For Italian prog lovers like myself, the past 2-3 years
have been wonderful. Mangala Valis, The Watch, Maschera Di
Cera, Ubi Maior, C.A.P. and Il Castello Di Altante have all
had fantastic releases just to name a few. And now these guys
come out of nowhere with their self-titled release which is
also really, really good.
Notabene are a six piece firmly rooted in the older style
of Italian prog as opposed to the more recent Genesis-inspired
sound (see Mangala Valis, The Watch). Notabene sounds more
like Il Castello Di Altante or C.A.P. but with a few differences.
Firstly, Notabene uses the trumpet on some of their songs
and as such, a slightly jazzy atmosphere sometimes surfaces.
This is occasional in nature, and fits in very nicely with
the softer parts of the album. Secondly, the band sometimes
uses a harder-edged guitar sound in some areas, which also
comes across quite nicely. This is not to say the disc is
heavy, by any means - rather it is varied in tempo and mood.
Much like Il Castello Di Altante, this band uses violin to
great effect. Melodies are very symphonic and pleasing in
nature, with no dissonance to be found.
Vocals are in the lower range, but not gruff, and are
also pleasing without being outstanding. They sing in Italian.
Keyboards? Piano is the main keyboard used, but there is also
electric piano and organ. Occasionally you will hear a slightly
"plastic" sounding moog or strings, one of my only complaints
with the album. No mellotron or classic moog. The keyboardist
is very talented - especially on piano. Guitar is well done,
and the interplay of violin and leads on guitar again reminds
me of Il Castello Di Altante. Songs are longish in nature,
and the band especially stretches out on the Suite (13 minutes),
which is the highlight of the album. This song moves through
several different moods and takes many listens to fully digest.
Overall, this is a unique twist on the classic Italian
prog sound, and I love it. I hope we see a lot more from these
guys, and I also hope they get their hands on some nice analog
keys! Great cover art also, by the way. Rating: 4 stars