FEM (La Forza Elettro Motrice) is a project that was founded by keyboard player Alberto Citterio (classically trained and awarded as jazz musician) and guitarist Paolo Colombo (Ritchie Blackmore was his inspiration to make music), hailing from the outskirts of the Italian metropole Milan. They had a clear musical project in mind: Italian progressive rock music, technique, energy and fun. After playing covers from Classic Italian Prog legends PFM, Banco, Le Orme and Area, and several line-up changes the band presented a proto version of the concept Sulla Bolla Di Sapone (see review) at the Misinto Bier Fest, they won the contest. This concept was finally released as their first album in 2014, meanwhile FEM had recorded its first work, the EP Epsilon, in 2012. The album Sulla Bolla Di Sapone includes the collaboration from guest musicians, including trombonist Pietro Bertoni. He became a permanent member of the band, also playing glockenspiel and Moog Taurus bass pedals. In the meantime, the band's live activities continued, at the Ver1 Prog Festival in Veruno (2014) and the Riviera Prog Festival (2015), opening for prog legends Focus, New Trolls and Goblin. In 2018 FEM released their second album entitled Mutazione as a six piece formation, featuring Paolo and Alberto (as the only remaining members from the original line-up), and new vocalist and multi-talented Alessandro Graziano. He mentions Queen and Deep Purple as his main references, is a highly skilled musical singer, played guitar with members of Iron Maiden and Deep Purple, and violin with PFM, Nuovo Idea and New Trolls, and Alessandro also recorded some soundtrack for Japanese cartoons, what a jaw dropping and varied musical curriculum vitae!
Il Palazzo Del Chaos (0:25) : An atmospheric sounding and ultra-short piece that opens the album, the music matches perfectly with the title.
Io Mi Trasformo (6:21) : A well crafted, very melodic, harmonic and accessible composition, between dreamy, mid-tempo beats and bombastic, wonderfully coloured with guitar and keyboards, and topped with inspired Italian vocals. Halfway a break with soft bass runs and in the end a sensitive electric guitar solo.
La Cura Delle Cose (5:55) : This composition is in the vein of the previous one, between mellow and sumptuous, tastefully arranged, from the soaring tremolo Hammond sound and a break with piano to an outstanding Hammond organ and guitar duet, and finally moving guitar work with tight drums beats. The wonderful vocals range from romantic to powerful, loaded with emotion, what a voice.
Musica Di Vento (6:35) : First beautiful Grand piano and a wailing trombone sound, the melancholic vocals match with the fragile atmosphere. Then the music turns into more bombastic and compelling, driven by emotional vocals and tender piano, and culminating to a howling guitar solo in a bombastic eruption, wow! Now again the distinctive trombone and emotional vocals, with tender piano runs. The second part features a gradually more bombastic climate with lush Hammond and powerful vocals that contain a theatrical undertone. Finally majestic Mellotron violins, slowly fading away, what a splendid song, it sounds like a musical, Alessandro shines, a 'curtain call' for the singer!
Mai Tardi (6:08) : “And now for something completely different”: a funky wah wah guitar and bass, along biting guitar runs and dazzling synthesizer flights, what an awesome fusion of styles. The music really explodes, and the interplay is very dynamic and powerful. In the second part the varied sound is very tastefully coloured by trombone, electric piano, fiery guitar runs, swinging clavinet, wah wah guitar and Hammond, this is a very exciting, instrumental track and showcases the huge potential of the band.
Il Cielo Di Sé (7:57) : Now passionate vocals (a love the 'rolling r') and delicate acoustic rhythm guitar, this is the mellow side of the band, what a captivating contrast with the previous track. Then a tight beat and powerful bass, vocal harmonies, culminating in heavy guitar riffs, fiery guitar, sparkling electric piano, and topped by passionate vocals and an excellent rhythm-section, wow, how exciting, and what an amazing interplay! The keyboard sound varies from flashy synth flights to sparkling piano. Halfway dreamy with warm vocals and mellow Hammond and acoustic guitar, next a fine Grand piano piece. Finally, a bombastic climate with fiery guitar runs, Mini Moog flights, and the deep sound of the Moog Taurus bass pedals, this is pure symphonic rock (inspired by Seventies Yes and Genesis), very compelling. It ends with a wah wah guitar solo and tender piano, slowly fading away, again a very impressive composition.
Attesa (2:58) : The band slows down with dreamy Grand piano runs and warm vocals, then a sensitive duet between violin and piano, wonderful.
Mutazione (4:29) : More fusion to come: a swinging mid-tempo with wah wah guitar, Mini Moog flights, then break with percussive sound and a fat bass sound. The interplay between guitar and piano is awesome, topped with a dynamic rhythm-section. Next another break with bass and xylophone sound, then wah wah guitar, a powerful bass, propulsive drum beats, synth flights, bombastic ending, wow, so much happens, another great instrumental track.
Se C'è Una Buona Ragione (10:02) : Finally an epic composition, it starts with a another swinging rhythm featuring thunderous bass, slightly distorted vocals and wah wah rhythm guitar. Then fiery electric guitar with a lush Hammond sound (evoking Dutch pride Focus),and sparkling piano runs. The music turns into dreamy with soaring keyboards, passionate vocals and twanging acoustic guitar. Halfway a bombastic climate with heavy guitar riffs, powerful Hammond waves, again excellent interplay! Now another musical surprise, a church organ interlude, it sounds majestic. The final part first delivers a slow rhythm with Mellotron violins, tender piano runs and a powerful rhythm-section, very compelling. Then Moog Taurus bass pedals and Hammond join, culminating in 'grand-symphonic-rock- finale, the band couldn't say goodbye in a more exciting way, WOW!
This is an album that grows and grows every turn, it starts perhaps a bit easy listening (track 2 and 3) but gradually FEM showcases their huge progressive potential with amazing variety, skills and musical ideas, and a singer who turns out to be an outstanding acquisition and extra dimension.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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