FeM: Sulla Bolla di Sapone
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Production
  • Originality
  • Powerful Performances

If you’ve been getting the itch to hear some new rock progresivo italiano that goes all out to give you mountains of synths, crunchy guitars and Hammonds, and the high standard of vocals that we’ve come to expect from RPI bands, you’ve stopped at the right place. I present to you Forza Eletromotrice, or FeM as they more commonly call themselves. With their debut full length record, Sulla bolla di sapone, FeM delivers a lengthy feast of symphonic prog based on the story “On the Soap Bubble” by Kurd Lasswitz. Interestingly enough I was introduced to their EP a couple of years back and pretty much dismissed it as being a bit bland, but my-oh-my am I glad I got a second chance with this Milan-based quintet. While their sound certainly is richly influenced by their forefathers (Banco, PFM, and Le Orme), the songs are convincing, masterfully performed, and emotional as they present a complete album that maintains a wonderful flow while effectively incorporating prog, fusion, and classical.

If you’re anything like me you won’t have to dig deep into this album to really get into it; right from the start FeM dives in with a trio of pieces that waste no time in going all out. “Il giardino delle consuetudini” shows us right from the get go that this is a powerful group as they deliver an assault of blaring Hammonds, jazz elements, and a catchy chorus that you’ll find yourself humming along to. As the album seamlessly flows into “Microgen” 1 and 2 the band shows that they can swing from in your face guitars and keys to a latin feel and an epic outro replete with choirs, swirling synth leads and a pounding dirge featuring powerfully high vocals.

Just as quickly as FeM can get explosive they can also surprise you with subtle, beautiful tunes such as “Il mondo bianco opaco,” a romantic piano piece that shows off Alberto Citterio’s knack for both delicate melodies and technical runs, nicely augmented by a soft synth pad and glockenspiel interjections. Much further down the road in this album I was excited to hear “Riflessioni,” a piece that almost feels like an intended follow up to “Il mondo bianco opaco” (which it might intentionally be for all I know). Moving from flutes to piano, acoustic guitar and glockenspiel, the melodies are simple, yet powerful.

It’s always hard to choose favorites on a good concept album, but if there’s a particular section of Sulla bolla di sapone that comes to mind, it’s right around the middle of the album, starting a little more than half way through the instrumental “Il signore dei pensanti” and ending with the close of the following song, “Processo alla verita.” What caught my attention about the former is the fantastic execution of dark, cinematic brass interwined and doubled with lead guitar that painted a very powerful musical image before flowing to what is perhaps the most distinctly Italian sounding piece on the album: “Processo alla verita.” The interplay between choir vocals, instruments, and solo voice is brilliant, and the flawless transitions from tron and moog to organ and brass are magnificent as they receive effective support from bass and guitar riffs. As the piece moves towards the finale it becomes absolutely menacing as the shouts of “Sacrillegio! Pazzia!” continue to ring in our minds while Sabbatini delivers the final repeated lines “Ecco il tempo del Microgen” over dense atmosphere of swelling synth bass and swirling keyboard lines.  

In the end, FeM is simply an an amazing group of musicians where each player really delivers on their end of the field. The rhythm section shows Borsati and Buzzi to be a strong duo, whether it’s Borsati’s powerful groove that’s demonstrated right from the top of the record or Buzzi’s ultra tasty bass licks that really shine on Reviviscenza.” Colombo  shows head-spinning riffing on songs like “Incontro con i saponiani,” however his true power lies in his ability to subtly lay down meaningful lines that support each and every piece whether they are his distinguishable fusion interjections or well arranged chords filling in the background. On keys, Citterio proves himself to be a forced to be reckoned with in the prog scene. The closer, “E il mondo scoppiera,” is proof of his clever and effective arranging and playing as he provides nuanced arrangements jumping from Hammond to glockenspiel and an arsenal of analog synths which culminate in a  powerful Mellotron theme that recalls just a bit of Genesis’ “Watcher” intro but in a much more delicate context, really capitalizing on  the contrast of quiet to make each chord shift count toward an introspective closure of Sulla bolla di sapone. Let us not forget to mention once again the contribution of Sabbatini’s stellar vocals, blending the Italian tradition of the likes of Banco with a sense of modern expression that you’ll find familiar if you’ve been listening to contemporary RPI bands like La Conscienza di Zeno and Barock  Project, culminating in a captivating theatrical ride.

With Sulla bolla di sapone , FeM certainly finds itself among the high quality symphonic acts of their countrymen and leaves me anxious to hear more from them in the future.