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Cellar Noise - Alight CD (album) cover

ALIGHT

Cellar Noise

 

Symphonic Prog

3.76 | 77 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Italian band Cellar Noise was formed by keyboardist Niccolò Gallani and guitarist Alessandro Palmisano back in 2013, and despite a few line-up changes since then, the band quickly came to the attention of modern Italian prog-rock icon Fabio Zuffanti, who agreed to produce their debut album. Zuffanti's gut instinct for spotting talent has once again paid off brilliantly, as Cellar Noise's 2016 debut `Alight' is an absolute symphonic knockout beginning to end, lyrically being an observation on the mundanity of modern life but managing both stark and hopeful themes, and a work that perfectly blends vintage prog-rock and current sounds.

On the surface, Cellar Noise often calls to mind the classic Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis period (instrumentally at least, but not at all vocally) given a modern makeover by way of a younger keyboard-heavy Italian group like Unreal City, and they deliver a rich level of musical precision that reminds of classic Italian band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. There's a touch here and there of heavier guitar grunt that will appeal to younger listeners, and it frequently has a refreshing vocal-driven melodic approach that will make it instantly accessible, as well as also being one of the better examples of an Italian band utilizing English of recent years.

Like with Promenade's recent debut `Noi al dir di Noi', it's perhaps a gamble that a vocal-driven band open their debut disc with a near ten-minute instrumental, but that's what `Dive with Me' is, and WHAT an instrumental! Think the regal Mellotron veils and organ pomp of Genesis' `Watcher of the Skies' spiced with lonely sax, Eric Bersan's peppy drumming, fancy acoustic guitars and sparkling grand piano, all growing together in carefully building drama. Once Niccolò's whirring keyboard overkill hits, we're instantly reminded of current popular Italian prog-bands like Unreal City and La Coscienza di Zeno, and as stirring violin, soft flute, creaking oboe and elegant cello concoct almost classical-flavoured themes, it definitely takes the band the closest to a pure RPI moment (or even Fabio Zuffanti's own symphonic Hostsonaten project), as well as being one of the loveliest and most exceptional instrumental pieces of the year.

But the vocal pieces don't disappoint either, as singer Francesco Lovari has a soothing and amiable voice, and his use of charmingly accented English here mostly works very well. He swoons and trills around bassist Loris Bersan's placid acoustic guitar strums and colourful keyboards of `Underground Ride', where grandiose Mellotron choir rises, Alessandro Palmisano's soaring Steve Hackett-esque reaching guitar strains and even stream-of-consciousness spoken-word passages intertwine throughout a gorgeous and melodic tune, and the two minute instrumental break from the 4:30 mark will make Genesis fans smile wildly!

The darkly romantic `Embankment' is book-ended with a vivid lyric aided splendidly by softly melancholic yet pretty piano, but the piece also unexpectedly breaks into dirtier heavy guitar tantrums and manic keyboard outbursts in the middle. `Temple' is highlighted by Loris Bersan's ravishing classical guitar, and the complex vocal arrangement offers great variety and easily met challenges for Francesco. But a darker searing heaviness is lurking just below the surface, and quickly glistening electric piano tiptoes, bubbling Moog trills and intimidating Mellotron strings and choirs burn the middle of the piece with hellish fire before an exquisite classic Genesis-styled three-minute instrumental climax.

A nice shorter break, the buoyant and brisk `Blackfriars' is Genesis given a heavier guitar snarl and a biting social commentary lyric, and `Move the Stone' is a welcome stripped-back ballad mostly carried by restrained piano, cello and flute touches but effortlessly still manages to work in some subdued powerful moments that never overwhelm. Darker album closer `Monument' holds a constant peppy momentum and breathless urgency, and even finds time for some moments of booming gothic intensity! Loris gets plenty of bass soloing spots to shine, and while the piece presents a confronting lyric about crippling social anxiety, it all builds to a hopeful and defiant finale - just an amazing end to a superb album.

There's endless things to recommended about this disc - incredible arrangements, vocals full of character, intelligent lyrics and top-notch playing (which includes probably the best piano playing on an Italian disc so far this year), and even better the whole album runs a nice vinyl length of forty-nine minutes which means it's easier to approach and will be replayed much more frequently (none of this packed-to-the-gills, 79-80 minutes CD limit nonsense here, thank you very much!). Mr Zuffanti might have a keen eye and great ear for big potential when he sees it, but the skill and talent of Cellar Noise is already all theirs, and this cracking debut album is one of the standout Italian works of the year well deserving of plenty more attention, and one that should also hold a great crossover appeal for English speaking prog-rock listeners.

Four and a half stars, but let's round it up to five for one of the best prog-rock releases of 2017!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |

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