So, in all honesty going into reviewing this album, I admit I was unaware of the Italian band Neverdream until this year although they were founded in 2003. I was alerted to this album’s existence by their connection with guest singer Andy Kuntz from Vanden Plas, so I figured if he was involved, I should definitely check them out! I am glad that I did, which prompted me to review this album and make them more known to others who may not be familiar with this band. Neverdream hails from Rome, and the band’s personnel include Giorgio Massimi (Vocals), Guiseppe Marinelli (Guitar), Andrea Terzulli (Bass), Fabrizio Dottori (Keyboard, Saxophone, Programming), and Gabriele Palmieri (Drums).
I must say, as I delved into researching this album, I was impressed with their thoroughness and willingness to make their music as available to the masses as possible. Through their website, they include a free download of their two discs, which clock in for a total of 1 hour and 53 minutes of music; a 109-page book that fleshes out the whole storyline along with a synopsis of the album concept; and the song lyrics for those who download the digital album. For those who still like hard copy albums, they also have a 2-disc, 16-page booklet CD available that you can order through their website.
The Circle is Neverdream’s 4th studio album, and there are no holds barred for this epic album. It is certainly progressive in the truest sense of the word as there is not only the usual band instrumentation, but also included are classical instruments such as alto saxophone and flute as well throughout their music. This is clearly a concept album, with its setting in Corpus Christi, TX. It is a dark murder thriller with elements of dysfunctional family relationships, misguided/mishandled faith, and questionable mental health that impacts everyone involved, even to the point of murder.
The Intro song starts with various noises and voices that lead into a strong band intro after the first minute or so with a solid beat and instrumental riffing that devolves into a singular piano with dissonant chords that set up the dark mood of the album, which is heard throughout. The second song, Requiem, starts off with a surprisingly bluesy sax entrance that turns into a more gothic choral style singing Latin as the song continues its opening. Then the lead vocals come in nearly 2 minutes into the song starting off the sordid storyline. The gothic chorus returns before the guitar solo break which then morphs into a dissonant interplay between the saxophone and keyboards. Then a softer continuation follows that leads into a sung/spoken interchange between the father in the story, Victor, and his son, Adam. This song is a hefty 11+ minutes, and there are so many musical styles and layers to this song that it seems disjointed and can almost be confusing if you aren’t paying attention. The musical roller coaster of this song seems to set the stage for the type of story that Neverdream intends to take you on throughout this album.
The third song, A Life Beyond, starts off with a completely different style, almost like a techno-lounge feel, a much softer and lilting feel after the maelstrom that is the previous song, and appears to take the perspective of the mother, Lucy, in this tale as she tries to free her children – especially her son Adam – from the clutches of their harsh and abusive father Victor. Godless, the fourth track, is taken from the son Adam’s perspective after he discovers that his mother has finally called the police and report the abuse of him by his father. He has conflicted feelings about this after years of indoctrination by his father about how sinful and evil women are – and thus he views her rather than his father as godless for her action – and doesn’t know what to do as his father is taken away from his life and eventually convicted and sentenced to prison where he dies, killed by another inmate. Musically, the approach is again more dissonant and harsh, which seems to reflect the difficult subject matter it intends to portray. The beat is solid and driving, though slow, with soulful solos from the saxophone and guitar, and is also not a short song at nearly 11 minutes in length.
The fifth track, Vesta, is named after Adam’s twin sister with whom he has been close all these years, but actually had their father’s favor. It begins much more softly, with acoustic guitar and flute, and is a short song that reflects the femininity of Vesta and her role as the “chosen one” of their father and her enforcement of “The Circle” of protection their father invoked around them and their city to be rid of evil and fleshly temptations (especially of women). The sixth track, Hell’s Flower, despite its nefarious title is a pleasant song sonically. It starts off with a piano introduction and continues with a solid rock style; this song in particular reminded me of a softer version of Dream Theater’s “These Walls,” to give you a sense of this song’s personality, though there is again more dissonance in the middle of the song with the instrumental trade-offs, almost like they are playing together in different keys, but resolved again at the re-entry of the chorus. The operatic female vocal in the last ¼ of the song I particularly find distracting, but has an effect perhaps they are looking for. Hell’s Flower is a hefty song at 12 ½ minutes, this song refers to the love that Adam finds at his diner job that he has started working, and feels love for her but is conflicted because of the evil nature women inherently have according to his father’s teaching. He wonders if Mary Jane is a “special” female like his sister who isn’t like the general nefarious female population, but yet feels she may still be a “flower from hell”.
