Andrea Orlando is a world class progressive rock drummer from Genoa, having solidified his career with RPI band La Coscienza di Zeno, though he broke in with the pioneering Finisterre group in which he played on a few albums, including the iconic “In Ogni Luogo” (certainly my favourite album from them) as well as returning in 2019 to play on the XXV release. He has also guested on celebrated albums by Hostsonaten, Luca Scherani, Alessandro Corviglia, La Curva di Lesmo, Stefano Agnini, O.A.K, and Malombra. He also released his debut solo album “Dalla Vita Autentica” in 2017 to universal applause. Needless to say, that Andrea is considered among the top prog drummers around, an equal to the fabulous Davide Guidoni (Daal, Nodo Gordiano, Aries, Pensiero Nomade, Tapobran, Nuova Era, Hostsonaten, Rohmer, Doracor, etc…). Yes, he is that good! As befits a well-connected and respected musician, his former and current colleagues join in on the fun, in unleashing this stellar second offering, but keeping this a nice army of players with amazing guitarists, Laura Marsano, Stefano Marelli, Pierenzo Alessandria and Matteo Nahum, keyboard wizards Scherani, Agostino Macor and Boris Valle , bassists Pietro Martinelli and Fabio Zuffanti (on track 5) and female vocalist Meghe Moschino. Orlando mans the drum kit as well as providing keyboards. A lengthy list of string and horn players join in the fun.

So, before we begin, I listened to this while in Italy last week and I am warning everyone that this is a colossal collection of melodies that only serve to enhance my trek through central Italia! Blasting off with a nearly 11-minute epic “Ancora Luce”, the casual attention is kidnapped by obligatory concentration or else the Carabinieri might get testy! Silky smooth like the majestic fabrics from Como, the relaxed rhythmic theme is eventually anchored in a bass thrusted groove that evokes dream-like soundscapes, veils of keyboard elegance as singer Moschino sings a sad lament. Certainly not rushed by any standard, the synths and pianos take control of the arrangement until the final third where the romantic atmosphere picks up, in a rather melancholic, very old school RPI mode, a lead synth motif from Macor leading to the banquet of sounds, the bass carving furiously and the guitars slicing gently through. More light please!

E-piano and articulate bass shapes the basis of another long piece “Tracce”, once again setting down a terrific foundation on which the aromatic electric guitar can travel the invisible tracks towards the azure shrouded stars. It flirts at times with ambient progressive jazz, as there is no fury, rage, or anger anywhere to be found. Meghe seizes the microphone once gain but with an idealistic edge that is quite intoxicating. The transition back to an impenetrable grove is a sheer delight, Pietro plays in perfect unison with Andrea, a seasoned rhythmic section to say the least.

“Il Sogno D’Anastasia” Part 1, surely suggests a depiction of the allegedly surviving Romanov who may have survived the Ekaterinburg massacre of the Tsar and his family, though she may have only dreamt it.  Meghe gets more involved vocally as the orchestrations begin veering towards more tragic symphonic tendencies which will explode on the part 2 coming up later.

The instrumental “City 40” is quite the stressless jewel, a fully alluring workout, where each musician is clearly defined, glorious mellotrons weeping in the wind, as the pace picks up considerably, giving the e-guitars their moment in the spotlight. The rhythmic work again is simply delightful. Just really pretty music. A definite highlight track is the mellotron-infested “Stagione Lontana”, a curving bass from Fabio Zuffanti, Boris Valle on the piano and a theme that would have found place in the Court of the Crimson King. A sweetly pleading vocal and a simple yet theatrical guitar flicker is all one needs to be seduced by the overt beauty of the composition. Velvet and silk filigree in sonic form.  Nearly 8 minutes of contemplative ecstasy.

As vowed earlier, “Il Sogno d’Anastasia” Part 2 makes its poignant appearance through the misty horizons, a solitary piano preparing the stage for the final shocking reality. When Alessandria enters with his shivering lead guitar, the gloomy aura keeps spiraling into an eventual frenzy, flush with unrestricted pain and palpable agony. The mighty mellotron complements the dazzling apotheosis, a nearly funereal beat, and a stop on a dime finale.

Then, in true prog form, the clincher comes in the final track , “Strada del Ritorno” is the most perfect finale one can hope for , a 15-minute epic arrangement that veers from classical settings to more poignant rock ones, Scherani’s piano fluttering over the ivories, dense orchestrations in the background, the monumental mellotron once again illuminating the long and winding road back to one’s home (I actually played this on my earphones on the plane whilst leaving Fiumicino and heading to Dorval in Montreal). The soaring vocals are sustained by a decisive pulse, and when Laura Marsano’s brittle guitar rasps in interplay with the delightful horns, the sweeping atmosphere is raised to celestial heights, adorned with playful transitions, yet still under the effective guidance of the drums. A truly magnificent ending to a piece that is both relaxing and intricate, the true essence of classic symphonic prog, as the ebb and the flow just keep the inspiration going, inexorably in full control. A final vocal to set this brilliant display into the annals of the finest 2023 vintages, an exceptional year from our genre. The farewell horns are sorrowful and gut wrenching. I am spent….

5 Seasonal sciences