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Alex Carpani Band - The Sanctuary CD (album) cover

THE SANCTUARY

Alex Carpani Band

Symphonic Prog


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Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Swiss-born, Italian-based composer and musician Alex CARPANI has been around for a good few years now. Since his first tentative steps as a recording musician back in 1990 he has recorded just over three dozen albums in total in the format of self-released discs, demos and commissioned works. "The Waterline" from 2007 saw him attaining something of a breakthrough amongst fans of progressive rock. "The Sanctuary" from 2010 is the follow-up to that album, issued by MaRaCash Records in 2010.

"The Sanctuary" is a good example of an album that should have a strong appeal among fans of 70's progressive rock of the symphonic variety. In sound and expression those familiar with the giants of the genre will find many recognizable details, while the overall sound and arrangements also incorporate elements of a more contemporary nature. But by and large this is an album that appears to be tailor-made to cater to those whose heart and soul reside among the symphonic giants of yesteryear, most of which should find this CD to be a pleasing and rewarding experience.

Report this review (#423468)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
andrea
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After the release of "Waterline" Alex Carpani recruited some experienced musicians to perform his music on stage and in 2010 released a sophomore album titled "The Sanctuary" on Cypher Arts and Ma.Ra,Cash Records. Here the line up features along with Alex Carpani (piano, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Moog, pads, lead and back vocals) also Gigi Cavalli Cocchi (drums, percussion), Ettore Salati (electric and acoustic guitars, dulcimer) and Fabiano Spiga (bass). "The Sanctuary" is a conceptual work built up on the idea of an imaginary, invisible shield protecting a man from the stress of the real life and the beautiful, surreal art work by Paul Whitehead gives this idea a shape. The overall sound draws unashamedly on the prog masters of the seventies, especially Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer, but the result is not too derivative and every track of the album seems almost timeless, suspended between past and present as in a dream.

The instrumental opener "Burning Braziers" sets the atmosphere. It starts softly, the mood is dreamy but you have to walk cautiously on your way to your sacred shelter. Then the rhythm rises, so hurry up! The dark shadows of the real life are following you...

"Spirit Of Decadence" recalls the music of Genesis. Crumbs of life emerge from a glorious past while as a bold archaeologist you look for the reminiscences of a powerful king and of his court, lost in time... "Opulence and well being, holiness and favour / Warriors on the path and guards protect the treasure...".

"The Dance Of The Sacred Elves" is a lively instrumental track that recalls ELP. There's a turntable hidden somewhere, echoes from the past come back from an old vinyl and magical creatures start to dance. If you pay attention you can even hear the needle of the turntable scraping the record...

"Entering The Sanctuary" begins with a solemn organ passage. You are now entering in a cathedral with walls and roof of glass, your personal sanctuary where you can listen to vintage sounds from an enormous turntable which lies in the place of the altar. Once you have found the way rush in and close the door behind you! "Inside this sanctuary I repent all my life sins / Drunk with harmony, enclosed in a cage where I'm safe and free... Deaf, I can hear / Dumb, I can speak...".

The instrumental "Knights And Clergymen" and the following "Templars Dream" evoke dreamy rides on the wings of time while the vintage sounds conjure images floating through the waves of a sea of light...

"Memories Of A Wedding" begins with a romantic piano solo passage, then electric guitar riffs break in and the rhythm rises. You have to fight hard against the interferences of the outside world... "Now the elves are scurrying away, the pageant comes to an end / A wide frame grows on the wall, the scene appears like a dream... Now and then alien forces break that dream and desire / Folding hearts and resistance...".

On the hypnotic instrumental "Master Of Ceremonies" the battle rages on and dreamy passages alternates with more aggressive, disquieting parts. A short flamenco guitar pattern leads to the following track, "Moonlight Through The Ruins". An acoustic guitar arpeggio and soaring vocals seem to evoke ancient spirits wondering under the moon, through the ruins of your broken dreams... "I can make out the stones and vaults... Now the ruins are loving arms to embrace and... I can make out the people's smile / No roof on my head, the stars...".

It's time to come back to reality but the healing effects of the time passed in harmony and peace remain. The amazing instrumental track "Leaving The Sanctuary" drives you in the real world with a new awareness and a feeling of self confidence concluding an excellent album...

Report this review (#610179)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'The Sanctuary' - Alex Carpani (8/10)

It was only over the last six months or so that I began to finally warm up to the world of modern 'retro-prog'; that is, bands playing music today that attempts to recreate the sounds of the classic 70's. For the greatest time, I dismissed this as 'copycat' behavior; after all, why would progressive rock look backward for inspiration? Although I still think there's something to be said about that, it has not stopped many of these acts from releasing passionate and stirring music. Alex Carpani's story began with an otherwise inconspicuous ankle fracture, and during that time, he wrote and recorded the debut 'Waterline', an album which has met some underground love in the prog community. 'The Sanctuary' was his second album, and would see him finally flesh out his musical ambitions to be worth a full band's contribution. The greater effort and confidence on this album leads it to be a fine example of how the 'retro-prog' sound can stir some beautiful music, even today.

