Italian progressive rock group Labirinto di Specchi possesses staggering dynamics and poetics on its debut, Hanblecheya; however, considering that they’re on the Lizard Records roster, this really isn’t that surprising. With acts like Garden Wall and Nichelodeon infusing inventive timbres and a fair share of theatrics into their music, the label is quickly becoming a major force within the genre. In fact, Hanblechya is filled with countless wonderful moments and exceptionally restrained musicianship. There is a delicacy here that many other bands should learn from.
Translated in English to “Labyrinth of Mirrors,” the group formed in 2005. On Hanblechya, the core quintet is joined by five more musicians, and together, they give the music plenty of depth with their unique instrumentation and narration. While comparisons to legendary Italian acts like Delirium and PFM are valid, they may be a tad unfair; due to its wholly original method of composition, Labirinto di Specchi certainly carves out its own sound.
Opener “Eclissi pt. 1” begins with spacey sounds and lengthy guitar riffs before allowing the strings, synths, and drums to build tension. Beautiful piano work overlaps tribal syncopation while guitar lines craft purpose in the air. It’s a fantastically hypnotic, complex, and inventive introduction. In a brilliant move for conceptual continuity, the album concludes with “Eclissi pt. 2,” which, as you’d expect, adds plenty of new elements to what’s been established by its predecessor. In typical prog fashion, Hanblechya comes full circle by the end.
Each song that falls in-between the aforementioned bookend offers something spectacular. “La Maschera Della Visione” is very intense thanks to its affective chord progressions and storytelling. Even if you don’t know what’s being said, the music expertly conveys the mood. “Fantasia” features stunning interactions between strings and acoustic guitar, “Nel Nulla…” is like an extremely bizarre Pink Floyd instrumental (circa 1970), and “Purpurea” oscillates between sharp and soothing passages seamlessly.
In typical fashion for the genre, there is also an epic track. At over nineteen minutes long, “Follia” is a thoroughly intriguing journey through beauty, horror, and destiny. Each section takes its time to fully bloom, and there’s a great sense of fluidity throughout. There’s a definitely sense of Classical inspiration, too, in both timbres and technique. While the ending may feel a bit unfocused, the grand scheme is incredible.
Hanblechya is the most exciting and inventive prog album I’ve heard in a long time. The touches of theatrical narration help give the music a greater sense of concept and meaning (even if you don’t speak Italian), and the band excels at knowing when to let calmness replace madness. There is a true sense of adventure and uniqueness here, which makes the album quite refreshing. In a genre threatened by stale familiarity, Labirinito di Specchi is definitely a breath of fresh air.