[Reviewed by: Damiano Lanzi]
Some musical genres, like heavy metal and reggae, seem to be refractory to contamination, despite having themselves inspired other styles. That’s the case with neofolk that, apart from some exceptions (I’m thinking about the post-punk elements in Lovac, Art Abscons’ refined production techniques and the arrangements of the last record by Of the Wand and the Moon, inspired by modern North American alt-rock), is somewhat stuck into rigid clichés like repetitive acoustic guitar chords and martial timpani.
“Veritas” by Italian band Lupi Gladius is a pleasant surprise in this sense, a well crafted record that shows a will for innovation. After the accordion piece “Sulle Rive del Basento” (music by Michele Caruso) that opens the tracklist, the listener is surprised by “L’Elogio dell’Alterità” with an engaging rhythmic section that feels borrowed from indie-rock and post-punk revival. “Umano e Imperfetto” is another highlight: the krautrock drums pattern, the vocal lines and the intellectual lyrics remind us of the great experimentalist of Italian progressive-rock and art-pop Franco Battiato.
Lupi Gladius have well understood that the “folk” factor in the neofolk formula shouldn’t just mean acoustic instrumentation, but also the recovery of a country’s musical tradition. Just listen to the clean and catchy melodic accordion lines played by Daniele Onorati, that enrich many songs in the album, and to Pietro Burzo’s cavernous songwriter voice. These folk fundamentals are courageously juxtaposed to modern synth sounds and arrangements and the outcome works very well. The production and the musicianship are generally very good and the band relies on many valid cooperators, above all Saralux who sings mesmerizing lead vocals in “Gli Ultimi Bagliori” and “Nel Vento”, and Michael Peter Vereno’s violin in “I Figli del Tramonto”, a spoken-rock song that shows similarities with the most ethereal moments of Italian cult band Massimo Volume. The lyrics are written by Diego Banchero (Egida Aurea, Recondita Stirpe) and his style is highly recognizable.
The themes are marked by the feeling of being an outcast in contemporary society, the antagonistic reaction to this condition and the recovery of traditional values. This aspect appears also in the nice artwork that combines modern, captivating designs to the imagery of the Roman Empire. Having been written and played from an almost pop perspective, “Veritas” is an album that could also be appreciated outside the neofolk niche. I’m sure that Lupi Gladius will continue on the path of experimentation, and I will be following their evolution with huge interest.