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I have to confess that my knowledge of old Italian prog isn't all that extensive, save for a perennial fondness for Goblin; a band whose music I've long admired, including Claudio Simonetti's post-Goblin output. And I adore current Italian bands who've continued to exercise their genuinely progressive creativity through their music, like Kingcrow, Sadist and Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire. And not forgetting acts like the now defunct and much missed Ephel Duath (albeit Davide Tiso remains as prolific as ever, through other sonic avenues). So, yeah, there’s been some profoundly interesting and innovative stuff to emerge from Italy over the years, but I’ve never backtracked to the early days of Italian prog. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso are, apparently, “legends” of the scene, according to the blurb, and one of the big three of the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre but, I’m ashamed to admit, an entirely new name on me.

‘Transiberiana’ is their first studio album of brand new material since the 90s, so I’m guessing this is something of a big deal for fans of the band and of old prog in general. And this is most certainly old prog. I'm not sure what BdMS usually sound like, but the music on ‘Transiberiana’ is firmly rooted in the 70s, so there's evidently been no modern makeover of their sound. It’s true to their roots, I’m guessing. Unless I’m wrong? And that brings me onto the current lineup of BdMS, which I gather is significantly revised from the original personnel. Vittorio Nocenzi remains from the band inception, although just about everybody else, with dates of birth in the early to mid-70s, weren’t even born when BdMS were formed in 1969.

With all lyrics in Italian, I understand incredibly little of this, such is my non-grasp of the language... yet, it's a beautiful language, so it still provides a nice listen. And lyrics are translated in the CD booklet, so those non-Italian speakers out there who want to know precisely what it’s all about can delve into such. The booklet contains extensive notes on each track (again, in both Italian and English), detailing narrative nuances in how the instrumentations suggest the conceptual core of the record, right down to how specific instruments have been used for such a purpose. And the concept? Well, it’s all about the “journey of life” with an autobiographical bias.

Musically, ‘Transiberiana’ provides an unpredictable, varied, and engaging listen, as songs mix up varying styles, atmospheres, moods and ambient/heavy shifts throughout. ‘L'assalto dei lupi’ is even a tad Goblin-esque, in parts... befitting of a giallo movie. But there’s some masterful musicality at work here and, often, the interplay between each of the musicians in how they combine their instruments in the sonic tapestry of the compositions is fantastic. And the vocals are as varied as the music. Tony D’Alessio, a man who looks like a cross between Tom Araya, George Best and Rasputin, sings with raw, passionate and emotionally moving power, right through to almost spoken word ramblings and a touch of dissonance here and there. Nocenzi also provides some vocals, which I’m guessing accounts for some of the disparity.

Ever so slightly unhinged during some songs, and euphonically blissful in others, ‘Transiberiana’ never has a dull moment. Such is the variance between all the songs, not all of this will be to everyone’s taste, but those who relish unpredictability in their music, rooted in the stylistic significance of 70s prog rock, will undoubtedly adore this long-awaited new record from Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. And a couple of live tracks from last year’s Festival Prog di Veruno have been thrown in as a bonus.
Inside Out
Review by Mark Holmes
10th May 2019
1) Stelle sulla terra; 2) L'imprevisto
3) La discesa dal treno; 4) L'assalto dei lupi
5) Campi di Fragole
6) Lo sciamano
7) Eterna Transiberiana
8) I ruderi del gulag
9) Lasciando alle spalle
10) Il grande bianco
11) Oceano: Strade di sale
12) Metamorfosi (Live)
13) Il ragno (Live)
"Ever so slightly unhinged during some songs, and euphonically blissful in others, ‘Transiberiana’ never has a dull moment."