- Epic Concept Album Approach
When you hear that a band has decided to make a sequel to such a classic album as Felona e Sorona by RPI extraodinaires Le Orme, you tend to get a bit worried. When you realize that the band is going as far as using the same artist to make it not only a musical but a visual continuation, the stakes go even higher. Well, I am happy to be able to say that La Maschera di Cera did not disappoint on such a project with sights set so high. Le porte del domani knocked me off my feet. While their previous album, Petali di fuoco was solid, I think we are all happy to see that the new Maschera di Cera record takes large steps away from that more pop oriented direction and back into the full fledged prog experience of their early and more ambitious works like Il grande laberinto. The band is indeed at their best and in top notch form with Le porti del domani, an album which is thoroughly soaked in waves of lush mellotron, whirling synths and gorgeous melodies.
“Ritorno dal nulla” launches us off with an explosion of sweeping synths leading into aggressive bursts of flute and choir as it sets a high standard early on for an album full of vintage prog glory. Right up front and in your face is Zuffanti’s fuzzy bass, but perhaps most immediately notable on this album is the huge role that Agostino Macor’s keyboards will take, placing him in the drivers seat for much of the album. When Allessandro Corvaglia’s voice makes its first entrance, it is truly glorious; following an abundance of mood shifts from spacey to somber, his mysterious vocal melodies delivered by that memorable gritty voice show that there is no disadvantage to lacking in refinement when you have heaps of passion and surplus emotion.
For those who have seen the music video, you’ll already be familiar with “La guerra di mille anni.” If you liked that track on the video, you’ll absolutely love it here within the broader context of the album. Honestly, I have rarely been this satisfied with a pop ballad. This thing is loaded with attention-grabbing hooks that are never corny, a must for any piece written in a popular style. Additionally Corvaglia’s rough vocals provide a wonderful sense of balance to the piece, while the overall instrumentation which combines loads of Mellotron with folky flute and guitar is absolutely brilliant.
As we plunge further into the album, the band makes it immediately apparent that Le porte del domani is all about atmosphere and diverse moods. “Ritratto di lui” makes a smooth transition from the last piece and delivers full on with its use of cosmic synths and an initial abandonment of drumming. When space gives way to Mellotron flute, Zuffanti and company leave us with just keys and vocals, making for a marvelous melodic journey that becomes heavenly with its bombastic use of tron and timpani. From such a magical and mysterious closing, the band opens the gates to perhaps their darkest and most brutal moments in the form of “Le enorme abisso” and “Viaggio metafisico.” These two aggressive pieces immediately toss us into a haunting assault of choirs and moog, flanked by a pulverizing rhythm section of distorted guitars, bass, and drumming as they lay down the setting for some powerful vocal lines.
Between and following the pair of aforementioned songs lie two soft and beautiful tracks: “Ritratto di lei” and “Albe nel tempio.” “Ritratto di lei,” with its mystical chiming and ghostly female vocal intro, augments the theatrical passion which is present throughout Le porte del domani. Both this track and “Albe nel tempio” provide a fulfilling sense of rest while simultaneously imbuing the album with a profound sense of meaningful musical and vocal narrative.
As we head towards the end of the album the journey moves us towards what feels like the logical successor to “La guerra dei mille anni” in the form of “Luce sui due mondi,” a piece which is at first folky, but quickly moves towards an epically climactic chorus, replete with heartfelt Mellotron and powerful drumming. Close attention to little details like bells to embellish chord changes and sweeping synths make this chorus a delight before Macor finishes off the piece with a wonderful bit of thick Moog lead that is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. As “Luce” wraps up, the band puts it in gear for its final farewell, the aptly named “Alle porte del domani,” a piece whose title rightly implies the psychedelic/spacey direction of a song which could totally work with the infamous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If I had to say where I believe the genius and mastery of Le porte del domani lies, its in the way in which it is absolutely apparent that this is first and foremost an album, not just a collection of tunes. Its journey and balance between emotional and musical dynamics, combined with the perfect way in which songs transition in and out, make this a fabulous display of the power of songs that fit together like a puzzle in order to form a single work of art where the big picture, the collective, is far greater than its individual parts. To a certain extent the band has really eliminated the need for melodies that serve only a particular song. In fact, the essence of various tracks are so interconnected that I can hardly see one listening to this shuffled into their random Ipod playlist at all. I hope that no one will find that discouraging, because what La Maschera di Cera have delivered in the form of Le porte del domani is a record that will make you feel extremely fulfilled by sitting down in front of your home stereo, plopping down on the couch with album in hand, and focusing solely on the music, just how I like it.