With their fourth album “Bestie, Uomini e Dèi” (“Beasts, Men and Gods”), the Italian progressive rock band Ubi Maior celebrate their twentieth anniversary. If you don’t know the band you will be surprised by their unique musical style and intriguing sound. In my review of the previous album “Incanti Bio Meccanici”, I wrote ... with some references to the Italian bands of the seventies the band is searching for their own voice in the progressive rock scene and is not afraid to experiment and use an unusual instrument like the trumpet in their music ... this is progressive rock in the true meaning of that word progressive ... if you like the violin in your Prog this album is for you ... an album for the lovers of RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano).
Mario Moi - vocals, violin, trumpet; Gabriele Manzini - keyboards, flute; Marcella Arganese - Electric and Acoustic guitars; Gianmaria Giardino - bass; Alessandro Di Caprio - drums
reviewThe album comes in a beautiful paper sleeve CD edition, with 12-page booklet including original Italian lyrics and their English translation. This is a nice gesture to their fans and friends from all over the world. They even added a small explanation of the theme of each song, in Italian and English language. For me this is the perfect booklet for a band that luckily still use their native language. This fact preserves the atmosphere and passion of the original music. By the way, the artwork is designed by our Zaubermaus (the nickname of guitarist Marcella Arganese).
In contrast to the previous album which is characterized by 4 long and complex suites, “Bestie, Uomini e Dèi” exists out of six more compact compositions. The album is not a standard concept album but the whole album is inspired by mysterious people, dark and unfortunate mythological figures, bloodthirsty monsters and beings from another world.
The album opens with the song “Nero Notte”. A myth about a boy that was kept isolated from the outside world since he was born. (The Dutch readers of progVisions will know that these strange facts can also happen in the real world). The typical Union Maior musical style is still in tact, so expect passionate sung vocals, beautiful violin parts and symphonic keyboards. The excellent guitar work of Marcella has a great diversity. Raw Rock and Blues atmospheres are interspersed with melodious and soaring parts. The song walks nicely towards a climax with passionate vocals and a freaky synth solo.
The second composition is entitled “Misteri Di Tessaglia” and is about King Admetus, by grace of the three fates, who will be able to avoid certain death if someone else sacrifices himself on his behalf. The only person willing to do so is his wife Alcestis, and he accepts. The song has an almost dreamy opening as a ballad with delicate piano, guitar and violin parts. After lush symphonic keyboards the music becomes more progressive and powerful with great violin, keyboard strings, guitars and nice synth melodies. Looking forward to hear this in a live setting. After this wonderful instrumental part the passionate vocals are returning and the band is working towards the next climax with great guitar work, lush keyboards and a pounding rhythm section. First personal highlight for me!
“Wendigo” is about the myth of a wicked creature of the Algonquian mythology. Always hungry, he hunts men down to devour them, and as he does so he grows bigger in size, strength and agility. It is said that the Wendigo was once a man, turned into a monster because of his insatiable hunger. This is of course a great story for the theatrical performance of singer Mario Moi. The music has the so needed diversity. Church organ, violin, piano, guitar, Hammond organ, the band uses their whole musical palette. The song ends with a beautiful classical piano part. Interesting fact, the first three songs are composed by three different musicians (Manzini, Arganese and Moi).
The second Manzini composition is called “Nessie”. This instrumental is about the myth of the giant that they say resides in the depths of Loch Ness (Scotland). It is a killer track with amazing keyboard and piano parts and again excellent guitar work. Love the violin parts played by singer Mario Moi. He is also responsible for the jazzy trumpet part. The band goes full throttle and their music shows great diversity. Second personal highlight for me!
After this amazing track the album continues with the second Arganese composition “Fabula Sirenis”. A song about mermaids (fantastic beings with the body of a beautiful girl ending with a fish tail). It has a dreamy opening with delicate guitar and vocal parts. First I had the impression that there were two vocalist in this song ... a male one and a female one. But after checking this with Marcella it seems that both voices are by singer Mario Moi himself. The second one is sung in falsetto. Very nice and well done. This is followed by a great synth solo and slowly the tension of the music is building up. In the end the music becomes more mellow again with nice classical piano, melodic guitar parts and lovely keyboard strings. Very nice song!
The album ends with a song of epic proportions. The title track “Bestie, Uomini e Dèi” has a duration of almost 10 minutes. It is the third composition of keyboard player Gabriele Manzini but all the songs on this fine album are arranged by Ubi Maior. So it is really a band effort. In this song Gabriele is also playing a delicate and very beautiful flute tune. The man impressed me with wonderful keyboard work on this album. Hammond organ, Church organ, delicate classical piano parts, melodic synth solo’s ... everything you could wish for. Again you will find nice guitar and violin parts in this song. After a great section with church organ and soaring guitar work, the music becomes more pastoral with acoustic guitars, piano and the already mentioned flute. Moi is bringing his vocals in a very delicate way. After this the most wonderful melodies will finds it’s way to your ears. Delicate electric guitar, that jazzy trumpet and the piano. When the music abruptly ends it is almost like an anti climax ... just because the melodies are so wonderful and beautiful ... you don’t want it to stop. It leaves the listener in a kind of shock ...
When the music abruptly ends after the most beautiful melodies of the whole album I was a little bit in shock. Disappointed that it was suddenly over. In fact this is a big compliment to the band. You suddenly wonder what the hell you listened to ... well the answer is simple ... you have been listening to a brilliant album. Four studio albums in 20 years seems not a huge output but Ubi Maior is a band that stands for quality instead of quantity. In my humble opinion Ubi Maior is one of the most intriguing and interesting bands of the RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) scene. Another of those bands is Syndone, but that is a story for later (new album is in the making). The music on “Bestie, Uomini e Dèi” is diverse and adventurous and is passionately performed by talented and skilled musicians. One of the best progressive rock albums of this year. Highly recommended by progVisions.