of super-masterpiece. It lies somewhere between avant-garde, plus often heavy, Art-Rock and classic Symphonic Progressive, remotely reminiscent of a cross between mid-‘70s King Crimson, “Relayer” by Yes and Anekdoten circa “Nucleus”. The players provide depth and complexity throughout it, with unusual accent placement and offset multiple melody lines. The music is both highly intense and ever-changing, reaching a culmination closer to the end of the piece where the passages of acoustic guitar are suddenly replaced with a heavy move that sounds almost as symphonic Doom Metal. Another vocal-free piece, Afraid to Ask, and also The Deafening Sound of the Moon, which is in turn largely instrumental, are fascinating too. They have quite a lot in common with the opening track, albeit some of the arrangements are in both cases less intense and hard-edged, such as interludes featuring a piano and cello on the first of them. Alternating between up-tempo UK-style instrumental sections and Camel-evoking vocal ones, the title piece, Coming Back Home and Flow On never transcend traditional/classic symphonic Art-Rock, but are still very interesting compositions, full of unexpected turns and twists. Machiavelous organ grinding, analog synth galore, deep cymbal-punctuated expressions all carry the listener into the vintage sympho-prog realm. The musicians have an affinity for odd-metered grooves within the more jam-oriented sections, and do a good job of avoiding staleness, keeping the sequence of musical ideas flowing along. The remaining three tracks deliver the goods as well, although in more succinct packages. Of special interest are Making Stills, the third and the last instrumental piece, which evolves from a lengthy passage for two synthesizers through melodic Art-Rock in the vein of late ’70 Genesis into the classic bombastic sympho-prog sound with blazing leads from both keyboards and guitar, and also Witchcraft by a Picture, which contains a section with only acoustic guitar and female vocals in the arrangement, slightly reminiscent of ‘The Shadow of Hierophant’ from Steve Hackett’s “Voyage of the Acolyte”. Finally, Almost-II is the only track on the album that is closer to Neo in expression, although its sound as such is still of the vintage variety. As hinted above, the main movers within the band are keyboardist Paolo Botta, who is responsible for most of the musical material, and guitarist Francesco Zago, who plays in a number of different styles, from relatively laid-back yet still sophisticated acoustic passages to buzzing electrifying runs. Vocals are in (slightly accented) English and are delivered in such a way as not to overpower the band’s instrumental might, to put it succinctly.
Conclusion. Even though NGS never managed to once again reach the heights they conquered on the opening track, figuratively speaking, they have proven that they are highly versatile musicians and that it’s within their grasp to work with any progressive rock style. Highly recommended!
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