The power with no glory: spectacular dystopia from Italian purveyors of heavy concept.
Progressive metal doesn’t seem to allow for a lot of laughter, but this Urbino band turned the rule inside out by pitching a smirk into their gloomy world where traditional bombast is applied to a tale of social injustice and political play rather than a sword-sliced saga. Very cinematic in its montage of dialogue and music, the group’s second album is a riff-laden operetta which marries attack to a variety of genres, and while “Stream Of Life” or “The Lighthouse” paint drama by numbers, choir enhancing the scope, sax solo in “The Orphanage” and the funky “Mr. Valentine” keep the listener’s ears pricked. Purists may balk at such an approach, yet that’s what will make “Side” appealing to a wider audience.
With ghosts of “Billie Jean” and “Hall Of The Mountain King” lurking in the shadows, there are many surprises strewn across the record to render hysterical clang behind “Sickness” as riveting as “The Bend Of Love” and its evil vaudeville which “Freakshow” takes to delightful limit further down the line. Still, it’s “The River” that would refine – and, quite possibly, define – the quintet’s symphonic intent, the ballad’s purity pulling at heartstrings and stripping bombast away in favor of orchestral flight and Alex Cangini’s most inspired vocal performance. So the heavy subject notwithstanding, the entertainment of “Side” is light and alluring.