Italian sculptor of art-rock drama drives his mind to Middle Ages to derive wisdom and melody from sadness and passion.
Roman multi-instrumentalist Jerry Cutillo is ostensibly fascinated with flames – otherwise, why follow O.A.K.s debut "Giordano Bruno" with tales about women whose kind often met the same sad end? – only there’s more light and shade to his works than your regular tragedy could dictate. Moving on from rock opera tropes to a series of musical portraits and solidifying performances by cutting down on guest players, he paints “Nine Witches” in paler yet no less striking tones that seem richer and deeper with each new spin of the record. Yes, the melodies are not as immediate this time around, but the listener’s immersion in the album should be profound thanks to the focus on characters, not stories.
Also, geographical differences between the witches in question allow for enhanced stylistic variety which leads the project to unexpected sonic locales, such as the reels-and-raga landscape of opener “Chlodswinda” where entrancing folk-tinctured psychedelia will reign once acoustic strum has been stricken with electric swirl and orchestral solemnity. Still, while the mélange of rural bliss and interstellar worry works fine for “Janet Boyman” or “Gioconna” that let flutes fly freely, the piano-propelled operatic scope doesn’t inform “Dame Harvillers” with the spirit of temporal adventurousness, and the ethereal “Nadira” is hardly to be registered in one’s memory.
And though non-English lyrics add theatricality to the likes of “Franchetta Borelli” whose fusion feels nice, if slightly superficial, progressive rock influencing its drift before Jonathan Noyce’s bass punctures the rustic picture of “Polissena” to give it weight, the polished pop of “Donna Prudentia” can’t get anchored even when David Jackson’s seductive sax puts an appearance. There’s a great final singalong in “Rebecca Lemp” to leave a pleasant aftertaste to this record, yet the lasting impression of “Nine Witches” is of a step towards something bigger Cutillo’s bound to deliver soon.