L’Impero Delle Ombre – I Compagni Di Baal …   Leave a comment

The Italian occult rock scene keeps on getting bigger and better but more importantly, it keeps up its level of mesmerizing quality with another album of spooky tales and sinister hard rock of the 70’s variety. Actually L’Impero Delle Ombre or The Empire of Shadows if you prefer the translated version are not new at all. They have been around since the mid 90’s but their first album didn’t appear till 2004.

‘I Compagni Di Baal’ is their third release, the second was a split with a band called Bud Tribe. Andrea Cardellino and Giovanni Cardellino from the weird and wonderful Witchfield are the driving force behind this band that I like to call dark occult operatic doom; basically it has the feel of a rock opera in other words; but set to the music of doom-metal mixed with kraut rock and occult rock of the early 70’s. The influences here are kind of obvious Paul Chain, Witchfynde, Angel Witch,  Black Widow, Amon Duul, Monument, Atomic Rooster, Black Sabbath, Death SS, and Coven. They are far from the heaviness of other occult-rock specialists such as Abysmal Grief but they are equally as menacing and atmospheric.

‘I Compagni di Baal’ translated means ‘The Companions Of Baal’ and the feeling you get with this album is hooded men playing music in a dungeon by candlelight. The band calls their music ‘Cemetery Rock’ and it is not surprising when you get a taste of what is happening on this album. This very cinematic music is a reflection of old black and white horror films and b-grade thriller television shows and the lyrical concepts of ‘The Companions of Baal’ is loosely based on the eponymous drama Les Compagnons de Baal, Pierre Prevert, originally broadcast in France in 1968. There is 9 originals including an intro and a outro piece and they finish off the album with a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Snowblind’ which is one of the best versions of the song I have heard in a long time – I am sure Tony Iommi would approve of the treatment they give the classic track. After the albums intro or overture as it is titled here, the band take you on a very interesting and creepy journey which is totally distinctive and about as original as you can get considering how obvious their influences are. If you have heard their first album then musically, there is no big surprises except there is a concept running throughout the album that their début was lacking. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it a concept album but it has that 70’s concept-album/story-telling feel about it.

There is a lot of heavy vintage keyboard driven passages, intricate melodies, some prog-rock complex guitar noodling but it also has a good dose of Sabbathian riffing to complete what is a very engaging sound and all the text is in Italian which only adds to the tension and the mysterious atmosphere that this album is drenched in. There is no real standout track on ‘I Compagni Di Baal’ which I think in the case of this album is a good thing, the entire album flows from start to finish like all good movie soundtracks should but if don’t like the keyboard driven prog of bands like ‘Le Orme’ or lets say ‘Amon Duul’ you may find some of this a little tedious. However, the band do get their groove on now and then and when they do, it is some heavy and gloomy doom-metal in the finest of Italian doom-metal tradition. Along with the Cardellino brothers, this album also features Oleg Smirnoff – Hammond B3 Organ, Mini Moog, Mellotron who used to play in Death SS, Fabio Oliveti – bass, Dario Petrelli – drums, Giusy ”Liliana” Cardellino – vocals and Maurizio Sacquegno who adds some acoustic guitar to the mix.

The album is not as immediately satisfying as Abysmal Grief and Mortuary Drape’s output but it is an album that grows on you with its charm and mythical qualities. For me there is this situation happening where just as I think I am getting a bit tired of all the in-flux of occult-doom albums, along comes a new one to draw me into the genre once again. ‘I Compagni Di Baal’ is not one of the best albums ever made in the genre but it is still very good and give it time, it will grow on you. Highly recommended for the fans of the bands already mentioned and it is out on the ever brilliant Black Widow Records………..8/10

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Posted June 9, 2011 by doommantia in L’Impero Delle Ombre

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