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Mad Fellaz - Mad Fellaz II CD (album) cover

MAD FELLAZ II

Mad Fellaz

 

Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 80 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I was one of the mad fellas who fell in love with this unique Italian prog band's 2013 debut , a curious style that had both familiar and original features, the spirited playing of an all-instrumental set list of epic sized pieces that simply blew many fans and critics away. Everything about "Mad Fellaz" was inspiring: beautiful cover art, a 'squaddra' featuring a dual guitar approach, sensational bass and drum tandem, a flute/ clarinet to add some flavor , two monsters epics to start off with a bang and a general feel of sophistication. I, among many other reviewers, gave this an easy 5 star rating, a very well-deserved appreciation, especially for a debut album. It took three years to come up with a follow-up, a pretty much intact line-up with only a few minor changes but one major one: a lead singer! Anna Farronato sings in English (maybe a hindrance, maybe not), which threw everyone somewhat off guard, at first.

Just like the first album, the Mad Fellaz initiate the recording with another two sizable back to back epics, proving a point of style I guess. The first is the 14 minute "Hollow Shell" , a whopping instrumental that continues where the band left off, hurling inspired notes at break neck speed and oozing with class and flair. Lavish percussion and electric piano always gets my attention, so it took a mere 3 seconds to get me fixated on Paolo Busatto's stinging guitar as the bass and drums impel the theme forward. The vocal does take a few seconds of adaptation, as her style has a strange tone, a squeaking, girlish rant that hints at Annette Peacock or even Kate Bush perhaps, definitely frantic and deranged at times. Lots of perfected details here, Carlo Passuello's chunky and rambunctious bass guitar muscles along beautifully, amid the intricate drum patterns from Marco Busatto (who shines throughout) and stellar keyboard work from Enrico Brunelli, who also provides a mind blowing sax solo. These well- oiled elements do coalesce into a more Canterbury-like sound, complex rolls and loops that give way more width and depth than other more RPI like bands. Jagged, blurred, distorted, angry and then suddenly serene and almost apologetic, the roller coaster intensity is a unique pleasure to discover and rediscover again. It only gets better with repeated listens anyway.

The second opus is a two-part affair, "Blood Pressure I and II", a swooning and otherworldly voice haunts the fluid acoustic guitar phrasings on the short Part one, before that delectable bass rumble sets the wheels in motion for a shockingly delirious ride, doctored with that unmistakable band characteristic of combining comfortable and original in one whopping missile of music. Stinging and biting rhythms while the organ ruffles a few feathers, Anna blasts angrily into the fray, seemingly unafraid of the musical maelstrom being surgically placed at her feet. The electric guitar performs like a scalpel, devouring sinew and tissue alike, blistering and obtuse, hinting at some Italian cousin of Allen Holdsworth, while Anna resorts to sadistically emote urban poetry into the mix, the sax sounding like a car horn gone berserk in a traffic jam (trust me Italians know how to drive and are the world's best at beeping the bejesus out of their klaxons). Penetrating sounds, forcefully intimidating and pulsating furious with unabashed zeal, this is some kind of devilish progressive rock. This track is also a shocker.

Ti Piace? (You like?) "Me Gusta" (I like it) is, at first, a welcome relief after the 2 previous cataclysmic pieces but these fellaz like to keep the blood pressure on high, providing a rollicking promenade of exotic and ecstatic themes. At times, it sounds almost like Santana on steroids, complete with brassy blasts in a Latin frame of mind, slashed by an old school guitar solo that will bring your house down and a drum solo that winks at Michael Shrieve at Woodstock. This owns not only class and style but humor as well. Daring, adventurous and cool.

"Ovo" offers another 11 minutes of exhilarating enjoyment, giving the piano a chance for Enrico to show off more of his talent. Combining with flute is always a great concept, as the two work well together. As the luxuriant percussion?fueled beat intensifies, the electric guitar starts beaming its illumination in all directions, with Anna adding smooth vocalizations that throb and excite to no end. There is no doubt that there is a pronounced National Health vibe here, not exactly the worst influence one can hope for, as that British band certainly carved a reputation that is now legend. Burdened with endless stops and starts, twists and turns, this a perhaps exhausting labyrinth to deal with but if there is one absolute characteristic of Mad Fellaz, it's definitely their loyalty to ingenious insanity. Note the athletic drum work, the roiling organ forays a la Dave Stewart, the booming bass monster keeping everything in check.

The brutal and austere "Moslem Sabbath" could easily be a soundtrack to some Middle Eastern tragedy (like Aleppo), the lethally pounding drums akin to the devastation falling from the skies, the guitars raging and bloodied, all hammering mercilessly. And then there was ambient serenity, a mournful Arabic-sounding wisp of clanging hand percussion, glittering electric piano ruffles and aromatic flicks of the wrist over the guitar strings. The mysterious blare of the saxophone reprises the sense of forlorn doom displayed earlier, the sinuous clarinet offering prayer to the almighty and finally, the exotic entrance of both the electric guitar and the whirring organ, blasting a linear passage through the Kasbah of sounds. There is a quasi Mahavishnu Orchestra vibe going on here that is exquisite. The short finale resorts to more playfulness, though maintaining the oppressive feel, almost like a Post-rock exercise, slashing guitar panels throbbing wildly in some kind of agony. The theme grows into a crescendo and then, basta! Wow!

I stayed away from comparing this sophomore release to their magnificent debut, and even though it took many repetitions to finally feel comfortable to critique this album on its own merits, I can truthfully announce that it's a marvelous continuance for one of Italy's most promising acts and a beacon of unending entertainment for those who worship originality and style. The sublime cover art maintains the fine reputation that began with the first album. This is one hell of crew, certainly deserving of an avid following in Progland.

5 likes

PS. this review is dedicated to Aussie-Byrd-Brother, a hopefully kindred spirit who never steers me wrong. Ever!

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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