FEM are a rather new progressive rock band from Italy founded in 2007. The abbreviation stands for Forza Elettro Motrice. The band's main goal was to rediscover the progressive rock of the seventies and to bring it back in the spotlights of the current music scene. Especially the search for new sounds and the desire to create introspective music formed the basis of this musical project. To master the music of the seventies, they decided to build up a repertoire of cover songs from well-known Italian prog bands like Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and Le Orme. The next step was to record their own compositions. In May 2012 the first fruit of their labour was the EP Epsilon, the first official band release that contained four tracks. Unfortunately a promo to review this EP never reached my desk, so I won't be able to tell you how the band sounded at the time. Fortunately I received Sulla Bolla Di Sapone, their first full-fledged CD, released in March 2014.
The album has been produced by the band and by Marcello Marinone, the label manager of Fading Records. Sulla Bolla Di Sapone is a concept album based on the novel On The Soap Bubble (1887) by Kurd Lasswitz, the godfather of German science fiction. Paolo Colombo (guitars, vocals), Alberto Citterio (keyboards, vocals), Marco Buzzi (bass, vocals), Emanuele Borsati (drums, vocals) and Massimo Sabbatini (lead vocals) really made an incredibly good album of this novel. The fifteen tracks written by Citterio and Borsati are all of a high quality level and they sound indeed in the spirit of the many great prog rock bands of the seventies. They must have listened carefully to the way the above-mentioned bands wrote their songs at the start of their career. Many times the musical styles of those bands come to the surface thanks to the amazing parts performed on the keyboards and the guitars. Also the passionate vocals of those bands can be heard on Sulla Bolla Di Sapone.
Apart from the great Italian prog bands of the seventies, it's hard to deny that the musicians of FEM were influenced by the old school British prog bands as well. More than once the keyboard parts sound in the vein of people such as Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman. For that reason the music recorded by Genesis and Yes in the seventies can be heard throughout the album. Listen for example to the last two pieces that both reminded me of Genesis. Ritorno Al Giardino could have been taken from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974) and the end of E Il Mondo Scoppierą made me think of the intro for Watcher Of The Skies, the opening track of Foxtrot (1972). However, there's one track that's significantly different from the rest of the material. The short instrumental Reviviscenza is a typical jazz-rock and fusion tune with some solos performed on the Moog synthesizer. Although it differs from the remainder of the tracks, it doesn't mean that it's less enjoyable.
I think many devotees of prog might find it strange that no epics are included on Sulla Bolla Di Sapone. The longest track lasts only six minutes, but in a way you could say that the album consists of one epic piece which should be played in its entirety. I had no trouble at all to listen to the entire album in one session, because the music immediately grabbed me by the throat and I kept playing it again and again. I'm kind of addicted to this album which in my opinion is a true masterpiece and my musical highlight of 2014 so far. Therefore only the highest score of five stars will do for Sulla Bolla Di Sapone. It's highly recommended to those who love the many prog rock albums recorded in the seventies especially by the Italian and British prog bands!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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