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Album review: Una Stagione all’Inferno - Il Mostro di Firenze (2018)

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Il Mostro di Firenze

Taking their name from the Arthur Rimbaud book of poetry Una Stagione all’Inferno (which would subsequently be turned into a 1971 French-Italian film of the same name directed by Nelo Risi which tells the life and death of Rimbaud and his troubled relationship with the poet Paul Verlaine), Una Stagione all'Inferno were formed in 1997 by Fabio Nicolazzo, a guitarist from Genoa's gothic rock scene and the classically trained pianist Laura Menighetti. Augmented by bassist Diego Banchero from Genovese prog band Il Segno del Comando, original Il Segno del Comando drummer Carlo Opisso and Francesco Scariti, they released their interpretation of the theme tune to 70s Italian TV mini-series L'amaro caso della Baronessa di Carini, renaming it La ballata di Carini, which was included on the soundtrack compilation E tu vivrai nel terrore released on the Black Widow Records label in 1998. The band had originally intended to write a concept album based on the show but internal disagreements led to a rejection of the idea and the group was put on hold.

Nicolazzo and Menighetti reformed the band with new members in 2011 and undeterred by the difficulties posed by complex concepts, decided to write a piece of music based on Il Mostro di Firenze (The Monster of Florence) which was eventually released in spring 2018 on Black Widow Records (BWRDIST 676). Il Mostro di Firenze is the name commonly applied by the Italian media for a series of eight double murders that took place between 1968 and 1985 in the province of Florence. Law enforcement departments conducted a number of investigations into the cases over the course of several years; the victims were young couples who parked or camped in countryside areas in the vicinity of Florence during the new moon, killed using a variety of weapons including a .22 calibre gun and a knife. There even appeared to be a gruesome sexual element to the murders because the sex organs were cut out from the bodies of some of the female victims. After an innocent man was convicted, the killer struck again and eventually the authorities concluded that the murders were not committed by a single person but by a group of at least four perpetrators, the so-called ‘Picnic Comrades’ who were later caught and convicted.

This release falls very neatly into the category of dark prog, something I didn’t know existed until I got chatting to the proprietors of Genoa’s Black Widow Records shop. The shop itself is named after the original purveyors of dark prog, the UK’s Black Widow, a favourite of Massimo Gasperini, and Il Mostro di Firenze is a worthy addition to this sub-genre. With a line-up comprising Nicolazzo on guitars and vocals, Menighetti on keyboards and vocals, Roberto Tiranti and Pier Gonella from Italian prog metal band Labÿrinth playing bass and guitar respectively, Marco Biggi on drums, Paolo Firpo on sax, Kim Schiffo on cello, Laura Sillitti on violin and Daniele Guerci on viola, the band have created a dark symphonic soundtrack to the story, telling the tale from the new moon when the murders took place, to the full moon, linked by clever pieces of musique concrete such as checking the action of a handgun and placing it in a zipped bag.

The use of the chamber ensemble adds to the cinematic sweep of the songs but one of the standout features is the band switching mood from broad symphonic strokes to oppression and terror with a simple device originally employed by Goblin, the nursery rhyme-like melody picked out on percussive instruments and taken up in wordless song by the ‘murderer’. One track that I’m not convinced about is Serial Killer Rock which, though brief, is stylistically at odds with the other material. Otherwise the album abounds with great instrumentation and playing; the 10 minute instrumental Plenilunio with its false ending is the highlight - it quotes from Chopin, it’s nicely structured and it features emotive piano and plaintive guitar.

According to the Unwritten Laws of Dark Prog communicated to me by Massimo Gasperini, Il Mostro di Firenze ticks almost all the boxes: a powerful and hypnotic sound; gothic overtones; and the use of flute. It would be very interesting to see Una Stagione all’Inferno play live to see if they can deliver the full works.