'Lo Sgabello del Rospo'

(Lizard records)

MARK: 88/100



This album was composed in 1995, the recording was performed in 1999 and the executive production was made in 2001, but I suppose it's the first CD for the Sicilian act; if I were right, I'd have to be stunned because it's something extremely mature and careful. I don't know as I haven't received any info but it's no big deal; the point is that "Lo sgabello del Rospo" is a fairy-tale written in a poetic language and set to music; it deals with Pauro, a young fellow living in an imaginary Middle-age, who finds a wood path he heard about when he used to be a child; not many people have had the luck to discover it; during his random and solitary way, he escapes from two witches, half-human and half-toads. He then meets various toads, bringing him to the Queen of mushrooms Gebbia; he satisfies her sexual desires after a lucullian meal, it's a mystery how he does, as he's a giant compared to her; anyway, later he kills the amphibes' arch-enemy in exchange for the event when the toads saved his life previously.
It's no secret to any child that almost every fairy-tale contains descriptions of red and white-spotted mushrooms, there are sweets with that shape and ornaments for Christmas of the same product are sold world-wide; it's eatable and seems harmless, yet it's one of the most powerful hallucinating natural products. The Celts and the Vikings were accustomed to using it for several aims. The whole work is written and sung in Italian, however suffice it to say that the English name it's known for is 'Toad-stool', and it's actually the viscid throne for Queen Gebbia
. There's always been a profound and mysterious connection between these two creatures. Fiaba dedicate this work to all frogs, toads and animals dying while trying to cross a road.

The opener "La via per la città delle rane" starts with an arpeggio but then becomes a massive 70's Prog metal piece where there are also incisive and theatrical refrains; singer Giuseppe Brancato's voice is very expressive and he's crafty at interpreting and utilizing different styles when necessary; not a long track but with a dreamlike ending, right prelude to "Canto dei guardiani crepuscolari", beginning with another wonderful arpeggio with Brancato's voice; his calm reciting guides us to a sinister and doomish sing-song where the drums are slow and shy. The atmosphere becomes tight and electric again with "La festa della pioggia - Inno alle gocce", fast and powerful, with supreme vocal lines and a great break made out of odd central times. For sure one of the highlights of the CD.
Her Majesty Gebbia orders the prisoner be led to her and that's the slow beginning of "Al cospetto della regina dei funghi", a track I adore thanks to the jester and minstrel-like way of singing; the drumwork is precise and alternates with the guitar interventions, but it's the singer who makes the harder work, by giving voice to all the characters (the only other male voice on this record comes from Salvo Fichera, narrator of this intriguing story); just imagine in the end of this composition Brancato even equals the strength and tune of obese Luciano 'fucking' Pavarotti!
"Una cena da re nelle segrete di Acquaria" moves on bizarre times and obstinate guitar tunes; the rhythm changes and becomes irresistibly mid-paced while Brancato's voice hides behind my head left and right crazier than the Mad hatter's and the bass pulsates deep as usual, thanks to the good mixing.
Delicate, echoed and magic sounds constitute the marvellous "La stanza dei profumi", describing the love night the main character has; gradually the song grows, till the climax is achieved with a pounding interlacement between rhythmic section and an ethereal guitar; the song never blazes, still you'll be mesmerized by the different vocal passages, including some charming female vocals; this song comprises a bunch of extremely dynamic time patterns and changes, the way only a genial Prog metal/rock band is able to write and arrange.
Pauro kills a snake, Gora, and "La morte di Gora, signora del lago" winds up perfectly representing the situation with its guitar riffs and bass lines; this song is decidedly the heaviest of the batch, especially when one gets to the finalé when drums and guitars accelerate in an odd time; this is one of the few times the guitar is not in the background and if the mixing had always been like this, it would have been better, as it's a pity to hear it so low in the remaining tracks.
Countless time changes characterize the lengthy title track, and a nice rhytmic section, fine vocal parts, even a Scottish riff, then a slowdown as well; Prog metal riffs and a guitar solo follow, all with fragrances of Rush and Dream Theater; the vocals are once again influenced by 70's Italian prog rock bands and even by Nomadi's first vocalist on some occasions! Let's make it clear: I don't like Nomadi but in this high quality context such a voice is congenial.
The denoument of the song foresees an incendiary riff and afterwards so touching vocal lines that they give my spine thrills, Jeez! Brancato is so neat, precise, clever and devoid of decreases; this man has a perfect diction that I have to deduce he attended courses
of recitation, singing, voice utilizations and the likes, but in this song he surmounts all his previous peaks.

Add that the recording is good, modern and punchy bar the two guitars unfortunately; the artwork is generous and nice and there's only a layout mistake causing the inversion of two pages. Not big faults therefore, and a surprise to the ones who ignore the widest island of the Mediterranean has a rich and long Prog tradition, still alive and kicking for your pleasure.
But of course don't ask me for the rest of the story, since it's worth you find it out by yourselves...


Bruno Rubino, via Pitia 36, 96100 Siracusa (Italy)
Tel: +39 0931411055