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Il Ballo delle Castagne - Kalachakra CD (album) cover


Il Ballo delle Castagne

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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4 stars Il Ballo delle Castagne were formed in 2007 by four musicians coming from different experiences. The name of the band means 'The Chestnuts Ball' and it was inspired by a legend involving the Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503) and his luxurious habits: the 'Chestnuts Ball' was a kind of 'Satanic Sabbath' where naked women used to dance in the light of candelabrums picking chestnuts from the floor with their mouths. The music of this band is an interesting blend of psychedelia, hard rock, progressive and new wave. Their eponymous debut album was released in 2009 and in the same year they released a 10' vinyl single featuring two covers, Biglietto per l'Inferno's Ansia/Confessione and Franco Battiato's Paranoia. Their sophomore album was released in 2011 on the independent label Hau Ruck S.P.Q.R. and distributed by Black Widow Records. It's a concept album inspired by Wheel of Time, a documentary film about Tibet by Werner Herzog: Kalachakra. The album is dedicated to the Dalai Lama and to the struggles for the liberation of Tibet.

The opener 'Passioni diaboliche' (Diabolical passions) is a beautiful track full of a dark energy and enriched by the female vocals provided by the guest Carolina Cecchinato (singer of a folk prog band called Egida Aurea). Lyrics are about the need to get free from the diabolical passions and the ancient obsessions which dance inside us. We set off on a spiritual journey leading to purification... 'Following the immense trail of the blind souls / I'm among those who seek the path to the source from which the water flows...'.

'Tutte le anime saranno pesate' (All souls will be weighed) is unquiet and features a mystical atmosphere... 'You'll pay for every sin / In the temple of eternity you will be judged / And for every tear, for every sin a stone will fall from the sky...'. Lyrics were inspired by the 'Bardo Thodol', a funerary text which is often referred to in the West as the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead': It describes the experiences that the consciousness has after death, during the interval between death and the next rebirth. A black stone will be hung on the neck of the evil people while a white stone will be hung on the neck of the good ones...

'I giorni della memoria terrena' (The days of the earthly memory) features church like choirs and a martial marching beat. The music, credited to Eloy, leads you throughout the shadows of Death, as through the fog between earth and sky...

The evocative title track features a strong psychedelic and Oriental flavour... 'They bring an ancient wisdom / They sing old legends / The air smells of spices and incense / Lotus flowers accompany our steps / Here everything is quiet / From here you can reach the eternal... Pilgrims and travellers recite mantras waiting for a new awakening... Listen to the wheel of time...'.

'La terra trema' (The Earth trembles) is more rock oriented and features electric guitar and organ in the forefront Lyrics were inspired by a famous film directed in 1972 by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski, 'Aguirre, The Wrath Of God'... 'The sky gets dark when I look at it / The Earth trembles under my steps / Aguirre is my name / I bring civilization / The cross and the sword...'. Excellent the instrumental coda featuring a fiery violin solo.

'La foresta dei suicidi' (The forest of suicides) is a suggestive instrumental track featuring nocturnal piano passages and restless wordless vocals. The mood is definitively dark and it could be the perfect soundtrack to visit the forest of Aokigahara, near Mount Fuji in Japan...

'Omega' is mysterious and spacey. Lyrics are about the last voyage towards the great return, the rebirth after a long and uncertain wandering into the void... 'Inside of me lives the whole universe...'.

The last track 'Ballo delle Castagne' starts with hypnotic percussion and recitative vocals in German. Words have been taken from 'Jesus Christus Erl'ser' (Jesus Christ saviour) a controversial work for theatre by Klaus Kinski... A powerful psychedelic finale concludes the album.

Well, on the whole I think this is an excellent work, challenging and never boring, featuring many literary quotes and musical ideas that are definitively worth to check out...

Report this review (#396365)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmmmmmm........

I once liked a band called Type O Negative. A band which really redefined dark rock. Italy has always had a great love for dark rock. That explains New Order and Van Der Graaf Generator's popularity there. Black Widow Records has released dark rock for ages. And yes, that's where you find this band and this album too. Black Widow Records has blackened the soundwaves again with this album.

Others than me has explained the Ballo Delle Castagne's background so I will not go there. I will though review the music. Music which is most definate dark rock. Dark rock with roots in the depressive rock scene (and that's the name of this scene) in England back in the 1980s, VDGG, space rock bands like Hawkwind, some blues and the Italian dark rock scene. Well, I am sure the band will deny those influences in the interview with them, but that is what I get out of their sound. Those are my references. So dark rock it is.

The quality is good throughout. The opening track Passioni Diaboliche is the best track of the album with it's Type O Negative and VDGG associations. I do feel the album is loosing it's way towards the end though. The two final tracks Omega and Ballo delle Castagne does not do it for me with their blues connotations.

I am not denying that this album is a fascinating journey though, and this has been a long journey in my case. But in my books; this is not a fully great album. But check it out and make up your own mind.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#412783)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A band I knew nothing of before receiving this album, I gradually became entranced by their psychedelic music. Il Ballo delle Castagne are an Italian band, now consisting of four members, but started out in 2007 with two of them: Vinz (vocals) and Marco Garegnani (keyboards, guitars, sitar, samples). The other two musicians are Diego Banchero (bass) and Jo Jo (drums). Vinz is also in Calle Della Morte. Marco is in The Green Man. Diego is in Ediga Aurea, Recondita Stirpe, Malombra and Segno Del Comando. This album, Kalachakra, is inspired by the documentary "Kalachakra: The Wheel Of Time", by Werner Herzog about the ritual of the same name in which Tibetan Buddhist monks become ordained.

