- Gorgeous Vocals
Two years after the release of Sensitivita, a magnificent work of melodic prog-rock by RPI up-and-comers La Conscienza di Zeno, the band returns with another album, La Notte Anche di Giorno. Like their previous record, La Notte Anche di Giorno displays CdZ’s innate ability to create powerful, vocal driven prog that is high on the expressive meter and really drives home the melody. This time, the band’s approach is to go deeper than ever; wanting to recreate a bit more of that seventies feel, CdZ opts for a format that essentially represents vintage “A” and “B” album sides, with each side being a single major piece with the tracks representing different movements of their corresponding larger work, so to speak. It is certainly an ambitious approach, and CdZ’s ability to create a seamless flow of music is superb.
Surprisingly, rather than opting for some sort of big intro, CdZ goes straight to the point by immediately introducing a vocal part in the opening moments of “A ritroso,” starting us off right in the thick of things. The sense of melody, as is typical of CdZ (and many other RPI bands), is very sweet. The music is immediately catchy, and the interaction between the distinctively Italian vocal-approach and the interweaving of Moog and violin lines is very fitting. Moving towards the end of the piece and towards the beginning of “Il giro del cappio” the mood becomes a bit darker, starting off with what sounds like a bit of Solina and a slightly foreboding tone before moving into a somber, but romantic vocal line that strongly recalls a main theme from their prior album. Heavy solo guitar and bass lines walk all around the vocal parts, building into a splendid refrain and carrying us through guitar solos over light keys which make for a powerful climax. As we make a return through the main vocal parts, we arrive at “Libero pensatore,” a song which immediately caught my attention with its captivating use of rhythmic violin over snare and tom interjections, passing the main melody to Mini Moog and then lead guitar, and leading into a brief classical-inspired section before bringing the vocals back in. My absolute favorite moment on the song comes in just a bit after this as the main theme is restated with a huge synth lead over grandiose bursts of keys and guitars. The ensuing instrumental section is fun and bouncy, eventually incorporating jazz elements in brief, but effective ways, before taking us back into the band’s trademark prog approach. After the micro-song “Quiete apparente,” Luca Scherani and Domenico Ingenito take us to an intriguing bit of modern piano intersected by violin that launches a full on prog assault in the form of “Lenta discesa all’Averno.” As the final piece of the “A side,” “Lenta discesa” really utilizes many of the best aspects of Calandriello’s powerful voice, giving us everything from a aggressively soaring lines to delicate bits, and then taking it back up with a storm of intense narration over the top of some heavy organ/guitar/drums. After this sonic explosion we are in for an unexpected turn as the band treats us with a folky section where flute, strings, tambourine, and the ethereal layered vocals of Simona Angioloni create a mystical wrap up to the piece.
All in all, the “B-side” of this album plays off in the same vein as the “A side,” namely, being a string of interconnected tunes that make up a larger work. This time around CdZ kicks it off with a bit of an eerie vibe with the opening lines of “Il paese ferito,” featuring a tune on violin and synths over organ that would go great in a horror flick. The odd meter and subtle arrangement adds to the uncertainty before finally stabilizing when the band enters in at the next section. At this point, the rhythmic interest of guitar/drums really takes center stage as it builds up towards the vocal line; as always, the melody is simple, sweet, and captivating, but this time taking on a light folk influenced feel which is augmented by a beautiful violin melody that follows. The next verse capitalizes on a captivating arrangement where a light interplay between piano and strings in a waltz is absolutely stunning. Moving on to the next track, “Cavanella,” we hear a light, upbeat vocal melody, perhaps one of the ‘catchiest’ of the album up until now. As it progresses we get a rapid stream of lyrics with a flowing, enchanting melody that is supplemented by a meandering violin line. A big climax is due at this point, and the band delivers before taking the opportunity to close off the piece with some proggy instrumental meanderings. At this point, “La staffetta” makes its entrance and initially gives the impression that it will start off with an instrumental section yet surprisingly gives way to the vocals quite quickly. The B section of this tune absolutely soars and demonstrates all I love about Alessio Calandriello’s vocals. For all the awesomeness we’ve seen so far, this song still has a couple more phenomenal sections to deliver, in particular, a very nice strings ensemble and a solo piano delivering melodic variations on many themes from the album, including material from the first half of the album; the result is a really nice way to tie everything in before diving into the final track. What immediately jumps out to me about “Come statua di dolore” (apart from the really cool title), are the great bass lines and really groovy rhythm. Apart from this,CdZ capitalizes on many of their trademark techniques to close it off. First, we get a killer refrain; the way it builds variations on a four note melody, giving a slight sense of urgency and crescendo throughout the arrangement but dying down before it can explode is a great teaser. The instrumental that follows, similarly, is a solid demonstration of what can be built from a simple motif. As we move on I see a band that is skilled in its use of arrangement, dynamic, and restraint as they move towards the closing moments where Mellotron hovers between light and dark, optimism and pessimism.
All in all, La Coscienza di Zeno’s latest, La notte anche di giorno, is a solid offering that seamlessly blends the old and new school of Italian prog rock. At the same time, if there’s one thing I would have liked to see a bit more, it would be variety and distinctiveness in the individual pieces which, on a certain level, seemed to run together in ways that made it sometimes difficult to recall the plethora of beautiful melodies being delivered. Even so, it is evident that the band is continuing to grow compositionally and in particular it is refreshing to hear a prog band with a big emphasis on vocals and in a scenario where the vocalist is actually capable of leaving a big impression on you. As always, I continue to look forward to more releases from this crew of young Italian proggers.