Nicola Randone was the guitarist/vocalist with the now-disbanded Grey Owl, who struck out on his own in 2002 (bringing along some pieces he composed while with Grey Owl) to record and release Morte Di Un Amore. Riccardo Cascone (ex-Grey Owl) contributed bass, Enrico Boncoragio drums and percussion, and Giovanni Bulbo contributed keyboards, which includes some beautiful piano (or piano-like) accents. Morte Di Un Amore (A Love’s Death) could loosely be called a concept album, in that there each piece touches upon similar, broadly drawn themes – loneliness, despair, fatalism, and tragic love. Well, with a song title like "Il Pentimento Di Dio… Dopo La Fine Del Mondo" (God’s Repentance After The End Of The World), you know not to expect something optimistically upbeat. This fatalism – the "woe is me" factor – is what characterized many of the Romantic poets of the early 19th Century, namely John Keats. Without diverging into an essay on Keats and the other romantics, I’ll just say that Keats ruminated often on death, including his own, which he knew was coming — Keats died in 1821, at the age 25, of tuberculosis. Randone is an artist who melds progressive rock, rock, pop and ambient music forms to create a slick, slinky, and satisfying whole. This is evidenced by the at first operatic "Visioni" (Visions) transitioning to the reggae styled "Il Pentimento Di Dio… " by means of a swirly ribbons of atmosphere that include lots of keyboard effects and a "suspended time" effect a la Steve Roach. In a very general way, there are aspects that are "typically" Italian about the music – due in part, of course, to the fact that Randone is Italian, but also because at times you will think of latter-day Banco, Le Orme, and other Italian prog bands of a particularly symphonic/operatic nature. And, like much of Italian progressive rock, it’s lush and beautiful, richly arranged. But, it isn’t until you listen again that what emerges is something more akin to an Italian version of Marillion. That sounds quite misleading, so let me explain what I’m thinking. If you were to take Misplaced Childhood-period Marillion, add some Brave-period Marillion (atmospheres mainly) and then add a great deal of Italian prog rock elements to it (and in the balance more Italian prog than Marillion), then this is what would result (an example being "Amore Bianco" (White Love)). The music on this album is romantic and lush, warm, melancholy, and yet ends with a shred of hope. And into that add that atmospheres, reggae and a bit of pop… and, towards the end, some progressive metal by way of heavy guitars and percussion. Now, that isn’t to say that Morte Di Un Amore sounds like MC – it doesn’t in any way — but rather that some of the emotional beats are the same. Another artist we might also mention here is Pink Floyd, and specifically Meddle-period, though I’m thinking of "Fearless" specifically. (Of course, the beating heart sounds that end the album do recall instead, in terms of Floyd, DSOTM). I should also mention that Randone’s vocal delivery often reminds me of Fish, though he doesn’t sound like Fish in tone. "Tutte Le Mie Stelle" (All My Stars) is a mid-tempo, acoustic textured piece backed with swelling strings; very open and vast sounding. Randone’s delivery is upbeat, though not cheery. "Un Cieco" (A Blind Man) is a heavier piece, Randone letting loose with blasts of guitar that are, however, kept back in the mix. In all cases where there are vocals, it is these that are the forefront and rarely are you going to hear any true soloing. That isn’t to say Randone doesn’t – there’s an especially Rothery-like passage on "La Giostra" (The Round-about*) for instance. This is a darker piece lyrically, reflecting upon the Holocaust. Four ghost-men appear on horseback to the protagonist – recalling, I’m sure, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Audio effects underscore the horrors, darkly tortured voices crying out. This atmosphere is quickly left with the upbeat, rocking "Strananoia" which includes a happily trilling flute or piccolo-like sound (and it may be . I think of Canto Di Primavera period Banco actually. And yet, it is not a cheerful piece either. The heart-breaking delivery of "L’Infinito" reveals a tortured soul, looking to Jehovah for deliverance. Though I have to say, in the English translation, the lyric "Jehova please vomit some love on me too" does spoil briefly the whole romantic feel of the piece (in Italian, though, Randone does sing the same sentiment). Even if you don’t understand a word of Italian – and I don’t – you can "get" this release on an emotional, visceral, level – those key emotions or themes I mentioned at the outset. That’s because, Fish comparisons aside, Randone is an emotive singer with a very pleasant voice. And everything flows together smoothly — aside from the jarring transition from "La Giostra" to "Strananoia." In some ways, it undercuts the emotional resonance that the former track has. Then again, perhaps it is this good, as it keeps you from wallowing too much in the dark despair of "La Giostra." But, this is a really good release, nicely done and presented.
* by "round-about," I think a spinning top, or child’s toy, is meant, rather than a traffic circle, since only the former makes sense.