Although Il Cerchio D'Oro, have been in existence since the early 1970s, this is only their fifth full length release. The band having split after inauspicious beginnings to concentrate from 1980-2005 on a metal project, Black Out and playing Beatles covers, which come to think about it is no bad way to pay your dues. The modern incarnation, still featuring original members however saw a more mature direction, and Il Fuoco Sotto La Cenere is the third in a series of impressive concept albums for the band. Now signed to Black Widow Records, a label which is rapidly becoming synonymous with high quality progressive music emanating from the north of Italy.
I for one am mightily glad they have stayed the course, because this is an extremely enjoyable offering. Perhaps more tinged with leanings towards classic rock than some of their stablemates, the balance between epic sound, virtuosity and visceral heartfelt rock music is beautifully struck. The vocals remain raw and emotional and in the interplay between the keyboards of Franco and Simone Picollini and Massimo Spica's guitar we have musicians who are not only talented, and disciplined but also clearly having a whale of a time making great music. The rhythm section of the Terribile twins is really outstanding, but overall there is a sense that this incarnation is most comfortable with each other, happy to share vocals and composing duties and to complement each other rather than overshadow. Symphonic prog influences abound as you might expect, but although you might hear echoes of all the usual suspects, ELP, Yes, Genesis, a harder edged rock sound is never allowed to disappear too far into the rear view mirror, and no-one influence is allowed to dominate or descend into pastiche. The only exception is a humorous direct lift of Deep Purple's Space Truckin' in the final bars of Il Rock E L'Inferno, the last two tracks forming the most rock-oriented section featuring heavy riffing and honky-tonk piano.
While there may not be much new here and it could be argued that the band play it relatively safe, it would be churlish to overlook how far this band has come and congratulate them on their fresh sounding, energetic approach. This fire has surely burst out from its ashen covers.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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