Monday, May 13, 2013

Infinita Symphonia - Infinita Symphonia (2013)

As fans of music of any kind, it is normal for fans to wonder how the albums they love, or hate, were written. What inspired the band to create this music; and what gives them reason to change. Was there a conscious decision made to go a different route, or did the music just write itself organically and reveal that change. For Infinita Symphonia, a five piece progressive power metal band from Italy, this distinction may never be more important. Having delivered a powerful performance on their debut album, "A Mind's Chronicle," in 2011, we sat with eager anticipation as to where their next journey would take them, and us. But in the two years since it's release, something has changed in the band mentality, whether consciously or otherwise. The throbbing progressive beats have faded, replaced by more standard hard rock fare. The soaring, nearly operatic vocals have been tempered, flanked by shades of nu-metal radio hits gone by. And a band that showed infinite potential seems to have resigned itself to leaving that potential unrealized. Their new, self titled album may bear the same name, but it is not the same band.

There is an immediately noticeable change in direction as "If I Could Go Back" begins; the chugging guitar riffs lean away from that progressive power metal style that dominated the group's debut. Take separately, they sound like a regression to a much simpler sound. But thanks to the strong drum fills of Ivan Daniele, the mix is padded out in full. The orchestra arrangements behind the leads are strong, providing atmosphere and depth. What seems odd, though, is the ballad-esque approach to an opening track, with vocalist Luca Micioni adopting a very soothing melodic tone early and often. That penchant continues into "The Last Breath," complete with swaying melodies and an airy chorus. A series of double kicks goes a long way to inject life into the track, which clocks in over the seven minute mark. It ignites a high tempo section, overflowing with wild solos and crashing cymbals. Lead guitarist Gianmarco Ricasoli finally makes his presence known, crushing and shredding his way from bridge to chorus and back again. It is the keyboards, though, that give the track substance; simple as they may be. That harder edge peeks through on "Welcome To My World," even in sparing doses. The syncopated bridge to breakdown combo returns the band to their heavier roots, instrumentally, but plunges them into the dark nu-metal abyss vocally. The screaming, barking vocal lines sound forced and contrived, rendering Micioni a liability in those moments.

That unfortunate theme runs through "Drowsiness," which his trembling spoken lyrics coated in effects and simply falling short of par. The bigger shame is that the band have found a groove here, with Ricasoli striking an enjoyable balance between soothing melody and aggression. The latter half of the track is an exhibition in progressive metal tones and elements, combining the devastating riffs with a massive drum sound. All of the headway made here is quickly cashed in for something much more disappointing. Micioni croons about the "most beautiful person I know," as an acoustic guitar backs him. What follows is a ballad that defines cookie cutter, one that lacks any punch or flow. The damage done is left to be repaired by a collaboration with famed former Helloween frontman Michael Kiske on the song "Fly." While it may be a pity for a feature to be the highlight of an album, Kiske's contribution is important to maintaining some semblance of credibility for the album itself. Bassist Alberto De Felice shines brightly here, giving an added layer of smooth low end to even out the mix. There are catchy hooks, a flurry of drums, and some of the better guitar work on the album, all packed tightly into a six minute effort. And, as odd as it may sound, the "Interlude" that follows could be the most inspired track on the album, slamming together dazzling piano keys with acoustic guitars in a blizzard of activity.

The folky acoustic ballad "Waiting For A Day Of Happiness" follows, plunging the album once again into a down tempo, low energy funk. While the second half of the song brings some of the sunlight back into the dark room, it fails to even out the offering, instead merely giving you hope for what might follow. The constant give and take of quiet and loud can work as an important dynamic when done appropriately; but here it seems like an afterthought, resulting in an uneven pattern through the disc. With another interlude track packed in here, albeit another successful, pulsing one, the album has begun to lean in a very telling way. The minute long "XIV" is barely enough to wet your whistle before running into the album's closer, "Limbo." The tone here is well conceived, with a much darker riff commanding much of the track. Micioni whispers his way through the verse, quietly and lacking grit. But as his soaring vocals are allowed to take over, you immediately remember what it was about this band that you loved before. But what stands out as disturbing is the backwards mathematics at play here. Typically, a ballad is used as cover for something bigger; that is to say, the track grows and strengthens as time passes. Here, the band seems to achieve the opposite. The shadowy opening gives way to swaying ballad style choruses, reeling the song in, rather than letting it go.

Somewhere between albums, Infinita Symphonia seem to have lost their way. Whether by choice or by accident, they've traded in all that made them unique and intriguing, in favor of blending in to crowded, often times faceless metal scene. By no means is that to say they've accomplished nothing here; there are bright spots scattered throughout the dim. But they leave you waiting the entirety of the album for that one signature moment that can define their progress. Sadly, that moment never comes. Instead, you have a roller-coaster ride of not-so-highs and way-too-lows, relying heavily on ballads and cliche emotional falsehoods. It hard to say where the band will go from here. Perhaps there will be a renaissance somewhere in the future; or maybe a complete reversal into a radio rock superstar. But sometime in the wake of this new album, the band will be forced to make a definitive choice: the old or the new. And that decision will mean everything.


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