- Brilliant Vocal Delivery
Seems like La Coscienza di Zeno is one of those fairly recent RPI bands that I’m hearing a lot of positive words about lately, and rightfully so, especially after hearing their recent release, Sensivita. Sporting members from various Italian bands (Il Tempio delle Clessidere, Malombra, Narrow, and Finisterre), La Coscienza di Zeno is a group that is not lacking in experience and uniqueness. While they maintain a very distinct RPI sound, CDZ manages to do so without sounding totally throwback or like a ripoff of other RPI groups. There’s something about this band that still says 2013 despite the fact that there is plenty about their sound palette and vibe that screams out 70’s prog.
After a brief piano intro, CDZ wastes no time in screaming out ‘prog’ with some roaring Moog lead right up in your face. “La Citta di Dite” goes all out with memorable vocal lines and a wall of guitars and keys that aren’t afraid to get heavy. On the back end it also demonstrates the sheer emotion the band can conjure up in the soft sections through nicely layered arrangements and phenomenal interpretations of vocal lines. After this strong opener these Italian boys decide, for a couple of songs, to take a break from the heaviness of the first track as they quickly move on to “Sensitivita,” a piece that delivers a passionate, almost romantic, vocal performance and is all around one of the most focused songs on the album. Next up is “Tenue,” a jazzy piano driven track employing low fi effects on vocals and drums to deliver a sort of nostalgic feel drenched in melancholy.
“Chiusa 1915” takes us right back into prog territory with some nice interplay between keys, bass, guitar, and drums before introducing a piano part that weaves smoothly in and out of the heavier sections. After getting a bit more somber we dive straight into some vocal lines that really shine before building power, adding guitar, organ and analog leads for some oomph. “Tensegrita” caught my attention with loads of piano-work and an ending section featuring a variation on “A Whiter Shade of Pale” while “Pauvre misere” gives us some great 7/8 grooves and standout use of vibrato and nuanced inflections from Alessio Calandriello, and even includes a really cool instrumental section spearheaded by guest strings players. If there’s a piece on this album that is pretty zany, this is it, whirling through passages that recall neoprog, avant-garde, symphonic rock, and even prog metal.
Then there’s “La temperanza,” the true beast of the album. Clocking in at over ten minutes, “La temperanza” shows that La Coscienza di Zeno can do much more than just write cool songs. Starting off with interweaving piano, violin, and cello, with a strong emphasis on counterpoint and neoclassical chamber atmosphere, the piece certainly knows how to give you some twists and turns as it subsequently rolls through folky accordion and strings and even gets dance-like at times while still maintaining a sense of darkness in the vocal melodies. As we approach the five minute mark the tone gets even more grim and the band spices it up with distorted guitar and an instrumental part that incorporates symphonics and even a hint of avante-garde before returning to a very passionate vocal performance with minimal instrumentation and no percussion. After passing through the final phases of a banquet of symphonic rock, the band wraps up this piece which truly capitalizes on its instrumental sections. We’ll see what the future holds, but I’m anticipating some real epic stuff from CDZ in the future after hearing this piece.
Sensitivita turns out to be an impressive sophomore release from a band that already got off to a phenomenal start with their first album. In reality, it’s a record that offers fantastic performances on each member’s respective instrument while keeping a clear song driven direction with key emphasis on the vocals; Calandriello’s sublime voice instantly calls to mind the passionate and theatrical vocal tradition of bands such as Locanda delle Fate and Banco del Mutuosoccorso and is always right up front, driving the performance (he even got huge compliments from my wife, who is not a prog fan!). As a solid backdrop to the vocals we see loads of Scherani’s moody piano playing that often has a slight jazz feel, giving the band a unique touch, supported by an extremely tasteful rhythm section. In the end, if you’re looking for focused songwriting, powerful melodies, and passionate vocals, you’ve come to the right place. Kudos to La Coscienza di Zeno for a great release.