Prolusion. Subtitled as "A Baroque Opera", "Hybla Act 1" is the fourth album by RANDONE, telling the story of the ancient Italian city of Ragusa, though all the lyrics are in Italian, as ever. Related reviews: here (featuring discography) and here.
Analysis. Not surprisingly, this 25-track album turned out to be an absolutely monolithic work, without even a hint of pauses. As in the case of Randone’s previous Rock Opera, the instrumental arrangements on "Hybla" are for the most part woven of textures of vintage symphonic Art-Rock with elements of folk and classical music. Overall however, the album should be defined as a Rock Opera, though it’s a full-fledged Rock Opera this time around, due to the active participation of a few guest operatic singers, one male (baritone) and one female (soprano) playing central roles in the construction of the vocal palette – along with Nicola Randone, whose voice can be regarded as quasi tenor. The soloing role of acoustic guitar is noticeably diminished from previous works, but not to the detriment of the general state of affairs, just due to certain changes in the arrangement department. Much of the music is classically diverse and dynamic this time out, by the overall appearance approximating to the very best examples of Italian school’s Art-Rock of the ’70s. Instead, there are plenty of patterns here that can’t be found on "Nuvole e di Ieri", particularly many of those of violin. Despite the general orientation of the work, none of the tracks seem to be vocal heavy, some being largely instrumental, while five of them are just instrumental compositions. Since most parts of the suite represent the style I’ve already tried to describe, it would be too long and pretty pointless at once to list them here. I’d only note that only three: La Resa, Un Geniore Afflitto and Rampanti are soft and quiet in their entirety, while the longer tracks, La Principessa Iriste and La Caccia, the two featuring really remarkable saxophone improvisations, are the most eventful and adventurous. As to peculiar sections, those showing at least a more or less pronounced departure from the primary style, here they are: Bernardo Cabrera comes with few vocals and is a Flamenco-stylized piece, with an excellent fast acoustic guitar solo running all through it.Guerra Agli Invasori, Infuria la Battaglia, Enrico VI, La Solitudine di Venezia, La Fine de Chiaramonte and Il Terremoto combine Art-Rock and Hard Rock tendencies, and Guardia Alle Mura is quite heavy throughout. Finally the last section, Epilogo, is a Classical-like piano postlude.
Conclusion. A work of the highest progressive standards, "Hybla Act I" is a brilliant thing, pure magic, from beginning to end strongly keeping the listener’s attention, inviting him to have many happy returns to it. Top-20-2005. Having made four excellent albums during the last four years, each of the following ones being better than its predecessor, Randone proves to be one of the most fruitful and creatively successful Art-Rock bands on the contemporary progressive scene.
VM: January 10, 2006