Album Title: 
Neo-Gothic Propaganda
Release Date: 
Friday, February 21, 2014
Review Type: 

Hum...I was almost certain havin' come across this Milano based Italian Gothic metal act before, but it turns out I was mistaken about that idea. You know, it could've been any of 7 other bands by that name (and from quite different sub-genres) that I came across. Anyway, the last time we at Concrete Web got in touch with the Italians was when former colleague Guido made a review of their third full-length album Malae Artes (posted 04/05/2005, and still to be found available in site's “Archive” section), and seen his devastating judgement, I'm not surprised that we didn't get a review copy sent of the band's 4th album (also last one prior to the current release), 2007's Superangelic Hate Bringers. Hum, anyone in for a short history lesson?

Italy's Macbeth was founded in 1995 by drummer Fabrizio Cislaghi (whom later also played, from 1999 to the band's demise in 2001, with Cultus Sanguine, albeit under the surname Nox Perpatua), whom is the only remaining original member. There at the beginning were also (male) singer Vittorio, and guitarists Luca Sassi and Alex, and it was only in 1996 that, through the addition of female singer Cristina, bassist Fabio, and keyboardist Monica, that Fabrizio succeeded in creating the sounds he had in mind, being a crossover of Black with Gothic Metal. Little know is the fact, that the original name for the band was Land Of Dark Souls. But, back to that first line-up, which proved unstable, and already in 1996 Monica was replaced by Andrea. It's in that new line-up that the band recorded their fairly 1997 demo Nocturnal Embrace, which was released n a limited copy rotation. I'm not sure about the chronology of the next line-up changes, but it's feasible to assume that in the same line-up the band also recorded/ released its 1998 debut album Romantic Tragedy's Crescendo.

In spite of real positive feedback from the media all over Europe (including “Best Album Of The Year” citations from several media), and important live dates, some of the band's members upped and left that same year and the couple of years following, but this also led to a sorts of consolidation of the line-up: Cristina left in 1998, her mike picked up in 1999 by Jessica, who left that same year to be replaced in 2000 by current female singer Morena Rozzi; Vittorio also left in 1998, and wasn't replaced until the year 2000, when current male singer Andread Cislaghi entered the fold; bassist Fabio also quit, to be replaced by Marco for two years, until current 4-stringer Marco SemSemenza took over on a permanent basis in 2002...and so it's in a line-up comprising two singers, two guitarists, a keyboardist, a bassist and a drummer, that the band records its sophomore 2001 album Vanitas, which displayed a somewhat more aggressive approach, without for that matter losing the romantic (say gothic) side of the band's style. 2001 also sees the band losing its twin guitar approach, as original member and guitarist Alex leaves the band. Nevertheless, the band adapts, eventually inducts second guitarist Max Montagano into the fold during 2002, and continues a steady stream of promotional shows throughout Italy, while also playing some shows abroad.

In the 4 years leading up to their following album, another line-up change occurs when (in 2003) keyboardist Andrea is replaced by Carlo. With 2005's Malae Artes then (and quite in spite of my colleague's luke-warm reception of the album), the band reaps its highest commercial success that far, and the band not only does an extensive headliner Italian tour, but also flies off across the Atlantic Ocean to do a tour in South-America and some of Mexico's major cities, and on this side of the Atlantic, they are invited to such prestigious festivals as Evolution Fest (Italy), Rock Nation Open Air Beirut (Lebanon, 2006, where they headlined) and, last but certainly not least, Belgium's Female Metal Voices. Sóme of those events, however, will have been done without Sassi, whom leaves the band in 2005 (to continue in Unscarred). He is not replaced, turning the band's sound to something slightly more simple. And here's the rub: I am uncertain as to when exactly he left...could even have been prior to the album's recordings, see...and maybe that simplified sound solicited an unhappy feeling in my former, relatively demanding colleague? In spite of that, the album was licenced off to parts outside Europe including the USA, Mexico, Russia, and the Far East, getting the band's music its widest distribution up to that point. 2006 sees the band go through a last line-up, when the keyboardist goes his own way...not to be replaced by a new permanent member. Also, singer Morena, along many other Italian musicians and singers, guests in the project Rezophonic, and she also works as a host in the Morning Glory and Database programs on the Rock TV channel.

