Pandora - Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco. 2008 BTF. Mini-LP
Pandora - Sempre e Ovunque Oltre il Sogno. 2011 BTF. Mini-LP
Pandora - Alibi Filosofico. 2013 BTF. Mini-LP
Pandora are yet another Italian band to have released a very fine album in 2013. I've been wanting to get them into the UTR for some months now, but it took time for me to revisit their past works - all of which I bought real time as they were released.
Pandora's debut "Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco" seems like the group's own personal chronological trajectory. The album starts off in the standard prog metal zone with modern synthesizers - similar to other Italian bands like Eldritch or Pathosray. While they are good at this style, they are by no means exemplary. By track 3 "Cosi come sei", the band begins to become ever more complex. The metal guitars are still prevalent, but the keyboards are moving towards an analog sound. This along with some insane counterpoint musicianship, and Pandora are starting to sound somewhat like an updated A Piedi Nudi. Then the final 3 tracks pretty much kick the metal to the curb, with mellotron, acoustic guitars, and dramatic vocals in Italian, while pushing the gas harder on the progressive front. I remember my first impression of the album went something like "Oh no, not more prog metal.... wait, this is kind of interesting.... whoa... wow... this is freaking amazing!" It was 2008, and you could almost credit Pandora for ushering in the latest Italian retro progressive movement that we enjoy today. Like all of the Pandora albums, it's housed in a beautiful mini-LP fold out cover.
If the debut implied that Pandora would rather be classified "heavy progressive" versus "progressive metal", then their sophomore effort "Sempre e Ovunque Oltre il Sogno" concludes the argument. While the metal tones haven't been completely eliminated, they have been diminished significantly, and their primary role is as an accent instrument to demonstrate power (and from my vantage point, that seems to be how metal works best in the progressive field anyway). Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, and Mellotron all guest star in this full featured Italian film. At this point, Pandora are paying homage to their forefathers from 40 years prior, with long tracks, constantly shifting meters and dynamics, and the random capriciousness expected of the genre. I did catch one direct rip from Genesis that I couldn't find credited, and I'm sure that was an oversight on their part.
Just when you think you've got Pandora figured out as an Italian retro progressive rock unit, out comes "Alibi Filosofico". They really do open up Pandora's Box on this one, and throw caution to the wind. If one thought Pandora was out of the metal business, then the band made sure there was no doubt they are back in. Only one minute into the release, not only are metal guitars back in vogue, but now they've introduced thrash amongst the usual prog rock mayhem. So perhaps they've decided to go the same route their fellow Italians Garden Wall did? Well.. no, not that either. There's also piano concerto's, straight jazz bits, folk, traditional prog metal, and Banco Del Mutuo Succorso inspired retro progressive Italiana. My only complaint is much of the material is geared towards genre hopping moreso than a fully integrated solution (I see I'm starting to mix my work terms into my music reviews - need to retire). This is a trend we've seen quite a bit over the last decade, and this technique gives the appearance that it's more progressive than it really is. The early 70s masters would use influences or snippets of other genres, but they were rarely self-contained pieces as we find on "Alibi Filosofico". Overall, it's a very creative release, though I found myself enjoying the predecessor a bit more.
For old school progressive rock fans that love modern prog metal as well, start with the debut. For fans of the early 1970s Italian progressive movement, go with "Sempre e Ovunque Oltre il Sogno". For those that love to mix different genres together, start with "Alibi Filosofico". Who knows where Pandora goes from here? I couldn't even hazard a guess.