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TRACK LIST: 1. Scarlet 5:46 2. The Conjuration of the Stronghold Lodge 8:30 3. Lightening 6:14 4. Carnival 13:07 5. Blockade Runner 7:47 6. Gold 8:07 7. If It Runs Away 3:40 All tracks: by Iglio & Baccini. LINE-UP: Sofia Baccini - vocals Enrico Iglio - keyboards; bass; drums Sergio Casamassima - electric and acoustic guitars Arranged, produced, & engineered by Presence.
Prolusion. Italy's Presence has been part of the Progressive Rock movement since 1990. The line-up of the band did never change, and their discography includes the mini-LP "The Shadowing" (1990) and four full-length albums: "Makumba" (1992), "The Sleeper Awakes" (1994), "Black Opera" (1996), and "Gold" (2001).
Synopsis. The 53-minute "Gold" is a concept album inspired by Virginia Stait's sci-fi novel "The Planet of the Witches" and contains seven songs. The first five of them: Scarlet, The Conjuration of the Stronghold Lodge, Lightening, Carnival, and Blockade Runner, being submitted to similar compositional and related aims, have much in common among themselves and, thus, form the predominant stylistics of the album. This is a triple union of Symphonic Art-Rock, Classical Music, and Cathedral Metal, the latter of which, surprisingly, is represented by heavy guitar riffs by no means always. Among the other notable aspects of this music are dramatics, psychedelics, hypnotism, mystery, intrigue, and unpredictability. All the parts of keyboards on the album, and especially those of piano, organ, and a string ensemble, have a definite classical feel to them, while those of electric guitar are mostly done in the vein of a harsh Art-Rock. The instrumental arrangements are filled with all the possible progressive features; they're mostly tense and dynamic, and very effective contrasts between them and Sofia Boccini's warm, beautiful, and as if laid-back singing (in very good English) are among the hallmarks of the work. There are many places on the album where the music is as miraculously intricate and beautiful as that on Yes's Awaken or The Gates of Delirium, for instance (though, of course, these are very relative comparisons). While the arrangements consisting of soft and purely acoustic textures appear on the first five songs only from time to time, the album's last two tracks: Gold and If It Runs Away are almost purely acoustic in character. Although both of these were performed with the same instruments: acoustic guitar, piano, and a string ensemble, the first of them is about Classical Music, and the latter is a Classic Art-Rock ballad. But even if these two songs are quite notably different from the others, the unity of music and concept is sensed throughout the album, so I can't perceive it differently than one monolithic epic.
Conclusion. "Gold" is another brilliant example of contemporary Italian Progressive. Led by multi-instrumentalist Enrico Iglio, Presence is by all means a remarkable outfit, though I am sure it remains obscure to thousands Prog lovers from all over the world. I have nothing against good Neo performers, but it's hard not to notice that their role in the current renaissance of Progressive is highly overrated, while those who are the real flowers of the contemporary Progressive Rock movement are usually deprived of anything they're worthy of. Please make no doubt about checking "Gold" out, as well as the other two releases of Black Widow Records I have reviewed this week. It seems it's a great label, and there are many Prog gems in its catalog.
VM: September 23, 2003
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