Requiem – The Story 1985 – 92 / The Black – Gorgoni   2 comments

Mario “The Black” Di Donato is one of the most well known musicians in the Italian Heavy Metal scene and is also a acclaimed painter and his work has appeared on many album covers but outside of Italy he is more known for his artwork than any of the music he has written. He calls his music “Metal Mentis” (Metal of the soul) and he is the founder of this movement called “Ars et Metal Mentis”. Originally he was the leader of a band called “Unreal Terror” but disbanded that line-up in search of a new musical style. What happened though is he started “Requiem”, a band that did a lot of recordings but they were stylistically behind the rest of the world or that is the way I always heard them. The band also suffered from some terrible production but some of the actual songs were excellent so its great that Black Widow and Bloodrock Records have put together this extensive 2 CD package. The first CD contains tracks from demo’s and the “Ex Voto” EP, the demo tracks are very raw while the EP tracks are primitive in style but are much better produced. Musically Requiem blended late 70’s Hard Rock with the early 80’s British Metal style of the time and added passages of Black/Thrash Metal and Doom Metal into the mix so you never really know what’s coming next on this compilation.

On the first CD, “Destruction on the Dark” is up-tempo and energy packed but lacks any originality and seems like a half-baked take on early 80’s metal. Things improve with the “Ex Voto” EP tracks but only just, the band still sounds very insecure within their style and the vocals don’t help much either. At this point in the band’s career, Requiem are trying to mix atmospheres of Doom Metal with a more aggressive, early version of Speed Metal. The playing is great but the songwriting lacks direction so it all comes off as sounding very disjointed. Moving onto the second CD and a big improvements are heard mainly due to the change of vocalist, Massimo D’Ezio who joined the band replacing Eugenio Mucci, this gave the band a new sense of class that could now compete with other metal bands of the time period. The second disc starts with seven tracks taken from the only Requiem full-length studio album called “Via Crucis” released in 1990. “In Domine Patris” and “Ora Pro Tenebris” shows the band was heading in a more traditional Doom Metal direction while still keep with its traditional old school Hard Rock roots. “Heart Of The Storm” is melodic and very much in a much more direct vein while “Vindication” is good driving metal but still the band seems to be lacking that “key” element to take them to the next level.

The last half of the second disc is dedicated to tracks from the bands last ever release “Live” which comes from a 1992 concert recorded just before the band broke up. The best songs are there, the energy and the musicianship is there but the production is not. These tracks basically sound like bootleg recordings. Despite all these flaws, Requiem remain one of the most curious and interesting metal bands to ever emerge from Italy and there is no doubting Mario “The Black” Di Donato’s skills as a guitarist so its a pity they never got the production they deserved. This compilation is for fans of the band only however so if you dont fall into that category, you will most likely find this cheap and a horribly dated piece of Heavy Metal history. 5/10

After the demise of Requiem, Mario Di Donato went on to bigger and better things with The Black. After a EP titled “Reliquarium” released in 1989, they have recorded 7 albums with this new one being the heaviest and darkest album yet. “Gongoni” is inspired by Gorgon, the fascinating and terrifying female creature of Greek Mythology and its a engaging and massive piece of work. Its close to 78 minutes long that blends Doom Metal, Traditional Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock and its forever moving and switching directions so it never gets tedious despite its extended playing time. The language barrier does present a problem at first, with a work that is based around such a intriguing concept, I would love to understand the lyrics but I sadly can’t read the lyric sheet so its down to the music only. Luckily the music is mostly great but it does tend to wander at times. The album also features as special guest none other than Thomas Hand Chaste (Death SS, Witchfield, Sancta Sanctorum). After a very creepy intro with a horror-movie church organ, “Monstrum” begins with swirling guitar panning left to right across your speaker system which leaves me dizzy every time I hear it. The riff that comes in has “classic” written all over it and the stop-start arrangement and stomping grooves make this a enjoyable piece.

