It’s difficult to write a story, especially if you try to do this by a concept album. Even more if you try to do this in Italian playing with a genre as “English” as is prog metal (in my mind a chap named “prog metal” is sippin’ on Earl Grey with a ridiculous black hat and a monocle). This is what La Bottega Del Tempo a Vapore (The Steam-Time Workshop, in English) tried to do with its Il Guerriero Errante (The Wandering Warrior).
Let’s start with the easy parts, that I liked most. First of all the style they have chosen for their sound is deeply inspired by some ‘70/’80s productions of italian prog rock (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, a 1972 masterpiece by Il Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, or Concerto Grosso per I New Trolls, by New Trolls, 1971!), You can hear slightly dirty vocals, like they came from the Otherside. I liked how the guitars are using a modern sound, with a deep distortion, but still muffled. It creates an atmosphere of old vinyl records which denotes a good care for details in production phase, something that is rare nowadays, especially for bands at their first album.
The album begins, in a total prog fashion, with an intro piece which in a non-prog fashion doesn’t recall any of the songs of the album, only you can listen to a whisper introducing us to the story we are about to listen.
The first real song is titled “Fumo d’Anime”. We can hear what is the main poetics of La Bottega del Tempo al Vapore, prog metal mixed with classical prog rock sounds and production, and witnessing a good technical preparation of the various members of the band.
“Ordine e Follia” starts as a medieval ballad, La Bottega del Tempo a Vapore didn’t need a lot of peculiar instrumentation for creating this atmosphere, they only needed an acoustic guitar, a perfect choice of chords and a good way of using them, with arpeggios and harmonization. But in the middle of this song starts a dramatic change of atmosphere, introduced by a quite hollow minute of music, and the second part is more heavy metal, close to the sound of “Fumo d’Anime”.
For the rest of the album all that emerges is a very classical prog metal sound. All the songs have a classical prog structure, there is the insertion of some peculiar sounds, like a saxophone in “Eterea Fusione” and an organ in “Urlanti Demoni”. That still is very classical prog metal, in my mind. This is not a bad thing, if you want to write some kind of music it’s inevitable to fall into some cliché, problem is how you use it. And here, in my opinion these sounds are not well used, they don’t add anything to the songs. It seems like they’re here because they’re here.
The ending theme is just a simple minute of piano solo. You can hear too much that is not an acoustic piano, but only keyboards. Same as the intro doesn’t recall any part of the album, but in my opinion the band didn’t think too much about the ending. This minute of piano is not particularly well composed and it doesn’t add anything to the sound of the album.
Let’s talk a little about the lyrics of Il Guerriero Errante.
The story is about a medieval warrior that after winning a battle is ordered by his king to bring a damsel to the castle and protect her during the travel, since she’s to become princess. I won’t spoil the plot any longer, if you are interested. The words are chosen very well in order to create a certain music in the lyrics itself, like modern poetry. This is another detail which denotes a good care about their final product.
My two cents about this album is that I liked it. I liked how they tried to mix ‘70s sound with modern equipment, they tried to create a good story, to play with a medieval fashion sound. But La bottega del Tempo a Vapore managed to be incredibly conventional with their songs, respecting every cliché of Prog metal, as I said before. And this is the major issue I found in their first work. I hope they will get better and work about it in every future production they will face, because they are very talented musicians, and they can do better.
Yeah, I know, all my articles lead to that conclusion, but I see a lot of talented musicians that merely write songs trying to resemble who they are not. Personally, I think a well written album is more impressive than a well played album. Of course we are not meant to be great as the great ones of the music, but in our little world we should try to play with the music itself.
Label: Minotauro Records
Release Date: April 11th, 2016
Reviewed by Stefano