Apparently this is the group's reunion album, having last issued original music in 1997, when split down the middle. Prior to vocalist Laura Mombrini's and drummer Giovanni's Vezzoli departure, keyboardist Alfio Costa and bassist Roberto Aiolfi left to form Tilion, a heavier, more adventurous "Itali-prog" band that recorded three albums between 2000 and 2008. While Prowlers isn't as heavy nor indulges quirksome genre-bending, the intimacy of the quartet's music is such that its inherent understatedness accomplishes as much on a different level.
Sogni in Una Goccia di Cristallo reveals a band with keyboard-centric arrangements and groove-conscious rhythms. The songs Laura Mombrini sings on are leagues beyond the pastiche-like affairs of the group's '90s output. Consistent with the Italian tradition of a faithfully retro arsenal, Alfio Costa weaves deceptively unassuming lines with his synthesizers, Mellotron, Hammond organ and acoustic and electric pianos. By the time "Asia" emanates from the speakers, the new Prowlers have let one know they have nothing left to prove: they're out to play music they find satisfying without foregoing the debt to '70s templates on display before "Preludeo ai Sogni" had even ticked off, but indulgents somehow failed to notice.
By the mid-'90s Mombrini had been dubbed by Prowlerfans as "the Italian Annie Haslam," a moniker which seems appropriated to many capable female vocalists who front progressive bands. Mombrini's voice is huskier and definitely sexy, yet she's going to remind much sooner of her counterparts from other Italian groups, like Presence's Sophya Baccini, minus the operatic histrionics, and Laura Basla of that great, long-gone and still-missed early '90s group Tale Cue. Mombrini doesn't explore the limits of her vocal abilities, and doesn't need to. The first four or five minutes of "L'occhio del Diavolo" is a superb electronic-and-vocal affair that is a fast ticket-punch back to why Mombrini was compared to Haslam in the first place.
Two guitarists play on the album, that being Flavio Costa and Stefano Piazzi. Costa's contributions are more textural and fill out the sound without reverting to needless noodling. Both unleash fireworks when it's appropriate, Costa shredding nicely on "Claustrofobicaria Pt. 2," and hired gun Piazzi carving out two superb Gilmour-meets-Blackmore solos on "Libera Mente Sola" and "Farfalla Fantastica." Album closer "Claustrofobicaria Pt. 2" is a stellar moody number with a gatecrasher opening and dramatic send-off topped by one of Alfio Costa's splendid MiniMoog solos.
It's likely not going to get the acclaim it deserves, but Sogni in Una Goccia di Cristallo is one of the best Italian symphonic progressive albums of the last five years, right behind Pandora and La Maschera di Cera.
Reviewed by Elias Granillo Jr on August 25th, 2011