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(153:00 CD+DVD, Azafran Media / Musea Records)
Prolusion. The Italian band IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE was formed back in 1974, and has been an active band unit ever since, making itself one of Italy's longest running progressive rock bands at this stage with an history going back more than 40 years at the time of writing. They didn't release any material until the early ‘90s however, but since the release of their debut album in 1992 a grand total of five studio and three live albums have been released. "Capitolo 8: Live" is their most recent production, released through Azafran Media and Musea Records in 2014.
TRACKLIST: 1. Non Puoi Fingere 13:30 2. La Foresta Dietro Il Mulino Di Johan 9:26 3. Il Saggio 8:45 4. Tra Le Antiche Mura 11:21 5. Malebolge 11:03 6. Stava Scritto 11:53 7. Il Vessillo Del Drago 5:49 LINEUP: Paolo Ferrarotti – drums; keyboards; vocals Tony Pagliuca – piano, synthesizer Andrea Bertino – violin; keyboards Aldo Bergamini – vocals; guitars Mattia Garimanno – drums Dino Fiore – bass
Analysis. It doesn't take all that long before we know that this Italian band is one with their heart and soul placed firmly inside the symphonic progressive rock universe. Long, elegant compositions, sporting wandering piano motifs, delicate keyboard textures ebbing and falling in intensity with some classic organ textures thrown in for good measure, atmospheric guitar soloing and the brittle, haunting sound of the violin dominate their material through and through. On the first few tracks of this live set with more of a folk-tinged flavor to the overall sound, a perception possibly due to the central role the violin often has that takes getting used to, later on my conclusion is that the band explores a general style that draws in plenty of references to bands such as Camel and Genesis, arguably more of the latter than the former, perhaps with a touch of Kansas at times too. Still, familiar sounding material for those with an interest in progressive rock. Their compositions alternate quite nicely between more tranquil passages and sequences sporting a more majestic, richly layered atmosphere, and occasionally lapses into darker sounding territories, adding a stronger contrast to their compositions. And a specific track, Malebolge, has a firmer base in the darker and more theatrical oriented atmospheres of symphonic progressive rock. Charming and enjoyable music, and the classical music references by the piano motifs in particular ones that give the band an edge over others exploring material of this very kind. As far as this live recording goes, it does come with a few negative details however. None of them are of any great concern individually, but in sum, they become a detrimental aspect, at least as far as I'm concerned. The sound comes across as somewhat closed in, and rather unbalanced as well: the drums and bass tend to be too loud in the mix, while the guitar is toned down a bit more than it should. To my ears, this sounds like a mix perhaps more intended for a venue, and with some microphones given a less than ideal placement emphasizing that aspect. Not that this will be of great concern to those who don't listen to a stupid amount of albums each year, I guess, but it is an aspect of this production that should be taken notice of by audiophiles. All in all, the band is well versed in their take on vintage, ‘70s-style symphonic progressive rock, with nods to Genesis and Camel, featuring somewhat more of a direct classical music-oriented atmosphere than many other bands of the same kind. If this live recording manages to present the band and their music in an optimal manner is something I'm less certain about, but there's no doubt about this being a skilled, talented and experienced band unit in their chosen field.
TRACKLIST: 1. Non Puoi Fingere 2. La Foresta Dietro Il Mulino Di Johan 3. Il Saggio 4. Tra le Antiche Mura 5. Leggi e Ascolta 6. Malebolge 7. Staba Scrito 8. Il Vessillo Del Drago LINEUP: Same
Analysis. The live DVD that makes up the second part of this package is from the same concert as the songs used for the live CD. The DVD represents the entire concert though, as one song had to be pulled from the CD version due to time constraints. Since the audio is the same, the same slightly negative remarks about them are an issue also for the DVD version, although I think the audio worked better on the TV speakers than it did when listening to the live CD on headphones. I still found the sound to be a tad closed in, and bass and drums still somewhat overpowered the rest of the instruments. But not to that great effect as when listened to through headphones. The image quality, which is obviously an important aspect of a live DVD, is what I'd describe as decent. There's two or possibly three cameras in action, with fairly high resolution and decent color capture. Not of the same quality as you'll get when a label such as Metal Mind engages their crew to create live DVDs, but fair as well as decent enough, and the crew recording this concert and the ones who have edited the footage have a sure hand that document skilled people who know rather well what they are doing. It's an entertaining watch, which is the most important aspect after all, but in terms of overall quality and image quality this is more in the decent department than anything I'd describe as superior. On a small sidenote I'll need to remark that I didn't get to see the entire DVD, as the promo copy that had been shipped to me unfortunately had gotten a substantial surface scratch at some point, and one extensive enough that my DVD player was unable to continue playing it following the first 45 minutes. Most likely a transportation issue, by the looks of the CD/DVD cover itself something heavy has been adding extensive pressure to this package at some point before it arrived in my hands.
Conclusion. Il Castello Di Atlante is an experienced band unit, and you can tell by the performance that this is a band that is secure in a live setting, both in terms of stage presence as well as the overall performance. As such this live CD and DVD dual package does represent the band in a fine manner. The sound quality is, if not lacking then at least unusually mixed, for my ears. The slightly closed in sound and what sounds like an emphasis on bass and drums doesn't quite suit a progressive rock band in my opinion, and for me and my taste in how music ideally should sound this live production doesn't manage to convey this band at their best. It is a well made production though, and as I guess there won't be too many additional live DVDs forthcoming from this veteran band, their existing fan base obviously should get a copy of this one before it's sold out. Those new to this band should probably give some of their studio albums a check prior to this one.
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