On the contrary this release from Not A Good Sign is well and truly a good sign for progressive rock and should certainly appeal to fans of the heavily keyboard orchestrated prog of the early 70s. A bold opening statement, but one which will hopefully encourage you to check this album out further.
The assured performance of this debut album is derived from the calibre and craftsmanship of the musicians assembled. Not A Good Sign comprises of keyboardist Paolo ”Ske” Botta and guitarist Francesco Zago, both from Yugen. Joining them are Gabriele Guidi Colombi (bass) and Alessio Calandriello (vocals) from La Coscienza di Zeno and completing the main line-up is drummer Martino Malacrida. Additional to this impressive line-up are Yugen’s Maurizio Fasoli (piano), vocalist Sharron Fortnam (North Sea Radio Orchestra & Cardiacs) and cellist Bianca Fervidi.
Not A Good Sign kicks off with possibly the trickiest piece to get into from the entire album. Not a bad thing and in many respects reminded of the first time I put on In The Court Of The Crimson King. But unlike the opener on the aforementioned album, Almost I is an all instrumental affair which immediately establish the band’s credentials. Vintage keyboard fans will salivate at Botta’s impressive array of authentic sounds – Hammond organ, mellotron choirs and analogue synths all sit comfortably within the anarchic and pounding rhythms. Almost I is not all jagged edges however and certainly around the two minute mark the mood changes and Messrs Steve Hackett and Tony Banks sprang to mind. In contrast Almost II offers the much needed respite and Alessio Calandriello takes centre stage here with a fine vocal performance, in what is a fantastic three minute song…
The title track returns more to the atmosphere of the album opener, although Calandriello joins the party and his powerful performance soars over the choppy, superbly executed music. Once again the music takes a lighter mood, but one suspects only to add further drama and tension as the track moves forward. As Making Stills gently glides in, one might gather a pattern is emerging and certainly the first two and half minutes are tranquil, soothing and show the band in a lighter mood. However the Rhodes piano heralds a change and what follows is a fantastic two minutes of intricate music with finely interwoven keyboard solos. Sadly all too brief, but we are comforted by the delightful, increasingly dramatic outro.
Probably my favourite piece from the album is the stately Witchcraft By A Picture. Two minutes of melodic themed guitar, washes of Hammond organ, all driven with great power and gusto by the rhythm section of Malacrida and Colombi. Just when you think this can’t get any better Sharron Fortnam delivers a fantastic vocal and as her voice fades into the distance the band rise to take the field once more. Awesome stuff.
Not to be outdone Alessio Calandriello returns with the first of two vocally dominated tracks, the breezy Coming Back Home, which despite the rather catchy nature of the music and melodies, lyrically comes from a rather dark place. No better typified in Flow On:
hands seeking for
relief and rain
don’t stare too much
through the water
you could choke
But, as said, both tracks perhaps belie this as throughout the album the listener is carried by the fullness of all the performances.
Continuing with the heavier The Deafening Sound Of The Moon is four minutes of what might be termed “karate” music. As he demonstrates throughout the album, Francesco Zago guitar is able slice through the music with bludgeoning power, whilst retaining immaculate precision. The battle here with Botta’s driven Hammond is testament to the creativity of the guys. Not A Good Sign concludes, as it started with an instrumental. Unlike the more avante strains of the opening track, Afraid To Ask is an almost restful conclusion, with Maurizio Fasoli’s gentle piano and Bianca Fervidi’s melancholic cello resting in between the choppier rhythm sections…
Like most good albums the more I listened the more I wanted to listen. At a little over fifty minutes the album didn’t outstay its welcome and at this point I’m at a loss to offer any downsides to Not A Good Sign. Yes it is challenging, but equally rewarding – and it is these elements that, over the years, have sustained my interest in progressive music.
Considering the depth and complexity of instrumentation the production manages to hold all the parts in balance. The album artwork is simple, but so befitting. AltrOck/Fading Records have come up with yet another fine release to add to their impressive catalogue.
About Not A Good Sign – AltrOck have the following to say…
“In these tracks many of you will recognize the Old Prog School from the 70s, but in a modern key, with a pinch of hard-rock and psych. Resonant vocal melodies and lyrics complete the gloomy but colourful imagery of the band.” They also go on to offer these comparators…
“King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, Anekdoten, Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman, Bark Psychosis, Jaga Jazzist, Steven Wilson, Anglagard.”
I would probably add Hackett era Genesis, but who am I to disagree. One of the great finds in 2013…
01. Almost I (6:37)
02. Almost II (3:12)
03. Not A Good Sign (7:54)
04. Making Stills (6:43)
05. Witchcraft By A Picture (7:37)
06. Coming Back Home (5:52)
07. Flow On (6:07)
08. The Deafening Sound Of The Moon (4:33)
09. Afraid To Ask (3:08)
Total Time – 51:43
Paolo «Ske» Botta – Keyboards
Alessio Calandriello – Vocals
Gabriele Guidi Colombi – Bass
Martino Malacrida – Drums
Francesco Zago – Guitars
Maurizio Fasoli – Grand Piano (3,5 & 9)
Bianca Fervidi – Cello (5,7 & 9)
Sharron Fortnam – Vocals (5)
Record Label: AltrOck/Fading Records
Release Date: 10th June 2013