In November 2007 Macbeth releases its 4th album, Superangelic Hate Bringers. Getting a rave review by UK magazine Classic Rock, interest in the band is shown, and in early 2008 the band for the first time tours in the UK. They also return to Belgium for the 6th edition of the Metal Female Voices Festival. Also during 2008, Morena participates as guest to Athens' March Metal Day Festival, and the album's song “Do Not Pretend” is used by Sky Sports throughout their covering of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

In the second part of 2009, the band is found back in the studio again, but due to personal problems (the nature of which was not disclosed) Macbeth is forced to take an indeterminately long hiatus. In 2010 however, the band comes in the lime-light again for a moment, when singer Morena and band founder Fabrizio start another adventure, namely that of marriage! However, it's music we wanna be talking about, ain't it, and that's what we'll do after anther short trivial bit of news. You see, the band went back into the studio as far back as January 2012, and spent extra time fine-tuning their music. News came out in September of last, that the band was not to use the first cover they had engineered for the album, a picture taken at San Galgano Abbey, because (you're not gonna believe it!) one of Italy most popular Pop bands had just made a video at the site. A later announcement lifted the veil on the album's material a bit, stating, “Neo-Gothic Propaganda is probably the best record we have ever written...” (well, doesn't évery band say something similar about their latest outcome?) “...though our new sound is more aggressive than ever before, the new album will take you back to our roots. Fans of our stuff will love it and new fans will find something special and a fresh production. The new sound combines a wide range of influences and is heavier, dynamic and more melodic. Neo-Gothic Propaganda is made up of ten brand new melodic and heavy songs and mixes gothic atmospheres into music that doesn't fit any categories. Neo-Gothic Propaganda is a manifesto, is a movement, is the soundtrack of contemporary decadence.”!

Hum...big words, and one might say these guys are sure full of themselves! Ach, well anyway, in listening to the album (séveral times too) I came to some conclusions, namely that there's a rather confusing amount of inconsistencies. The first and most important being that there is lavish use of keyboards in the band's sound, in spite of no one being credited for playing it (of course, on stage such a thing could be done by either Morena or Andreas...or an hired musician)! Then, there's several overdubs happening in the vocal section: occasionally Morena backs herself (which is quite obvious because of her very specific vocal signature), and there's instances where Andreas is found to be singing both in his normal voice and in a rougher (say, Death Metal styled grunt) one (of course, thàt can be helped in live conditions, by having one of the other male members do the rough singing, but how would they do such a thing where the female backings are concerned, without again adding someone on stage?). More overdubs happen with the guitars: in order to bring heaviness, there's an almost constant rhythm guitar a-playing (except in the parts where double lead play is performed), and in every song you'll find a second guitar playing leads to ensure the melodic side of things. What? Every band does a certain amount of overdubs in the studio? Sure they do, but let's keep things real a bit, shall we!? Further observations? My former colleague mentioned Andreas being the weak link in the vocal department, remember? Well, when he's in “normal” singing mode, he sure is! But then he doés perform some of those Death grunts as well, remember, so things are not all bad. Morena fom her part has somewhat of a weird voice altogether. Borderline heady, but lacking the power to become annoying, she sure is the strong part in the vocal department! Sounds like a contradiction? Darn, check it out for yourself it you're that dubious!

For your bit of music off the new album, don't count on finding any on the band's own (www.) (you will find a, temporarily still moderate, tour schedule there though). No music at (www.) either, and I was unable to check what's posted at the band's MySpace page. So, I guess you'll have to make due with whatever samples are possibly posted at the usual online sales websites (Amazon, iTunes, etc...)...or leave the comfort of the seat behind your PC in order to check whether a listening session can't be arranged at your local record store. End conclusion? I can understand people into this kind of music being enthralled by Macbeth's new album, and I admit that a certain degree of musical ingenuity went into its creation. I can even listen to the album, and derive a certain amount of pleasure from it as an experienced listener...but I remain somewhat uncertain as to how this 5-piece band expects to recreate the album's sound on a stage!