Exposé Online banner

Conqueror — Stems
(Ma.Ra.Cash Records , 2014, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-11-26

Stems Cover artThis Italian band was unknown to me before Stems arrived, and from the name I would have guessed they play cheesy prog metal, probably rife with fantasy references. And I would have been completely wrong. This is classic Italian symphonic prog, and really well done at that. Keyboards are the dominant factor, and there's a lot of robust organ sound, as well as some great squiggly synthesizer leads. Ture Pagano's guitar doesn't slip into any metal-style chugging, and the leads are good, sometimes evincing bluesy touches slightly reminiscent of David Gilmour, mostly playing lines that weave in and out of the keyboard parts, providing the interplay that is one of the band's highlights. Keyboardist Simona Rigano also provides the band's vocals, and while the instrumental sections dominate timewise, the vocals are solid and pleasant, usually overdubbed with harmonies. Her voice is pure and sweet, with a lovely tone and crisp enunciation of the Italian lyrics, and the melodies are tuneful without being poppishly simplistic. The compositions (all credited to the group as a whole) are varied and interesting, mixing up the tempos, time signatures, and tonalities. My only complaint — and it's a minor one — is that a little more grit would be welcome, maybe a touch of distortion on the organ or electric piano at times, or an occasional snarl in the vocals. But that's a quibble, this is an enjoyable listen, and worthy of the attention of anyone who's a fan of the Italian classics.

Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Conqueror

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Tangle Edge - Eulogy – If one doesn't count all the bootlegs of this that have been floating around for the last few years, then it's really not a reissue - as it's never been legitimately available before. This is Tangle...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues