Good music, a skilled band and very good songs, but this time what matters more is the concept. Journey. This is what the first act of this trilogy is about. A bit of history can help the understanding. St. James (Sanctus Jacopus in Latin) becomes Sant’Iago in Spanish. Centuries ago he walked to the actual “end of the world”, (Finis Terrae) and watched a spectacular clear sky full of stars so that the place he was is now called “Compostela” (Campus Stellae – Starfield).
Since then thousands of pilgrims have walked from the Pyrenees, the mountains at the border between France and Spain to that remote place at the end of the known world called Santiago de Compostela.
This is why the album is so full of voices, emotions, sounds and the sense of the journey which includes wonder, fatigue, and a sort of spiritual renaissance. I don’t know if Nicola Randone, the project’s mastermind is a faithful Christian or not, I have personally spoken with people who walked the Way, and there are Atheists and Mulims who have done it.
Now let’s go straight to the album. “Ultreia” is a mysterious word that the pilgrims use as “hello”. The first song “Ultreia” starts from a traditional song, but as often happens in prog, it also works as Ouverture including some of the recurring musical themes which will pop-up here and there later in the album.
My favorite song is personally “la Cabra Negra”. I’m not sure to have correctly interpreted the lyrics, but I think it represents the temptation, the Devil of Fatigue trying to make the pilgrim stop and give up.
“Il Canto Della Vita” (The song of Life) has a very easy musical theme which appeals immediately and persists in your mind after the listening, but the central interlude, sad and dreamy, gives the idea of the rest after an ordeal, the last moments at the end of the day before falling asleep. The flute and the march rhythm mixed with some electronics give me this idea, at least.
“Mariposas” starts from the main theme but in minor chords. The spelling voice describes the sensation of walking, “fixing the colour of Mariposas in your heart”. The keyboards (I think played by Beppe Crovetta from Arti E Mestieri) have a big part in setting the mood with vintage sounds in a Wakeman’s style. I have also the impression of a Theremin. Very good guitar, too.
“Soy Peregrino” is one of the most rocking tracks. As in classic rock its length doesn’t reach 3 minutes, heavy guitar and hammond are the base of a spanish song. In the last seconds this sort of progressive metal turns into acoustic. A very good song.
“Qui ed Ora” (Here and Now) is a connection to the other Randone’s work that I know: Linea Di Confine. The melody and the dissonances in between remind to that work. Anyway, the vintage sound of the keys (a Moog maybe?) has a bit of PFM. After 5 minutes, the wind introduces few moments of dark atmosphere, like a n incoming storm, but it’s just a moment. The coda has a very positive sound, quite like a hymn.
A dark love song, a moment of rest in the night. Paying more attention to the lyrics, it’s not clear if the woman he speaks about is a real woman or if there’s anything religious inside. Maybe both the things. The a-cappella singing with an operatic female voice and the sound which seems a theremin are an unusual moment in this album.
“Rosa” (Rose) Seems to be a real character. A woman who helps the pilgrims and likes hearing their stories. “They come to ease the pain and fill the silence inside me” she says. It’s a very melodic song which sounds very RPI,
“Hasta la Vista, Diego”. It may be somebody met on the Way (The walk of Santiago is also known as the Milky Way). He says something in Italian with a strong Spanish accent. Then comes a good instrumental part which contains a bit everything. This is prog. No other words are needed. Again the influence of classic RPI is evident in the keyboard parts. The guitar instead, may fit in an Ayreon’s album. This is the most complex song and one of the best for sure.
“So Close, So Far Away” is opened by acoustic guitar and harmonica, like a Country western song. It’s something that was common in the late 60s in Italy, when many artists were strongly influenced by Dylan. But the Country flavor goes away soon. Another melodic song in classic RPI stile. The vocals are not too dissimilar from Ivano Fossati (former Delirium) but the melody can remind to “Le Orme”, but the instrumental part is astonishing. A heavy prog interlude and the return to the melody. It represents a moment of doubt “can this Way be only an excuse to proceed far from you” This seems to be the meaning of the song’s title.
In a city called “Victoria” there’s the church of the White Virgin (La Iglesia de la Virgen Blanca), Is another sort of checkpoint in Nicola’s journey. A mystic moment or just when he has finally given up to a lost love? Whatever it is, this song is very dramatic.
“Santiago” is the goal, where both the journey and this album end. We know that it’s not the end of the story as this is just the first chapter of a trilogy. Operatic male vocals introduce a song with an unusual signature with several changes. It gives an idea of confusion. Like the pilgrim is asking himself about the true reason of the journey. This complicated song seems to me a bridge to the next chapter which will arrive in 2015: a sort of “to be continued”:
I hope Randone will mantain the promise of releasing two more albums about the “camino”. If you want to enter a bit more easier into the right mood for the album, give a look to the booklet. It’s available in several languages and a photo in particular impressed me: Nicola on a bed with a small window on his back, likely in a hostel, with his guitar close to him. That snapshot says a lot.
Not less than 4 stars for me. 5 if it was for the concept only. The spirit of the Milky Way filters out of the tracks. This means that the music has reached its target.