Mary Jane is the seventh track, referencing the name of the girl Adam falls for in his confusing attraction. It starts off with a jazzy saxophone entrance with piano underneath, and is a soulful ballad exploring Adam’s discovery of love toward a woman. The song is nicely balanced with the addition of a female voice in duet with Giorgio to vocally reflect the budding relationship of Adam and Mary Jane. Then comes the eighth track The Face of Fear, a haunting song that starts off with a strong bassline and arpeggiating guitar, but begins to explode into the chorus with a driving song with strong female harmonies. This song deals with Adam’s reluctant moving back in with his sister at her behest after their mother dies of cancer, and his ambivalence and torn feelings of his love for Mary Jane and his loyalty to his sister and their upbringing as Vesta tries to bring Adam back into the Circle of protection. Track nine, Hypnosis, is an instrumental on the album, and starts off with a bluesy saxophone entrance but then morphs into a guitar and keyboard driven upbeat song. This song has a lot of progressive elements to it, and interchanges from rock to jazz styles throughout. Di Lei la Morte, the tenth track, starts off with a strong brass orchestral opening like a soundtrack to a Hitchcock movie leading into this tragic song sung in Italian, and could almost come off as a song in an Italian opera, especially as the choir joins about a third-way into the song. This is a song that is Adam’s lament after he discovers the death of Mary Jane, which happened not long after he moved back with his sister, and doubts whether or not he was the one to actually commit the murder or not.
Track eleven starts Part II of the story, as Lieutenant Thomas Curtis is assigned to the still unsolved cases of murders of prostitutes that he has inherited from his retired predecessor. The Actor of Blood is another meaty 11 ½ minute song about Curtis and his drive in being a homicide detective that stems from the murder of his younger brother Gabriel. He is determined to find the killer of these prostitutes, who leaves behind a notable signature, and eventually he gets a tip that the death of the cold case of Mary Jane might be related to these serial murders. This song is from Curtis’ perspective as he contemplates this case and seeks motivation from his brother’s spirit/memory to solve it once and for all, especially after he suspects Adam is the culprit and decides to go in search of him. This song also features the first of two songs that feature Vanden Plas’ vocalist Andy Kuntz, singing as the part of his brother Gabriel. The longest song on the album at nearly 20 minutes in length, is the finale titled Killer Machine. It starts off with a dissonant entry, but changes to a strong bass solo opening with some funk to it, and then back to a dissonant vocal entry. There is a lull about halfway through the song with flute and piano and a soft vocal re-entry that slowly builds to a strong last ¼ of the song finally ending in a dissonant piano outro that parallels the dissonant piano heard earlier in the intro. This song addresses the whole twist to the story that Lieutenant Curtis finds to solve the mystery of the serial murders, only to lose his life in the process as he reaches out to his deceased brother Gabriel to meet him in the afterlife.
This album definitely takes you on a musical and emotional roller coaster ride. Even though there are times of musical disjointedness to my ears, how people interpret an album is in the ears of the beholder. Despite there being parts that I wish grabbed me more than they did, I still feel that the overall album is a magnum opus and they definitely work at getting their point across. The men of Neverdream did not spare any effort in creating this album and it shows in the quality of the recording as well as the extensive resources available to accompany this epic concept album. I admire their enthusiasm in making their album and story available to the masses, even for free, so their music can be heard. With this accessibility at your disposal, please have a listen of The Circle.