Staying in check with the typical album-length ‘suite,’ which Randone first explored in ‘Nuvole Di Ieri,’ ‘Hybla’ takes a massive amount of different musical ideas, and throws them all together into a piece of music that ends up being much more cohesive and memorable than one might expect. Without a doubt the highlight of Randone’s career, this Italian artist’s tribute to his hometown of Ragusa, Sicily is a stunning and dynamic tour-de- force, which reflects greatly on the group’s skill and talent as artists.
Meant to be the first part of a two-act opera, ‘Act I’ entails the story of Hybla (the original name of Randone’s hometown) from the city’s formation to a greatly destructive earthquake in 1693. Spanning historical events such as invasions, civil turmoil and such a devastating natural disaster, Nicola Randone and his bandmates certainly had quite a bit of material from which to inspire this music. While it may be difficult for the typical English speaker to follow the album’s narrative, there are sections where the music perfectly captures the event at hand; episodes such as the marching percussion and gang vocals for the invasion sequence, or the furious chaos and screams during the great earthquake easily transcend the language barrier, and let the music paint a tapestry all it’s own.
While the music can easily be identified within the spectrum of Italian symphonic prog, Randone throws alot of instruments into the mix that wouldn’t typically be heard together on a rock album. Saxophones and violins alike have their place in the journey, and the introduction of each new sound makes for a pleasant surprise; never sounding like a forced novelty and always doing well to compliment the album’s sound. As well as having a wide array of instruments at use here, there has also never been such a vocal variety in a Randone album, as there is on ‘Hybla.’ Operatic (both man and woman) voices and even an english-speaking female singer all accompany the prevalent voice of Nicola Randone here.
While it may have been nice to see a few more of the ideas on ‘Hybla, Act I’ to be developed and give some of the better concepts more of a highlight in the album, ‘Hybla’ is a fantastic rock opera that Randone’s hometown should be proud of. This album will certainly take the typical listener many times to appreciate fully for the sheer amount of ideas, but Randone has made an album that really showcases the immense talent of this group. Safe to say, I eagerly await the arrival of ‘Hybla, Act II!’