CD Review

Lupercalia – “Florilegium”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

FlorilegiumIn this technologically advanced postmodern society we've generated for ourselves, it's so refreshing to go back to the classics. Like Max Cavalera of Soulfly professes, back to the primitive. Forget X-Box and emo punk pop. Forget Billboard-driven hip hop. Forget Tony Hawk, Most Extreme Challenge and NASCAR. Back to the basics, man. Real art performed on real instruments by real people, fully realized with maybe a scant assistance of technology.

I know, the idea sounds as distantly foreign as an Argentinean immigrant. The Italian neo-classic ensemble known as Lupercalia takes you straight to jugular of music with its delectable instrumentation, powerhouse vocals and a snaky Faustian attitude that flirts with Goth as it does Celtic and traditional classic ideologies. Save for a rare shaky moment or two, Lupercalia's Florilegium is a breath of fresh air from the cataclysmic norm found in progressive music theory today. Lupercalia is progressive in its throwback fashion because let's face it; we're gradually running out of ideas. With double the population from twenty years ago, more bodies have traveled down blank paths and excavated them. It only makes sense then, to return to the wayward roads leading to modern music: classical.

Riccardo Prencipe orchestrates a masterful blend of Renaissance-laden pieces which are performed magnificently with his breezy acoustic guitar aided by the breathtaking violins of Gianluca Uccio. Uccio and Prencipe are in perfect unison throughout the disc, as evidenced on the opening number, Tribe, as well as Aegypto ad Sicliam, Praga and Rebis, where you can hear them lock in together note for note, splendid counterparts that create a neo-classical fugue that serves as backdrop to the overt operatic vocals of Claudia Florio.

Florio may strike a nerve or two in the beginning; for whatever reason, it takes a few songs for Florio and her mates to find one another. As talented a falsetto as you're ever going to hear, Florio seems lost without a full orchestra backing for a moment or two. But whatever you do, don't bail on this album. Despite initial shakiness, by the time Personent Hodie comes, Florio has found her stride and it comes at a welcome moment on a song which incorporates nature samples that lend an organic texture to already organic music; Florio sends a majestic callback to Uccio's high violin notes and from there she maintains a steady presence.

Every so often, Prencipe opts to inject a contemporary tweak with orchestral synths such as on the sensual Sub Specie Aeternitatis, where the full comprehension of his components has found absolute confidence, including spoken word chants by Lina Salvatore who cameos on various tracks. The instrumentation on this track, along with the others, indicates that Prencipe is gifted beyond words. Even as the album builds up steam on the frolicking Curtis, which features more sampling including a subliminal crowd noise specific to a village, so by the time the hard drums and flighty acoustic increase their tempos you feel you've stepped back in time to the Renaissance and you're a part of the festivities. Axe keeps you there at the party, only it becomes a bit more contemporary in execution with its Celtic feel.

Formis Melara Sanctus Felix reminds of Alex North's Spartacus score in certain spots until the instrumentation weaves a luxuriant Goth-woven tapestry. As Florilegium winds down, Prencipe embraces a pair of traditional Celtic songs. The Wind that Shakes the Barley gives Claudia Florio a chance to sparkle with her dramatic solo work; if this doesn't move you, damn your soulless bones. Finally, Prencipe concludes with the upbeat jig Pilgrim's Chant.

So maybe classical music can't compete in a popularity contest with Taking Back Sunday or Coheed and Cambria. The latter's intricacy should compel twentieth century listeners towards the roots of it. For history's sake, we could say Rush has had monster significance upon Coheed and Cambria(1), while breaking down the stratospheric Rush's music reveals a major adherence to classical music as it does classic rock. Where am I going, you ask? Take a listen to Lupercalia and all will be revealed.

(1) Ray reviewed C&C’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3 in Legends #137.
Contact Information:
Equilibrium Music
Post: PO Box 2909, PT - 1123 – 001, Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: +351 (96) 663 6647