Lee Speaks About Music… #65

Istinto – Conqueror

C - I

Introduction…

Well for those who read who read my review of the Conqueror’s 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo I posted last month on the February 15th here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/lee-speaks-about-music-60/ you would of read that I was that well impressed by this great Italian band, that I would be purchasing their entire discography.

Istinto is the bands 1st album and once again it’s another truly great album that certainly delivers. Though I will say that getting these albums delivered to me, does take some time due to Italy’s postal service not being the best in the world. However even though the items I did send for took 3 weeks to get here, I did get a nice surprise in the package to cater for long wait, making it worthwhile.

I originally sent off for 3 of the bands albums which were Istinto. Stems and their live CD/DVD Un’altra verità. I ordered them from the founding member and drummer of the band Natale who also threw in a nice couple of freebies, which was very generous and kind of him.

Goodies

The couple of freebies I received was their 2009 EP Sprazzi di luce and a DVD-R which contains a short bit of video footage of the band playing live back in 2006. They play some of the material from their 3rd album 74 Giorni, along with a bit of “Firth Of Fifth” by Genesis plus the video the band made for “Mosaico di Colori” from the bands 2nd great album I have already reviewed.

No doubt I shall be reviewing all the bands 5 albums and EP when I get chance too, and when I have brought their 3rd and 4th albums to complete the collection. But right now let’s get back to this review of the bands debut album Istinto. But first up let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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As you can see from the photo above the album Istinto unlike their 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo which came in a Digipak, it comes in a standard Jewel Case. This is simply because their 2nd album as not long been re-issued again and comes with a bonus track. I do believe that Storie Fuori Dal Tempo is due to also be re-released on vinyl too.

I have already sited the vinyl release too on the bands record label Ma.Ra.Cash Records. It’s up for sale right now and comes in the form of Gatefold Sleeve and it’s been released as a double album and is priced up at 30 Euro. Though I am not dragging my turntable back out of the loft I am afraid, and I am quite happy with the CD.

But at least it’s now been made available for all you vinyl lovers, though I have to say that’s an expensive game these days.

The booklet that comes with the album Istinto contains all the lyrics to the songs and all the writing and band credits. Unfortunately though they are all in Italian. So once again I am going to have the painstaking job of typing it all out in Italian in my word processor, so I can simply copy and paste them into one of the many translators on the internet. This is because the bands lyrics are nowhere to be found on the net.

I have once again asked the bands drummer Natale if he could perhaps put them on the bands website even if they are in Italian. At least I could simply copy and paste them from there into a translator, rather than type them all out in Italian myself in my word processor first. Hopefully Natale will see to eventually get around to doing this as I have requested. It would save me a lot of hassle for my reviews that’s for sure.

The Artwork.

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The albums artwork was done by the drummers aunt Graziella Russo before he was born himself, and here you can see Natale pointing to her original painting on the wall. She did a grand job on the painting too.

The Album In Review…

The bands album Istinto was released back in October 2003. It was the bands debut album, and just like the bands 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo it also features material that was written with the bands previous keyboard player Salvatore Chillemi who left the band in 1998.

Just like I mentioned in my review of the bands 2nd album the original band was formed by the drummer Natale Russo back in 1994. By the time Salvatore Chillemi left the band, the band already had enough written material to put out an album in 1999. But I suspect putting the band together with a new line up took longer than expected. So the bulk of the material that was co-written by Chillemi got spread over the bands first 2 albums, and I have to say both albums are exceptionally superb albums.

There is also no doubt that the band had to work on writing their own material besides doing the arrangements for the previous written material. The band have gone through many line-up changes over the years, but both the bands drummer Natale Russo and the bands keyboard player and main singer Simona Rigano have managed to stay the course throughout Conqueror’s career since the release of this album, and when they started working on it in 2002.

Istinto when translated into English means “Instinct“. The album itself comes with 8 tracks and has an overall playing time of 54 minutes, 21 seconds. 7 of the 8 tracks are songs, and it contains 1 instrumental piece, though the band do focus very well on the musical side of things, leaving plenty of scope and space for the musical interludes to work very well with the vocal sections.

If your into progressive rock, I think you will love what the band have to offer on this album and there 2nd album. The music very much speaks for itself regardless of the vocals being in Italian. To put in a nutshell. These guys have prog rock music down to a fine art, and have done quite a remarkable job of it.

So before I take on the individual tracks on the album. Let’s first take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

2003 Group

The 2003 Line-Up Of The Band

Produced by Conqueror at Conqueror and Cultural Association. Sound Engineer: Ottavio Leo. Artwork Cover Painting: Graziella Russo.  Graphic & Photo: Gianfranco Stracuzzi. Booklet Linear Writing by GraficaUnita. Duplication by Duplitape.

Musicians:
Simona Rigano: Keyboards and Voice.
Gaetano Scarcella: Guitar.
Tony Rose: Bass.
Natale Russo: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

There is no doubt that some of the material written for the album Istinto was done a lot earlier back in the 90’s with the likes of the keyboard player Salvatore Chillemi and notably even the guitar player Gaetano Scarcella had a very short stint with the band back in 1995. Though Scarcella also left in 1995 having spent around 10 months with the band, it’s quite intriguing that he rejoined the band in 2002 and left a few months before the release of this album in 2003.

To be perfectly honest it makes me wonder why Gaetano Scarcella left the band having just contributed some superb guitar playing to this quite remarkable debut album. It’s also notable that 2 of the tracks on the album were actually credited to Chillemi, Russo & Scarcella. Though I am sure Scarcella had his reasons for leaving, just as many other musicians have done in many other bands over the years at such pivotal moments in time.

It’s a shame really because there is no doubt that Gaetano Scarcella done some extremely incredible work on this album, and in some ways the guitar work shines more so on this album than any of the other albums. Though no doubt the band always  brought in some great musicians to replace many of those that left over the years.

Even the bands bass player Tony Rose who had only joined the band back in 2002 left the same time as the guitarist before the album was released.

To be honest if I was working with a band that had just made a debut album this good. I do not think I would want to be leaving it that’s for sure. So let’s now take a look at the individual tracks that make up with is album.

Track 1. Storie di Favole.

Just like a lot of the bands earlier albums they tend to base the lyrical content around legends, myths, old fables and ghostly tales. The title of this track translates in English to “Stories of Fables“.

They also tend to present the lyrical content in the same mannerism with the use of poetry to put over the stories they present, and they also perhaps like to present their words and music in the form of a concept album of short stories just like we got on their 2005 follow up album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo I have already reviewed.

This opening track could be seen as the starting point of the many stories that the album portrays, in that it fills one’s mind floating amongst the clouds floating in a world of fantasy, mystery and imagination.

This particular song could also be seen as the albums title track in that it mentions the title of the album “Instinct” in the following sentence “Clouds covering fleeting memories of moments. vulnerable instincts of complicity”.

More great poetry is found in the final paragraph of lyrics they wrote for this song. Which are as follows:

“Frosty waves that take away traces of legends
mysterious shadows
mythical stories of fables
far away from all weather quickly dissolve”

There is no doubt the words are very well written and so too is the structure of the music the band present to them. Speaking of the music on this particular song it does have some really great textures which are very well layered and blended with all the instrumentation we have here.

It contains lush bass lines from Tony Rose that interweave their way along with Natale Russo’s great drums, and the rhythm guitar and keyboards. You also get some great interplay in the small break sections between Gaetano Scarcella’s guitar solos and Simona Rigano’s keyboard solos. All topped up very with her fine voice too. It really is a great opening track and set’s the wheels in motion for the more delights the album has in store.

Track 2. Quartar.

Well I have to confess that I have rattled my brains out trying to find out what the “Quartar” exactly is in relation to the lyrics in this song. The obvious answer would be to say that the word “Quartar” would translate in English to “Quarter”. If that is the case, the only logical way I can see why the band decided on its title, is that it’s the second of 8 tracks on the album, and it could be perhaps seen as the “Quarter” stage of the album.

Though I am pretty sure my own theory of how this title relates to the song is far from the case, and other examples of just what “Quartar” could mean, tend to hark back to the ice and stone age, or the Quaternary period with what I have researched and found that may have some bearings in relation to what the lyrics are about.

For example looking at the lyrics we have here such as “Between the paths of nothingness” and that it also refers to “remains of utopias” and thus a “Message that crosses the boundaries of silence, in the fear of loneliness” which are all found within the lyrical content. Could relate to that Quaternary period.

However I have tried to decipher this fine set of lyrics we have here. I find them quite magical and relating to a time before a lot of things even existed. These lyrics I find that fascinating that I have decided to post them here.

In the clouds of a dream
remains of utopias immerse you, scrutinize you
a play of light and shadow
a breath of joy and melancholy, and a cry of hope

Desire to cry, laughing
to live to cancel

Message that crosses the boundaries of silence
in the fear of loneliness

Silent merciless
of free souls
from violence and hatred

Between the paths of nothingness, traps of anguish
they tend to match dreams
stories of ironic ghosts
mock your madness

in the fear of loneliness
immerse you scrutinize you
a play of light and shadow
a breath of joy and melancholy and a cry of hope

Quartar” is actually one of the 2 songs that was credited to Chillemi, Russo & Scarcella on this album. I do not know which one of them penned these lyrics, but they deserve a very good pat on the back.

Musically the song kicks off with a very dominant theme or melody line played on the piano at quite a hurried pace. It’s also accompanied by the vocals. Then around the 1:17 mark the song comes down from it’s fast tempo with a short interlude on the keyboards, and settles down into a more steady pace as it builds itself along, and gradually finds its way back into that fast paced intro.

The song also features some great chord progression and interplay between the guitar and keyboards. Even the percussion plays a nice role with the use of the clave’s and the rimshot in a small section. It also ends off in great style, and it’s one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. Pensieri Fragili.

Pensieri Fragili” or “Fragile Thoughts” it translates too, is perhaps one of the most popular tracks the band tend to play live from this album. For example a live version of the song from 2007 appears on their 2009 EP Sprazzi di luce and a 2014 live version is also included on their 2015 live CD/DVD Un’altra verità.

Musically it’s quite an interesting song that starts of quite pleasantly with its opening piano melody, a bit further on down the line the guitar adds to its melody and it takes some 3 minutes and 40 seconds for the vocals to come into play. It’s quite a long intro considering the song is only 7 minutes and 48 seconds long.

In some ways the song tends to have more of a pop approach with its brighter melody line and it’s vocal line. Though it does also have some fine progression and we do get some fine keyboard work and a nice guitar solo too. It’s got perhaps a more modern approach to progressive rock, and that is perhaps the best way I can describe it myself.

The songs lyrical content pertains towards never ending dreams, mysterious harmonies and atmospheres, flying across oceans and skies, and all sort of images that hide behind the face of reality in our fragile thoughts.

Track 4. La Strada del Graal.

The 4th track on the album translates to “The Graal Road“. It starts off with a very strong theme played on the guitar that makes quite a bold statement in the same way that perhaps some of Carlos Santana or Gary Moore’s melody lines do on some of their music. This is soon followed up by the opening verse of the song.. Scarcella’s guitar is featured quite a bit throughout this song, and it contains a couple of great little solos too. It also features a cracking keyboard solo from Simona too.

The lyrical content is based around amazing dreams and fantasies as one would expect along their journey on this road. The song is one of the 3 tracks on the album that was written by Silvana Chillemi & Natale Russo. It’s got to be another contender for the top spot on the album and is a really great track.

Track 5. In the Cave.

Well this title is perhaps the odd one out on the album. But only because it’s title is actually written in English :))))))). In Italian it would be titled “Nella Grotta“. It’s also the shortest track on the album. Just as short as it is, it’s another really great track. It’s also the 2nd song on the album that was written by Chillemi, Russo & Scarcella.

The lyrical content is as far as I can make out is based on Greek Mythology. Being that it refers to Eurydice. The fact that it’s also in a cave could pertain to the myth of Inanna’s descent to the underworld. Eurydice and her husband can also be compared to Lot and his wife in the bible, hence these words from the song we have here “do not stop, never turn around”.

Track 6. Cristalli di Solitudine.

My personal favourite track on the album and it merits my top spot award. In English it translates to “Crystals of Solitude“. In some ways musically, this is perhaps the only track on the album that uses those familiar Camel and Marillion influences that were featured heavily on the bands 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo.

Though whereas the bands 2nd album is perhaps more familiar with Camel especially with the keyboard sounds that are used. It’s only really the intro on the electric piano and a few short sections in the song that have that Camel feel to them on this song. It’s certainly got a lot more of Marillion influence with the guitar and keyboard solos we get here.

I have chosen this amateur video shot from somebody in the audience to give you some idea of the song, though for the best representation it would be better to listen this original studio version on Bandcamp here: https://maracashrecords.bandcamp.com/track/cristalli-di-solitudine

The video features the same 2005 line-up of the band that featured on the bands 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo. This is also a 5 piece band, rather than the 4 piece outfit we have on this album, and I quite like the addition of the woodwind player Sabrina Rigano who contributes another texture to the song with the addition of the flute.

