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(54:16, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Door Almost Closed 6:38 2. Lies in the Sand 16:42 3. First Layer 4:39 4. Mind Flies 6:56 5. The Highest Cliff 6:14 6. Second Layer 4:30 7. Lullaby for a Son 8:34 LINEUP: Samuele Santanna – lead vocals; el. & ac. guitars Fabrizio Trinci – keyboards; backing vocals Giulio Bizzarri – basses Simone Borsi – drums With: Claudio Caroboni – saxophones (7) Camilla Gai – backing vocals (2, 5)
Prolusion. RAVEN SAD is an Italian project led by singer, guitarist and songwriter Samuele Santanna. Released in the fall of 2011, “Layers of Stratosphere” is its third album, following “We Are Not Alone” and “Quoth” from 2009 and 2008, respectively.
Analysis. While either of the outfit’s previous albums deal with a few musical directions, “Layers of Stratosphere” does so with a single one, the band having moved their sound to a melodically pronounced style without any experimental quality to it and with a much less emphasis on textural workouts. What is more, the style is instantly recognizable, the band for the most part shamelessly imitating Pink Floyd at its most prosaic, never striving to be authentic. Even though four of the seven tracks presented (Door Almost Closed, Mind Flies, First Layer and Second Layer) are instrumentals, and the other three (Lies in the Sand, Lullaby for a Son and The Highest Cliff) are by no means dominated by vocals, the overall arrangements are almost in all cases plain and totally predictable. The only exceptions in this respect are a brief space rock move in the vein of ‘Motorway City’ from Hawkwind’s “Levitation”, forming the second segment of disc opener Door Almost Closed, and a couple of instrumental sections with Eloy-evoking synthesizer solos at their fore that are part of the next piece, Mind Flies, due to which both of them appear as the best tracks here. Otherwise the band sounds unmistakably Pink Floydish, only with a strong balladic or, rather, groovy quality to its playing (because the music is slow everywhere on the album, as most of the soloing lines are as well), periodically ‘enriching’ the stuff with radio voices, narrations and synth effects. The first segment of Lullaby for a Son, featuring a baby’s cry, piano and vocals, sounds especially outrageous, being a replica of the opening theme of “The Wall”. While the sound is overall ‘70s-like, the organ and most of the other classic analog keyboards that are mentioned in the CD booklet appear infrequently, unlike the pianos which, however, don’t produce a strong vintage aura, at least in this particular case, perhaps because they are played slow, at times merely as chords. The guitar solos, while clearly Gilmouresque in style, are never fast, unlike David’s (remember Sheep from “Animals” for instance), and are for the most part fluid, comparatively quickly wearing out their welcome. Additionally, the drummer sticks with pretty straight/basic beats, and the bassist acts almost exclusively as a unit of the rhythm section. In the end, with each of the following pieces sounding fairly much like a variation on the preceding one, it all gets to be too samey, which is a problem for a true progressive rock fan, because it doesn’t take any time to sink in and grab. Finally, the vocals are in English, instantly indicating it as a second language, to say the very least.
Conclusion. This time the Raven should indeed be sad, unable to become a starship and fly beyond the stratosphere. This album isn’t a logical progression of the project’s previous work. Anyhow, despite all of its clishes, etc, it can be taken as a fairly nice one, if an accessible, rather groovy, symphonic space rock setting is to your liking, especially if you love Pink Floyd above all for their ballads, such as the 'Great Gig in the Sky' and so on.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: September 16, 2012
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