Hailing from Greco-Roman myth, the tale of Sisyphus was one that symbolized the futility of man’s struggle, presented beautifully through an allegory in which a man was doomed to roll a stone up a hill for eternity, only to have it roll back down as he neared the top. I have heard this story tackled in progressive rock before, with Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright’s “Sisyphus” suite on their experimental album “Ummagumma”. Macroscream has been a spark in the eye of bassist Alessandro Patierno for several years, but the band has only recently come together to begin their musical journey in earnest. Putting their own musical spin on the tale of “Sisyphus”, Macroscream’s first album is a success, albeit an uneven one.
If I had tied this myth to music, I imagine my rendition would have been wrought with doom and futile repetition. Although there is little joy in doing the same thing over and over again (with the exception of machines, who seem to love it), Macroscream’s tone is quite dainty and cheerful. The band’s heavy use of violin helps give their music the atmosphere of a rural festival, often taking the role usually claimed by a lead guitar. Macroscream dabble with a few unconventional sounds- the strings of a piano and trumpet are both given cameos in the closer “To Be White”- but it’s the violin that gives Macroscream an identity of their own. Of course, this quirky vibe typical of Italian progressive music is made possible with powerful instrumentation on all fronts. Patierno’s bass lines stand out in particular, reminding greatly of Yes’ Chris Squire.
The album’s title cornerstone is the go-to highlight, and though Macroscream are relatively new on the scene, the composition is thoughtful and well-executed. Their sound is rooted in vintage symphonic prog, although folk leanings help to diversify and brighten up their sound. What may surprise listeners the most is that the lyrics are in English; a artistic choice not too common in an Italian scene that prides itself on its own language. Though this also helps them to craft their own voice, he vocals are decidedly the weakest element here. Though Alessandro is a fine bassist, his voice often feels forced and fragile. I think he could have potential to be a good singer, but it sounds as if he’s trying to sound like something he isn’t; Peter Gabriel or a strained Tom Petty may be where he’s trying to go, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as the rest of Macroscream’s formula.
As a whole, what Macroscream have done here is quite impressive; with their debut album, they have already fostered a style that should serve them well in the future. In truth, “Sisyphus” stands out above many of the other prog albums that have come out this year, at least as far as its bright songwriting and musiciansihp go. I predict listeners will have a ‘love it or hate it’ view concerning Patierno’s nasal vocal tone, and I would be inclined to place myself in the latter category. It’s a shame, really, because the rest of the album is excellent.
1. Sisyphus (25:36)
- a. To Pipe (of Emerged Queen)
- b. Legend
- c. Illusion
- d. Life
- e. The Rock Rolls Down
- f. Wile
- g. Merope
- h. Moral
2. Lullabyme (8:40)
3. The Meaning Of Life (5:58)
4. Foolish Pawns (7:13)
5. To Be White (8:16)
* Alessandro Patierno – bass, classical guitar, vocals, piano strings
* Davide Cirone – Hammond, Rhodes, Mellotron, Moog
* Tonino Politano – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
* Gianpaolo Saracino – violin, tambourine
* Marco Pallotti – drums