Saturday, January 9, 2016

Alluminogeni - 1972 - Scolopendra



01. La Natura e l'Universo (7:58)
02. Scolopendra (3:43)
03. Che fumo c'è (2:47)
04. La Stella di Atades (4:39)
05. Thrilling (7:07)
06. Cosmo (3:34)
07. Pianeta (6:54)

Patrizio Alluminio (keyboards, vocals)
Enrico Cagliero (guitar, bass)
Daniele Ostorero (drums)

Gli Alluminogeni's roots can be traced back to 1966, and to five young friends who met each year while on holiday on the Italian Riviera. Originally formed as a beat group, the band went through several changes of name in those early days and at different points they were known as Green Grapes, Vips, and Bats. In 1968 lead singer Patrizio Alluminio moved from Casale Monferrato to Turin, where most of the band were based, and this enabled them to be more active. Around this time they condensed to a trio consisting of Alluminio (keyboards, vocals), Daniele Ostorero (drums), and Guido Maccario (guitar). Maccario would prove to be the first in a long succession of temporary guitarists. Further changes of group name ensued, firstly to Terza Sensazione and ultimately to Gli Alluminogeni (after Alluminio who was the most accomplished musician of the three, having graduated in piano from the Conservatorio Viotti of Vercelli). On the back of their demo tracks they successfully landed a recording contract with the Fonit Cetra label.

After recording their first single in 1970 they performed in front of 15,000 at the Cantagiro summer festival having had little previous live experience. Over the course of the next two years they released a further 3 singles, and Piero Tonello replaced Maccario as guitarist during this period. In 1971 they appeared at an Avant-garde festival in Viarregio and then supported Gentle Giant on their Italian tour. Also in 1971, Caio 2001 magazine named them the third best band in Italy, behind Formula 3 and New Trolls, and ahead of Le Orme. Another change of guitarist saw Tonello leave and Enrico Cagliero join the band. This new line-up (Alluminio, Ostorero, Cagliero) recorded the soundtrack for an Italian movie in which the band appeared, performing as Troglomen. In 1972 they released the apocalyptic concept album SCOLOPENDRA, a visionary tale with cosmic ecology as its central theme. This album was based around Alluminio's Hammond organ and plaintive vocals, but the band members were unhappy with the final production as they felt it sounded too commercial. Their dissatisfaction with the record label, combined with some internal conflict, resulted in the break-up of the band. Consequently, the album wasn't promoted and the split also obscured their participation in the annual Festivalbar song contest in Italy. Patrizio Alluminio subsequently brought out a solo single in 1975, but apart from that one release the different members of Gli Alluminogeni went on to pursue careers outwith the music industry.

These guys originally started out during the 1960s as an Italian beat group called Green Grapes. They subsequently changed their name to Gli Alluminogeni (taking their new name from keyboardist & vocalist Patrizio Alluminio) and reinvented themselves as a melodic prog band at the turn of the 1970s. Like many other Italian bands of the period they had a short life span and disbanded with only one album under their belt. In their case the break- up was due to conflict with their record label over the quality of production on the album, which is a bit ropey to be honest. After the reissue of Scolopendra in 1991, the band reformed with a new guitarist and released a couple more cds in the following years.
Scolopendra's gatefold sleeve proclaims ''During a very strange journey... a cosmic dawn'', and the majority of the song titles are based on themes of Nature and the Cosmos. The album starts and ends with sound effects of nature and an explosion respectively, so there seems to be some kind of apocalyptic concept at play here. The overall sound is a bit dated for its time of release, and there's a fairly strong psychedelic influence with most tracks built around Alluminogeni's Hammond organ. The aforementioned production doesn't help in this respect either mind you.

So, after a moody intro with some sound effects of birds and insects, LA NATURA E L'UNIVERSO finally gets going around the 2-minute mark with some brief vocals and then a bluesy Hammond workout. This is a promising start to the album but there's an incongruous psych-pop guitar section tagged on at the end of this track. The next three songs all continue in melodic rock vein, and a couple of them include real orchestral backing. The title track is probably the best of these with its memorable Hammond refrains. By the way, the genus Scolopendra contains the largest and most dangerous of the centipedes, but I'll be blowed if I know how a centipede fits into the overall concept.

Apart from COSMO, which is a short no-frills instrumental blues-rocker, the second half of the album is more mature with greater thematic development and longer instrumental passages. The keyboards ebb and flow to good effect on the darkly psychedelic THRILLING, as the muffled tones of pipe organ alternate with swirling Hammond and meaty guitar licks. Closing track PIANETA's forceful guitar riffs, majestic organ, and damp squib explosion then round the album off nicely.

Scolopendra is one of the lesser-known RPI releases therefore it's not one of the places to start if you're new to the genre. However, if you can overlook the poor sound quality it's actually not too bad an album.