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Il Segno del Comando - Il Volto Verde CD (album) cover

IL VOLTO VERDE

Il Segno del Comando

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.80 | 20 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars `Il Volto Verde' (`The Green Face'), the 2013 release from Il Segno del Comando, again proves that this intelligent Italian band take their time between releases, carefully researching, composing and performing darker styled Italian progressive music, with the results more than worth the wait. An adaption of another book written by Gustav Meyrink in 1916, `The Green Face', like the other works the band has adapted, is full of cryptic mysticism and dark spiritual elements, making it the perfect source for main composer Diego Banchero and this new line-up to interpret. The two previous releases had quite a different sound to each-other, the debut mixed gloomy atmospheres with classic Italian prog, the follow-up `Der Golem' focused on more a modern mix of Gothic rock. However, this latest one, arriving 11 years after the previous work, mixes in everything from dirty funk grooves, 80's electro-pop, classical grandiosity and avant garde experimentation into their usual sombre take on creeping and suspenseful gothic Italian prog.

One thing that particularly separates this work from the previous releases is the prominent role of a female vocalist for the first time. Maethelyiah is a revelation, effortlessly conveying haunted, sorrowful and imposing femininity, yet also frequently bringing an edgy eroticism and sensuality. Her participation with the Comando project now places the band alongside other unsettling Italian bands with female participants such as Lydia e gli Hellua Xenium, Jacula/Antonius Rex and the Universal Totem Orchestra, with traces of their sound filtered through this work as well.

The opening instrumental introduction is all twinkling, crystalline imperial synth orchestration before the listener is blasted with the wickedly sexy `La Bottegga delle Meraviglie', full of snarling (and surprising!) funky wah-wah guitar and punchy bass that slinks it's way throughout the background of the piece like a serpent. Maethelyiah's intimidating presence arrives immediately, and Diego's bandmate, Vinz Aquarian, from their band Il Ballo delle Castagne, provides some tasty Moog soloing, truly making it the soundtrack to some secret gothic club. Fernando Cherchi's whiplash snapping drumming dominates `Chidher il Verde', Maethelyiah bellowing like a banshee unleashed, an infernal priestess leading haunting female choirs over wavering ghostly synths. `Trenodia delle Dolci Parole' is a sombre acoustic ballad with a tense symphonic instrumental break in the middle. The piece is sung with perfect sorrow and dread by Sophya Baccini, and it's surely one of the most exquisite pieces ever to appear on a Comando album.

Listen for Deigo's unbelievably fluid rapid-fire fretless bass soloing throughout `Il Rituale', a shimmering electro experiment full of disorientating effects and skittering percussion behind his playing. Then we reach another absolute album highlight, `La Congrega dello Zee Dyk', where it's quirky 80's programmed melody could almost be mistaken for a Goblin outtake! However, this complex piece is much more intense, an overwhelming and senses-shattering hypnotic drone, with solemn male choir vocals increasingly wearing the listener down, guest David Krieg's almost hostile, sinister croon purring and croaking recited passages that weigh heavily on your sanity. Some church organ, a little Rick Wakeman-like classical pomp and mangled electric guitar soloing feature to nice effect too. Resistance is useless to this trance-inducing piece.

The monolithic `Il Manusscritto' is full of pounding slab-like intimidation contrasted with dizzying up-tempo energy constantly blasted by Maethelyiah's shrieking multi-tracked choir harmonies, and a constant back-and-forth dirty grooving strut with some lusty electric guitar throughout. The Hammond-cooked almost psychedelic instrumental `L'Evocazione di Eva' is full of stirring sax and flute soloing from Delirium's Martin Grice and blowout Moog/Mellotron/organ work from Claudio Simoenetti.`Retrospettiva...' is a more emotional and reflective piece that perfectly compliments earlier track `Trenodia?', with Maethelyiah's longing voice just as heart-breaking and torn as Sophya's. There's some scorching electric guitar winding around the entire piece and some supremely dank fretless bass lurking in the background too.

`Usibepu' opens with an almost groaning Magma-like tone, especially due to Diego's hypnotic repetitive bass, before becoming a feral stomp with metallic King Crimson aggression and hissing serpentine vocals over slinky electronic lusty grooves. The electric guitar solo from psych/space-rocker Giorgio Cesare Neri over the finale recalls Antonio Bartoccetti's playing over electronic atmospheres from the comeback Antonius Rex works! A very sexy track indeed. He also plays on the delirious `L'Apocallise', the closest the band come to a metal sound here, with a thrashing up-tempo energy of ballistic keyboard freakouts and manic wailing vocals from Giani Leone of RPI legends Il Balletto di Bronzo. `Epilogo' is a doomy nightmare synth soundscape with a breathless, suffocating narration from David Krieg that closes this book in a very unnerving manner.

With evocative cover artwork that unnervingly captures the work it's based on, `Il Volto Verde' provides a daunting musical interpretation of various passages and characters found in the old novel, with a maddening sense of claustrophobia and poisonous insanity clawing it's way through the compositions. Often more accessible than their previous albums, but still as frequently diverse and experimental, it's a dense work that proves exceptionally rewarding with repeated plays. In no way a standard gothic metal clichéd work, Diego and his bandmates are more challenging and truly progressive than that. They constantly display great respect to the original innovators of the Italian progressive scene of the 70's while remaining modern, contemporary and relevant.

Diego recently commented that a stable line-up of this current version of the band is in place, so perhaps we won't have to wait as long for our next eerie journey from Il Segno del Comando. But for now, along with Sophya Baccini's Arcadia's `Big Red Dragon', Antonius Rex's `Hystero Demonopathy` and Three Monks' `The Legend of the Holy Circle', the dark corner of Italian progressive music has never been more vibrant and focused.

Four and a half stars - and be sure to check out Andrea's definitive review with plenty of wonderful lyric translations!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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