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Wicked Minds (Italy) - 2004 - "From the Purple Skies"
TRACK LIST: 1. From the Purple Skies 6:08 2. The Elephant Stone 6:33 3. Drifting 7:40 4. Across the Sunrise 8:53 5. Forever My Queen 2:56 6. Rising Above 7:03 7. Queen of Violet 6:19 8. Space Child 9:08 9. Gypsy 5:22 10. Return to Uranus 18:14 All tracks: by Wicked Minds, except 5: B. Liebbing & 9: M. Box / K. Hensley. Produced & engineered by Wicked Minds. LINE-UP: Lucio Calegari - electric & acoustic guitars; tambourine; vocals Paolo Negri - keyboards & piano JC - lead & backing vocals Andrea Concarotti - drums Enrico Garilli - bass With: Patrizio Borlenghi - flute
Prolusion. WICKED MINDS is a young Italian band, and "From the Purple Skies" is their debut album. In the CD press kit their music is described as seventies' Hard Rock with psychedelic and progressive elements and is compared to Warhorse, Arzachel, Waterloo, and a few other bands, which are unknown to me.
Analysis. I liked most of the albums that I received for my review this autumn, and I have even forgotten when I heard something ordinary for the last time (not counting the latest by Yoke Shire, of course). This gladdens me very much, though I feel I must be especially objective when writing one positive review after another. Which demands from me much more attention when listening to music, so I often resort to a few repeated listens, which, in its turn, takes more time than usual. Reiterations in the reviews are also inevitable in such cases. And how would I avoid them, without losing the authenticity of my words, if I meet the same phenomenon in different works? As you will see below, the situation around the purity of a style on this recording and those on the latest albums by The Black and Zess are identical. (By that, however, any similarities between the bands are ending.) Well, Wicked Minds present the listener ten songs with English lyrics, all being at once filled with the distinctive English spirit and what I would call the '70s' magic. Really. Apart from the band's own compositions, there are the renderings of Pentagram's Forever My Queen and Uriah Heep's very first hit Gypsy. I think I'd better tell you right now that both of them sound heavier than the originals and are more diverse than them, at least. Otherwise I would have called in question their inclusion in the album, which, by the way, is monstrously long at 78+ minutes. I don't find the outfits that are mentioned in the CD press kit as being kindred with Wicked Minds to be really suitable for the comparison. Whereas the names of the band's real teachers in absentia are too well known to leave them overboard: Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd. The album opens with the title track, on which the band as if decided to show that they are easily able to be on par with their favorites. Having managed to unite the three different styles into one cohesive whole, they played the mixture at an extremely high speed. This is progressive Hard Rock, not Prog-Metal, and I don't know any Hard Rock band that would have played as fast as Wicked Minds did on the opening number. It is performed so masterfully and is so impressive that the fact of its derivativeness loses any relevance. The Elephant Stone displays a similar picture. However, the Pink Floyd influence is absent, while the band's original compositional thinking becomes more apparent. There is a rather long episode with purely symphonic textures, provided by passages of acoustic guitar and solos of Hammond, which does not evoke any associations, to say the least. Apart from the last cut (and not counting the renditions, of course), all the following tracks are absolutely free of influences, and just all of them without exception are outstanding, from any standpoint. All the terms and epithets I've used when described Zess's sudden turn to a completely original sound are topical in this case, too, though I must add that the level of progressiveness of Wicked Minds' music is much higher. The style is either progressive Cathedral Metal with elements of symphonic Art-Rock as on Across the Sunrise, Forever My Queen, Rising Above, Queen of Violet, and Gypsy or a balanced blend of these genres as on Drifting and Space Child. Both of the latter songs feature a guest flute player, as well as Return to Uranus. This 18-minute epic is like a container of all the textures, original and derived, that are available on the previous tracks. Finally, I'd like to mention that the band's keyboard equipment consists exclusively of vintage models: Hammond, Moog, Mellotron, Rhodes, and Grand Piano. They are used nearly everywhere on the album, so I would say its sonic palette is unbelievably rich in symphonic colors. Generally, the music is so inflammatory and driving that I can't stop myself from playing the CD at least once a day.
Conclusion. The conclusion on Wicked Minds' debut outing won't be verbose. Although some derivativeness has been found, "From the Purple Skies" is the most impressive and simply the best progressive Hard Rock album I've heard in many years. So you shouldn't be surprised to find it among my favorites of 2004. (>Top-20)
VM: November 17, 2004
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