'Hate Box'

(Horus Music)

MARK: 96/100

The band from Chiantiland, the gorgeous Siena, was already active and renowned and had itself called Mad Mice back in the eighties, while under the new monicker it has already released two full-lengths of good old school Hard Rock. With these new ten tracks it seems the band has taken a deep breath before beginning to work on the turning point of ther career; as a matter of fact, the quartet has started dealing with some Metal and a few concessions to modern elements yet without ever altering the nature of its style, how only good bands are able to. Another plus of the album is the fact that each gem in it contained is bound to turn into a classic in the discography of every respectable hard rocker.

Take for example "Promised Land", a 70's Hard Rock song enriched by tasty keyboards, effected bass and vocals, or the following "Drifters", in which moderm Metal and tradition meet, the way Crown of Thorns might have done if they were still alive. All of this is supported by Gianluca Galli's solos and superb riffs and weavings alà Rage against the Machine/Audioslave, this man is the guitarist that almost all bands wish they had in their ranks because he can do anything with an acoustic or a distorted guitar and he does make the difference!
The guitar sperimentations continue on "Time and Space" on the notes of a hypnotic bass; this song winds up through Dream Theater and the best vocal repertoire of Freddy Curci and Alias; the keyboards are cool but it's the vocals ruling. Terrific!
Jacopo Meille (also in Tygers of Pan Tang) is a singer who needs no presentation and furthermore has nothing to envy anyone and he proves it one more time in the blazing Metal of "Hard Times", pumped by a rocky rhythmic section that leaves place for another funambolatory solo by the virtuoso axeman shared with Time Machine of the Etruscan combo.
A ballad and a fairy tale also, "Somewhere Sometimes" sees the piano, the acoustic guitar and the bass as protagonists. Actually I like the second better, but this one too is on stellar levels of pathos, so don't expect to find a weak song here, there's no need for fillers and nothing is left at random, you will perceive it any song you play.
Here comes my favourite, "She", showing eccellent vocal and guitar lines; fans of Glenn Hughes are going to drool with this slash of music, no shit!
And for all those who asserted Mantra were a band without balls, "Saving Grace", a punching US track of high-pitched vocalised Metal; yes, Mr. Jacopo 'The Voice' Meille touches heaven with one finger, going so high where only eagles dare, while skinbeater Senio Firmati dresses the song with drumming that invites to brakeless slam dancing.
Time to recover some breath with "Hit & Run", a composition exhuming Led Zeppelin without feeling ashamed of and adding a proper touch during the torrid refrain.
"Win, Lose or Draw" rightly leaves a lot of place to bassist Andrea Castelli like nowhere else here and transudes Sunset Boulevard-like atmospheres from the first instant to the last one; actually, it might have been written by Great White, whereas "A Minor Bird" is a delicious choice for a conclusion, thanks to the precious piano and keyboard touches by Federico Sagona, the most important guest among the four appearing on this platter.

It's true that the construction of the songs is typical and therefore one can't but expect an alternation of strophes, choruses and solos, but the big difference is made by the richness of details and care put into every song by all the musicians and the vocalist as well. They just couldn't be more professional and the significant production makes the rest. Of course with a superstudio equipped with the top of what technology offers nowadays there could've been more distinctness of details and general presence during a few refrains, and the lyrical adaptation of the tenth track could have been smoother, but that's really splitting hairs. After all, how can't a sensitive person fall in love with these ten jewels where so much parental care and effort has been put into?
To give you an idea of the value of this record, be it sufficient for you to know that if it had been released by a US or a British band in the 80's, now we would be citing it all the time as a reference which would be present even on the meanest and shortest encyclopedias of Rock and Metal. This was not the destiny of the Anglo-Tuscanian 4-piece, but this won't prevent them from obtaining the deserved success and width of fanbase among consumers of Badlands, Whitesnake, Audioslave and similar bands' records.
Thank you guys for the sincere and deep emotions you keep on giving us, you are one of the few Italian bands who can decidedly look into the eyes of your colleagues from the same height!


Line-up on this record:
Jacopo Meille, v.
Gianluca Galli, g.
Andrea Castelli, b.
Senio Firmati , d.

Official sites:

Roots, CD - 2002
Hard Times, CD - 2004
Hate Box, CD -2007