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

2018-02-18
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more

2018-02-15
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more

2018-02-14
Tom Rapp RIP – Singer / songwriter Tom Rapp, best known with the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 12, at the age of 70, after a battle with cancer. » Read more

2018-01-30
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more

2018-01-18
Christian Burchard RIP – Multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard, who founded the seminal band Embryo in 1969, has died at the age of 71. His January 17 passing was announced on the band's Facebook page. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

The Source - All Along This Land – The Source is a Los Angeles based four-piece of g/k/b/d with keyboardist and primary composer Aaron Goldich assuming the vocal duties. They are a prog rock band with ambitious aims, as evidenced by...  (2008) » Read more

Claudia Quintet - Semi-formal – The Claudia Quintet is back with another lovely set of what I think of as Chamber Jazz. While the music mostly gives the impression of being pretty thoroughly composed, there is a looseness to the...  (2006) » Read more

Sylvan - Artificial Paradise – There's lot of music in the land between mainstream and neo-prog, and this is another one. They hail from Germany and this is their third effort. The music is thoroughly composed and produced, still...  (2004) » Read more

Carla Kihlstedt / Matthias Bossi / Shahzad Ismaily - Causing a Tiger – Here we have three principals of various Bay Area art-music assemblages of recent vintage creating something new and radically different from their usual endeavors. Most readers will know violinist...  (2011) » Read more

Somnambulist - Somnambulist – Fans of Mellotron and heavy Hammond take note. Somnambulist is a four-piece from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who are solidly powered by these two instruments, as well as synths, guitars, and a heavy...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues