2023 (Maracash Records)
In the mid-90s, Alessandro Serri (vocals, guitar, flute) and Edmondo Romano (recorder, soprano sax) left the gifted band Eris Pluvia to play a similar style of music under the name Ancient Veil, with a greater focus on the acoustic elements. They released two decent studio albums, the self-titled debut (1995) and the comeback album “I Am Changing” (2017), followed by two exhilarating live albums, “Rings Of Earthly…Live” (2018) and “Unplugged Live” (2020), which gained the band significant attention. Skill and class flourished.
From 2020 to 2023, the band’s third studio album, “Puer Aeternus,” as discussed here, was recorded. The extended production time was undoubtedly influenced by the lockdown, but also by the complex nature of the music on the album. It’s evident that creating a work like this is not something you do casually; the intricate concept alone makes that clear. Let me try to explain with a touch of pedagogy.
The album tells the story of Puer, a being trapped in an eternal dimension between childhood and adulthood. Puer begins to doubt his existence and undergoes transformations with the help of mythological figures such as Hermes and Kore. In his quest to find answers about his being, he attempts to improve the world. The story explores the theme of eternal youth and humanity’s reluctance to grow, take responsibility, and live in harmony with nature. The concept combines classical myths and modern elements, creating an engaging narrative about identity, growth, and the relationship between humans and nature. It can’t get much clearer than that.
The album features Italian vocals, which is something to be very pleased about. Singing in one’s mother tongue, especially in Italo-prog, adds significant value. The beauty of this concept is that it allows for numerous guest singers, including Lino Vairetti (Osanna), Tony Cicco (Formula Tre), and Roberto Tiranti (New Trolls). It’s a vibrant whole, a truly Italian rock opera with just the right amount of theatricality.
The album accommodates a total of 18 songs over 55 minutes, which may seem somewhat fragmented. Let me say this: it’s precisely this structure that gives the album its strength. Besides the regular lineup and the list of vocalists, there are also strings and brass instruments present. Together, they create a warm, organic prog sound without indulging in excessive bombast.
On “Puer Aeternus,” it’s once again Serri’s melancholic plucking and his passionate voice that color the canvas, and Romano’s graceful riffs characterize many songs. In terms of style, you can draw some parallels to the old works of bands like Jethro Tull, Camel, Gentle Giant, and Genesis. However, Ancient Veil deserves to be judged on its own merits; it’s too genuine for comparisons. Apart from the pastoral moments with cello or bassoon, it’s mainly the more exuberant passages that stand out. Consider the rolling Hammond organ in the instrumental La Miseria Del Mondo, the piercing electric guitar, the passionate play on the alto sax by guest musician Martin Grice, or the delightful Moog melodies that permeate the album, and you’ll realize you’ve hit the jackpot. The album has a subtle jazzy glow, and occasionally, the band explores experimental territory. The controlled frenzy of La Caduta Sulla Terra symbolizes Puer’s fall through a black hole towards Earth. From that moment, his journey begins.
© Dick van der Heijde 2023