Tunes like “Perseus” have a strong progressive edge based in darkness and occult rock, fans of Paul Chain take note: I think you will like this. Its also important to point out, that the Gorgoni album is not as doomy as it has been advertise to be, its more cinematic and epic prog-metal to my ears but that is a trivial observation on my part. “Steno” contains a intro section that has that cinematic quality I am talking about before heading off into a twisting, turning melodic slab of classic metal riffing. The star of the band is Mario “The Black” Di Donato as his guitar is up front and is beautifully mixed and his guitar techniques are indeed stunning and always interesting but don’t expect the usual Sabbath plodding doom riffing here, this is much more involved and progressive. His lead solo work is at times breath-taking and much more adventurous than the actual riffs but the execution of the arrangements are very well composed and played. One of the big highlights is the closing 15 minute “Metamorphoses” that is divided into 4 very unique sections and is a monster track of atmospheric Heavy Metal. Also interesting is how the guitar sound changes with the different mood variations, this is my personal pick for the best track on “Gorgoni”, really good epic tune.

I have always thought that Italy has always had some of the very best metal going around and in recent years with bands like Doomraiser and Doomsword, it has got even better. The sad part is most of the bands spend their entire existence in obscurity which I can only put down to the language barrier and being isolated from the rest from the world’s major Heavy Metal scenes. The Black are no exception to that rule, seven albums in and I doubt if this new album will make any change in their status among metal audiences around the world. The Black are also regarded by some as being the most important band in Italian Heavy Metal history so it makes it even more of a mystery as to why bands like these never break out of Italy. I recommend The Black’s “Gorgoni” to fans of Paul Chain, Death SS and Black Hole but it will also be appealing to the progressive and epic metal purist. 8.5/10

The Official Homepage
The Black @ Myspace
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Posted August 16, 2010 by doommantia in The Black

2 responses to “Requiem – The Story 1985 – 92 / The Black – Gorgoni

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  1. Thanks for the balanced review, Ed!
    I've been listening to the Gorgoni's album for a while since I got it from Black Widow about one month ago, and I've been enjoying it a lot. True that it's less doomy and more epic, but who cares, it's great heavy metal!

    True issue: the language barrier. The lyrics are in Latin. The idea is fascinating as that ancient languague may gives a sense of sacred to the overall atmosphere. But of course the use of such language is a barrier for understanding (even for us in Italy, school Latin is gone quickly, lol …). However, even sticking to the music only, my personal opinion is that the choice of Latin is not so good just for the flow of the singing. It's such complex language that I have the impression the singer is more careful in saying sentences or pronouncing words correctly than in going into it fully.
    It was my impression also in the previous, fine releases by The Black. But this doesn't hamper me from digging what Mario Di Donato makes.
    The situation of underground music in Italy is tragic: as you wrote, there are many talented bands but it is extremely difficult for them to be known by many or at least a reasonable amount of people. There are actually many concerts and occasions to see these bands at low price. But apparently it's not a matter of money: most of people, even metal and rock people prefer to spend big money (50-60 euros or even much more) and see the “same old bands” or some new foreign bands pumped up by advertisement instead of exploring great and/or new “different” bands round the corner for the cost of a bunch of euros.
    I don't know if it is the same in other European countries or in USA. I have the impression in Italy things are a bit worse, as here also media (TV, radios) are almost completely homogenized. We had a great independent rock and metal radio in Northern Italy for years and two years ago it has been forced to close down.
    Very sad …
    So, well, I'm being patriotic: thanks a lot for writing about the great, hidden bands from my land!

  2. Hello Mari,
    I was going to talk about the Latin lyrics more but I knew it would turn some people off the band and I really want the band to be heard. I totally agree it makes the music harder to enjoy because it does disturb the flow of the music somewhat. Even though I like the sound of the language, it would have a much wider appeal if it was sung in English but I said that once before and I got called a racist which was very stupid. There will be more Italian bands reviewed in the future, one is being worked on right now actually.

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