The sound of the Alex Carpani Band can see influences drawn from a number of classic prog bands. genesis is an obvious contender. Alex Carpani and co. provide everything a listener could want from the symphonic prog rock style, perhaps save for the 'epic' format of composition. There are no twenty minute epics on the album, but the music keeps proggy and technical throughout. Although there may be structures to the songs, the tracks flow as if they did not need to worry about their length. Warm instrumentation and a cinematic-like dramatic build in the music are what drives 'The Sanctuary' along. There is little reverence given to memorable melodies, but the beauty of the arrangements and musicianship is more than enough to keep things interesting. In short, there are many ideas rolling around in this music, and if a listener wants to get themselves involved in the music, they can bet they will need several listens before they are able to identify the latent musical hooks.

The organ is the most notable aspect of this band's sound. Vintage key fanatics will be pleased to hear that the keyboards are what drive this music along. Alex Carpani is a very gifted keyboardist, able to take his instrument down a number of different sounds, from gentle piano interludes to bombastic organ climaxes. Carpani's vocals are less impressive than the rest of the performance. His singing is never particularly powerful, but he has a warm sound to his voice. Unfortunately, the vocal melodies lack the memorable power or beauty to have them stand out, even if he were a fantastic singer. Indeed, the wealth of 'The sanctuary' lies within the instrumentation and bold arrangements. Alex Carpani and his fellow musicians may look to the past for their inspiration and style, but the power of their music is more than valid today. Carpani's work makes me glad that I decided to give modern symphonic prog a real shot.

Report this review (#612129)
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Alex Carpani is one of the lesser known keybordist from Italy in last years with quite long career untill now being parts of many projects, but somehowe he only mange to atrcat attention with his 2 solo albums released untill now, the third one is in making as his official site says and will be released somewhere in the next month. His second album from 2010 named The sanctuary is quite a solid album in symphonic prog realm. He gathered around him some well known and skilled musicians here coming from quite known bands like The Watch, from here is the guitarist Ettore Salati being member aswell in The Redzen and now in Soulengine. The music is very chalenging and well played with clear direction to the '70 greats in this filed and I mean Genesis or some ELP influences here and there. I like aswell that Carpani concentrated on writting and compositions mostly and not only on skills, each pieces has a vintage feel and is very intresting. The keyboards are very variate and bring some good moments. Alternating instrumental pieces with vocal ones, Carpani voice is not particulary strong but is very warm and fiting ok in this context. This is not at all a copy/paste music from the old school, he was only influenced by that period and aswell he infuses his own ideas, the result is more then ok, even great. Nice keyboard driven passages, where each musician shine, make from this album a real solid one in every aspect. Symphonic arrangements with nice inventive melodic lines, only a pleasure to listen, the opening track Burning Braziers for instance is a good example. So, all in all this is a memorable album that any serious fan of the genre must have or listen at least once, worth evrey second, not to mention that the package is very well presented. Digipak with a great very evocative cover art made by famous Paul Whitehead. 4 stars easy and recommended, is really sad that this album gone under the radar in that period, for sure desearves a far better recognition.
Report this review (#939983)
Posted Saturday, April 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Alex Carpani was born in the Swiss city Montreux in 1970, with an Italian father and a French mother. On his sixth he was taught organ, then piano and also writing compositions. The way he discovered progressive rock is very special: he was in the same class as the son of the late Keith Emerson named Aaron, at Keith his home he got familiar with ELP and Alex loved it!

In 1993 he released his first solo album entitled Hypothesis, followed by numerous projects including the very interesting CD Waterline in 2007 featuring Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme), Tony Spada (Holding Pattern) en Paul Whitehead (designer of the early Genesis LP's).

On this solo album The Sanctuary drummer Gigi Cavalli Cocchi (Mangala Vallis and Moongarden) and guitar player Ettore Salati (ex-The Watch, The RedZen and SoulenginE) are invited as guest musicians. Listening to the 10 compositions on The Sanctuary I was often carried away to Vintage Keyboard Heaven due to the sound of flashy Minimoog synthesizer flights, majestic Mellotron choirs, sparkling Grand piano and sumptuous Hammond organ. Especially in the ELP inspired Templar's Dream and swirling solos in Knights And Clergymen). Ettore Salati's guitar work is in the shadow of the lush keyboards but he plays very tasteful and varied, from powerful riffs to flowing and sensitive runs with hints of Steve Hackett (like in Entering The Sanctuary). And in Master Of Ceremonies he delivers a captivating duel on flamenco guitar with Mellotron choirs, goose bumps! Some tracks contain English vocals, these sound decent but not on the level of the other instruments. I am sure that singing in their wonderful native language would have given these songs more emotional depth.

Nonetheless, this new effort by Alex Carpani and his musical friends has turned into a very pleasant progrock experience with the focus on exciting vintage keyboards, recommended! My rating: 3,5 star. In 2014 and 2016 Alex Carpani released two other acclaimed albums as I look at the PA ratings.

Report this review (#1884680)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2018 | Review Permalink

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