- Album Reviews

Alberto Rigoni – Three Wise Monkeys

I have tried hard to get it out of my head, but I cannot help it, something magical happens to me when it comes to Italy, and especially when it comes to Italian musicians. I don’t know what do they give to their children, but Italians always are holders of a special aura and a special sense of quality, cleanliness and musical geniality. I know a lot of amazing italian musicians, but Three Wise Monkeys, by Alberto Rigoni, is undoubtedly one of the best examples of the geniality I am talking about. Clever passion, elegance and musical eclecticism able to please the gods themselves.

Alberto Rigoni defines himself as a rock/metal/progressive/ambient/sperimental bass player, but forgets to mention that he is also an outstanding composer and producer. Native from Montebelluna, Italy, Mr. Rigoni is better known by his great work as a member of the progressive metal band TwinSpirits and founder of the electro/pop duo Lady & the BASS. His latest solo release, Three Wise Monkeys, contains five instrumental songs and five vocal tracks. Rigoni has put tons of love and attention to every single detail of this album, and beware, because he does so much more than showing his great bass work here, he manages to let all the instruments shine too, in a neat and pure dance where Rigoni is the great and omnipotent choreographer.

An infinite constellation of talents have been called to this Rigoni´s parallel universe, all of them exceptional. Some are kind of unknown, and others are very well known for us. Vocalists Goran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Madison, John Norum) and Jonas Erixon (pliers), keyboardists Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson, Lance King) and Kevin Moore (Dream Theater, Chroma Key), guitarists Tommy Ermolli (Twinspirits) and the great Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios), drummers Mark Cross (Helloween, Firewind, Outloud), Paolo Valli (who has recorded with some non-metal well known Italian musicians as Laura Pausini and Vasco Rossi) and Paco Barilla (Daniele Liverani)… Still not amazed? Wait to hear what Rigoni has for you now.

Needless to say that when I read the name of this album, I was pretty confused by its meaning. Alberto Rigoni named and composed this album basing it on an old Japanese proverbial principle. The original names of the three wise monkeys are Mizaru (who sees no evil) Kikazaru (who hears no evil) and Iwasaru (who speaks no evil), each one of them is represented with an instrumental song on the album. The meaning of this proverb is hard to say, because it is interpreted in several ways. To the intellectual elite, the three wise monkeys were related to the philosophical and moral code Santai, but among the people the meaning was something like to ‘surrender’ to the system, a code of conduct recommending prudence not to see or hear injustice, or express one’s dissatisfaction.

The first track Toshogu Shrine, is a soft, warm symphony based on temple bells, the atmosphere created by them and their distinctive and purifying sound drive us right into the oriental theme of the album, and fill the ear of spirituality and solemnity. With the power of a mudra, this song can take us deep within our own souls and make us close our eyes without even realizing it, one way or another we end up surrendering to its mysticism and essence. Mizaru, instrumental song that represents the monkey who sees no evil, leads us through some solid riffs, varied rhythms and tempo changes that are very well employed and fit beautifully in the context, Paolo Valli shows off his incredible skills on drums and Kevin Moore’s unbeatable keyboards establish a sweet connection with the listener. Immediately after that we find Three Wise Monkeys, the song, which slides into the ears like a skateboard on a ramp, delicious, tasty and rich in technique, full of bright and lively vibe, injecting energy and feeling. The fine and crystal clear voice of Goran Edman on this song create a compelling effect of which is impossible to detach.

Kikasaru is the instrumental song that represents the monkey who hears no evil. The brilliant bass work of Rigoni is the most lighting star in this sky, and its composition pleasantly shows the influence of Japanese music in Rigoni himself, solemnity and humble submission are printed on each note. Like listening to Edith Piaf’s songs one is immediately transported to a romantic parisian night, while listening Kikasaru one is lifted and transported gently to a sort of old japanese town, honorable and magical. I know Edith Piaf has nothing to do with Rigoni’s music, but what I want to explain is that there are just few artists in this world that are able to reach your heart in such a direct and special way. Blackened Tornado brings new energy and enthusiasm, backed by the great voice of Jonas Erixon, the song flows a little darker than the previous ones, Tommy Ermolli gives a particular weight to the guitar and manages to fully develop the emotive potential of the song. Then Iwasaru, instrumental song that represents the last monkey, who speaks no evil, is the perfect prove of the amazing interpretative talent of maestro Rigoni, who makes his bass guitar literally cry getting a sort of bell sound as result, while the drums of Sebastian Persini sets the time for a delightfully rhythmic song, worthy of being enjoyed in silence, Federico Solazzo’s keyboards show his good taste and sound natural and fluid, like a river of notes accelerated by the wind.

Free Falling has a guest who is – along with Alberto himself of course – very special for Lady Obscure. Simone Mularoni, who has been mentioned many times by yours truly this last months, because of his genius and musical instinct. Mularoni provides another example of that special power that only he has to entrust his soul to the guitar, making from this jazzy song  a “religious” experience. The guitar solo is just magnificent, period. Mark Cross on drums powers Mularoni and Rigoni’s virtuosity, and the voice of Mr. Erixon appears doing some great harmonies in due measure and designed to make us shiver. When Between Space and Time started, I immediately got amazed by its emotion. An instrumental song, almost atmospheric, in which keyboardist Mystheria runs the notes as if they were tears, spraying each of these with nostalgia and reflecting his power to transform a song with his warm, touching and melancholic interpretation. Mr Erixon shows off his technique in Coming Home, a song played at medium speed, which involves the heart in its mystical instantly, Paolo Valli and Tommy Ermolli shine again, this time consecrating themselves to my ears as true idols. And finally, since this was a journey full of unexpected adventures, Rigoni decided to close with something warm, and made the last stop in Believe, a kind of semi-ballad in which Erixon exploits his talent to shake hearts with his voice. Emotional, tender and melancholic.Rigoni shows his magic again and brings new energy to his interpretative quality, closing this masterfull album with one of his most masterfull tracks.

As we see, Rigoni has found the perfect balance in this album, taking the bass out of its underrated role as support and base, to make it shine in a sublime and sparkling way, but without losing the north and also achieving that each one of the other instruments leave an indelible mark on our brains, making each guitar and bass riff memorable, making every drumbeat to become a heartbeat and overtake our body with his sound, and making that each note of the keyboard was compelling, forcing us to maintain the awe expression for lifelong minutes. Soulful music, vibrant energy and a huge amount of almost divine talent and professionalism. This mesmerizing combination of glorious vocals, deep lyrics with social conscience, and especially this solid music, sensational, sometimes euphoric, sometimes deeply sad. Rigoni has destroyed the invisible walls that enclose the bass in a position outside the spotlight and has explored virgin lands on this trip.

No more to say, this is a must have. From all human and divine points of view. Unforgettable, magical, everlasting, touching and electrifying…

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