Deus Ex Machina

Cinque

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After four critically acclaimed studio albums (including the influential 1995 De Republica) and two live recordings, it was about time the Italian avant-prog group Deus Ex Machina had its international break. Cinque was released in May 2002 by the American label Cuneiform, and is the group's first album to be widely available outside Italy. The growth of the music has been constant in the band's career, making it difficult to compare what have become stages in an evolving work. Cinque marks a return to slightly more simple structures than what the previous two albums featured. The music doesn't really get simpler; it just feels less oversaturated. The arrangements open up, some of the pomposity that made anti-prog critics sneer has receded, but no real concessions were made: This remains pure Deus Ex Machina -- lyrical, provoking, and genre-pushing in terms of prog rock. This sextet version of the band rocks hard while placing Alessandro Bonetti's violin up front (a string quartet joins in for the closer "Olim Sol Rogavit Terram II"). Like previous opuses, this album requires a certain number of listens before any melody has a chance to gel in your mind but, when it does, it becomes very powerful. Of course, the music is propelled and dominated by Alberto Piras' riveting operatic voice. All but two tracks are sung in Latin, with translations in Italian and English provided in the booklet. Piras' paradoxes and metaphysical thoughts will sound pretentious to some, but the pathos he gives them (and the language barrier) turn them into something of another nature. "Rhinoceros" and "De Ordinis Ratione" stand out, but there are no weaker songs. After the last piece is a "hidden" track, a nine-minute collage of badly recorded rehearsals that the CD could easily have done without.

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