Sunday, 25 May 2014

Focus Indulgens – Hic Sunt Leones (2011) / 90%

Cannelloni & Manicotti Doom pt. V: I'm no cynic

Italy has always been one of the most renowned country for progressive rock with bands like Area, Museo Rosenbach or Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Paul Chain definitely did a lot to preserve the heritage with all his weird experimental albums, but Focus Indulgens, a project apparently started by the father of two of the members in the early 90s truly understood they had a purpose in life. They're keeping alive two legacies, the one of their dads (doom!) and the golden days of prog from the 70s!

Carlo Castellani and Edoardo Natalini (drums, vocals) two dudes near my age embraced the calling and crafted a great doom record but they added more to the pasta recipe this time around.

Indeed, compared to their decent but unspectacular debut, Hic Sunt Leones is much much much more progressive and weird. It's more rich and intensely out there than the safe traditional doom of their previous album. The Past hinted to a proggier future but with only one year between them, it was a fast transition! Certainly one I'm grateful for though! Led by Castellani who plays the flute, the organ, the piano plus the usual instruments like the electric guitar or the bass. He also sings so you can say he has his hands full here but it's all done wonderfully. The other guitarist, the third member of the unit, adds some nice harmonica parts here and there. I've always liked this instrument ever since I've been born as my father is a big Bob Dylan and Neil Young fan and he transmitted his passion to his son. I remember being surprised by Ozzy Osbourne's mouth solo in the seminal song “The Wizard” found on Sabbath's debut. I always wanted to hear more metal musicians use this small but interesting instrument and it's always a joy when I find some examples.

The band is still freaking metal though, they're just mixing more progressive and psychedelic rock in their sound. There's some soft parts here and there so it's not a complete and spastic mix of influences but rather a good flowing diverse album. “Figlio Di Cagna” (I thought it sounded poetic but it means “son of a whore”, oh well!) has one of the best riff I've heard recently and with its nine minutes, the song explores many facets of their sound ranging from soft, early Genesis influenced keys to hard hittin' dark themed doom metal that is mid-paced and groovy.

The lengthier closer “Vinsanto” is one hell of a prog rock conclusion, quarter of a hour of uber rich music encompassing everything I like about Focus Indulgens. Compared to progressive/doom bands like Revelation, they're not subtle at all with big hints at symphonic heavy prog and big bands with sophisticated songwriting. Their vocals are quite enjoyable too, they have this clean, high and kind of melodic edge while retaining some grittiness. Sure, the lyrics are completely in Italian but I think it's giving some eccentricity to the content, not that the musical content wasn't itself already fucked up. The production on the vox changes from song to song, sometimes it can be kind of buried underneath the warm instrumental layers but it can be at the forefront in other moments, it adds to the varied atmospheres the album has. Perhaps due to the language similarity (Italian and Spanish), Carlo reminds me of Mago De Oz's releases with Jose Andrëa (Finisterra amongst others.)

Immensely rich, I can't see a prog or a curious doom fan disliking Hic Sunt Leones is a great record with everything I ask for in my music. Cool solos, long fun songs, surprises (that fucking flute is awesome!), a worthy bass present. All this combined to create an emotional album supported by ultra talented musicians.

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