IMAGINAERIUM – The Rise Of Medici

Crime 2023

Deepening their symphonic drive, progressive rock luminaries explore the mysteries of Florentine intrigues.

The Rise Of Medici

The further Clive Nolan‘s career is running, the wider the distance between its diverging branches, and the more different are the methods the British composer applies to his work with PENDRAGON, ARENA and their various offshoots, and the theatrically focused albums that, quite possibly, sprang from this artist’s collaborative oeuvre with Oliver Wakeman. The last of the three directions the veteran’s been pursuing for the last two decades has its own twigs and twists, including such impressive opuses as "She" by CAAMORA, "Alchemy" which Clive issued under his name, and now, IMAGINAERIUM. However, the project the ivories driver masterminded in the company of singer Laura Piazzai and guitarist Eric Bouillette who had, sadly, passed away before “The Rise Of Medici” saw the light of day, is, unlike other Nolan’s musicals, almost devoid of rock tropes, opting instead for operatic, symphonic approach and placing his narrative within an actual historical context.

It’s not in the voices, even though the clear vocals of Piazzai and Andy Sears – who portray, respectively, Contessina and Cosimo and whose duet in “House Of Dreams” is majestically transfixing – are up there with the classically trained performers, and it’s not in Clive’s faux-orchestral keyboards passages. Rather, it’s in the album’s intent that’s crystallized from the very beginning, when soprano pipes of Elena Vladyuk’s Lucrezia set the scene in “Festina Lente” to see “Duty Of Love” nigh on hijacked by heavy six-string riffs and frenetic drumming. Yet Nolan’s Rinaldo will wrap “The Tide Will Change” in a choral shroud which should fold from sonic onslaught into a piano-rippled balladry for dramatic effect and lead to the gothic worry and hope of “Never Close Your Eyes” and “Glass Throne” before there’s glory to behold. There’s an uplift in “Treachery” – in the weave of Nolan, Piazzai and Sears’ lines, plus Clive’s cosmic textures and Bouillette’s filigree thrown into this heady mix to further elevate the flight of melodic fantasies and drown them in “Fall From Grace” for Vladyuk to flutter over acoustic strum until the infectious “Will I Never Return” zips into focus with a prog-pop-tinged tuneful agenda and goes for the listener’s jugular.

And if the pairing of Rinaldo and Contessina in “Fortunes Reverse” wasn’t histrionic enough – arrestingly so – the arrival of the already familiar themes and all four principal singers in “Return Of Medici” that are interspersed with the monks chant is close to stunning in its intense elegance which lingers on and lets “Legacy” suitably bring this magic story to a cathartic, yet a little bit too bombastic, close. Magnifico!


August 13, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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