Ancient Veil / Finisterre - La Claque, Genova
12th May 2017
I’d seen Finisterre as recently as the 31st March at the Z Fest in Milan, but I enjoyed this performance more. Maybe it was the theatre itself, with tables organised like a club rather than crowding the stage at Milan’s Legend Club (and where the space on stage was divided by supporting columns), or maybe it was that the recent exposure to the band had made me more aware of the material. Despite coming from Genova and performing around the world, Finisterre hadn’t played in their home city since 2004, so it must have been a rather emotional return. Material from three of their four albums made up the set list: Tempi Moderni, Anaporaz; La Maleducazione; Macinaacqua, Macinaluna; La Perfezione; Ninive, In Ogni Luogo and Coro Elettrico performed as a mini suite with Edmondo Romano from Ancient Veil as guest; Ode al Mare; La Fine; Incipit; Phaedra; with chat, announcements and introductions made alternatively by Stefano Marelli and Fabio Zuffanti. The musicianship was sublime and despite the absence of anything from In Limine, my favourite Finisterre album, the set was close to perfect. If I had to make any complaint, it would be that from where I was seated, fairly close to the front and centre, I couldn’t hear Boris Valle’s keyboards too well but the overall sound was clear.
There was a poignant moment when Zuffanti introduced Davide Laricchia, the original vocalist for the band, to perform Macinaacqua, for which he wrote the words but left before he could appear on the first album. This track encapsulates the experimental approach of the group, interspersing classical motifs into a melange of riff-driven prog, Marelli guitar effects and Agostino Macor electronics. The delivery was over-the-top theatrics along the lines of Alex Harvey, though the melodic denouement hinted at 70s The Enid, coalescing into classic Zuffanti material; Macor even used a xylophone on this piece. Their superb set ended with a medley of prog classics; a little bit of Interstellar Overdrive, 21st Century Schizoid Man and the Hackett-friendly portion of Firth of Fifth.
Ancient Veil, formed by Alessandro Serri and Edmondo Romano, was a split from the Genovese group Eris Pluvia which originally formed in the 80s and gigged extensively, building up solid support. While Eris Pluvia’s Rings of Earthly Light (1991) is considered a minor classic, now recognised world-wide, and the group continued after the departure of Serri and Romano in 1992, they didn’t release their follow-up album Third Eye Light until 2010. Serri was originally replaced by Alessandro Conti on vocals and Mauro Montobbio on guitar; guitarist David Marrari was recruited following Romano’s departure and centred around keyboard player Paolo Raciti and bassist Marco Forella, the group continued to perform live until the mid 90s when their energy was diverted to parallel ventures, including supporting new local bands through their Mister Sound studio. Eris Pluvia reconvened in 2005 with drummer Daviano Rotella, vocalist/guitarist Matteo Noli and original guitarist Alessandro Cavatorti, who had left in 1990 before the release of Rings of Earthly Light but appears on the track Glares of Mind as a guest musician. Third Eye Light eventually appeared five years later, with guest appearances from Roberta Piras (flute), Max Martorana (classical guitar) and Diana Dallera (vocals). Despite the sudden death of Raciti in August 2011, Forella, Cavatorti and Piras began working on some new material involving Roberto Minniti on vocals, resulting in the 2016 album Different Earths.
Ancient Veil released one eponymous record in 1995, with music very much in the same vein as Eris Pluvia, and only resurfaced this year with keyboard player Fabio Serri and a new CD I Am Changing. The band at La Claque was completed by bassist Massimo Palermo and drummer Marco Fuliano, for a performance that represented the album launch of I Am Changing - the band’s first ever live performance - so though there were a couple of hitches, both technical and human, the audience was understandably forgiving. The material was set out in three blocks commencing with material from The Ancient Veil, followed by Rings of Earthly Light and concluding with I Am Changing, but the material flowed seamlessly. I bought a copy of the new CD from the merchandise stand during the interval between bands so I hadn’t heard any of the new songs prior to the performance and I’d also not been able to lay my hands on a copy of The Ancient Veil, but I felt that there was a noticeable shared sonic template between Eris Pluvia’s Rings of Earthly Light and the old and new Ancient Veil albums, a cross between recognisable progressivo italiano and prog-folk. It certainly wouldn’t be unfair to say that the composers have a distinctive style, with perhaps more of a hint of wistfulness in their most recent material. They also introduced a guest from the past, Valeria Caucino, who sang on Eris Pluvia’s Sell My Feelings and also appears on the song Chime of the Times from I Am Changing. And, just as Romano had accompanied Finisterre on stage, Zuffanti and Marelli returned the favour during In the Rising Mist, making four acoustic guitarists (along with Serri and drummer Fuliano); this summed up the camaraderie of not only the musicians gracing the stage that evening, but the Italian progressive rock community as a whole.
What made the evening special was a combination of great music and a sense of history; the return of Finisterre to Genoa after a considerable absence, and the first gig by a band who have long been praised in prog circles – a remarkable double bill and immensely enjoyable. I’m already preparing for my next trip...