|Musical Style: Progressive Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Italy|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 52:08|
It seemed to happen when no one was looking, but all of a sudden Italy has turned into a hotbed of Christian based progressive music. Consider two of the regions more significant groups, Timesword, bringing a Dream Theater and Symphony X influenced sound to its 2010 debut Chains Of Sin, and Seven Horizons, approaching things from a traditional progressive rock standpoint on its self-titled initial offering also from 2010. The latest band to report on is S91. Playing what it describes as “progressive metal with psychedelic influences”, S91 debuted with a 5 song EP entitled Sto Per Tornare in 2009 while releasing its most recent work, the full length effort Volonta Legata, two years later.
Progressive? Without a doubt, particularly when considering some of the more complex tracks to Volonta Legata, such as the 3 part eighteen minute epic “The Seal Of The Living God” and “Memories”, a nine minute piece that also breaks down into 3 parts. The two take an almost Neal Morse type approach in that they are actually several songs creatively woven together to form a complementary whole. “Ribelle”, the second nine minute number here, and the albums six minute title track present with their share of technical and intricate time signatures as well.
The only songs to break from the progressive mold include grooving bass guitar driven instrumental “Golgota” and the keyboard and acoustic based ballad “Spazio Inconcepibile”.
But psychedelic? I do not get it, unless S91 is referring to its quirky sounding name (at least they did not settle on something really weird like Chocolate Eyeball) or penchant for instrumental moments featuring ethereal guitar feedback and atmospheric keyboards. No matter how you add it up, S91 are not shy about showcasing its instrumental sound - perhaps this is what they mean by “psychedelic” after all - as it impressively demonstrates on “Ribelle”, “The Seal Of The Living God” and “Volontà Legata”.
BTW, for those who are wondering, S91 is actually short for Psalm 91.
What I appreciate about Volonta Legata is how it brings enough over the top progressiveness to appeal to those whose tastes range from Neal Morse to Pink Floyd to Shadow Gallery to Dream Theater and all things in between. And this is what helps separate S91 from the crowd in that it is truly progressive- none of this hinting at the progressive but not always delivering as can occasionally happen in today’s hard music scene. In other words, you will encounter enough complex songwriting and maze like twists and turns to keep most progressive aficionados interested for time to come. But like much progressive rock I found Volonta Legata somewhat difficult to get into the first couple listens - I guess you could say this about all good prog albums, right? - but it grew on me with repeated play.
The only questions revolve around the female vocal trio of Maria Londino, Sefora Bonaccorsi and Tania Petrone. Now, when was the last time you heard of a progressive group with a female vocalist, let alone three of them? Irregardless, give S91 credit for doing something different in that it is not often you get to hear three part female vocal harmonies or three different female vocalists trading off within the same track. At this point it must be noted that the three sing in a similar style and range and, as a result, it is difficult to place a “voice” with a “face”.
The trio is at their best during the albums quieter moments, such as “Spazio Inconcepibile”, “Memories” and portions of “The Seal Of The Living God”. Otherwise, they struggle somewhat to be heard over the instrumentation in that neither brings the raw power one often associates with metal vocalists. Not that this is a drawback but the three lack the projection of contemporaries Anji Cornette (HarvestBloom), Sonia Sauruk (Static Fuse) and Johanna of HB. Again, no detraction - and the trio are not lacking ability - but often I am left wondering if the vocal approach here potentially holds S91 back from greater acclaim. A Lance King type might work better.
This would be a good time to note that the majority of the lyrics are in the groups native Italian, with the tracks “Memories” and portions of “The Seal Of The Living God” being the lone exceptions.
Musicianship, otherwise, is quite good. It starts with guitarist Francesco Romeggini, who provides the needed force with his metal laced riffs and technical soloing, but when need calls for it can also calm things with some well timed acoustic guitar. Giacomo Manfredi nails some monster bass lines (check out his work on “Golgota”), while the keyboard work of Francesco Londino accents and polishes without unnecessarily dominating.
The albums crisp and clean production values are ably done.
