THREE MONKS - "Neogothic Progressive Toccatas" a review from Progressive Rock &
It is my great pleasure to introduce the readers of this webzine to one of the most phenomenal releases of the year of 2010: Three Monks! The band was formed in Arezzo (Toscana, Italy) and consists of Paolo Lazzeri a.k.a. “Julius” (pipe organ, compositions); Maurizion Bozzi a.k.a. “Bozorius” (electric bass, sound engineering), and the drummers Roberto Bichi a.k.a. “Placidus”; and Claudio Cuseri a.k.a. “Ursinius” (technically, it turns Three Monks into Four Monks, but life is not perfect either). Like many keyboard-oriented iconic bands (“Emerson, Lake & Palmer”, “Triumvirat”, “Trace”, “Rick Wakeman”, “Pär Lindh Project”, “Il Balletto di Bronzo”, and “Goblin”) Three Monks celebrates a perfect union between Modern and Classical Music, staying loyal to the True Progressive Rock Tradition. Differently from those bands, they reject the customary keyboard-paraphernalia, employing on their compositions a real Pipe Organ – the kind of which is found only inside ancient churches. Their sonority is therefore very original, having a predominance of the Gothic and Baroque styles. Julius is a master of the instrument; a devotee of the great organists of the past (“Bach”, “Reubke”, “Händel”, ”Liszt”, “Mendelssohn”, “Pachelbel”, “Buxtehude”, and “Bruckner”). With the precision of a Vitruvian architect, his hands move over the keyboards lifting a Cathedral of Sounds – the left hand erects staircases, transposes flying buttresses, and climbs ogival arches in search of the skylight, which will be used by the right hand to illuminate the stained glasses and the ornamental frescos on the walls. His feet step firmly on the pedals, producing deep chords that, like dozens of ribbed vaults, sustain the whole gothic structure. Julius is helped by Bozorius – a classical Progressive bassist who takes care of the foundations and catacombs, reinforcing the petreous skeleton of the Cathedral with clustered columns made of the hardest granite. Placidus is the ecclesiastic estheticist who, with the endurance of the monks, patiently chisels the sculptures that will decorate the carved walls. And Ursinius is the humble worker whose strength and determination will place stone upon stone of this portentous edification, from the bottomless foundations upward to the highest towers. The combined efforts of those musicians evoke the image of a Gothic Church beveled against the gray sky, surmounted by tall pinnacles from which centenial time-eroded gargoyles stare down - their glowing eyes instilling fear into the vulnerable hearts. Three Monks’ debut CD - “Neogothic Progressive Toccatas” was mixed and mastered by Torben Lysholm at “Tune Town Studio” (Denmark), and released on February, 2010 (Drycastle Records, Italy). The record features five original tracks plus the tribute track “Deep Red – Profondo Gotico“ – a variation of the soundtrack of Dario Argento’s movie “Profondo Rosso” (“Deep Red”), composed by the “Goblin”. The original compositions are inspired by historical events linked to famous Gothic Cathedrals, their Pipe Organs, and Organists. “Progressive Magdeburg“ is dedicated to the reconstruction of the Pipe Organ of the Magdeburg Cathedral. The merciless drumming of Ursinius sounds like the heavy bombing that destroyed it during World War II, while strong organ chords resonate like tempestuous winds blowing out from the pipes, echoing the roaring sound of the Cathedral crumbling down into pieces. “Toccata Neogotica # 1 (Merseburg)“ is a reverence to the organ of the Merseburg Cathedral, built by Ladegast, which inspired the famous composers “Franz Liszt” and “Julius Reubke”. This homage is encrypted in solemn chords of rare splendor and grandeur, followed by the thunderous drumming of Placidus and the baroque bass of Bozorius. He is also your guide through the secret passages and hidden labyrinths of “Neogothic Pedal Solo“ – a tripartite piece, beginning with a petrifying Gregorian chant, followed by a bass classical solo, and closed by an organ pedal solo. The fourth track - “Herr Jann“ – is a homage to Georg Jann – the craftsman who employed both baroque and contemporary techniques to build the Waldsassen Basilica organ, in 1989. Like the instrument it represents, this track blends Sacred and Contemporary music with perfection – a typical Prog-Rock piece, resembling the best works of “ELP“ and “Triumvirat” – also including great bass passages by Bozorius and refined martial drumming by Placidus. The seat behind the drums is once more occupied by the vigorous Ursinius on “Toccata Neogotica # 7 (St. Florian)“. This piece is dedicated to “Anton Bruckner”, who was buried underneath the organ of the St. Florian Abbey. Alternating from delicate melodies to untamed passages, this track culminates in glorious visions of the Paradise, concluding this astounding album superbly. Three Monks is brilliant, awesome, powerful and magnificent – and “Neogothic Progressive Toccatas” is an indispensable item for any Progressive collection. Three Monks is ultra-highly recommended for fans of “mean” keyboard-oriented bands, like “ELP”, “Triumvirat”, “Rick Wakeman”, “Trace”, “Goblin”, “Il Balletto di Bronzo”, “Deluge Grander”, “Pär Lindh Project”, “Gerard”, “Ars Nova”, and so on. Band members involved in Three Monks are: Paolo Lazzeri ( “Julius”) - Pipe Organ, Compositions; Maurizion Bozzi (“Bozorius”) - Bass, Sound Engineering; Roberto Bichi (“Placidus”) – Drums (tracks 2, 4, 5, 6); Claudio Cuseri (“Ursinius”) – Drums (tracks 1, 7). You can visit Three Monks at MySpace site... (Comments by Marcelo Trotta) .
