“Avenoth” is the debut album of the Italian band La Bocca della Verita from Rome.
The album has been released on the Fading Records (AltrOck) label. It is a long (nearly 80 minutes) concept album that includes a big (18 minutes) suite called “La Suite Dei Tre Planeti”. According the short information sheet the album will be appreciated not only by fans of the progressive rock music of the seventies but also by the fans of modern progressive rock.
La Bocca della Verita (Mouth Of Truth) is a famous carved image of a human head at the Piazza della Verita Bocca in Rome. The head is shown on a large marble disc that dates back to Roman times and was probably used as part of a fountain or manhole cover. The face probably represents a river God. Since the 17th century, La Bocca della Verita can be found in the vestibule of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The mouth of truth is known as an ancient lie detector. A medieval legend tells that anyone who puts his hand in the mouth and speaks a lie, his or hers hand will be bitten of. So far the explanation of the band name.
Jimmy Bax - Hammond, Mellotron, ARP Prosoloist, digital synth, piano, backing vocals; Massimo Di Paola - piano, keyboards, synths, backing vocals; Fabrizio Marziani - lead voice, rhythm guitar, twelve-string guitar, flute; Roberto Bucci - lead guitar, backing vocals; Ivan Marziani - drums & percussion; Guglielmo Mariotti - Rickenbacker bass, Moog Taurus, six and twelve-string guitar, backing vocals
Valerio Fisik - banjo, electric guitar; Gabriele Ferrari - Rickenbacker bass & bass pedals; Paolo Bax - drums; Ida Giannolla - Oboe; Alessandro Papotto - soprano sax, flute
The booklet (in poster form) is completely in Italian, so I had to ask the band for an English translation of the story that together with the lyrics has been printed on the poster. Don't understand me wrong here, I am happy that the lyrics are in the Italian language because that beautiful language is a contribution to the (Italian) atmosphere of the album. I think that most of the RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) fans will agree with this statement. The story takes place around the years 2161 to 2178. So for the people who can't read Italian, here is the abbreviated version according Colonel J. Marof;
“Our planet, after centuries of human carelessness, had become unlivable: it’s climate was hostile to life, world wars followed one after the other throughout the years, resources were running out everywhere. The time had come for us to look beyond the unknown boundaries. Our exploration led our crews throughout several planets we met during our pathway. We kept on travelling for a long time before reaching Avenoth. We couldn't’t believe our eyes when we bumped into that planet so resembling Earth. Some inhabitants of this planet approached us immediately. Their behavior was gentle. The Avenothians showed us some of the villages they lived in: each of them was politically autonomous, and was some kilometer far from the near ones, and they never got in touch one the other. But according to some of our groups it was necessary to conquer those lands in order to use the resources our planet was in lack of, they said that otherwise the Avenothians would have done the same thing to us taking control of the Earth. Once again we became the invaders. In few days we forced to surrender and slavery the inhabitants of Avenoth: with the help of heavy chains they started the deportations near the mines from which the energy necessary for the planet Earth would have been pulled out. But we were missing something: the submission months forced the Avenothians to get in touch with one another, village to village, person to person; after years of autonomous life this circumstance made them a united population that soon organized them into a fight against us as we appeared in their sight of it to be traitors, invaders. They retrieved the positions they lost and in few months they obliged us to escape. From the ship I took a last furtive glance at what previously was a generous green land; nothing had been left of that, now there were only ruins, everything was lost. The return journey lasted three months. When I arrived on Earth some colleagues told me that Avenoth had been almost completely rebuilt. Regarding our destiny ...”
When I read the story I had to think of another great concept album that I reviewed last year; the album “Hawaii” from the Chilean band Aisles. This theme, of us running out the resources of our beautiful planet Earth and our human carelessness is becoming painstakingly close to our own story of today. So it is an interesting theme for a concept album. But what about the music?
The album opens with the short “Intro 2161”. Atmospheric synth sounds accompanied by excerpts of speeches of people like Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler and probably also Benito Mussolini. However I'm not sure about the last. This flows into a classical piano theme that develops into a melancholic and instrumental piece of music with a soaring guitar solo. When the electric guitar makes place for an acoustic guitar the song seamlessly flows into the track “Contro Luna E Luce”. After the first vocal lines that are accompanied by an acoustic guitar this piece develops into a delicious RPI track with catchy vocal refrains, Hammond organ and melodic electric guitar parts. Then it is time for the longest piece of music of this remarkable album. The almost eighteen minutes long suite “La Suite Dei Tre Pianeti” that is divided into the following four parts; “Il Pianeta Vuoto”, “Due Game Come Noi”, “Il Pianeta Ostile” and “Voyager 1977”. This is the first highlight of the album. It is a long piece of music with a great diversity. Atmospheric and narrative parts followed by melodic synth and guitar solo's. A great variety of instruments is used in the music of La Bocca della Verita. Besides all the keyboards (Hammond, Mellotron, ARP Prosoloist) you can enjoy twelve string guitars, flute, Rickenbacker bass and Moog Taurus pedals. And you can even hear the sound of instruments like soprano sax and Oboe. The last part of this suite is working towards a nice climax with screaming synths solo's on a bed of Mellotron carpets. When I hear some of the keyboard sounds, I had to think of bands like Genesis and early Marillion. The opening synth sound of the title track “Avenoth” is typical old school Marillion. But the flute and twelve string guitars are a reference to bands like Genesis and PFM. The band knows his classics but the band succeeds to develop their own musical style. “La Festa” has happy rhythms and some folk influences. There is a nice role in this track for the Rickenbacker bass. “Antics” is a short but beautiful acoustic guitar piece. A welcome rest point in the album. In the next track “La Deportazione Degli Avenothiani” you can enjoy soaring guitar solo's, Mellotron choirs and passionate sung vocals. The tension of the music is slowly building up towards a climax with that soaring guitar melody before the track ends with a burning Mark Kelly like synth solo. It is just one of the many highlights of the album. The next one is entitled “La Rivolta / Il Massacro Dei Terrestri”, a thirteen minute progressive monster. I love the sound of the Rickenbacker bass that in a way reminds me more of the sound of Renaissance bass payer Jon Camp than the late Chris Squire (Yes). The melodic electric guitar solo in the end is great. After all those hectic and progressive highlights the band slows down with the surprising track “Perduto Avenoth”. A beautiful classical track with an amazing guitar melody that for me is an ode to the music of Jan Akkerman and Focus. In the end the guitarist is mixing this Focus sound with his own ... beautiful track. The last ten minutes of this 80 minutes concept album is devoted to the track “Reprise (Speranze Distorte)”. Broad keyboard carpets, synth and guitar solo's, delicate sung vocal parts ... this piece has it all ... a worthy closing of a remarkable album full of modern Prog that is heavily influenced by the great bands of the seventies.
For me the debut album Avenoth of La Bocca della Verita is one of the highlights of 2016. Maybe you will say that the music is not really progressive because of the many references to the great bands of the seventies but the musical craftsmanship of the band ensures a diverse, delicious and wonderful ode to the progressive music of the seventies. If you like keyboard drenched Italian Prog with references to the music of the seventies, this album is for you. Together with the 2016 albums of the bands Syndone, Yugen and Ingranaggi Della Valle this debut album of La Bocca della Verita is the forth Italian album that is finding his way to my personal top ten list of progressive albums of the year 2016. Well done ... Highly recommended!