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(60 min, Lizard)
TRACK LIST: 1. Bambina Regina 3:43 2. Rosa 6:11 3. Diana 4:07 4. Monsieur Verdoux 3:27 5. Mari 5:15 6. Libera 3:42 7. Umbria 5:29 8. Luminosa 6:00 9. Metro 6:17 10. Contrasto Della Villanella 3:42 11. Piccolina 5:42 12. Terramare 6:25 PERSONNEL: Leonardo Bonetti - bass; keyboards; vocals Fabio Brait - el. & ac. guitars Aldo Orazi - drums With: Paola Peraiorni - female vocals Tonino De Sisinno - percussion
Prolusion. It took all of two years for Italian group ARPIA to record "Terramare" which is their first corporeal contribution to their native progressive rock movement.
Analysis. There are no instrumentals among the twelve tracks that this 60-minute recording is made up of, but only two of the songs, Rosa and Contrasto Della Villanella, are vocal-heavy, both finding singer Leonardo Bonetti (pluralistically a bass and keyboard player) sharing the lead vocals with a guest female musician, Paola Peraiorni. The ballad-like Rosa is the sole tune that is free of any heavy textures, additionally standing out for its trivial verse-chorus construction. Contrasto Della Villanella, although heavy, falls out of the disc's general concept as well, since this is a traditional hard-rock number, much in the style of AC/DC. The album would have not only lost nothing if these two hadn't been included (especially taking into consideration its solid durability), but would have been much more coherent in its pan-musical appearance. The other ten cuts are representatives of two styles, but nevertheless they can easily be divided into three parts. Bambina Regina, Monsieur Verdoux and Libera, each is driving, intense proto-progressive Metal with no keyboards somewhere halfway between Fates Warning's "The Spectre Within" and "Ram It Down" by Judas Priest, kind of lazy, as if laid back of surrounding events vocals creating an effective contrast with fast, energetically saturated instrumental arrangements. The only problem I have with these three is their lack of truly expressive electric guitar solos (unlike those of bass for instance), although I can appreciate Fabio Brait's effort in diversifying the picture when riffing. As for Aldo Orazi's drum work, it is just perfect, the man feeling right at home everywhere on the album, particularly shining within the sections with complex stop-start movements. All seven of the remaining songs concern Doom Metal, but two of these, Metro and the title track follow the genre's primary version quite strictly, thus securing the inevitability of parallels between them and early Black Sabbath. The other five, Diana, Mari, Umbria, Luminosa and Piccolina, form precisely half of the disc's content since together they run for 30 minutes. Each of these is already a highly-modified, lushly-symphonized Doom Metal, the music at times being so fragile and atmospheric that only those knowing that style inside out will recognize it in these instances. Most often however, this material appears to be a very well balanced combination where the heaviness of Metal is perceived as being fundamentally inseparable from the lushness of symphonic structures. Although few genuine quirks can be found on these too, each possesses some zest and is generally more attractive than any of the previously described, at least to this reviewer's mind. Those familiar with Tiamat's fourth album, "Wildhoney", - be sure, you are already halfway to the understanding of what the instrumental canvases of these are about. On the other hand however, the influence is striking for the most part only in the themes developing alongside the vocals, but since Leonardo Bonetti sings here exclusively in an Italian traditional fashion, each of the five sounds fresh and never really derivative. To be objective, I also must note that Arpia doesn't fall into the category of imitators anywhere on "Terramare" - despite all the references used.
Conclusion. While Arpia obviously didn't have the intention of restoring the sound which was fashionable back in the '80 and the '90, they've succeeded in that anyway. Overall, their "Terramare" is a pretty decent debut offering, and although this music will not appeal to sympho-prog lovers or even those into classic Prog-Metal either, it will certainly not remain without its gratified listeners.
VM: February 5, 2006
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