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Deus Ex Machina — De Republica
(Kaliphonia KRC-009, 1994, CD)
by Mike Ohman, Published 1995-11-01
With their first two albums, Deus Ex Machina quickly established themselves as the darlings of the Italian prog scene, blending heavy rock and complex music in a most original way. Those two releases, while flawed, were excellent enough to have the prog community eagerly awaiting the issue of De Republica. And for good reason, as it's hard to find fault with this new album. It is obvious from the start that most of the problems with the previous album have been corrected here. That album suffered from muddy sound, whereas this album benefits from clear, professional-sounding production. The violin and keyboards were mixed far too low and the drums far too high on the last album, here all instruments are properly proportioned sonically. As a result, that last, self-titled album was pretty much a guitar / vocal show, whereas this is much more of a group effort. There are also some changes, most notably the addition of a cellist, resulting in a broader string sound, on occasion resembling chamber music when the strings take the spotlight. There is also a more experimental bent brimming just under the surface, rising occasionally as on "Aeterna Lux," a tape-collage of electronic sounds and multi-tracked voices. And regarding the voices, vocalist Alberto Piras (who may well be one of the greatest latter-day rock vocalists) seems to be pushing his voice to the very limit on this release. The effect is intense and fascinating. My one complaint would be that the tracks tend to fade out just when they seem to be approaching a climax, an annoying tendency. As a result, some tracks sound inconclusive.
But what makes this album so worthwhile is that they took what worked on their previous releases, concentrated and intensified these tendencies, and added new appropriate twists. There is still the great hard-rock guitar, the analog or faux-analog keyboards, and intricate, intelligent musical structures flawlessly and energetically played. Anyone who enjoyed Deus Ex Machina will fall in love with De Republica immediately. My vote for best of '95 goes out unequivocally to this. If you haven't heard any Deus Ex Machina yet, you owe it to yourself to hear this album.
Related artist(s): Deus Ex Machina
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