Magni Animi Viri

'Heroes Temporis'

(self produced, distributed by Trendfabrik)

MARK: 76/100

Blighted by a few disappointments by southern European bands trying to mix symphonic Metal and Opera, I have regained some hope with this digipack record by the Campanian/American Magni Animi Viri, which tries to follow the steps of PFM's "Dracula", a blending of Prog Rock and Opera.

The CD, through the sequence of its tracks, narrates the story of a man that, in an undeterminated time and space, encounters male and female characters, and thus he reflects on the events of his existence. Every stop he makes is representated by a song, symbolizing a step towards a decision to change his life. Actually, he is sleeping and at the end of his journey, he awakes and realizes that he has been the victim of a dream. The dream represents the symbolic dressings of his own being. The emotions of his daily life enter his dream, in this case, sentiment and desires are a man-protagonist. The dream is given as a renewal, as a matured way of freeing oneself, that is to say, a stimulus for a new life (the character - man is born again).

This symphonic Metal and Rock concoction in Italian and Latin to improve its monumentality and royalty is deeply supported by a large Bulgarian orchestra and is enriched by a de-luxe booklet to give true lyrical and visual completing through the over 63 minutes of this sublimely produced debut.

The opener "Colonna Sonora" winds up through mysterious and dim lands, but the operistic Metal comes out in "Heroes" and "Temporis", in which tenor Francesco Napoletano (Arena Foundation Verona) gives the first two masterful proofs of his academic curriculum; the latter also contains a few Dream Theater passages while the solo by Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie guitarist) even reminds me of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Following the interlude "Intus", "Finché" displays Ivana Giugliano's vocals and here comes trouble; this song is built for her, a clever singer, but rather boring owing to her southern Pop background (Matia Bazar and similar acts); same goes for "Immenso", notwithstanding the good work by Sfogli and skinbeater John Macaluso (yeah, that one already accompanying Malmsteen, Ark, George Lynch, and many more) and the magic piano touches by Luca Contegiacomo.
Pure prog Metal, "Pensieri", includes powerful riffs and excellent keyboards. Ivana does a better job and this is the way she is supposed to sing in a Rock combo, especially with a refrain full of pathos like this one dealing with fire and poetry.
The gregorian chants of "Mai Più" constitute a moving tribute representing the feelings occurring during the separation from a person no more loved; male and female vocals duet, with Francesco achieving the peak of the whole CD, with the sorrowful and at the same time majestic "Desertanima" requesting the strongest lung effort by him again. The climax at the end gives thrills!
"Sai Cos'è" seems an outtake by Angelo Branduardi in the beginning, but then it becomes so touching that if you don't have tears in the end you don't belong to the human race!
"Vorrei" is a quite heavy Prog metal song; I like the female singer's performance better here because she is required to use more low tunes than in other songs; Francesco again rules but let's also not forget the importance of the final acceleration in the pure Power metal style and the initial remarkable bass lines by Randy Coven (Steve Morse, C.P.R., Ark), probably the composition where he is most in the foreground along with the conclusive slice of "Senza Respiro".
"Come un Falco" uses the best drums but is ruined by the worst female vocals of the record by Giugliano, whereas the pulsating "Fortis" and "Senza Respiro" must be mentioned because of the best protagonist keyboard lines of the platter (the former recurs to the great moog sounds!).
The pacific and rural instrumental "Outro" makes me think of landscapes now almost disappeared in this hyper-cemented, dirty, unnaive and overcrowded gutter called Italy and in the West in general, whereas "CS Instrumental" closes the concept going back to the intro, giving battle-like sceneries in order to stress out that blood was profusively spilt in the nineteenth century as well.

The debut is amply positive, but on one hand I suggest the band replace Ivana Giugliano, a painful choice, yes, yet dictated by the fact that her voice, modulation and accent are unfit to this genre, Rock is not what she's cut for, as she uses her vocal chords well but without feeling; on the other hand, the colossal Francesco Napoletano is the biggest surprise vocalist-wise in this year, a professional who always knows the most appropriate solution and the perfect timing, diction and interpretation for every composition. A 1,000 times better than Luciano 'fucking' Pavarotti!
Record suitable for sunny days, best enjoyed at high volume. Who knows if there'll be a folllower?


Line-up on this record:
Francesco Napoletano, v.
Ivana Giugliano, female v.
Giancarlo Trotta, piano, keyboards and programming
Marco Sfogli, g.
Randy Coven, b.
Roberto D'Aquino, b.
John Macaluso, d.
Simone Gianlorenzi, acoustic g.
Matteo Salsano, voice
Bulgarian orchestra

Official sites:

Heroes Temporis, 2007