Gran Torino come from Verona and their roots date back to 2000 when Cristiano Pallaoro (guitars), Alessio Pieri (keyboards, piano), Gian Maria Roveda (drums) and Fabrizio Visentini Visas (bass) started to play for fun as a cover band. In 2009 they began to work on a more ambitious project featuring only original compositions blending influences of bands such as PFM, Genesis, Spock's Beard or Kansas with a personal touch. In 2011 they finally released an interesting debut album on the Swiss independent label Galileo Records, “grantorinoProg”, featuring ten instrumental tracks and a nice art work by Mark Wilkinson. The band showcase here an excellent musicianship and the music flows away like a river on the rocks with a great interplay between keyboards and guitar and a pulsing rhythm section in the background.
Although all the tracks are completely instrumental the band provided some short liner notes for every track, just to give you an idea of what the music is about. The opener “Sinapsi” is full of obscure energy and invites you to dream and vibrate to the rhythm of music... “You sleep but you can hear it. You don't know what is it, but you know it is real...”. Some passages recall Goblin and are painted in disquieting deep red colours. The following “Jack Montorio” tries to evoke a search for tranquillity that drives you far away from home and an emotional storm due to a broken relationship. On the powerful “Rock Waters” the electric guitar comes alive while the music is in some way related to the images of the art cover. Next comes “Joy” where the band mix Eastern flavoured harmonies with neoclassical influences inviting you to seize the day.
“Miridiana” is another excellent track full of colours. A mysterious woman paints her face with red eastern dust and looks towards the horizon while ancient maps resurface in her mind... “Fox Box” is frenzied, claustrophobic. You can run and jump like a fox in a box but you can't break through because the only freedom is in your mind. For this track the band shot a video set in the Roman theatre of Verona.
“Five” is a nice short acoustic track that leads to the aggressive “Radio Vox” where the electric guitar is the protagonist. The following “Eco” recalls Goblin once again with its suggestive atmosphere and its dark organ rides backed by the rhythm section. The long final track, “Zorro”, starts calmly, the mood is dreamy, nocturnal... “A mask hides your face, a sword defends your feelings. Harmony takes away the mask, melody defeats the sword, and you fly on the wings of your instrument...”.
Well, all in all I think that this is a very good album where the musicians managed to express all their great passion for the music they love without sounding too retro.
Gran Torino: grantorinoProg (2011). Other opinions:
Jon Neudorf: All four musicians are very good and the band has plenty of chops but they don't go overboard with excessive noodling and can slow it down when the need arises. That said, there are lots of tempo changes and stop/starts that demand your attention. Heavy guitar riffs abound and the band's hard rock beginnings shine through often although the music never gets too heavy. You will hear lots of interplay between guitar and keys and both instruments shine throughout... grantorinoProg is a fine debut release from a band that should have a bright future as long as they continue to move forward and carve their own niche. Nice stuff indeed... (read the complete review HERE).
Vitaly Menshikov: What may initially seem as a certain sameness in the band’s music (due to the fixed instrumentation and the aforementioned similarity in the development of tracks as well), will fade on subsequent listens, as the subtle complexities of the arrangements reveal themselves... This disc is an auspicious debut for the quartet to appear on Top-20 lists of many art-rock and related publications this year. I think only those who are exclusively into the most complicated forms of the genre (e.g. King Crimson, early ‘70s Van Der Graaf Generator, Yes circa 1973-’74) might omit it in this respect... (read the complete review HERE).