On “Chimica”, Garden Wall’s 4th album, the band had really progressed to new levels of intensity and intelligence. It wouldn’t be too far out of place to state that Garden Wall are a few branches of further growth from the Semiramis tree, demonstrating their Italian prog rock heritage. Lead vocalist/guitarist Alessandro Seravalle is truly one of the more creative minds to emerge on the progressive music scene in the last 15 years. He pretty much just marches to his own drummer and could be seen as a genius, or insane depending on one’s perspective. His vocal style is best described as strange, somewhere between Peter Hammill and a madman (some would argue that’s the same thing). It’s a style that’s very appealing for the chaotic music he and the band create. Keyboardist Mauro Olivo plays almost entirely in counterpoint mode, giving the music a disorienting feel. While GW always had a heavy streak, "Chimica" is the album where they leaped whole hog into the metal camp concerning the guitar tone. Which is not to say they are a Dream Theater style prog metal group, not even close. This is real progressive music, in the true sense of the word, not just a genre tag. The 34 minute multi-part opening track ‘Chemotaxis’ goes through many different sections while still maintaining the sense of a whole composition (something that is rare to find in modern bands). For fans of their earlier style, "Chimica" is seen as an album going in the wrong direction, but since there are plenty of keyboards and acoustic sections, it was passable. For folks like myself who love this kind of creativity while still rocking out, Garden Wall were continuing to progress into new exciting realms. It would be five years until their next album, and not only did they continue to polarize the progressive listening audience, they blew a hole in the universe.
Garden Wall - Principium (Music Is Intelligence WMMS 026, 1993, CD)
Garden Wall are an Italian neo-prog four-piece who have recently released this, their first album. If the name of the band sounds familiar to you, recall Garden Wall was one of the names Genesis gigged under in their infant years. Although they don't borrow as heavily from Genesis as some of their cohorts, Garden Wall still fail to break any new ground in this arena. Guitarist and bandleader Alessandro Seravalle is obviously talented as a lead player, but unfortunately he's the only noteworthy talent in the group. Furthermore, his vocals are twisted and contorted, as he struggles horribly with the pronunciation of the English lyrics. Also disappointing is the fact that three of the members are credited with keyboards, and yet the role of the keyboards in the music is limited to simple chord voicings and basic melody lines. Not a lot of talent in the ivory department. Admittedly, there are some creative tempo/mood changes, but the music often pretends to be heavier than it is and they fall into the trap of using odd time just for the sake of it. With a dedicated lead singer and some more fire behind the keys, Garden Wall could potentially develop into one of the better neo bands, but for now this is average fare at best. If you can overlook the poor vocals, fans of Asgard and Pendragon would probably find this music quite appealing.
(Originally published in Exposé #3, p. 12, Edited for Gnosis 3/27/01)
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