(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
Alberto Piras: Lead Vocals, Words
Alessandro Bonetti: Violin
Fabrizzio Puglisi: Keyboards
Mauro Collina: Guitars
Claudio Trotta: Drums
Allessandro Porecca: Bass
Special Guest String Quartet on "Olim Sol Rogavit Terram II"
Where else would you find on one CD:
1) A manic fusion of early 70's Mahavishnu Orchestra/Return to Forever, modern classical and a touch of blues with a manic operatically trained lead singer vocalizing in Latin?
2) Songs whose subject matter runs from Rhinoceros to the sun asking the earth how it's enjoying life ever since the humans went away (I'm not making this up) and theories of order?
Nowhere else but this most recent offering from Italy's Deus Ex Machina!
From the moment Alberto Piras opens his mouth, you know this is not going to be breezy happy-slappy pop material. His over-the-top operatically influenced style may not be to everyone's liking, but one thing is certain, he is unique and original! To sing over the top of music this dense and complex is no easy task, but Alberto really handles it with great style and flair. Having witnessed DEM live, it also appeared he was having a lot of fun with it too.
But a lead singer does not define a whole band, and it's certainly obvious that DEM have plenty of top-notch musicianship to go around. Especially notable are Alessandro Bonetti's alternately plaintive and spooky violin melodies, Fabrizzio Puglisi's thick warm analog keyboards (mainly Hammond B-3 and Rhodes with some synths) and Mauro Collina's searing guitar (a nice blend of RTF period Bill Connors, blues and some tasty acoustic classical stylings) and a manic rhythm section that just doesn't quit!
Despite the obvious complexity of the music, DEM have not so much simplified their music, but have left more open space in the arrangements, more breathing room if you will. The opening cut "Convolutus" being a prime example, beginning with some beautiful classical guitar, then gradually building with that plaintive violin intertwining with the vocals just before kicking into 5th gear midway through with Collina's searing guitar then winding down to a thoughtful conclusion.
Other highlights include the funky and flat-out rocking "Rhinoceros", the bluesy acoustic romp of "Uomo del Futuro Passato", the left of center funky with spooky violin of "De Ordinis Ratione" and then to cap it off, the neo-classical stylings of "Olim Sol Rogavit Terram II" with a special guest string quartet.
There's only one thing that irks me on this disc, and that is the pointless inclusion of muddled sounding snippets of rehearsal tapes with the band working through fragments of songs and bantering in Italian. Although one could argue that this little bit of audio-veritÚ puts a human face on the band, it just seemed rather unnecessary.
For those wondering "what the heck is that Piras dude singing about??", the CD booklet was kind enough to include translations of the songs into Latin, English and Italian.
Deus Ex Machina may not be everyone's cup of cappuccino, but for those who have an ear for the adventurous, you can't go wrong with Cinque.