Mike Prete    14-July-2001 La Torre dell'Alchimista (Kaliphonia KRC-025, 2001, CD)

Although only released a matter of weeks ago, La Torre dell'Alchimista is easily on its way to becoming the album of the year.  The buzz around this album is growing bigger on a daily basis.  Take the sound of the Italian progressive rock renaissance of the early 70s and mix it with today's high production standards and you have an album destined to be a classic in years to come.  The band is comprised of keys, bass, drums and flute, with acoustic guitar and clarinet embellishments on selected tracks.  An assault of analog keys waits behind each twist and turn; killer hammond attacks, dashing mini-moog lines and the occasional piano and digital synth.  Easily the highlight of the album, keyboardist Michele Mutti's style is similar to that of the other Italian greats;  powerful and Emerson-like, yet distinctly restrained and Italian.  The prominent role of flute, and its frequent interplay with the keys bears a strong resemblance to Hungarian symphonic group Solaris at times.

The album opens in prime fashion with the hammond lead intro to "Eclisse".  The band demonstrates their excellent sense of dynamics, with bombastic organ lines trading off with quiet flute interludes and then running synth lines leading into powerful, emotional Italian vocals.  Dark symphonic keyboard swells are broken by bright and airy flute.  "Il Volo" slows things down with a romantic and atmospheric ballad. Giardino's vocals conjure up the perfect, somber mood.  In stark contrast, songs like the title track and "L'apprendista" plow forward with furious melodicism, dropping riffs left and right that will be stuck in your head for days.  "La Persistenza Della Memoria" provides another interlude; a beautiful, classically influenced piano solo. The epic "Acquario" caps off the album wonderfully, with a climax of keyboard frenzy ending with a jazzy conclusion.

There will probably be a major amount of hype surrounding this album, but it easily stands on it's own. The band has a phenomenal sense of composition that always keeps things fluid and organic. They have an excellent sense of balancing both the beautiful and bombastic. An instant classic that comes with the highest of recommendations.

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