Monday, February 17, 2014

Maelstrom - 3725 (2013)

With each release, Italy's Maelstrom have carved out a larger place in our consciousness. Ferdinando Valsecchi, much like his peers in the other one man bands that we have covered, isn't just another artist in a studio, playing music to get noticed, get rich, or grace the cover of a magazine. He believes in what he plays, and he believes in the work he has put out. If anything, he is harder n himself that his critics, who are few and far between. But still, he pushes on, working harder, smarter, and longer to continue writing and recording his unique take on melodic post rock and post metal. We all know that, in 2014, being an independent musician, or even a major label backed one, isn't as lucrative as it once was, leaving many to do their musical work as a side job to the one that pays the bills. And just the same Valsecchi has managed to find the time and funds necessary to release his third disc, titled "3725." With a lyrical hand from Matteo Simonelli, he gives your heart license to float away like the balloon that graces the cover, all the while keeping you from going too high, too fast.

While it remains hard to judge anything on the strength of a cover track, Valsecchi takes to "Space Oddity" like a duck to water, executing all of the signature moments that Bowie had written in a delicate and appropriate manner, even tackling the vocals better than most, besides the great William Shatner. His strength, though, lies in his musicianship, something he shows early and often on Hymn to Life, Ode to Death, a winding display of clean guitar riffs, crisp programming on drums, and a set of strings that floats above the rest. His ability to not only carve out layers, but to subsequently reassemble them is dumbfounding. The vocals, isolated to the heavier moments on the track, come spoken over waves of guitars. This doesn't lessen their impact, though, if anything making them resonate much further. You can apply that same principle to Paradise Lost, though there is a clear star to be found there. The string and piano work is well beyond expectation, a beautiful addition to an already mood setting offering. With each reset of the timer, each track can go in any multitude of directions, relying entirely on Valsecchi to steer the course.

The Choice may begin as a light hearted piece, but the reliance on distortion int he leads adds a stark contrast between parts of the whole. You aren't going to find a blistering solo or dense chugging action, but there is a power to his playing that shines through in every chord. The lyrics, written by Simonelli, can move you without a word of Italian in your repertoire. Even a simple, and often ineffective Google translation gives you a taste into the mind of both men, As High As The Kite Can Fly speaking of the fears that cloud our lives, even when all is brightest. Even the seemingly easy to read Memory's Drops goes deeper than the surface would indicate, including some of the most delicate and detailed instrumental work on the album around the midway point. It is tracks like this that Valescchi can let things grow around him, rather than being held to a rigid structure or plan. It is also a tale of two vocal deliveries, with his spoken word and clean singing combining to handle the bulk of the load here. While the former is more successful as a whole, there is a merit tot he clean melodies that he delivers. And while Long Lasting Friends fades, you are left hanging on one sentence amidst a sea of drums, guitars, synths, and horns; "Laughing has never been easier."

It has been a rare pleasure to be allowed in on the ground floor of a career, and see an artist grow with each and every release. Maelstrom is a project that, in name, has begun to represent so much of the dedication and struggle that goes into making a one man band truly work. With each piece at his fingertips, "3725" is yet another piece of him on display. In the way the tracks rise and fall, Valsecchi reminds us of what we often forget; music is an art form, and this is all an expression of the artist. We can criticize, lambast, or spill a series of words to describe our opinion of what any artist does, but the relationship they have with the music is what will matter decades down the line. And whether you take the music, the lyrics that he has been given, the artwork, or even the most basic breakdown of the processes that go into making a release of this caliber work, you can see that this is a man who is one with his music and his message. And when the musicians you listen to care as much about their art as their fans do, you have something you won't soon forget.


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