Who is the band? What was the inspiration behind this album?
“The band was originally founded in Rome, Italy, by Diego Cafolla (guitars) and Manuel Thundra Cafolla (drums) in 1996 under the name of "Earth Shaker"." “Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Raven" and driven by a will of change, the band's name was soon altered into Kingcrow.” “During 2004 and 2005, Kingcrow built their own recording studio in Rome. A new album, "Timetopia“, (heralded by media and fans as a true rock opera along the lines of "Tommy", "Jesus Christ Superstar" or even "Operation Mindcrime"), was recorded and published worldwide by Lucretia Records International.” “In 2007 and 2008, together with new bassist Angelo Orlando, Kingcrow performed several live shows at the biggest Italian hard rock-heavy metal music festivals (including Gods of Metal alongside Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to support the album release.”.
“In February 2009, during the recording sessions for the new album, "Phlegethon", Francesco D'Errico (bass) joined the band.” “Also Mauro decided to leave the band due to personal reasons, and was substituted by Diego Marchesi, a singer with outstanding vocal skills that has an emotional approach which will help consolidate Kingcrow's status as one of the most original bands to come out of Italy in recent years”.
“Currently the band has just finished "Phlegethon", a new overall and exciting concept, representing the very best of their progressive rock / metal approach.” “According to the band, "This new discs finds us exploring paths of progressive rock and metal we've never ventured into before. It is an exciting time for us and we feel more confident about Kingcrow's future than ever." (Kingcrow My Space, 2010).
This album opens quietly with sounds of the ocean, as the opening track The Slide, draws its inspiration from the cover art. The waves and the cool synthesizers lull you into a dreamlike state. Then those hard piano keys prepare you for liftoff. Like a rocket’s engines burning, you feel the power build. The dramatic acoustic guitar, soaring metal guitar, and drums sound like the Space Shuttle coiling for takeoff. Then Marchesi’s ‘Geoff Tate’ sounding vocals rip through the haze and fog of the ocean with “Invisible, a figure unseen on those eternal waves.” “The time has come to turn off all the lights.” The opener is over and we are on to Timeshift Box. This song just bolts from the chamber and blasts everything in its wake. The roar of metal and thunder of the drums will leave you in awe. The cranking guitars and then that wonderful synth that no other band seems to want to use to its greatest effect is back. The guitar solos of Timeshift Box are full of power and remind me of the kind of enthusiasm Dream Theater once had on Images and Words. The cutting guitars coupled with those thunder drums, (the drummer’s name Thundra is very appropriate), just make this one of the best songs on the album. The synth work of Della Polla will have you remembering the great early work of Dream Theater. This song is mostly instrumental and a fantastic barrage of all kinds of wondrous melodies.
Timeshift Box glides into a synth melody which then blends perfectly into Islands, which just drips with power and passion. The drums, acoustic and synths surround every inch of available airspace and the heavy guitar which burns in the center adds perfectly to the soundscape. The vocals and lyrics are also powerful. “Closed in a dark embrace we’ll act against adversity.” “Turning the page of life somehow can be your strength of will.”
Islands is one of my favorite songs on an album of instant favorites. No growing time necessary on these tracks. This album jumps at you and takes over. This track is available as an acoustic bonus song on the enhanced version of the CD. More on that later.
The production of this album is top notch. You can hear every chord and note. The earthquake drums do not over shoot the guitars, and the acoustic can be heard in its crystal perfection despite loud singing and buzzing guitars. The loud vocals are crisp and clear. You gotta give Giampiero “PapeDroga” Ulacco, and Davide Barbarulo, allot of credit for separating out the sounds and making every instrument sound perfect.
Islands ends with a wonderful acoustic guitar and tambourine. There is a story behind the concept of the album but I will let you discover it for yourself.
The Great Silence picks up the rhythm again with cosmic synths and sound effects, before that David Gilmour – like electric breaks through. What a moment. Then the pounding drums and vocals, as the sound fills the room. The clear sound of those drums and the ripping power of the guitar really set the stage for the power vocals that come shortly thereafter. “How can each one face the blow?” Facing adversity we each make our own choices. This is a song about choices. Then power chords and earthquake level drums, before the song slowly fades out to a ripping chord.
Lullaby for an Innocent is one of the best songs on the album. A beautiful song worthy of comparison to the power of Wait For Sleep off Images and Words, or even a great combination of the themes of Wait for Sleep and Queensryche’s Silent Lucidity. The electric and synths which open the song will bring back memories of the magic of Silent Lucidity. Definitely a great headphone song, but the production on this album makes is sound just as good over speakers. The background vocal harmonies will also remind you of the Wall. The guitar solos are incredible. Keyboards, drums and perfectly matched electric guitar just dream weaving you in and out of sleep. To emotional to really sleep. “Lay down and sleep peaceful and quiet.” “Look upon you there’s someone who cares.” “So close your eyes and let the dream go.” Acoustic guitar is added later and it really drives home the calm with which this song tries to surround you.