“Neogothic Progressive Toccatas” is surely one of the best and for sure the most
Three Monks is a new Italian band which dares to push the limits of mixing progressive rock & classical music further than anybody before. For sure we can find few examples of using pipe organ in rock in 70s, but these were mainly only experiments, not an idea for the whole sound of a band. Of course there was also a band called Jacula (which later re-formed as Antonius Rex) where church organ sound occupied dominant role, but Jacula never really sound like real progressive rock, mainly because of lack of a real rhythm section (but don’t get me wrong, despite these flaws and awful “evil seed” context, I really like Jacula’s music!). Anyway Three Monks is the only band I know which uses this very original idea: symphonic prog-rock trio with only pipe organ, bass guitar and drums. To be honest I always dreamed about such project and my dream came true!
Let’s check their compositions from their debut album “Neogothic Progressive Toccatas”:
1. “Progressive Magdeburg” – great track with thundering drums, deep bass lines and – the most important – glorious pipe organ layers. Extremely energetic & furious performance. If you can image ELP with cathedral organ instead of Hammond…this is exactly such staff.
2. “Toccata Neogotica # 1″ – the longest compositions begins very calm with only pipe organ sound, something you can easily hear in your local church (if they have good organ of course), but after a while Roberto Bichi & Maurizio Bozzi join to add splendid rhythm section. Just like the whole album: magnificent music full of overwhelming church organ waves. Half-way between Keith Emerson and J.S. Bach. That’s what I like in my music!
3. “Neogothic Pedal Solo” – surprisingly this track begins with monk chants (rather artificial than real thing here, but still sounds OK). After that we can witness very long but not very dragging bass guitar solo. In the middle of the track Paolo Lazzeri starts to “attack” as again with dark organ chops. From this moment the rest of “Neogothic Pedal Solo” sounds more like real church music or horror soundtrack. I can also say that it’s the most Jacula-like composition becasue of lack of drums.
4. “Herr Jann” – furious drums come back in “Herr Jann” to provide phenomenal support for powerful church organ layers. Simply: another mind-blowing, ear-shattering piece of art.
5. “Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)” – it’s just an amazing adaptation of Goblin’s classic theme from Italian giallo movie – “Profondo Rosso”(great movie anyway!). Goblin’s original was also mainly played on pipe organ, but I have to admit that this pipe-organ only (+ drums & bass) version is equally fantastic, and maybe even better! My favorite tune on the album.
6. “Profondo Gotico” – superb continuation of previous theme with many classical variations. Heavy organ floods rule as always!
7. “Toccata Neogotica # 7″ – last piece is a bombastic culmination of all rock & classical influences. Storming drums & grandious cathedral organ which will cause a goose bumps on your shoulders. Tremendously thrilling experience. Like crazy Bach after big dozen of LSD or hallucinogen mushrooms, who listened too many ELP’s albums (or something like that .
Conclusion? You really need this album, I have no doubt about it. If you always liked church organ sound and you wondered how it could sound together with powerful drums & bass guitar, you have your answer here. The only two artists I can compare with Three Monks are Jacula/Antonius Rex & Marco Lo Muscio. But addition of rhythm section gives completely new dimension to Three Monks’ music, much more “rock” here (and lack of Jacula’s “evil seed”, sinister occult lyrics is also a plus for me).
“Neogothic Progressive Toccatas” is surely one of the best and for sure the most innovative prog-rock album of 2010. If music critics won’t notice it, it means that music critics are deaf or plain stupid.
Best tracks: “Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)” & “Toccata Neogotica # 7″