CENTRICA — Centrica (review)

CENTRICA — Centrica album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
These days no country in the world seems to be immune to the spread of progressive metal, and Italy is no exception. Unsurprisingly, many of those bands choose to follow the 'traditional', Dream Theater-inspired strain of the genre, which places a strong emphasis on technical proficiency, and is characterized by keyboards and soaring vocals. Both of these elements obviously appeal to the Italian love of the theatrical, and allow for a healthy dose of melody. On the other hand, it is also true that, as popular as prog-metal (and metal as a whole) may be in Italy, it is also quite foreign to its musical tradition. As a result, with very few exceptions, the average Italian prog metal band does not really sound too different from a similar band from another country - especially when, as in the case of Centrica, vocals are written out of the equation.

Given the Italian passion for singing, Centrica's choice of recording a completely instrumental album for their debut may come across as somewhat peculiar. However, this single factor, besides setting them apart from many of their fellow Italian prog-metallers, allows them to concentrate exclusively on the music. As is to be expected in this particular subgenre, the four members of the band are extremely good at their respective instruments, and their sound is more keyboard- than guitar-oriented. As a matter of fact, keyboardist Andrea Pavanello is a friend and online student of none other than Dream Theater keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess - so, quite unsurprisingly, the seven tracks on "Centrica" owe a lot to the New York band's instrumental efforts. In the same way, this is undeniably music that easier to appreciate if you are a practising musician rather than a casual listener.

On each of the seven tracks but one - the dreamy "Dulcedo", a piano-guitar interlude - there are enough time signature changes to make your head spin, the mood shifting abruptly from spacey and stately to aggressive and crushingly heavy. Though all the instruments get their turn in the spotlight, Centrica's sound is clearly based on the interaction between guitar and keyboards - with quite a sizable amount of shredding and noodling. Personally, I find the insistence on extracting all sorts of whistling, wheezing, swirling sounds from synthesizers rather annoying, though it may well be a cause for delight to other listeners.

While "D.N.A. Pt. 1" breaks the mould in some ways, being mainly based on a majestic keyboard crescendo sprinkled with acoustic guitar, "D.N.A. Pt. 2" is an incredibly complex offering, brimming with all those things that send Dream Theater fans into fits of sheer ecstasy, and make others shake their heads in perplexity. The longest track on the album, the 9-minute-plus "Reality and Illusion", is a keyboard-fest of the first order; while album closer "Eternal Dimension" goes for the throat with some harsh guitar sounds and machine-gun-like riffage, interspersed by pyrotechnic displays of keyboard virtuosity.

A decidedly positive feature of this album is its relatively short running time, which eliminates the need for filler material, and reduces the risk of listener weariness. The lack of vocals might also make the album more appealing to those who are put off by the all too often cheesy singing that seems to be rife in classic prog-metal. Hopefully, the band's next effort will see a touch more restraint in the occasionally overwhelming use of keyboards. Anyway, even though the album is not particularly innovative, fans of highly technical progressive metal are quite likely to appreciate "Centrica".
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