Drummer Roberto Leoni was one of the founder members of the Italian band The Watch. Together with guitarist Ettore Salati and bassist Marco Schembri he participated on three studio albums of The Watch with which he toured all over the world. However, in 2009 these three musicians decided to do something differently music wise. After a couple of jam-sessions as a trio, keyboard player Angelo Racz joined the line-up. He appeared to be the missing link, but some months later Schembri decided to leave the project. He was replaced by Nicola Della Pepa. The band's motto always was 'jam like hell'; just do whatever comes up, no strings attached. There must be a lot of chemistry between the musicians, because it took only six hours of improvising rehearsals to have enough material to fill an album. They first released a three-track demo to find out how the critics would judge their music.
In 2010, Background Magazine received a copy of this demo. Our reviewer Erik Neuteboom was deeply impressed by their music, as you can read in the Italy Special (see Specials).
Above all he was impressed by the instrumental progressive fusion of The RedZen. 'They have told me that the band is working on a full-length album. I'm eagerly looking forward to it', he wrote. He wasn't the only one who was looking forward to an album. As a devotee of Ettore Salati's guitar playing, I was also curious to know how the band would develop.
Finally early 2011 the release of Void saw the light of day. The album contains 54 minutes of 'instrumental fusion progressive rock' as they call it themselves. I think this description covers the full content except for Alexa In The Cage. This song contains the lead vocals of Joe Sal, but it was probably written as an instrumental piece as well since an instrumental version has been added as a bonus track. Maybe this vocal piece serves as a sort of try-out. In my opinion they should use singers more often, because it makes the music less complex and more open for people who find instrumental music hard to digest. On Alexa In The Cage the music strongly inclines to the albums recorded by their fellow-country men of Moongarden.
On the other compositions these influences can't be heard; these songs show more elements taken from the music of Liquid Tension Experiment, Return To Forever, Ozric Tentacles, Weather Report, Yellowjackets, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Planet X. These are all bands that play instrumental music as well, influenced by jazz rock, fusion and progressive rock. One of the main characteristics of these bands is that all musicians try to show off how well they master their instruments. In a way is this also the case on Void, although the band members keep in mind that the melodies in the songs remain intact. Most of the time the guitar, bass or keyboards replace the lead singer in a very pleasant way thus keeping the music interesting for listeners who potentially buy this kind of music.
The most progressive rock tune on the album might be Into The Void if you compare it to the music of bands as Genesis or Pink Floyd. Our reviewer wrote the version on the demo to be 'simply beautiful'. He described it as follows: 'The second track is Into The Void. After tender piano and soft fretless bass runs, the music is built up around flowing, very moving guitar work evoking Steve Hackett, blended with soaring keyboards and acoustic guitar runs and synthesizer flights. Then the music slowly fades away. Simply beautiful!' Well, he's damn right about that! The musician who was responsible for this Hackett-sound delivered some outstanding performances on his sitar as well. Mr. Salati is one of the few musicians who can handle this exotic instrument the right way. Just like the late George Harrison or the Austrian musician Gandalf he very well integrates this ancient instrument with modern technology. You can hear the sitar especially on Slapdash Dance and Return To Kolkata.
People who like fine solo performances on the guitar, bass and keyboards performed in a musical style that can be described best as a mixture of fusion, jazz rock and progressive rock should try out this album. Especially if you like the above-mentioned bands and artists you will find Void a real treat.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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