Is there anyone else out there that is plagued by having high expectations of bands that they like to the point where their new album releases are often not as awesome as you’d hoped? Well, at Progulator.com we’re pleased to say that this wasn’t the case with the new album by La Maschera di Cera; we had high hopes, and it delivered all the juicy symphonic that we were hoping for, and more. Although I’ve already reviewed it in a long article, you’ll get a second opinion from Progulator staff member Markus Cueva, because sometimes two voices are stronger than one. Also, for those craving strange melodies, or those who are feeling nostalgia for their pretentious days of university music studies, Yugen’s latest live offering should suit your fancy. Last, but not least, you may be pleasantly surprised by the Argentine/Genoese sextet Aparecidos and their array of tunes that are just plain fun. Happy listening!
La Maschera Di Cera – Le Porte Del Domani
By Markus Cueva
An excellent comeback album for this amazing Italian group. It’s not that 2010’s “Petali Di Fuoco” was bad, but it was certainly a departure from the bombastic RPI-style music that blew me away in the bands first two albums. With “Le Porte Del Domani”, that sound is back and better than ever. Their latest offering brings back the thick layers of synths and trons and that signature tight, interesting rhythm section, and the low, powerful lead vocals accentuate the Italian language like few RPI bands have been able to since the mid-70’s. This album has been getting a lot of love from prog fans in recent weeks, and for good reason.
Overall, this album probably represents the most mature songwriting of La Maschera Di Cera’s career, with an excellent flow and feeling to the entire album. It contains a lot of the little things that will make you smile, such as some well placed percussion elements at the beginning of the final track and some fitting, if not memorable, flute and sax sections. My biggest complaint with the album is petty: I’m bummed that they put out an English language version. I feel like the Italian language fits the composition and plays better to the vocalist’s strengths. Overall, an impressive album that deserves attention from any progressive music fan.
For more in-depth analysis, check out Matt’s excellent full review of the album.
Yugen – Mirrors
By Matt Di Giordano
I’m not the kind of guy that generally likes live albums, especially since nowadays if there’s a live album there’s usually a live DVD of the same performance; and I’d much rather just watch the DVD. This isn’t yet the case with Yugen, and with them being one of my favorite bands, I thought I’d give this a shot (although I believe large parts of this performance are found on the second part of the RIO documentary). In the end, I was not disappointed due to the fact that the reduction of the band size for this gig, as well as the avant-garde nature of this music, which most likely includes some improvisation, made these songs very distinct from their studio album counterparts.
Yugen launches their deranged sonic assault with “On the Brink,” that perfect screechingly dark intro that certainly makes a fantastic opening to any concert. By and large, the interpretations of these incredibly difficult pieces is stuning. The chaotic fugues in “Catacresi” are unbelievably delightful, and its haunting middle section turns out to be even more magical sounding than the original, although equally cool. “Industry” achieved a ruthlessly dysmal/funereal vibe in unbelievable ways, and “Cloudscape” manages to show the true nature of the band’s expert patience in building the atmosphere of a piece. Loads of restraint is employed here, allowing the mood to slowly wash over you before the opening guitar parts come in. While one of Yugen’s more simply songs in terms of tonality, this arrangement sure isn’t easy to pull of because of the sheer moodiness needed to make it convincing; this Italian band pulled it off masterfully. On the other hand, every live album isn’t without its shortcomings. “Overmurmur” had its strong moments, but felt a little empty compared to the original while “Becchime” was ok, but didn’t really offer anything that felt new. That said, Mirrors is a live album I would highly recommend to anyone interested in avant chamber rock and will definitely hold me over until the Yugen/Ske family releases their much anticipated new band this year: Not a Good Sign. I can’t wait.
Aparecidos – Palitobombonhelado
By Matt Di Giordano
Something felt very refreshing about my first encounter with the Argentine/Genoese group Aparecidos, and it wasn’t just the fact that their album title, Palitobombonhelado, is sweet enough to instantly give anyone the diabetes; this is just a fun album. The music of the first track, “Tanto Gonfio Saremo,” is a strong representative of what’s to follow and like about this band; a playful mix of folk and jazz with some light prog influences and an overall distinctively South American vibe. Perhaps this last point is what makes me grin from ear to ear as I listen to these boys rolling out catchy tunes with hints of tango, cumbia, Andean, and a slew of other Latin styles. The weird thing is the fact that these guys seem to fit so well with their record label, the amazing Altrock, while sounding absolutely nothing close to the majority of bands it hosts (which are by and large very RIO oriented). At the same time, I can’t help but feel like these guys are pushing boundaries in their sphere as well, albeit in very subtle ways. While this is not an album that will get you rocking, I must recommend it for its excessive pleasantness and enjoyable atmosphere that maintains a high level of fun without losing any of the depth that it delivers due to the way it masterfully incorporates strong cultural sensibilities.