Italy has a long standing tradition of producing some of the finest progressive rock groups in the world, beginning with pioneering symphonic prog artists like PFM, GOBLIN, BANCO, ACQUA FRAGILE, JUMBO, LOCANDA DELLE FATE, MAXOPHONE, NEW TROLLS, LE ORME, OSANNA, and QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA - as well as the delightfully bizarre unclassifiable group DEVIL DOLL .
In recent years a resurgence of equally impressive new Italian artists has re-ignited the torch once held by the 70s’ prog/rock giants. The flame burns brightly thanks to a high octane infusion of new blood, youthful enthusiasm, modern sensibilities, dynamic writing, and blistering musicianship. These latest incarnations of Italian prog/rock bands such as THE WATCH, RUNAWAY TOTEM, NOTTURNO CONCERTANTE, and TILION can add a new name to their ever-expanding ranks - VIII STRADA.
On their debut CD release “La Leggenda Delle Grande Porta”, VIII STRADA equals the symphonic bombastics of their pioneering peers with outstanding musical prowess, flawless vocal harmonies, and tightly constructed arrangements - big on power, passion, and dynamics.
The line-up includes vocalist Tito Vizzuso, Davide Biscardi (guitars), Silvano Negrinelli (keyboards), Davide Maltagliati (bass guitar), and Riccardo Preda (drums).
The vocals are in Italian so I haven’t got clue what the songs are about - which is always a problem with groups singing in their native tongue - but I assure you Tito Vizzuso can belt out a tune better than 90% of the artists performing today.
And as great as the vocals can be the band really shines during the energetic instrumental moments, which might begin innocuously enough with a gentle melodic piano interlude then erupt into an explosive wall of sound. Talented keyboardist Silvano Negrinelli morphs effortlessly from Tony Banks to Jordan Rudess in a heartbeat, taking the band on a split second detour from the melancholy dream world of GENESIS to a high intensity DREAM THEATER-style sonic attack. His guitar counter-part Davide Biscardi reminds me quite a bit of SAGA fret-meister Ian Crichton.
The CD contains 7 tracks ranging in length from a miniscule 1:32 (“Amanecer”) to a pair of longer 11:00 + tracks (“La Leggenda Delle Grande Porta” and “Sinergy”) – no bloated 30 minute Flower Kings epics – everything is tight and concise. Production is excellent.
For the less adventurous who seldom stray far from home shores VIII STRADA can be comparable to GENESIS, YES, IQ, MARILLION ("Season’s End" through "Brave" era), THE FLOWER KINGS, SAGA, THE TANGENT, OSI , and DREAM THEATER.
Don’t let the language barrier put you off or you’ll miss out on one of the best prog/rock releases of 2009. “La Leggenda Della Grande Porta” is a flawless CD that rates a perfect 10. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on April 15th, 2009