Aelian is an Italian group that has just published which I believe is their second album, "A tree under the colours". The line-up of the band is Mark Aixer (voice), Giulio Palamenghi (guitars), Maurizio Antognoli (keyboards), Paolo Benozzato (bass) and Paolo Negroni (drums).
Before anything, I should warn the readers that this type of progressive rock that we could classify as neoprogressive-commercial-AOR is not at all one of my favorite styles in the genre. Nevertheless, the two stars grade I give to this record tries to reflect to a extent that in spite of everything, I cannot but admit that the group maintains a certain undeniable quality, and that the style has its fans that will adore them.
What groups can we relate Aelian with? I would think, amongst others, of groups like Pendragon, Arena, IQ, Marillion, but regurgitated in a modern and simple style (I am sorry, since I hardly listen to any 90s neoprog, I can not find current groups to which assimilate them), clear influences close to a clear copy in some fragments- from Yes at the time of "90125" (an album which I consider to be a good pop-electronic example, but without any special attractive), and influences from the worst AOR (sometimes the worst Bon Jovi or Europe resonate in my ears in some pieces... at least they could have copied Boston, Styx or Journey). The saddest thing with this group it is that their music is not at all original. At least, people like Arena or Iluvatar that are not amongst my favorites at all, try to contribute shades of an own sound. In this sense, I prefer to play an album of the original teachers than to listen to an unoriginal copy of other groups.
The music of Aelian can be summarized as a singer of good voice and excellent English, but with a tendency to grandiloquence that takes away some of the interest, guitars very to the Rabin/Hackett/Howe style (in my opinion, the best in the album), a monotonous rhythm section, and very melodic keyboards that in general are only a backdrop for the rest of the instruments.
I have preferred to summarize the 8 songs that fill this album by classifying them in two groups:
a) The best (or less bad, I am not sure) tracks of the album are in my opinion, those that show a composition style closer to classic progressive (Camel or the 70s Yes) as the beautiful ballad "Sweet and sour", or the good neo-prog of the 80s (Marillion, IQ, It Bites) as "Dreaming what you feel", "A tree under the colours" or "The old man in the garden" (the most similar song to "Going under" of Marillion that I have ever heard). Although I don't appreciate a single drop of originality, at least I am attracted by the style.
b) Some tracks of much less interest would be "Hearing the wind", "Underground", or "Come to me", in which the group shows us music without a minimum originality and above all, quite boring. These songs are in an 80% a mere copy or imitation of the Yes of mid-80s (the other 20% is pure AOR). In truth that the singer does never come close to reach Jon Anderson's vocal tone, but the resemblance is brutal. The guitars a la Rabin, the electronic keyboards of "90125", those sharp atmospheres full of spaces... Finally, the prize to the most pitiful song is awarded to "The flame of love", a piece that reiterates the most worn-out clichés from the worst AOR a la Bon Jovi (as I previously said, at least they could have tried to copy Toto or Journey), that reduces more the uneven quality of the rest of the album.
In conclusion, an album that has completely disappointed me, and that I believe that can only be appealing to the more fanatic neo-progressive and AOR lovers. For the rest of us, those ladies and gentlemen that look for something new in the music of current groups, it is better to abstain. In conclusion, I do not believe that I will ever dare to buy one more album of these gentlemen in the life.