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(52:50, Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Monde Three 7:50 2. Bersabea 1:22 3. Limbo Cosmico-1 7:18 4. Umbre Tra la Falla 7:50 5. Ipazia 1:44 6. La Citto Del Sole 6:50 7. Limbo Cosmico-2 8:20 8. Zemrude 5:53 9. Guernica 5:42 LINEUP: Massimo Tobai – keyboards Matteo Cavallari – guitars Barbara Mezzola – flutes Davide Cognata – vocals Marcello Ricci – drums Matteo Pinfari – bass
Prolusion. OBSCURA is a sextet from Italy who recently officially joined the ranks of contemporary prog rock performers. In other words, “Le Citto Invisibli” is their first release (a Mellow Records output).
Analysis. Two of the nine tracks on this 53-minute album, Bersabea and Ipazia, are instrumentals. These are little symphonic pieces for flute and piano, both sounding like excerpts from some classic mid-‘70s art-rock recording. At the same time, however, it’s quite easy to take the cuts as intros to their respective follow-ups, Limbo Cosmico-1 and La Citto del Sole, especially since the majority of the other songs begin exactly as an interaction between those instruments. The songs vary in style, but not greatly, having more similarities than differences between them, though probably none can be classified within any one progressive genre, since the music usually covers a few different territories, which in turn I see as one of the main virtues of this effort. While listening to the album’s core I am most often reminded of Camel (“The Snow Goose”), Genesis (“A Trick of the Tail”), Black Sabbath (“Never Say Die”), Banco (“Io Sono Nato Libero”) and Garden Wall (“Path of Dreams”), from time to time hearing also echoes of Ezra Winston (“Ancient Afternoon”), Mekong Delta (“Visions Fugitives”), Candlemass (“Tales of Creation”), Antonius Rex (“Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex”) and PFM (“L'Isola Di Niente”). From which an experienced prog head can easily come to a conclusion that the disc’s prevalent style would overall be a synthesis of symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal enriched with various classical-like devices. The four longer compositions, Monde Three, Limbo Cosmico-1, La Citto Del Sole and Limbo Cosmico-2, all near-flawlessly suit the idiom, since each reveals an almost perfect balance between all its components. Zemrude is similar, but metalloids are in the minority here, whilst Guernica and Umbre Tra la Falla are both much sparser in classical elements. The first of these depicts Symphonic Progressive of the first water much in the vein of Robbery, Assault & Battery from “A Trick of the Tail” by Genesis. The latter, while still retaining a certain symphonic quality, is heavy almost throughout, in both its construction and sound reminding me strongly of Johnny Blade (a song from Black Sabbath’s “Never Say Die”: one of the very first full-fledged prog-metal creations, not to be confused with the progressive Doom Metal typical of the band’s earlier recordings). The music runs through a wide variety of dynamics, textures and moods: from laidback to extremely energetic, from accessible and melodic to highly complex, from nearly pastoral to dark and disturbing, each of the songs containing quite a few sections with intricate multi-layered arrangements where the band so to speak stretches out, showcasing their technical skill, and yet I wouldn’t say this is what they do best, as they’re equally convincing as well as compelling within calmer movements also. In the CD booklet vocalist Davide Cognata heads the list of the band members, unlike my personal version of Obscura’s lineup. Davide is a competent and original singer, but you’re already aware of his absence on two tracks. What’s most important in this respect, however, is that the vocals are used very efficiently here, never overwhelming the instrumental arrangements, so those usually remain lush and ornate even within vocal sections, though two of the songs are largely instrumental. Finally one more detail worth mentioning: the band actively deploys analog keyboards as well as acoustic instruments, guitar included, so the music has for the most part a distinctive vintage feeling, during most of the prog-metal moves its sound instantly bringing to mind “Never Say Die”, again.
Conclusion. I see I used a lot of reference points above, but let me assure you the influences are rarely striking and are usually very well intermixed with the band’s own vision of music. In any event, this is no case to talk about any borrowings, let alone plagiarism. There is a certain kinship between “Le Citto Invisibli” and “Thirteen Toll at Noon” by their compatriots Floating State, but Obscura’s debut effort sounds even more refreshing, due to the insertion of a distinct metal component into classic art-rock structures.
VM: April 22, 2008
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