Roses, ruins, lovers, dreams, visions and premonitions

ROSE ROVINE E AMANTI: Sogni Visioni E Premonizioni

Release year: 2022
Label: Corvus Records

Italy has a long tradition of neofolk, with the earliest bands having been active since the late 80’s or early 90’s. Despite this, relatively few of them are counted among the major icons of the genre. Spiritual Front may be just about the only Italian neofolk band to have sprung up to much wider acclaim.

Be that as it may, Italian neofolk has managed something far more valuable: the creation of an authentically Italian neofolk sound. Acts such as Argine and Camerata Mediolanense have a mediterranean, Italian spirit about them; something that goes deeper than the language they choose to sing in.

The same goes for Rose Rovine E Amanti, who’ve been active since the early noughties: there’s something very, but still vaguely, Italian about a lot of their music. Even when they sing in English.

By and large, their newest album Sogni Visioni E Premonizioni can be called highly traditional neofolk. With an emphasis on acoustic guitars and a dominating male voice, aided by violins and piano, and with a distinct scarcity of (but not total absence of) percussion, this is familiar territory for fans of the genre. However, there’s more to this than the most basic “guitar, wind chimes and a uniform fetish” stuff.

At it’s most tender, the album comes across as something a traditional folk singer-songwriter could have performed. The hauntingly melancholic, romantic opening track Adam Song would not be out of place on a million-selling folk-pop album. And I mean that in a positive sense: there’s an infectuously effective vocal melody, the subtle build-up in the arrangement is evocative. On this, as on other tracks, the arrangements are a far cry from the sparsity that is so common in neofolk. And then there’s Damiano Mercuri’s vocals, of course: here’s a man who truly can sing.

At other times, especially when introducing flute to the mix, the album even veers into medieval territory and traditional music. Not quite market squares and colorfully clad jesters; more like distant visions of a romanticized age gone-by. And there’s that already mentioned Italian spirit here. Partially it’s of course in the Italian lyrics, or the mandolin, which gives a mediterranean aura, but it’s something else I can’t put my finger on as well. Something abstract, that evades words.

Permeated by a strong melancholic, romantic and anti-modern spirit, one doesn’t really have to understand the lyrics to songs like La Falsa Europa or Bruxelles La Nouvelle Babel to understand the thoroughly anti-modern sentiment of the music. Sorrow for the decline of Europe and its loss of tradition, and disgust for the money-grubbing materialism that is the only European unity of our day. Of course, this is something one quickly comes to expect from neofolk, but Rose Rovine E Amanti manage to convey it particularly well in many a beautifully wistful, forlorn passage on the album.

As I’ve understood it, Rose Rovine E Amanti have always had a strongly christian – presumably catholic – inflection in their lyrics and, of course, worldview. This shines through on more than one track on the album, but is at its most poignant on closing track St. Michael The Archangel. Commencing with the apocalyptic sound of air raid sirens, the track evolves from an claustrophobic plea that “somebody call the archangels” to a defiant casting off of the shackles, and an touching climax, where guest star Andrew King brings figurative redemption by reading a prayer from the Rituale Romanum. It’s apocalyptic, theatralic, spiritual and beautiful at the same time – even for one such as I, who does not share the faith and is in many ways somewhat anti-christian.

Far more complex and multi-faceted than it seems at first listen, Sogni Visioni E Premonizioni is a beautifully written, arranged and performed album of Italian neofolk. Even with a running time of a whopping 53 minutes, the album doesn’t feel too long. In fact, I didn’t even realize the album was this long until now!

The bottom line is simple: if you’re into neofolk, do yourself a favour and check this album out.

Visit Rose Rovine E Amanti on Bandcamp or Facebook

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