No swinging Italian band name like Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Quella Vecchia Locanda or Banco Del Muteo Soccorso but simply Nathan. The roots of this formation go back to 1977 when a few friends started to play prog .In 1982 they disbanded, but 1997 a few members teamed up with other musicians and founded Nathan. Originally Nathan was a Genesis tribute band (like the mind blowing The Musical Box), they released a Genesis tribute disc entitled The Path Is Clear, performed The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974) on a large and ambitious scale and produced orchestral arrangements of epic works, like Close To The Edge from Yes and Atom Heart Mother from Pink Floyd. Then Nathan did Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) and a tribute to Supertramp. After this perfect 'prog rock warming up' Nathan started to write their own compositions, with new members, resulting in the debut CD Nebulosa, (2016, see review) for the first time with Italian vocals. This review is about their brand new successor entitled Era.
The current Nathan line-up is a four piece formation, with guest musicians on choirs, backing vocals and guitars. They start the album with Figli Di Cane: a modern sound with a tight and powerful rhythm-section and harder-edged guitar, embellished with electric piano, organ and fat synthesizer flights, and topped with strong Italian vocals. Halfway a dreamy part featuring soaring keyboards, warm vocals and twanging acoustic guitars (evoking early Genesis). Then a bombastic eruption with organ and propulsive guitar riffs, flashy synthesizer runs and fiery guitar, accompanied by Mellotron choirs. The music turns into a dynamic mid-tempo with moving Italian vocals and fiery electric guitar work until slowly the music fades away. Nathan has delivered a captivating first musical impression and to me it sound like a modern blend of Seventies symphonic rock and Nineties Neo-Prog.
The next three compositions are 'trademark Nathan': a modern blend of symphonic rock and Neo-Prog with frequent shifting moods and a lot of soloing on keyboards and guitar, topped with powerful Italian vocals. My highlights are a fiery guitar solo with howling runs in Invisibile, sensitive Steve Hackett-like guitar and a spectacular break with propulsive guitar riffs and fat synthesizer flights in Le Vie Dei Canti and varied keyboard work and harder-edged guitar play in L'ultimo Giro. Although there is a lot to enjoy in these three songs sometimes my attention slips away. Because the atmospheres sound a bit similar, or more like a cascade of nice musical ideas than a composition.
The dynamic song L'Ombra Del Falco alternates between dreamy and bombastic: from twanging acoustic guitars with soaring keyboards, tender piano, delicate flute and warm vocals to a powerful mid-tempo with dynamic drums, a powerful male voice and fine female vocal harmonies and sumptuous keyboards and harder-edged guitar play. A kind of'Neo-Prog meets 70-77 Genesis' (Tony Banks Mellotron, organ and synthesizer sound).
Next Indaco is my highlight on this CD. First a dreamy part with melancholic vocals, tender piano and synthesizer work and a majestic Mellotron violin sound. Gradually the music has turned into a slow rhythm with soft synthesizer flights and Mellotron drops, culminating in compelling soloing on electric guitar and Mini Moog, goose bumps! The final part delivers first a mellow interlude with warm piano and Mellotron, and then a bombastic finale featuring Mellotron and powerful electric guitar.
The final two tracks are a bit more song-oriented (Maschere has even hit potential), alternating between symphonic rock, Nineties Neo-Prog (Arena, Everon) and AOR (Eighties Styx and Kansas): strong Italian vocals, lots of shifting moods and breaks, often powerful and bombastic, layered with harder-edged guitar play and tasteful keyboards (electric piano, Minimoog, Hammond, Mellotron).
This is a promising second album.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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