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Phoenix Again - Look Out CD (album) cover

LOOK OUT

Phoenix Again

 

Neo-Prog

3.90 | 107 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Let's start off by giving a round of applause for one of the most surprising Italian prog revelations of 2014! But first, we backtrack a little...2011 saw the debut from Italian band Phoenix Again that had been around since the start of the 80's, yet, like other bands from the vintage 70's era in a similar situation such as Il Cerchio D'Oro and Sezione Franante, they had never released a proper studio album until now. Back in 2007, the band were recording their debut when one of their own, guitar player and vocalist Claudio Lorandi passed away. The final product, `ThreeFour' was a fitting tribute to him, and his playing and brief vocals were the highlight of a very decent, dignified album. It was mostly full of lush Camel styled instrumental pieces, and the band were able to proudly hold their heads high from the results. Some listeners probably wondered if that was to be the sole release from the band, perhaps as if completing the album was a way to offer a final tribute and closure to their former friend. But, after a live album a year later, 2014 brings a very unexpected - and welcome - surprise in this follow-up release entitled `Look Out', and the album couldn't be more appropriately titled, as I don't think even fans of the band would have expected something this impressive!

`Look Out' sees Phoenix Again take all the promise and potential they showed on their pleasing debut and aim straight for the stars, and the result in one of the most varied, dynamic and powerful instrumental albums of the year. The band draw on all their musical ability, playing with such focus, determination and real purpose here. I wonder if it was the need to show that they can carry on without Claudio and still offer effective music, or perhaps they were setting the bar high for themselves to make it as worthy of his legacy as possible. Likely it was a combination of both these things, but the results are right there on disc for the whole world to enjoy. The debut was already a family affair, with the late Claudio's recordings supported by brothers Antonio (bass) and Sergio (guitars), and this time a further two relatives are added in the form of Marco (guitars) and Giorgio (percussion)! The four Lorandi fellas, with carry-over drummer Silvano Silva and keyboard player Andrea Piccinelli deliver sublime instrumental thrills.

There's not much to align Phoenix Again with the proper Italian/RPI styles that many other bands from that country play in, instead they take sounds from almost every genre imaginable to make a colourful, varied and constantly unpredictable album. Bands such as Rousseau, Camel and Sanhedrin still apply, as well as perhaps newer Italian bands such as Progenesi, but despite constant direction and tempo changes, everything works beautifully throughout with seamless transitions. Spacerock, classical drama, hard-rock, electro-pop and symphonic prog all feature and blend perfectly together.

Twelve minute opener `Adso da Melk' effortlessly glides through the warmest acoustic guitar prettiness, foot tapping jazzy licks, fiery electric guitar driven fusion and grand symphonic melodies back and forth, by way of loopy trilling syth soloing, bristling Hammond organ, murmuring bass, punchy drumming, weeping violin and regal Mellotron strains, all alternating between delicate restraint and excitement. An infectious and catchy repeated lead guitar melody and reflective accordion rings out offering lighter comfort over thick menacing bass and uneasy synths during `Oigres'. The band builds up a hypnotic repetition through gutsy bluesy guitar muscle with a sprinkling of electric piano and searing Mellotron veils on the title track, slowly twisting it into a delirious and noisy frantic space- rock trip almost resembling the Oresund Space Collective! Antonio's bass is absolutely relentless on this one, mixed nice and thick as well. Sedate `Summer' is full of lovely drifting Floydian/Alan Parsons Project synths with light orchestral moments. Just wait for the triumphant rocket-sized electric guitar solo as the piece kicks up in tempo in the middle, and the Mellotron crescendo leaves me no doubt this is one of the best instrumentals to appear on an Italian prog album in 2014, alongside Logos' 'N.A.S'. Bonus points for the playful jazzy final 30 seconds too!

`The Endless Battle' blasts the listener with a stomping Iron Maiden-like mule kick, all thrashing drumming and viper-like biting lead electric guitar runs and molten Hammond organ meltdown. The same manic energy here was present on the brilliant Carpe Nota debut album a couple of years back, so fans of that one will dig this as well. The band take a break on the only vocal piece here, `Invisible Shame' a more upbeat straight-ahead rocker, the late Claudio's raspy vocal giving it a slightly melancholic quality. I think this piece may have worked better placed right at the end of the album, as the sudden move to vocals and out again by the next track is a little jarring! But it's a fine tune anyway, so moving on to the dirty electro-pop guitar grooves of `Winter', which has the whole band on fire! Joyous electric guitar soloing, busy drumming, unravelling synth noodling and slinky bass worming its way around the backdrop in a serpent-like manner! After working up a sweat, the band close on a short romantic piece full of classical guitar, flute, violins and cello, and it's the closest the band come to a proper RPI sound, perhaps along the lines of the more whimsical and sweeping instrumental moments from P.F.M. A delightful and exquisite way to close the album.

`Look Out' is simply one of the finest instrumental works to emerge in 2014. The band have seriously stepped up on this follow-up release with power, finesse and so much variety, and they can truly go anywhere from here. The constant direction changes and extra heaviness is a welcome surprise this time around, who knew these pleasant gentleman had this energy inside them?! Damn they kick all sorts of rear-end throughout much of the disc! Once again, its further proof that Italy is producing many wonderful and exciting works throughout 2014, and I have no doubt Claudio Lorandi is looking down on his friends and couldn't be happier with the results they've all delivered here.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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