01. The Gnome (6:16)
02. Necromancer (6:30)
03. Spiritualist Seance (10:07)
04. Zora (7:42)
05. Morte al Potere (6:12)
Bonus Track on Black Widow edition only:
06. Monastery (9:39)
- Antonio Bartoccetti / guitar, vocals
- Doris Norton / keyboards, vocals
- Albert Goodman / drums
The Witch returns!
This was the last piece of the Antonius Rex discography to find me and it was not without some apprehension that I first played it. I had heard it was a spotty album and worried it might be in the same league as "Anno Demoni," which is my least favorite title from the band. After all, even the official Rex biography on their web site calls the early editions of the album "uninspiring" and "absurd" and claims the project was only completed "for the money." It does seem to be a project cobbled together in pieces between 1975-1978 when Norton and Bartoccetti were busy with a young child and admittedly disillusioned with the recording of music. Drummer Albert Goodman was likely the most enthusiastic member of the group at this point, and Bartoccetti also brought in two friends from the group Raminghi to beef up the tracks. To further cast a dark shadow on this project Goodman died in 1978 under what are reported to be "mysterious circumstances" made even more so due to his supposed dabblings in occultism. So given my low expectations, it was a very pleasant surprise indeed that I ended up being most enchanted by the Witch, the dangerous lady on the album cover. While not in the same league as Jacula, and a step down from the first Rex album, Zora still has plenty of nice moments which will please the fans of these eccentric artists.
We begin with "The Gnome" which was absent from the first vinyl release but added to the second. It's a strange one indeed, showcasing the disco-drumming technique of Mr. Goodman and the poor English vocals of one of the Raminghi guys. But it has some neat sound effects and a great dual acoustic lead section. "Necromancer" gives us a bit of Antonio's soothing narrative and some twisted, dark vocal to begin with. It opens into an odd jammy track with Doris laying down some jazzy piano against Antonio's guitar musings. Both "Spiritualist Séance" and "Morte al Potere" are reworkings of material from the Jacula days, which Antonio pretty much admits is a strike against Zora's credibility. Yet these were strong albums and thus I didn't mind at all, I rather enjoyed hearing the new twists even if I ultimately prefer the original, especially the masterpiece "Tardo Pede In Magiam Versus." These interpretations are much less formal, loose, occasionally sloppy and of lower fidelity, but still fun. Anytime I can hear Doris' defiant siren song over that gothic church organ I am on board. The title track is all over the map but very enjoyable, with sections featuring straightforward rock, more Raminghi vocals, lovely keyboard/piano washes, and more beautiful, dreamy acoustic work from Antonio. What makes this version especially nice for the Rex fan is the addition of a very good bonus track in "Monastery." This 10 minute track was produced in 1980---I'm not certain but I suspect it was a product of the "Praeternatural" sessions as the sound is very similar. It's a gorgeous flowing piece with Doris' piano on a sea of synths, Antonio's cutting guitar scraping along in the background, then a beautiful acoustic guitar solo and an electric one.
Rex fans will certainly want to own this Black Widow anniversary edition which is another quality tri-fold digipak. You'll get the cool bonus track and a generous booklet of typical Rex strangeness, the highlight of which are a few photos of the strikingly beautiful Doris Norton (yes, I have a little crush on her.) Jacula/Rex newbies should not start here however. First, get both Jacula albums, the first Rex album, and the latter period "Switch on Dark." Then if you find these "esoteric observations" of sound and black magic to be entertaining, you can move on to Zora and the rest. Remember, Jacula and Rex should never be judged in the context of rock and roll. This is an experimental sound troupe if you will, who combine both modern and gothic sounds to create dark "sounds paintings." You must enter the mist in the spirit which was intended, if you are to play for the Witch. All titles have been lovingly restored on CD by Black Widow Records of Genoa.