When I saw the cover of Le Porte Del Domani, the latest album by La Maschera Di Cera, I knew I had seen it somewhere before. However, I couldn't tell why the artwork looked so familiar to me, but when I received the press information of the album and I heard the first tracks everything felt in place. Later on in this review I'll explain why! Le Porte De Domani is the fifth album of these Italian musicians. Previously they released their eponymous debut album (2002), Il Grande Labirinto (2003), LuxAde (2006) and Petali Di Fuoco (2010, see review).
With this new album they showed again their admiration for their fellow-countrymen who recorded beautiful prog rock music in the seventies. The music made by bands like Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (Banco), Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) and Le Orme sounded just as good as the music created by the British prog rock bands. Le Orme recorded Felona E Sorona (1973), a true masterpiece and a milestone in the world of progressive rock. This concept album deals with the story of two planets orbiting around each other without ever making contact. Felona shines bright and is flourishing; Sorona is dark and home to plagues and catastrophes. However, in the second part of the suite the destiny of the two planets has reversed.
Well, Le Orme inspired the musicians of La Maschera Di Cera to create the same kind of music. They came up with the idea to write a follow-up story to this musical concept as a homage to the classic Italian prog rock of the seventies. As far as the lyrics are concerned this concept again addresses the struggle between the two planets, but this time it can only be solved by two lovers, each from another planet, and by the otherworldly intervention of the deity who protects them. The soundtrack for this concept harks back to the music of the seventies. Alessandro Corvaglia (lead vocal, guitars), Maurizio Di Tollo (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Agostino Macor (keyboards), Andrea Monetti (flute), Fabio Zuffanti (bass guitar, bass pedals) and guest musicians Martin Grice (flute, sax) and Laura Marsano (electric lead guitar) created a strong musical piece divided into nine parts.
The influences from the early line-ups of Genesis and King Crimson are clearly audible for instance by the way they used the saxophone and Mellotron on tracks as Ritorno Dal Nulla and L'Enorme Abisso. But also the music of Jethro Tull is influential on this album mainly due to the flute parts. Very clever they also included some touches of the original album by Le Orme, just like Neal Morse did on Testimony 2 (2011, see review) or Ian Anderson on Thick As A Brick 2 (2012, see review). For example on the opening piece Ritorno Dal Nulla the same kind of organ parts are used as on Felona E Sorona. This also applies to the acoustic guitar parts on La Guerra Dei Mille Anni. However, not only the music tends toward that album. Also the cover - the one that intrigued me so much! − found its origin in the late sixties. The cover artwork has been made by Lanfranco, who also created the original Felona E Sorona painting. He kindly gave the band permission to use a painting that was already made in 1968. His 'Gli Amanti Del Sogno', meaning 'the dream lovers', has the same kind of figures and therefore strongly resembles the artwork of Felona E Sorona.
Recording an album with mainly vintage sounds doesn't always mean that the compositions are worth listening, but in this case they certainly are. You just get the best there is to offer. The music on this 45-minute suite is of a very high quality level. The nine compositions contain excellent music with leading roles for the Mellotron, electric guitar, flute and the wonderful voice of Alessandro Corvaglia. His Italian vocals are outstanding and from time to time he sings very emotional. Many times I got the idea of listening to a mixture of the voices of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Those who prefer English vocals should try to get a copy of The Gates Of Tomorrow. This is the same album, but with English titles and sung by Corvaglia in rather good English, although it amazed me that they used a slightly different mix. Furthermore fans of prog on vinyl are also lucky this time, because it got a release on LP as well. Diehards who want it all should try to get the special box containing a lithograph on plexiglas of Lanfranco's cover painting, the LP and both CD versions.
After listening to Le Porte Del Domani it wasn't difficult for me to conclude that this album belongs to the best releases of 2013 so far. Just like Felona E Sorona this is a true masterpiece and a milestone of progressive rock music. This album only deserves the highest possible rating of five stars. I guess everybody who enjoys the Italian progressive rock from the seventies and the music made by their contemporaries like Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Yes will agree after listening to this album.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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