Sunday, January 31, 2016

Antonius Rex - 1979 - Anno Demoni

Antonius Rex 
Anno Demoni

01. Gloriae Manus (7:50)
02. Jacula The Witch (2:48)
03. Anno Demoni (12:00)
04. Soul Satan (5:42)
05. Missanigra (4:55)
06. Ego Sum Qui Sum (7:44)
07. Morti Vident (3:52)
08. 1999 Mundi Finis (3:21)

- Antonio Bartoccetti / vocals, guitars, bass
- Doris Norton / vocal, synthesizers
- Albert Goodman / drums
- Charles Tiring / church organ, piano

Although looked down by some Jacula/Antonius Rex followers for being something of a compilation of unreleased pieces, different takes and reinterpretations of earlier works, taken on it's own merits, I think `Anno Demoni' is a perfectly adequate horror soundtrack-styled work, full of convincing dark arrangements and drizzly atmosphere. It was the first Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton album I bought, so I might go a little easier on it than others because I'm somewhat nostalgic about it, for it led me to search out and immerse myself in their other work.
After a brief typical Rex organ introduction, `Gloriae Manus' instantly falls away into a slow distant rumble that borders on dark ambience, before hypnotic piano and that vile hammering drum similar to the first two Jacula albums looms heavy over the listener. Doris Norton then doubles on imposing gothic organ alongside maddening harpsichord that gives it that B-grade schlock horror movie comic book sound.

`Jacula The Witch' is a very moving and sad lullaby with a haunting wordless female vocal along the lines of some of the 70's Goblin albums. Gentle yet ghostly chimes float along in the background before being joined by a very reflective and somber piano melody soft Mellotron wisps. Easily the best piece on the album, and a shame that it's so short.

The 12 minute title track has eerie synths, macabre organ and plodding acoustic guitar playing over Mellotron, electric violin and tribal percussion. The middle section has a very jarring electronic looped pattern with oppressive cold synths that invade the mood - I'm reminded slightly of some of the darker keyboard sections of Pink Floyd's `Animals' album here. The finale diverts into an oddly Tangerine Dream-styled floating electronic piece. Vile taunting voices call from the distance throughout the piece, with a spitting and biting quality that gives them a highly sinister and threatening tone. This slow and gradually unwinding piece compliments the long ambient piece `Enchanted Wood' that concluded the `Ralefun' album.

`Soul Satan's is a slightly rubbish Italian prog/pop song with slight disco beats (which started creeping into Rex albums from 1977's `Zora' onwards) and awful ragged strained male vocals. It's not unusual for Italian prog albums to have boisterous and passionate vocals, but Antonio (if it's him who is singing, because he's the only one credited to vocals on the album) sounds like a drunk pirate on this one! But it's worth hearing for the endless murky soloing dirty bass mixed so loud playing all throughout the song.

`Missanigra' is full of spooky keyboard effects, chanted Latin voices, bat noises and creepy synth patterns but no real melodies to speak off. Just more of the same - somewhat undeveloped and uninspired horror ideas without actually being unlistenable.

The main album concludes with the perfect soundtrack for a haunted house movie, `Ego Sum Qui Sum'. Frightening harsh white-noise electronic orchestration constantly swirls around creeping violin dueling with more of that dirty melodic upfront bass from `Soul Satan' and dancing harpsichord . It's nice to hear the band step away from all the booming organ and find other ways to build their malevolent soundscapes, and it's quite an experimental piece for them.

The wonderful vinyl reissue includes a bonus 7" single with two shorter alternate pieces, `Morti Vindent' and `1999 Mundi Finis' from (I think) the `Zora' album. Probably more interesting to new listeners who haven't heard them on previous albums, although there are slight differences that Rex fans will pick up on.

`Anno Demoni' is only really disappointing from the perspective of comparing it to the other Bartoccetti/Norton albums. On it's own it's a perfectly successful horror themed prog album with decent playing, gloomy atmospheres and haunting dark melodies. Many of the other albums from their vintage period offer a lot more depth and emotion than this one, but it's still works well on a surface level. There is a somewhat nagging feeling of `same old', but even added elements like the violin give it a unique sound in the Rex discography.

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