La Maschera Di Cera is an acclaimed Italian formation which was founded in 2001. But between its debut album from 2002 and this new album entitled S.E.I. (Separazione, Egolatria, Inganno which means Separation, Selfishness, Deceit) the band only released four studio efforts. The previous one Le Porte Del Domani (see review, also released as The Gates Of Tomorrow) is from 2013, a gap of seven years so it was about time for La Maschera Di Cera to present a new album to its many fans.
Listening to S.E.I. I remember the words of a fellow proghead and Tron-maniac, in 2003: he had visited the Belgian progrock festival Spirit Of Verviers and was blown away by La Maschera Di Cera, “with 3 Mellotrons on stage” he yelled euphorically! Well, perhaps these 3 Mellotrons were in the recording studio during S.E.I., incredible, what a mindblowing Mellotron drenched sound, always a bonus for me! This new album contains 3 long tracks, with a running time of almost 43 minutes, that reminds me of the good old vinyl era.
The first composition Il Tempo Millenario is the epic of the album, close to 22 minutes. It sounds mainly in the realm of Old School symphonic rock, with lots of changing atmospheres: dreamy with folky flute play or tender piano, accellarations featuring powerful saxophone or flute soli, and sumptuous outbursts. Often these intense eruptions are layered with majestic Mellotron choirs, for me this is Tron Heaven! The swirling Hammond organ sounds like a tribute to Keith Emerson. While the aggressive bass work from the prolific musician Fabio Zuffanti reminds me more of King Crimson and Anekdoten. The final part is very compelling, delivering a slow rhythm with synthesizer flights, and again majestic Mellotron choirs. Wow, this is outstanding Italian prog, an 'eargasm', topped with inspired, slightly theatrical Italian vocals that match perfectly with the mighty Mellotron sound!
The second track Il Cerchio Del Comando often brings the alternating and dynamic folky prog of Änglagård to my mind: between mellow and bombastic featuring lots of flute play, Hammond, Mellotron violins, and a growling bass, with powerful Italian vocals. In the end a build-up with a wonderful Mellotron, piano and flute, and a bombastic closing section featuring Hammond, powerful bass and sparkling flute.
The final song Vacuo Senso is the most varied, alternating and experimental, with hints from Anekdoten (lush Mellotron violin sound), early King Crimson (jazz and avant-garde inspired), Classic Italian Prog like PFM and Banco, embellished with omnipresent saxophone work, a wonderful Mellotron violins interlude, and lots of interesting musical ideas. The final part is trademark La Maschera Di Cera featuring a compelling Mellotron drenched symphonic rock atmosphere, wow!
It's incredible how this band has matured, in 2002 I got their first album as a CD-R (while writing for Dutch prog magazine iO Pages), it sounded promising but a bit unstructured at times. Almost 20 years later this new La Maschera Di Cera album turns out to be a very pleasant and well structured musical experience, recommended to symphomaniacs and Classic Italian prog aficionados.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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