For some people the album Ys, released in 1972 and made by the Italian act Il Balletto Di Bronzo, is a true masterpiece. I even owned an original vinyl copy bought at a sale. However I have to confess that I was never really into this too experimental kind of progressive rock music. The album was at the time of release the bands second musical effort after the release of their debut Sirio 2222 (1970). This debut had no progressive rock influences whatsoever and it didn't feature the bands keyboard player Gianni Leone, who continued the name after the band split up in 1973 and was reformed in the mid-1990s. I even witnessed a concert of this reformed band in 2002 at the Baja Prog Festival in Mexico. The band never came up with a follow up album to Ys, until lately strangely enough. Fifty one years later after their legendary album came out. They named it Lemures and features the earlier mentioned Gianni Leone on vocals and keyboards. He is assisted by a rhythm section which includes Ivano Salvatori on bass and Riccardo Spilli on drums. As for the band name they are from now on known as Balletto Di Bronzo. They left out the Il part.
The question of course arises if Lemures can be compared to Ys. Well the answer becomes quite clear after hearing it from start to finish. For me personally there are hardly any traces of the musical style which can be found on the bands second album. I guess that's rather positive for myself because I wasn't that much into the music they made at the time. For me the band moves nowadays much more into the musical direction of keyboard orientated prog. Well it isn't Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Nice, Greenslade, Trace or Refugee influenced kind of progressive rock is what they come up with. Of course some influences are notable but in general a keyboard orientated band such as the Japanese act Ars Nova comes closer to the style of music Leone wrote for the band. Don't get me wrong, they didn't copy their music at all.
With no more guitarist in the band, naturally the keys are in the foreground in the sound. Mostly in the form of synthesizers, occasionally also organ or piano. Many times the synthesizers are layered on top of each other to form powerful sound masses. They can sound scratchy and edgy to downright aggressive. Sometimes those synthesizers also created sounds that are reminiscent of electric guitars. Otherwise the atmosphere of the music almost always has something menacing, dark. The singing, which is located in a slightly higher register and done in the native Italian language, also contributes to this. Powerful, expressive, sometimes evocative.
As for the nine compositions, it becomes rather clear that you can't find any weak compositions. Some of them I had already heard on the bands live DVD Live In Rome (2008, see review). Therefore the songs Deliquio Viola, Napoli Sotterranea and Certezze Fragili already sounded rather familiar to me. Having no weak songs doesn't mean it is everybody's cup of tea. The songs are not always easy to follow and sound rather complex and chaotic from time to time. Therefore it is advised to play them a couple of times before you fully understand what they mean music wise. As for mentioning any favourite track is a rather difficult job. Maybe it is Napoli Sotterranea. It has some nice synth solos at the start of the song. Something which I always like. Maybe my favourite track is Labyrinthus. This almost nine minutes long piece of music is very adventurous to say the least. Nice keyboard strings are included and the piano parts also will do for me!
All in all the band have made with Lemures a rather strong comeback album. Gianni Leone and his two musical friends entertained me for one complete hour with his hissing and stratified keyboards. Sometimes slower and sometimes more restless. Sometimes more martial and decisive. Sometimes the sounds go from right to left, with deliberately different volumes, mixing with Leone's histrionic voice. But it all makes sense if you are into this rather complex and chaotic kind of music. A successful comeback without any doubt!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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