Exposé Online banner

Presence — Black Opera
(Black Widow BWR 014-2, 1996, CD)

by Rob Walker, 1997-02-01:

Black Opera Cover art

For their second album, this Italian group has expanded on its dramatic, heavy-metal-meets-neoprog sound. A quartet of guitars, keys, vocals, and drums, their music flirts with a quasi-operatic quality that often has the aura of an over-the-top rock musical. This element is brought to the forefront on Black Opera, with an 18 minute "tribute" to Verdi forming the centerpiece of the album. Black Opera is a rather fitting title, as they take excerpts from Verdi operas, pull out the melodies and harmonic progressions, and place them into their own heavy neo-prog musical settings. Vocalist Sofia Baccini has a voice equal to the task, but the humor of this misfit juxtaposition is not obscured by her performance.

The rest of the album features a half-dozen six to eight minute tracks, sung in English, that focus a bit more on the heavy metal aspect of their sound, though never losing the neo-prog sensibility. Digital synth pads provide a harmonic backdrop for some flashy speed guitar solos in the metal idiom, as driving rhythms are pounded out by an insistent double kick drum and crunchy guitar riffing. Sofia's vocals soar and occasionally growl, and help give the music a genuine sincerity without which Black Opera would be reduced to a parody of pretension. If dramatic, metalish neo-prog is your bag, by all means check this out.


by Peter Thelen, 1997-02-01:

Giuseppe Verdi, 1813-1901. Not exactly a household name among proggers, but his operas rank among some of the best of the 19th century: La Traviata, Aida, Don Carlo, Rigoletto, and others. He's been pretty much ignored by rock bands thus far, so what more fitting then, than a rock tribute to his work? "A Giuseppe Verdi," the centerpiece of this second album by Presence, is exactly that — an 18-minute suite containing rock adaptations of four pieces taken from Verdi operas. Vocalist Sofia Baccini has no trouble pulling it off, her voice is powerful and emotional, and she seems quite comfortable in a variety of styles; yet this probably won't be enough to change the minds of those with a bias against opera to begin with, as Presence — despite arranging the material for rock instrumentation — stick fairly close to the spirit of the originals. Hopefully some will be more open minded. The band proper consists of Baccini, keyboardist Enrico Iglio and guitarist Sergio Casamassima. The rest are all guests, unlike the first album, The Sleeper Awakes, which seemed to be a full five-piece band. On the remaining tracks, their style clearly leans toward the prog-metal zone, albeit darker and more sinister than most, with Baccini's voice being the unlikely twist in the mix: her style often recalls Sonja Kristina of Curved Air, elegantly propelling the material forward with a vengeance. Drums are supplied by two studio musicians, and herein lies the album's main weakness: with the notable exceptions of the Verdi piece, "On Travel," and "Just Before the Rain," the drummers tend to fall into the rut of simple boom-bash 4/4 timekeeping mode, made irritatingly worse by being too far up in the mix. With a better drummer this band could be awesome, there is certainly more to like about them than dislike.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 11 , 1996 releases

Related artist(s): Sophya Baccini, Presence

More info

Latest news

2021-01-18
Asia Minor Third Album on the Way – On January 29, AMS records will be releasing the long-awaited third album by classic Turkish-French band Asia Minor. Released last year in Japan, this will be the widespread debut of Points of Libration. The album features original members Setrak Bakirel (vocals, guitar) and Eril Tekeli (flute, guitar). » Read more

2020-12-09
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more

2020-11-20
25 Views of Worthing Finally Gets Released – A while ago, we wrote about the discovery of a "long lost" Canterbury-style gem by a band called 25 Views of Worthing. And now we're pleased to find out that Wind Waker Records has released their music on an LP. » Read more

2020-10-14
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

2020-10-06
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Klaus Schulze - Revisited Reissues, Part 2 (Plus) – The four latest Klaus Schulze reissues include one from the 70s and three from the new millennium, bringing the total to 34 and closing out the first 21 Schulze albums. As Virtual Outback is...  (2008) » Read more

Willowglass - Willowglass – Willowglass is the solo project of Andrew Marshall who has opted for the D.I.Y. approach to his debut recording. Helping him out is drummer Dave Brightman, a move that spares the listener programmed...  (2006) » Read more

Carpe Diem - Cueille le Jour – Unjustifiably overlooked, Cueille de Jour is the follow-up to this quintet's monster debut — and an outstanding representation of the best that France had to offer in the seventies. Their highly...  (1995) » Read more

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 10 Anni Live 1971-1981 – The saga of PFM is one of the most interesting and revealing of all of the "progressive" symphonic rock greats. With PFM you see the birth of the Italian classical rock scene, you see a band...  (1997) » Read more

Cast - Beyond Reality – If anything, Cast are at least one of the best when it comes to promoting and marketing their music. A hundred "progressive" bands could learn a lot from the way they do things as...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues