With Eros & Thanatos the Italian band Syndone released their sixth studio album. On this release the core of the band, consisting of keyboardist and main composer Nik Comoglio, and the singer and writer Riccardo Ruggiero, has remained unchanged. Music wise not much has changed even if other musicians participated this time around.
Eros & Thanatos is a concept album about love (Eros) and death (Thanatos). The inspiration comes from the Old Testament, in particular the Song Of Solomon. The music they wrote for this concept grabbed me by the throat right from the start, although I know that some lovers of progressive rock might think otherwise. The fifty minutes of music they present on the eleven tracks might sound a little bit too complex to a lot of people, or even too chaotic sometimes. But if you take the time to play the album more often, you realise that the Italian passion and the musical craftsmanship is of a very high level. Ruggiero is an excellent singer with a voice that is often compared to the late Freddie Mercury. He sings mainly in his native language, but also in Hebrew and Arabic as you can hear on Qinah and Fahra. These two songs are conveniently provided with a couple of decent Middle Eastern musical elements. Keyboard player Comoglio is of the same calibre as for instance the late Keith Emerson. His keyboard runs are amazing and most of all his playing on the Mini Moog and piano is a must to hear! When you have two of those musicians in your line up and are complemented by others who are also masters on their instruments you are almost sure that you can expect something out of the ordinary. When you hear all of them on the excellent compositions you are in for a real treat.
Musically, the weights have shifted somewhat, because the vibraphone takes up less space than on its predecessor. This way you will hear the second keyboard player more often. This led to even more influences of the progressive rock of the seventies. Still present are the jazz rock elements throughout the entire album. They work very well in combination with the progressive rock parts and even next to the sometimes classical sounding piano parts. The songs are usually powerful and dynamic, often with the typical Italian progressive rock heavy dose of theatricality. Add to that the lyrical passages, which are supported by acoustic guitar or piano, and then suddenly can increase in symphonic grandeur or in strong dynamics. Variety is around all the time. Apart from some reminiscences of the Italian progressive rock of the seventies and a few Genesis hints in the keyboards, the music sounds quite original.
The band has no guitar player on board and therefore they probably asked ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett to play an excellent solo on Cielo Di Fuoco. This doesn't mean the album is totally keyboard orientated. Many times the keyboards sounds as if someone is playing a (distorted) electric guitar. Also the acoustic guitar can be heard several times, this was very well done by the band's lead singer and two guest musicians. And there is another well known guest; Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues who shines by playing flute on the track L'Urlo Nelle Ossa.
With Eros & Thanatos Syndone from Turin created a beautiful album beyond the usual retro clichés. The whole album has a very attractive modern sound and they are not acting too retro. They are just providing a highly entertaining mix of retroprog and jazz rock. They came up with a beautiful concept with a coherent group sound. If you are not afraid to listen to theatrical sounding progressive rock this album is certainly your cup of tea. It might grab you by the throat just like it did me! Enjoy all the way! Oh and before I forget, don't take your CD out of your player when you think the last track Cielo Di Fuoco has ended, otherwise you will certainly miss some excellent classical music. You are warned!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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