So, what does this article have to do about Baja Prog? Absolutely nothing. So, why the title? Honestly, because I’m just that excited about the festival; such a wonderful line-up, including Anglagard, Locanda delle Fate, New Trolls, and Hackett, among other fantastic acts. At any rate, let’s move on and get back on topic. This week we have a few splendid little gems for you, including a comeback album from Alphataurus that you all better check out right now, a cool album by a band I had never heard of named The Elijah, which might push the edge of what some might consider prog because of some of their more contemporary tendencies, and a couple of solid Italian albums with some great nightmarish dialogue by Ranestrane (too bad I didn’t publish this right around Halloween when you really could have put this bands on outside to freak out the kids!). I hope that you enjoy!
Alphataurus – Attosecondo
I know some will call this heresy, but… wait for it… I think Attosecondo is Alphataurus’ strongest album to date, even better than their self-titled 1973 debut. Whew, I got it out, I am now ready for the trollers to come in and massacre my opinion. In terms of a ‘reunion’ album, this is a strong one for sure, offering five tracks of classic, vintage RPI. The record opens up with “Progressiva-mente,” a piece whose opening vocals straddle a wonderful line between theatricality and classic prog. With loads of catchy melodies on vocals, flute, and synth, along with a solid mix of the familiar and the fresh, Alphataurus shows that they are serious about this release. Following the opener is “Gocce,” delivering a heavy, almost neoprog intro and ferocious organ, and “Ripendando E…,” with a sort of soulful and uplifting old school rock ballad feel, followed later in the track by some creative synth-work on the back-end. “Claudette” shows once again that the band isn’t afraid to get agressive, but that they can also be delicate and varied as displayed through classical and folk influences, fabulous dynamics, and a nice little church organ section to boot. This is the definitive epic piece of the album; although not necessarily long by prog standards, clocking in just shy of 14 minutes, the music truly feels like it tells a story compositionally, giving it a powerful ‘prog’ feel as it weaves through a variety of moods and choices of instrumentation, all the while maintaining a very classic sound. Throw in the bag some brilliantly executed vocals and powerful symphonic elements and you have a sure winning piece on this album that will give Alphataurus fans something to talk about. Although “Valigie di terra” is a good track, if I could have changed something on this album it would have been to swap it with “Claudette” and go out with a really big bang. Either way, I stand very impressed by Alphataurus and their comeback Attosecondo, as will be many fans of the band for sure.
The Elijah – I loved I hated I destroyed
Instantly, The Elijah sets itself apart as a band that is majestic, atmospheric, and tortuously brutal, reminding me of what Moonsorrow might sound like if it was much more doomy and swapped the folk influences for a more atmospheric/new-age-ish classical tendency. Although there are a great many screams on this album, there is a sort of uplifting atmosphere to many of the tracks, such as the epic symphonic keys on the opening tracks “In Misery” and “I Loved.” While at first I thought I was going to be turned off with some of the post-hardcore vocal influences, this worry was diminished very quickly as the tracks afforded something in the sound that was angelic and otherworldly “In Fear,” which starts off so menacingly, quickly transforms (by the second chord) into something exalting, while “In Regret” brings you up to the clouds from the very moment its melodic string section sets out to capture the listener. Talk about a great build, all of a sudden about two thirds into this instrumental piece, the explosion of textures augmenting this gorgeous melody is captivating and moving. The album finishes it off strong with the monstrous sound waves of “I Created,” demonstrating once again that the brilliance in The Elijah is that space that exists in-between beauty and brutality in which they are surprisingly able to produce something quite otherworldly While I can’t be 100% positive about the album (there’s one track, “I Destroyed” that comes across as a bit too emo for me), I must say that I was stunned by an album that has influences that would normally make me run for the hills. Solid and uplifting atmospheres mix with slow paced, heavy soundscapes to produce a pretty nice musical journey that can only be summarized in the clever statement that the tracklisting makes: In Misery I Loved, In Fear I Hated, In Regret . I Destroyed .. In Death, I Created.
Ranestrane – Shining and Nosferatu Il Vampiro (reissues)
Ranestrane is indeed an interesting progressive act that combines prog, pop, electronic, and extremely creepy voices to make stuff that you can nod your head to and even poo your pants from fright from time to time. This Italian act presents extremely catchy and melodic prog, augmented by sequences of music that are very atmospheric and ambient and have a sort of horror soundtrack feel. Somehow, these sections cleverly manage to evoke a bit of the Goblin ‘feel’ without really having the Goblin ‘sound’. All of this makes complete sense when essentially what the band is doing is writing a sort of ‘rock opera’ for horror films they love such as Nosferatu The Vampyre (which they base their album Nosferatu il vampiro on) and Kubrick’s The Shining (the subject of their album entitled Shining). As you might expect/hope for, what makes these albums especially interesting is the frequent use of semi-long stretches of dialogue from characters in the story (presented in Italian). Both the lines and the delivery are pretty scary, I’m not going to lie. If you don’t understand Italian, it’ll probably lessen the effect; if you are a native Italian speaker, its probably mildly creepy, but if you are a first generation US born Italian American (like me) who knows just enough Italian to be dangerous, you’ll probably have serious nightmares and have to change your underpants several times as you listen to these double disc albums. While not necessarily for everyone, Nosferatu il vampiro and Shining are definitely albums that many will enjoy. Check’em out.