The album's songs offer a wide range of styles and moods and as such display little coherent sound by the band. The opening song for instance, Passioni Daiboliche, is a rich and heavy rock piece with prominent keyboards and supporting guitar work, male and female vocals and a beautiful musical peak at the end with piercing keyboards-produced string sounds.

But this song is typical of only half of the album. This release presents to facets of the band: a slow and eerie psychedelic and experimental side, and a more melodic, high-energy heavy psychedelic rock face of the band. The songs, accordingly, seem to come from either of these two factions, which actually reside very well together and have strong links.

Already on the second piece, Tutte Le Anime Saranno Pesate, one can hear their psychedelic tendencies. An efficient and eerie bass line provides tension as the synths provide the main theme, accompanying the male vocals, while later on tribal percussion and a sharp guitar noodling solo continue this otherworldly vibe. All of these elements create a somewhat creepy and weird atmosphere, that is quite characteristic of this type of songs on the album.

I Giorni Della Memoria Terrena follows in the footsteps of the preceding song, albeit in a less spooky fashion and with haunting male vocals, initially accompanied by drumming and then gradually joined by guitar and keyboards. There is a sense of a ritual being prepared, an arrival being anticipated, an escalation of emotions about to happen, in expectation of an event to happen. But this event does not occur in this song, as this monotone piece keeps on going until its end.

The title piece, Kalachakra, counteracts the somewhat somber mood created by the two previous tunes, with a return in its opening part, to the heavy psychedelic rock of the first piece. Although here it's not as prominent (and not throughout the song) and moreover, includes a sitar, thus enhancing a mystic feeling that permeates from the entire album. The ending of this track is quite gorgeous and climatic with the increase of pace and use of synth-string.

La Terra Trema is in the same camp as Kalachakra in style of song, and the climatic ending. These two songs in particular remind me of the Chilean band Angulart and their album, Donde Renacen Las Horas. The atmosphere is similar, as is the vocal style and the guitar tones. It is an odd and special sound that I find quite ear grabbing. The sixth track, La Foresta Dei Suicidi, is as somber as its name suggests. It is percussion- less, abstract in places, peculiar and gloomy. While calm in a sense, it is filled with lots of restrained emotions and controlled rage.

Omega, the 7th piece, starts out in the same otherworldly fashion as the previous track, though less grave d with percussion but midway through it joins the ranks of the other type of songs on here and delivers an Electric Orange-like psychedeic freak-out epic ending.

The closing piece, Ballo delle Castagne, reminds me as well of the psychedelic rock of Electric Orange, sounding at first as if coming from a distant foreign place, changing midway to a jam-session-like psychedelic rock tune (with spoken words on German, enhancing furthermore the Electric Orange comparison).

Il Ballo delle Castagne presents here an album with two main ingredients; one heavy psychedelic rock, and the other a psychedelic abstract and eerie exploration. This has grown on me gradually with each listen and only with concentrated and repeated listening, did this album reveal to me its beauty and nuances (or rather I exposed my mind to it). A worthwhile listen (3.5 stars for those who care about such things)

Report this review (#427212)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian quartet BALLO DELLE CASTAGNE was formed in early 2008, initially founded by Vinz Aquarian and Marco Garegnani the previous year, but not formally realized until Banchero and Jo Jo joined the ranks. They made their debut with "Ballo delle Castagne" in 2009, and "Kalachakra" from 2011 is their second full-length production.

Ballo Delle Castagne has created a strong album with a distinct and almost idiosyncratic sound with "Kalachakra". A strong feeling of unity of mood and atmosphere is probably the main reason for an album slightly sprawling in style appearing to be a concise and unified creation. Fans of psychedelic art rock should take note of this one, in particular if they enjoy vintage-oriented material covering a broad musical canvas.

Report this review (#450560)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The funny name of this Italian band is derived from a perverse Medieval play, dancing naked ladies picked up a 'ballo delle castagne' with their mouth from the floor. In 2009 this band released their debut CD entitled 108, the first part of a trilogy, then the second part named Kalachakra (from 2011), one year later followed by their third effort Surpassing All Other Kings. In 2015 Il Ballo Delle Castagne released their fourth studio album entitled Soundtrack For An Unreleased Herzog Movie and the Live Studio CD. This review is about their second album. I read that the band members consider themselves as a tribute to a variety of Italian artists and to the Classic Italian Prog era.

Indeed, but not only the atmospheres evoke these Italian artists and Classic Italian Prog bands, also the way Il Ballo Delle Castagne deliver variety, adventure and creativity in their music, blended with skills, strongly reminds me of that.

Most of the compositions are drenched into psychedelic atmospheres, in which a huge variety of instruments (from guitar and organ to sitar, synthesizer and violin) are used to create hypnotizing and atmospheric music. A few examples where Il Ballo Delle Castagne succeed to generate these very 'pleasant mellow moods'.

Fat synthesizer flights and howling Floydian guitar runs in Tutte Le Anime Saranno Pesate.

A hypnotizing climate with varied samples (especially the sitar) in the titletrack.

A wonderful combination of vocals, Hammond and sensitive electric guitar in the opener Passioni Diabolische.

At some moments the music turns into harder-edged, like in the propulsive and sumptuous La Terra Trema (strong vocals and exciting guitar riffs), also including a break with mid-tempo featuring swirling organ and guitar.

More experimental is de final track Ballo Delle Castagne, it contains a variety of synthesizer sounds and monotone drum beats.

Here's another interesting Italian prog album, varied and adventurous.

My rating: 3,5 star.

Report this review (#1938743)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | Review Permalink

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