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(46:05, Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Secret Woood Tales 4:54 2. Senza Tempo 4:28 3. La Dama Bianca 4:24 4. Autumn Wind 5:19 5. Mirror of Light 4:40 6. The Silver Wood 4:34 7. Moon-Lake Fairies 4:52 8. Ocean of Butterflies 3:57 9. The Forest Awakening 5:24 10. God of the Forest 3:33 LINEUP: Roby Tav – all instruments Tiziana Radis – vocals
Prolusion. Roby TAV and Tiziana RADIS are two Italian musicians who have cooperated on a number of occasions to a greater or lesser extent. They have formed a band as well, Divine Mentia Dark, where they explore a sound they describe as gothic industrial. The aim of the collaborative effort "The Secret Wood Tales" was to cover a rather different musical ground however, one blending goth rock with folk-inspired instrumental motifs.
Analysis. Sometimes an album doesn't add up to be what it could have been. The compositions may be great, the musicians involved of the finest caliber, the production of good quality, but still the end result doesn't manage to effectively combine the talents and skills of those involved. On other occasions we may have stellar musicians and lacklustre compositions, or the opposite. Occasionally artists stray a bit off their main pathways, ending up in musical territory their expertise doesn't master. And then there are productions that appear to be flawed due to a combination of some of the elements above, as is the case with "The Secret Wood Tales" as I understand this release. Take Tiziana Radis, whose vocals are the dominating aspect on tracks 2 through 9. There's no doubting her abilities; whenever she hits operatic mode on lead or backing vocals, it's crystal clear that we're dealing with a talented performer. Husky, whispered voices with a mystical tinge are another territory she controls with ease. But as a regular vocalist her talents don't come into their own right, especially when dealing with the English language. She has a fine voice, but at this stage one that appears to be best suited to either a highly dampened performance or to one of a distinct dramatic nature. When covering the territories in between, the end result, to my ears, is one of sounding too restrained, almost uncertain in places. Roby Tav appears to be a high-quality performer and composer, and whenever he's at the tangents he produces some stunning displays. Opening instrumental and title track The Secret Wood Tales is a brilliant example of what one can do with symphonic-laced, ambient music. A true moment of breathtaking magic, despite the overall ambient scope of this creation, this composition could have just as easily been performed by a classical symphonic orchestra instead of keyboards to my ears. And Tab's wandering piano motifs, gentle or pace-filled, do a good job throughout this production, as does his variety of symphonic backdrops and textures, alongside the occasional electronic effects added in. The acoustic guitar details flavoring the soundscape work fairly well too, but when it comes to the electric guitar and drums the quality drops quite a few levels. Whether these are emulated I don't know, but the clinical, digitized sound of both instruments makes me suspect that is the case. And when utilized as central elements in compositions, otherwise blending in elements from folk music and classical music, combined with the dominating vocals of a singer with dramatic, operatic vocals as a specialty, the end result does leave a bit to be desired, I'm afraid, at least for this set of ears. "The Secret Wood Tales" comes across as a slightly flawed creation that blends influences from classical symphonic music, folk and metal into a whole, of a kind one might describe as contemporary goth rock or perhaps goth metal. A few more musicians involved, a drummer and guitarist in particular, would have suited this material, and the lead vocals will presumably be an acquired taste. Those who like them will enjoy this CD however, as Radis is a good vocalist. These are personal observations obviously, and probably won't and most certainly shouldn't be regarded as a universal truth. Another observation on that level is that the music explored is by and large quite a bit removed from what most would recognize as progressive rock. As such, this album is linked by association rather than approach and performance to that genre.
Conclusion. This is an album that appears to aim at projecting beauty and magic more than anything else, and those who like the vocal performance in particular should find plenty to enjoy on this contemporary take on a folk- and classically-inspired rock creation. The occasional metal guitars are used as a contrast to the beauty, giving the limelight throughout a nice concept, and one that should find favor amongst quite a few familiar with the lifestyle generally referred to as goth. And while I wasn't convinced by the total sum of the parts on this particular production, there is a lot of talent involved here. And I suspect this duo might have a broad general appeal due to that alone.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 7, 2011
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