The so called special ending we get in the amateur video is a short burst from the final instrumental track on this album “Entropia“.

The lyrical content relates to the situation of being alone, like being imprisoned abandoned from freedom, the crystals are perhaps enlightened to the drops of rain and the false sense that even the season of spring can sometimes feel like autumn at times. Once again the lyrical content is very well constructed in the form of great poetry.

The song itself is the second song on the album that was penned by Silvana Chillemi & Natale Russo and goes back to 1997.

Track 7. Porte Straniere.

Once again we have another really great song here that translates to “Foreign Doors“. Lyrically the song is pertaining to breaking down barriers of time, and to find the heart to attain other magical goals along our path so to speak. musically it’s quite striking with its melody lines and diversity, and it’s perhaps my 2nd favourite track on the album and very much an high contender for the top spot of the album too.

Once again we get some great solos from the keyboards and guitars and plenty of great progression as the song goes along its path. The band feed off each other so well on this song and it’s a very well constructed piece of work.

Track 8. Entropia.

The finale track on the album is the longest track on the album at just under the 9 minute mark. This instrumental piece would of also have been written back in the 90’s and was penned once again by Silvana Chillemi & Natale Russo.

It’s another high contender of the top spot on the album, that has some excellent transnational changes and chord progression along its path. Beautiful guitar and keyboard solos and is quite haunting too. It’s a really great stand out track and winds up this truly great album in great style.

Summary…

The album Istinto by Conqueror is an excellent debut album and one I could even consider as a great starting point to get into this really great band. It’s quite a solid album with the material they have came up with and wrote here. Once again the band show great diversity and there is perhaps not as many influences on this album either.

If anything it is perhaps even more of their own style than the album that followed it in 2005. Though I do feel that the bands 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo is marginally a better album overall. But no doubt if you like myself you are into progressive rock. Both albums do not disappoint one bit, and provide a truly great contribution to this fine art of music.

Just like I stated in my earlier review of Storie Fuori Dal Tempo. One should never put language barriers between the music one listens to and enjoys. The music that the band Conqueror present is way too impressive for that.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the bands debut album Istinto. I personally think it’s a very strong and very well produced album with the material we have here. It does not disappoint one bit and is a very well structured and crafted piece of work. It does not need my recommendation, simply because the music speaks for itself.

I know that in the interview on the live DVD of Un’altra verità. That the bands keyboard player Simona Rigano felt that this album never got quite the production that their 2nd album got, due to them recording it in a more professional studio.

I honestly beg to differ, because the production on Istinto and the sound quality is superb, and for the life of me I cannot see any difference at all. Both albums are quality all the way.

My personal highlights from the album are “Cristalli di solitudine“. “Porte Straniere“. “Entropia“. “La Strada del Graal” and “Quartar“.

The album Istinto can be purchased from Bandcamp in the form of a digital download of your choice for 8 Euro. Though the physical CD is more expensive from there and is priced at 15 Euro.

You can get the physical CD for 10 Euro plus 2 Euro to cover the postage and packaging from the bands website, or via Paypal by simply sending it too nat@conqueror.it

You can also use the same email to send Natale a message to say that you have ordered it. He may even wave the 2 Euro postage and packaging if you have a nice word with him. Or it may be wise to order 2 or 3 CD’s at the same to save on the postage. It does take time to arrive by post depending which part of the world you live of course.

The Conqueror are a truly great band that have captured the true spirit of progressive rock with their great music. Their music can captivate you, and they do it in great style. No doubt there will be more to come from this great band, and I am looking forward to reviewing their other albums from their great discography.

Clouds covering fleeting memories of moments vulnerable instincts of complicity…

You can listen to, or even buy this album from Bandcamp here: https://maracashrecords.bandcamp.com/album/istinto

Alternatively you can use the bands website to buy their albums here : http://www.conqueror.it/eng/default.asp

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Storie di Favole. 4:52.
02. Quartar. 6:03.
03. Pensieri Fragili. 7:48.
04. La Strada del Graal. 5:59.
05. In the Cave. 4:45.
06. Cristalli di solitudine. 8:28.
07. Porte Straniere. 7:29.
08. Entropia. 8:57.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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