Track By Track
Instrumental “Golgota” moves its distance to interplay between weighty rhythm guitars and a prevailing - almost groove flavored - bass line. Some swirling keyboards make their presence felt as does a high strung guitar solo.
Some epic and symphonic underpinnings can be found on the albums title track. Highlighting a balanced merging of keyboards and guitar, “Volonta Legata” shines with its flowing melody and front to back upbeat proclivity. S91 showcases its musicianship throughout an extended instrumental run in which a precise bass line gives way to a razor edged stretch of lead guitar.
The nine minute “Memories” breaks down into three parts, with the first, “Past Life”, brining some AOR influences flavorings as lightly played guitar and rolling drums flow over angelic female vocals. Calm and even is the feel at hand. Lyric snippet:
Shaking hands should mean trust
But sounded like deceit to me
Loneliness, humiliation, violence, sadness
My ghosts – everlasting friends
At night, thank to the dark – my eyes didn’t watch my executioner
Thank (the) night, you gave me dreams different from my reality
“Kids Don’t Forget”, the second, immediately starts in ripping instrumental fashion to a keyboard and lead guitar duel before settling into an all out metal mid-paced groove for its heightened verses. Lyric snippet:
Inside of me ghosts of my past
Inside of me memories of the pain
Everything turns around my past life
Everything doesn’t let me go on any further
In my present I only see my past
In my present I know I got stuck
Open are my wounds
Things close to “No More Fear”, as the previous AOR elements briefly return only to give way to a crescendo of heavy hitting guitars. A more melodic hard rock direction is taken as the song flows through its final verse. Lyric snippet:
Then a new mentality, a new nature
You are by my side, friend forever
My decisions are in my hands now
My destiny starts from here, with You
Don’t have to belong to my past
Don’t have to get stuck in my present
Open the box of my hope
Closed are my wounds
“Ribelle”, also nine minutes, delivers its share of time and tempo changes. The song moves through its first initial verses in an upbeat hard rock direction but broken down with several runs of spicy lead guitar. Things abruptly decelerate to an atmospheric passage upheld by swirling keyboards only to just as suddenly descend into a lengthy instrumental interlude. “Ribelle” revisits upbeat territory its final minute. Perhaps it is the guitar harmonies, but I am somewhat reminded of Shadow Gallery.
“The Seal Of The Living God” is an eighteen minute epic breaking down into three parts. “The Plague” opens things to a keyboard driven instrumental before plunging into metal edged verses as harshly done male vocals trade off with angelic female vocals. Lyric snippet:
Four angels on the earth
Four corners of the earth
They’re holding four winds
Which blew on the earth
And he cried hurt not
The earth neither the sea
Till the time we’ll be marked
On the forehead (with) the seal
“L’ascensione” covers the next seven minutes instrumentally in starting to some neo-classical touches before things transition to a run of atmospheric keyboards with guitar feedback in the backdrop.
“La visione”, starting calmly to keyboards in taking an almost ballad based approach, picks up momentum as the guitar kicks in and compels things forward with some tightly woven harmonies and melodies. Piano and keyboards carry things to their decisive conclusion.
More keyboards and piano uphold ballad “Spazio Inconcepibile”. Some acoustic guitar and orchestration make their presence felt as well.
I hear a great deal of potential in S91, another key player in the burgeoning Italian Christian progressive rock scene. Truly progressive, the group brings plenty of twists and turns songwriting wise and joins it with solid musicianship and a proclivity for the instrumental. At the same time give S91 credit for approaching things from a different standpoint with its three part female vocal approach.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Golgota” (3:42), “Volontà Legata” (6:03), “Memories” (9:41), “Ribelle” (9:06), “The Seal Of The Living God” (17:58), “Spazio Inconcepibile” (5:33)
Maria Londino – Lead Vocals
Sefora Bonaccorsi – Lead Vocals
Tania Petrone – Lead Vocals
Francesco Romeggini - Guitars
Francesco Londino – Keyboards
Giacomo Manfredi - Bass