Ancient Veil - Puer Aeternus

Ancient Veil – Puer Aeternus

I have reviewed two live albums by this entertaining Italian band, which inspired me to discover their back catalogue and left me hankering for a new studio release.

Well, here it is, a lovely example of Ancient Veil’s pastoral prog – and a concept album to boot! It is based on the Greek myth of the child god Iacchus, who is forever young. ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ we might also call it, the older person who is an eternal adolescent – and I’m sure we know a few of those!

The album goes pretty deep into the concept, following the adventures of ‘Puer’, an incorporeal being devoid of age or sex – possibly the first trans hero in prog – who questions his/her creator about life, the universe and everything. Various characters in the story – Puer him/herself, the Creator, Soul, Cantor, Chrono, Mercury, Thoth and the choir of Humanity – are played by members of the band and some special guests.

To be honest, I lost track of the story by the second song, but luckily, you don’t really need to know what’s going on. The vocals are in Italian anyway, although there is an English translation available, so it’s all more about sound than meaning.

All you need to do is to get lost in the music, and, luckily for them, Ancient Veil are adept at creating gorgeous, flowing melodies melded with shifting time signatures, using a wide range of instruments including guitars, recorders, clarinets, saxophones, bassoon, French horn, oboe, violins, viola and cello.

Central to most of the music are Fabio Serri’s keyboards, particularly his Hammond organ and Moog, which give the album a nice classic ’70s prog feel. Band leader Alessandro Serri’s acoustic and classical guitars are also all over this recording, along with Edmondo Romano’s woodwind, helping to create that folky, pastoral texture the band is noted for.

But that doesn’t mean this is all gentle, contemplative stuff – an accusation that has been levelled at Ancient Veil in the past. Some of the eighteen tracks on the album really pick up the pace, with driving drums and fast Moog solos. Alessandro lets rip with soaring Camel-like electric guitar solos on tracks such as La comprensione del tempo (The Comprehension of Time) and La culla troppo stretta (The Too-Narrow Cradle), while Fabio and Romano indulge in some dramatic duelling sax and Hammond organ on Il secondo tradimento (The Second Betrayal).

Now, just how much you will enjoy this depends a lot on your reaction to the distinctive Italian vocals – dramatic, operatic and passionate, they’re not exactly what you would call subtle. And those of you who are a bit cynical about modern prog bands wearing their 1970s influences on their sleeves may find Puer Aeternus a bit of a throwback.

Personally, it’s all catnip for me. I love trying to spot all the classic prog touches – is that the intro chords to The Snow Goose I hear in L’eterno tempo (Time Eternal)? – and I revel in the changing dynamics, the mixture of light and dark, and the sheer no-holds-barred delivery in the vocals.

Recorded over the last three years, Puer Aeternus is clearly a labour of love for Alessandro and the band. They’ve put their heart and soul into this so it really deserves your attention. You will be rewarded with a musical journey that delivers on melody, musicianship and passion. All I can say is… bellissimo!

01. L’eterno tempo [Time eternal] (2:55)
02. Il distacco [The detachment] (1.33)
03. La caduta sulla Terra [The fall to Earth] (0:54)
04. La vision della parte mancante [The vision of the missing part] (1:18)
05. Nella stanza l’intera storia umana [In the room, the entire human story] (3:20)
06. Il senso dell’insensato [A sense of the senseless] (2:59)
07. La miseria del mondo [The misery of the world] (2:42)
08. La comprensione del tempo [The comprehension of time] (5:55)
09. Amore e potere [Love and power] (1:52)
10. L’ascesa di Hermes nel dio visibile [The rise of Hermes as the visible god] (6:15)
11. Il terzo millennio [The third millennium] (2:46)
12. La culla troppo stretta [The too narrow cradle] (3:34)
13. Il secondo tradimento [The second betrayal] (2:07)
14. Io e ombra [I and shadow] (3:29)
15. Puer aeternus (3:10)
16. La reviviscenza [Resurgence] (1:17)
17. La saggezza della natura [The wisdom of nature] (4:13)
18. La nuova aurora [The new aurora] (4:43)

Total Time – 55:01

Alessandro Serri – Vocals, Classical, Acoustic, 12-string & Electric Guitars, Flute, Harmonica, Keyboard Programming
Edmondo Romano – Alto, Soprano, Tenor & Bass Recorders, Soprano & Sopranino Saxophones, Chalumeau, Clarinets, Low Whistle, Vocals
Fabio Serri – Piano, Hammond Organ, Moog, Vocals
Massimo Palermo – Bass
Marco Fuliano – Drums
~ With:
Simona Fasano – Vocals
Lino Vairetti – Vocals
Elisa Marangon – Vocals
Tony Cicco – Vocals
Roberto Tiranti – Vocals
Sophia Baccini – Vocals
Martin Grice – Alto Saxophone
Francesco Travi – Bassoon
Natalino Ricciardo – French Horn
Marco Gnecco – Oboe
Roberto Piga – First Violin
Fabio Biale – Second Violin
Ilaria Bruzzone – Viola
Kim Schiffo – Cello
Olmo Arnove Manzano – Percussion

Record Label: Maracash Records
Country of origin: Italy
Date of Release: 27th October 2023

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