Evasion, follows, and is the first single off the album. It is full of power and the HD video they shot really captures this. The video and this song are a great showcase for the kind of power this band brings to the table. The amazing synths and guitar solos on this one are breathtaking. The power of the ocean is not only an effect; it is hidden within this music. The vocals are driven and the best on the album. “When you’re stuck inside by your own decision.” “When you’re closest to a dead end street.” “Well, the time has arrived for abrupt occasions.” “Can you still see a chance as it will appear?” “Take a look inside your vision.” “One mission, one aim.” “Lift filters from your eyes.” “Illusions are shattered by your own will.” Power chords fill this one. If you’re not up on your feet after this one I’d be surprised. Must be a real crowd pleaser at shows. The drums are definitely full of thunder bringing back memories of Pull Me Under.
Numb (Incipit, Climax, & Coda), follows the drum barrage of Evasion with cool synths and slow rhythm, bass and guitar. The vocals are superb and a Comfortably Numb rhythm of their own builds slowly. Backing vocals sound great as the synth bleeds out notes as if the player was in front of you. The separation of instruments and sounds gives you a 3D soundscape which I have yet to hear from anyone else this year. The lyrics and vocals are full of passion, “Longing for you, I’m eager, I’m impatient.” “Can’t wait to see your smile, your silhouette, again.” Then the best part of the song begins. A slow but determined grinding and escalating guitar rhythm, with every note captivating, before we are off running with full drums and powerful vocals. The Climax part of this song is a no holds barred roar of thunder from synths, drums, and guitars that you do not want to stop. The rest of the song is fantastic, especially the break for air, as the song slowly fades. At 8:47, Numb is one of the big epics on the album.
Washing Out Memories – A slow cool down, almost jazzy sound after that miraculous ride that just took place. A vocals driven song with guitar, drums, bass, and synths. Nice break, which slowly builds into another power burner. When the guitars and drums pick up again we are surrounded with that overwhelming power. Diego’s vocals can be heard loud and clear despite being surrounded by unlimited power and sound. “Thanks for all the days and nights.” Your vanilla kisses still rolling.” The importance of a good sound engineer can never be minimized. The instrumental which then takes over will have you loving this song as much as the last. In fact, the entire album is full of great instrumental sections which lift the music so well. They are placed perfectly to get the most effect. The acoustic guitar mixed with those power electric chords sounds amazing.
A New Life - Another nice slow awakening moment to open this song. Drums, synths and electric blended perfectly with piano – like sounds. Then the amazing rushing and roaring of electric guitar solos. A mostly instrumental song which then bolts out with fast moving synths and Rush sounding chords and drums. The lyrics are good on this one too, “The sun is rising up today.” “I can feel a warm embrace that fills my aching soul.” “Now life is calling you.” “Listen to these magic sounds.” Yes, magic sounds.
Lovocaine – Eerie synths and sound effects, like you’re near the bottom of a lava shaft waiting for the blast. Grinding guitars, bass and synths set the fuse or mood before the power drums start slowly and the tempo builds. The vocals are back again. “A growing understanding.” “Summers fade into the darkest fall.” “My brief thoughtless youth, slowly walked off no more regrets.” Those fast drums along with the acoustic build the tempo before another cool blast off of Arabic sounding acoustic and drums. The guitar solos with surrounding drums are just incredible.
Fading Out Part III – My favorite song on the album. A wonderful acoustic sounding solo electric, before Moroccan or Spanish sounding guitars and maracas. This one starts out like a Spaghetti western. The sound is complete with maracas before blinding guitar and excellent vocals enter. “I remember that winter was so cold.” “Holding my breath while I was walking down the stairs.” Piano enters with all sorts of percussion sounds. Each piece standing out on its own. The magic of the production of this album really comes out when they break into the middle section and let it rip. You can hear every instrument so well. You don’t want this one to end. Every minute is full of brilliant improvisation. Vocal exercises and instrumental play which will make you hope every album of theirs stands up to the magnificence of this one. I didn’t want this one to end.
Phlegethon – Literally a river of fire. Yeah, that’s what those guitars sound like. The epic track and closer. Thunder from the mountain of drums and that blazing electric. Softly spoken vocals before the pressure builds again and the drums, bass and electric build rhythm. Dreamy vocals preparing the listener for the launch which is about to overtake the room. “Now go back and think all our days of joy.” “Smiles that were to leave a silent fall.” Full orchestra vocal sound as all the backing vocals support Diego’s soaring vocal climb. The ocean waves and piano take you away as the album closes perfectly.
Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
Yes, the CD mastering takes us back to a time when production of the final product was as important as the instrumentation and lyrics of the music. This one was definitely prepared from the perspective of the listener. The band fills this masterpiece with sounds which come at you from all directions and never bore you. Although there are similarities in style to other bands, this is all original material. It is dramatic, emotional, and powerful. The songs and music grip you from the beginning and hold your attention throughout. Easily one of the best CDs of the year.
Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Diego Marchesi’s vocals, Cristian Della Polla’s keys, and Thundra Cafolla’s drums are an amazing new addition to my watch list of musicians. The duel team of Diego Cafolla and Ivan Nastasi ripping with their guitars have left a lasting memory.
I compare the feeling I got last year from Tenth Planet to this album. This one is even better and more well crafted and produced. A surprise which I am so glad I found. Definitely a treasured item from this year.
These guys are near the top of my watch list for great things in the future. Can it possibly get any better than this?
Rating: 10/10 – This is the best new band I have heard during the second quarter of 2010. Excellent. Nothing’s missing.
Reviewed by Prof on June 9th, 2010