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Magnolia - La Zona D'Ombra CD (album) cover

LA ZONA D'OMBRA

Magnolia

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.70 | 33 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars I remember upon receiving the debut work by Magnolia thinking what a rather ominous and mysterious front cover it had, and even after playing it once all the way through, I was a little bummed at what downbeat and fairly gloomy music it was. At that stage I hadn't even looked through the lavish CD booklet, this opinion came from merely listening to the album and knowing nothing about it. If I'd known it was a concept album based around prisoners waiting on Death Row and the first execution in the US of this new century, I would have been more prepared for what I discovered. Chris' review and band bio on the Prog Archives does a great job going into better detail about the concept of this unhappy album, and my review won't be able to match the observations he has put into his effort. I just hope to bring a little more deserved exposure to a debut work that this talented Italian band have put so much effort into.

`La Zona D'Ombra' is the sort of album that would be perfectly accessible to mainstream rock audiences, especially those who enjoy the later David Gilmour led Pink Floyd albums, mainly due to the grand guitar work from band members Bruno Tifi and Alessandro Di Cori, as well as fans of the melodic female fronted modern bands such as Karnataka, Magenta, The Reasoning and the most recent Mostly Autumn albums. It's comprised of slow to mid-tempo serious adult rock music sung in Italian, with occasional harder elements to bring a bit of grit and edge to the material. Many of the pieces follow typical verse/chorus structures, with very little in the way of bloated showboating soloing or overlong drawn out excesses that serve no purpose. The band choose their moments to stretch out carefully, and always for the best emotional impact.

Magnolia offer a more modern and contemporary take on the defining classically influenced RPI bands, but the element that comes closest is Chiara Gironi's voice. Plenty of times it adopts an unhinged, wild and angry quality that flirts very closely to the traditional Italian bands, and it's this quality that makes her stand out from the current crop of female front-women. Keyboard player Donatella Valeri steals the spotlight in `Piccola Ala' and `La Gabbia' with some heavenly glistening piano playing that might even bring you to tears. Her sparse synths are also a lesson in tasteful and delicate emotion. Claudio Capenell's drumming is deceptively complex, and Simone Papale's bass offers plenty of solid grounding and masterful restraint.

Acoustic sections like the one that opens the album with the title track and throughout are sad, reflective and thoughtful. Chiara sings like a woman possessed on `Non Ho', `Li' Fuori' amongst a tornado of stormy Hammond organ and wild ragged electric guitar fury. The moving multi-sectioned `Home' has one of the most captivating vocal melodies of the album, `Lettere Di Annie' is sprightly adult-pop, `Nel Mio Nome' a downbeat and somber ballad. `Ellis One' is a chilling dark shadowy rocker, `Corridoi' a ghostly stream-of-consciousness spoken word piece, and `Black Out' a touching finale.

The three `Road To Hell' instrumentals are true highlights of the album. The first has a delicate haunting piano melody, restrained humming bass and a winding emotionally draining electric guitar solo, the musicians building the tension levels as the piece progresses. Part Two is a heart- breaking acoustic guitar and gentle synth piece full of longing, while the third movement is a frantic hard-rocking and heart-racing finale. You'll also find ambient effects, sound collages and news report snippets that progress the story throughout the entire album as well.

I do feel there's too many tracks, with one or two bordering on being a little bland, and Chiara's vocals are occasionally a little flat and shrill in just a few moments, but there's no denying this is a very sophisticated, mature and grand release by some hard-working and determined musicians with a story to tell that they are highly passionate about. It's not always a happy listen, and it ends very abruptly on a rather cold note, but those who crave some substance and appreciate carefully thought out serious music will be rewarded by a complex and exquisitely performed work.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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