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La Coscienza di Zeno, Italy


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Originally published November 3, 2013 and moved forward to highlight their new album La Notte Anche di Giorno.

The band is still active as of August 2016, and a 4th album is in the works.

La Coscienza di Zeno - s/t. 2011 Mellow (CD); 2014 Fading (CD)
La Coscienza di Zeno - Sensitivita. 2013 Fading (CD)
La Coscienza di Zeno - La Notte Anche di Giorno. 2015 Fading (CD); 2016 Fading (LP)

----La Coscienza di Zeno

La Coscienza di Zeno's debut is fastball down the middle Italian progressive rock. If you're a fan of the style, then hard to imagine one not enjoying this. It does eschew the retro instrumental palette, but compositionally similar to the 70s masters.

----Sensitivita

Continuing on from their debut, La Coscienza di Zeno have made some significant improvements in many areas... and perhaps a few steps back in others. Let's focus on the positive first. The instrumental palette has been increased to include more of an analog orientation, though there is no mistaking this is a modern recording (the robust production alone is to be admired). Piano, in particular, is a dominant instrument here, and when played as expertly as it is done on Sensitivita (brilliant in fact), it certainly recalls the 1970s masters. Choral Mellotron (which may be sampled) is also used in abundance, and the entire dual keyboard format recalls classic Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Taking the BMS metaphor just a bit further, Alessio Calandriello is proving to be possibly one of the finest vocalists in Italian progressive rock today. While not singing in the operatic style of di Giacomo, Calandriello possesses an incredible voice, that would actually be much admired in today's howling-singer styled pop culture. And perhaps now is a good time to introduce the main issue I have with the album. Sometimes the music just stops, and everyone buys a ticket to watch Calandriello belt out verses while the rhythm section keeps a steady beat.  I'm not sure if there's an Italian Idol TV show, but if there is, then Calandriello most certainly would have to be considered a finalist. He's that good of a talent. However, none of the great 70s Italian masters, who also featured singers with similar golden pipes, would exhibit the patience La Coscienza di Zeno demonstrates here. I just keep waiting for the inevitable breaks, those turn-on-a-dime rhythms with crazy solos, that make the entire Italian prog genre so special. And yes, they do eventually come through with just that, but sometimes after I find something else to do while waiting for glamor boy to close his trap. Perhaps another demerit goes to the guitarist, who adds little but cliched distorted metal chords throughout. While I'm OK with a little extra muscle, I'm not feeling the added value. And the rhythm section keeps things moving along, but they definitely take a back seat to the dual keys and precocious boy. So why the 4 stars? Well it was close to 3.5, but most of the material is very solid, if never actually excelling. The final track 'La Temperanza' (10:38) is the highlight with added flute and violin, adding much needed distractions to the singer songwriter aspirations that begin to creep in. I think La Coscienza di Zeno have left plenty of room for improvement. They have the tools, and the talent, to release a RYM 5 star / Gnosis 13+ masterpiece. Let's see if they rise to the challenge. Fans of Italian progressive rock should take my criticisms as data points, but don't let them keep you from buying this. I stand by the high rating (Gnosis 11 / RYM 4 stars)

----La Notte Anche di Giorno

Given La Coscienza di Zeno's (CdZ) immense potential, I went forward with their 3rd release La Notte Anche di Giorno sound unheard. Or as we collectors like to say "auto buy". And the result? Well, unfortunately, this band continues to sit on that cusp between very good and excellent - and this time I rounded down instead of up. On the plus side, they did add a violinist full time which adds much to the melody and atmosphere department.  Alessio Calandriello continues to belt it out with the best of them, and his voice is truly something to behold. I'll also give them points for supplying more textures and color while he sings, rather than sit back and be content with a simple rhythm. All this sounds like a distinct improvement on Sensitivita. And it is, so what exactly is the issue here? The songwriting. CdZ have this nagging desire to paint with broad strokes when delicate intricacies are needed. There are two long suites this time. The opener is Giovane Figlia, and I was at first quite disappointed in the direction, though I was stricken by the melody. With CdZ, I get a sense of commercial styled pop music at times when the band goes for these simpler structures. Then came part 3: Libero Pensatore, and suddenly I was mesmerized, proving to me that CdZ really are force to be reckoned with. From there through the remainder of the suite, I was captivated with the brilliance of Domenico Ingenito's violin, Calandriello's voice, and the analog/digital keyboards/piano of Luca Scherani. To me, it sounded like the very best of Sithonia (a UTR favorite) updated for 2015 (or 1973 lol). The melody line is sublime, and no one can sing it better. Going into suite number 2, I was convinced this would be CdZ's finest album. But I was let down, and the return of the broader - almost Pink Floyd like - soundscapes and slow pompousness returned. The overall effect is maudlin, not joyous, or even introspective. It's not the right sound for the band in my estimation. In reading other reviews, I fear that I'm in the minority here. Let me be absolutely clear though: I like this band and I like this album. But I know they can do better (at least for my tastes, so take that for whatever it's worth). The beauty of progressive rock is that it can be played many times over and new results will emerge. For better or worse. Can we expect a 4th studio album from them? If so, I probably will buy again without hearing it first. I'm loyal that way. 

Last update: August 20, 2016

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