RaneStrane – Apocalypse Now (2022)
I have been following these Italians since the wonderful trilogy based on the film 2001- A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, in which they show how to combine music and spoken fragments from the film in a tasteful and artistic way. While they were subtly supported by two not entirely unknown men listening to the names Rothery and Hogarth, on this newcomer the men do it all by themselves and they do it just fine.
This concept album is once again based on a well-known film, the war drama Apocalypse Now. For those unfamiliar with the film, it is about the American struggle in Vietnam in the 1960s/1970s. Not a lighthearted subject for sure. This time only one CD and that is enough to handle the storyline, but since the majority is sung in Italian, it comes in handy that the English fragments form the basis. The opening track Saigon starts with an electronic beat and soon we hear the typical RaneStrane sound with a somewhat lingering guitar solo and the excellent vocals of drummer Danielle Pomo. So what exactly is that sound? I like it to be a mix of Pink Floyd, Marillion and the figureheads of the old Italian symphonic rock like P.F.M.. Not too much power, and the melody is leading. Nice full keys with regular solos that form a nice counterbalance to the guitar solos of Massimo Pomo that certainly don't break any speed records but don’t need to.
With the long song Napalm, just under 20 minutes, the men pull out all the stops and this is a perfect sample of what these crazy frogs, because that is what the band name means, have to offer.
Sometimes the film fragments used are quite long and that can be a bit disturbing, but that's just a thing that is to be judged by the listeners. Sometimes the English is a bit funny, although they rarely sing in this language, but recognizable places or districts ( f.e. South Bronx) in particular immediately stand out, while the subject is of course dead serious. Where in the aforementioned trilogy you can sometimes find extraordinary nice melody lines, there is a more constant quality on this album, but those outliers are somewhat lacking. After many listens I get a bit of a feeling of repetition and that's not bad if you repeat something good but it can lead to losing attention. With nine songs in almost eighty minutes Apocalypse Now is a long one and although I like long songs things could be a bit shorter and more powerful. The Eden Cries is a somewhat heavier song and it is well placed so that the attention remains, but there are passages that do not appeal to me. Certainly something for lovers of psychedelic music and of course fitting within the framework of the excesses of the Vietnam War and the effects on American soldiers. The sixteen-minute long The Horror also contains moments like this, but what do you want with such a title. Yet they always return to the basics, melody and passion. The drumming stands out for its creativity and the bass work from Maurizio Meo is sometimes nice and different, but the sound of the, albeit electric, upright bass does not always work for me. I'm not too fond of acoustic instruments either. Shame on me, I know. Closer Un Nuovo Dio contains another nice lingering guitar solo that I love and some fine neoprog keys from Riccardo Romano to top it off.
I have to mention the ugly cover because it is so different from the beautiful covers of the three Space Odyssey albums. Sorry guys.
But having said so this is a very fine record and certainly an asset to any collection, but secretly I listened to part three of A Space Odyssey again and I think it's just a bit better, but these passionate Italians always deserve a place in my top ten of the year. Great album to start your journey into the world of the crazy frogs!