Symphonic progressive rock has been one of Italy’s many successful export products for years. Even though I am not one of the people who literally make it into a daily consumption, I have enjoyed my share of progressive rock from Italy the past couple of years. It’s not difficult to appreciate the older bands there, like Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Formeria Marconi (PFM) or Museo Rosenbach.
When I was actively monitoring Unsigned Bands on ProgArchives, I also got to know bands like I Pennelli di Vermeer, who took a completely new angle on progressive music by mixing symphonic rock with ska and musical style things, and J’Accuse…!, who took a more psychedelic than symphonic approach.
And now, with Unreal City, there is another young band that makes me feel glad the country from which my name originates has entered my collection. This time, it is a band that is rooted very much in symphonic, keyboard oriented rock that we know from the seventies, but who manage to completely overhaul it to a 21st century sound and structure – and quite succesfully so.
As can be expected, the leading role in the compositions of this band go to the keyboards and guitar – played by band founder Emanuele Tarasconi and Francesca Zanneta. They cannot exist without the rhythmic foundation of Dario Pessina (bass) and Frederico Bedostri (succeeded by Andrea Gardani after recordings of this album were finished).
The music that Unreal City presents on this album is contains everything from melancholic piano pieces, to almost ELP-like craziness, and from folk like tunes to full blown rock. All of this pieced together in 7 tracks, varying in length from 5 up to 20 minutes.
The instrumental opening Overture: Obscurus fio already contains a lot of the above. A rhythm pulse laid down by the drums and bass seems to drive the keyboards, only interrupted briefly for a guitar solo.
On Oniromanzia the keyboards lead once again, from the start, but soon quiet down to let Emanuele demonstrate his fine Italian his voice. After an organ solo we are treated to some full blown rock before Emanuele returns to complete the story he is telling in the (unfortunately for me Italian) lyrics. A similar build up, yet still a completely different song, is shown in Caligari, another great rock piece – that invites to turn up the volume. After that, La Meccanica dell’ombro starts in a more folky fashion – containing both Greekish folk tunes, as well as middle eastern tunes on the keyboards and guitar. After an emotional piece of singing, the keyboards once again explode to finish off the song.
Then on Il Nome de Lei, for the first time the guitar is the leading instrument, with two very tasteful solos by Francesca, that seamelessly go in and out of the vocal parts. This serves as a relatively relaxed intro to the rockiest track on the album, Lo Schermo di Pietra. Bombastic, with whirlwinds of drums and keyboards, but also with a soft, piano accompanied vocal part hidden in the middle. This is easily my favourite song, and I would love to see Emanuel pull of the keyboards and vocals (interacting with each other in the finale).
The finale of the album itself is a 20 minute epic called Ex Tenebrae Lux. This one requires a good listen – but there is no background music on this album anyway. Great vocals, nice interaction between guitar and keyboards and once again a mix of ELP-like keyboard punishment interleave with quieter parts. To top it off, Francesca lets here mellotron have the last word.
I’ll be missing out on Unreal City‘s gig in ‘t Blok in Nieuwerkerk, but I hope to catch them later this year in Antwerp. I need to see and hear this come to live.