Greg Northrup    22-August-2002 Inferno

Inferno is another one of my very favorite albums from Italy, and another gem in the rich crown of Italian prog. Think ELP mixed with powerful Italian operatic vocals like those of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, but with a darker atmosphere than either band. The music is heavily keyboard-based, lacking guitars completely, and carried by a varied barrage of classic keys, including the usual suspects like Hammond and Moog. The music is built around flashy and bombastic instrumental sections, which are offset by the vocal portions, highlighted by the soaring bellow of Jimmy Spigalteri, who possesses an ominous and awe-inspiring operatic tone that is utterly exhilarating. The album has its ups and downs, and generally the downs are the rare instance where the band gets a tad bogged down in overly ELP-ish mechanical bombast, but the ups... wow. There are moments on this album that simply defy explanation: hellish, beautiful passages that climax in thunderous passion with the overwhelming vocals. Granted, Franceso di Giacomo may be the best Italian singer, but Jimmy Spigalteri isn't far off. The melodies on here are absolutely spellbinding, exhuming blood and fire in the searing Moog lines and savage Hammond riffs.

The album is a concept piece featuring short tracks all strung together to form a consistent whole. I've read that the concept is loosely based on Dante's Inferno. Throughout the album, the music goes from dreary, doomy passages into tremendously upbeat and rocking climaxes. Highlights include the "Carronte" bit that leads into the majestic "Spacciatore di Droga," which features an absolutely infectious vocal/keyboard theme. Also the shuddering "Malebolge" passage has to be one of the most spectacular and overwhelming things I've ever heard. The entire album is full of highlights, rendering it essential for anyone beginning to explore the Italian prog scene. Novices would do well to start with this album, especially if they like ELP. Inferno is catchy, energetic and easy to get into, yet has a brilliance of composition and passionate feel that surpasses anything ELP ever did, while retaining the bombast and energy of that group. Phenomenal.

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