It went somehow like this a few years ago, when a blog friend from Germany mentioned me the Italian band Il Malpertugio because he thought he would be able to discuss with someone acquainted with them about how much he was digging them and so on. I had no idea, and I blushed,even if nobody was looking at me. It was not the only time, actually, especially with bands of my own country, when not of my own city. It is not the first time that I mention the situation in my country, where a substantial number of great underground bands suffer isolation and almost complete lack of interest by media and labels. Bands like Il Malpertugio, that practice their art in Southern Italy, are even more “hidden” than many others here in Northern Italy (from where I am writing) because there it is even more difficult to emerge. But tough people like the guys in Il Malpertugio did it, amidst of many difficulties related to everyday life and to the necessary DIY attitude with much much much more difficulties than the northern underground bands. But, as we say in Italy, “class” is heavier than water. As a matter of fact, these guys have a lot of class, and they play heavy!
Il Malpertugio is an unsigned, eclectic psychedelic stoner metal band from Caserta, near Naples.
The line-up includes 5 musicians. Guitarists Emilio Cuoco and Antonio Zannone together with bassist Antonio Nardone (replacing previous bassist Giuseppe Marino) and drummer Gianluca Zannone provide the riff machine and a crafted wall of sound to the great vocal parts by Ivan "Barrett" Franzini.
The name of this band has a literary origin, as it stems from Boccaccio’s Decameron as the name of a location of grim fame where people with doubtful virtues dwell. Basically a slum from the Middle Age …
The band started making noise basically ten years ago, in 2002, but the musical project was better defined after vocalist Ivan and guitarist Emilio joined the band. Some touring activity inside and outside Italy between 2005 and 2009, with the first prize at an Italian rock festival at Ceprano, and the collaboration with film-makers, gained some attention to the band and more than positive reviews and comments on many Italian and foreign fanzine and webzines (Perkele, DesertRock.it, Psychotropic Zone, Novamuzique, EUTK.net, Shapelesszine, Metaldemons, Rockshock.it, Metal Zone, Raw and Wild Zine, etc.) besides a warm and convinced support by a growing fan base.
The band released a cool début EP, The Blues Demon’s Show, back in 2007. Last Halloween night 2011 saw the release of their début full-length album, Sunset Screaming in a big concert in their town together with the Greek stoner-desert band 1000Mods as enthusiastic guest.
Since I knew this band some time ago I have kept in contact. The followers of the Sludgeswamp know them for that cool début EP, for their unreleased track into the second edition of the Swamp Comp and for cool videos made by guitarist Antonio Zannone who is involved in the film direction activity.
With a name sounding both old-fashioned and sinister, atmospheres of doom may be evoked. However these guys do not play classic doom. Previously I wrote that Il Malpertugio is an “eclectic” stoner metal band. This means that their style can broadly be referred to as Stoner Rock, because the band’s sounds owes much to other styles and sources of inspiration as well, inside, and even outside, the realms of rock and metal. As I had written in the past, Il Malpertugio’s heavy and groovy style is an enthusiastic but quite personal hommage to stoner and psychedelic rock monsters such as Dozer, Orange Goblin, Kyuss, Roachpowder, to the unavoidable Sabbathian dark and acid rock from the 70's as well as to heavy music of the 80's and 90's, like classic heavy metal, grunge (e.g., Soundgarden) as well as noisy, proggy to experimental/jazzy metal (e.g., Tool, Primus, etc.). While listening to Il Malpertugio you’ll also find some elements of atmospheric world/folk music, just hints, but enough to root back their music into the latitude they belong, the sunny cradle of cultures of the Mediterranean Sea.
All this means that Il Malpertugio’s songs are polyedric constructions that can be appreciated barely for their powerful, groovy and heavy mid- to up-tempo charges, but that can also be “explored” to different levels.
Malpertugio’s distorted riffs and drumming charges often follow rather complex, sometimes unexpected patterns with frequent tempo changes that cope well with Ivan Franzini’s impressive vocals. The latter, in particular, are not simply powerful but sometimes also “unusual”. Ivan’s voice is clean, but because of its strength and for the “acid”, moderately strained tones that Ivan is sometimes able to produce, the vocal parts do contribute to convey wicked, painful or dramatic sensations or atmospheres.
All Malpertugio’s lyrics are in English.
The band has always produced their own music at remarkably high quality standards sound-wise, if compared with many bands when at their early releases. The debut full-length album follows that path: it is a blend of new songs with some of the best tracks of the 2007 EP with some remastering, and it is proudly top-quality self-produced.
Album Sunset Screaming includes 9 tracks for slightly less than 37 minutes. In average songs last between 3 and 4 and a half minutes, although by an over 6 minutes-long suite closes the album. In detail: Bugs, Shotgun, Enmity, Obsession, One Hour of Weakness, In This Bloody Night, Deranged, Sunset Screaming and Let the Shit In.
Four tracks are from the 2007 EP: the opening track Bugs, Obsession, Sunset Screaming and the final track, Let The Shit In. As to the other previously unreleased tracks, the Sludgeswamp aficionados will remember track Deranged, kindly donated for the Swamp Comp no. 2 just after the first mastering.
“Bugs” is the track that made me fall in love with the style of this band, boosted riffing over a cool bass base and those great vocal tricks done by singer Ivan with his voice ranging from acid to deformed and even almost echoing like a muezzin’s call. The tempo, the riffage and the drum charges grow together with Ivan’s voice. The singing gets faster and almost frenetic to the utmost till the end where all is mixed and almost chaotic.
Track Shotgun is more homogenenous, is more firmly rooted into stoner rock and pays a hommage to the old-school hard rock of the 70’s as well, especially with those cool riffs knitted in the central part.
“Enmity” briefly starts with the classic combination of relentless riffs and Ivano’s tight acid singing but soon a magic, acoustic interval evoking Middle Eastern, or better Mediterranean atmospheres, takes over. There Ivano’s vocals are warm, deep and echoing. This beautiful song sees two mind states, lead by frenzy or by calmness, alternating several times, in a sort of charming conflict.
“Obsession” is a cool, headbang-inducing, old-flavoured stoner- heavy doom metal track lead by a hypnotizing plodding rhythm produced by the downtuned guitars and periodically interrupted by some catchy accelerations. Towards the end the pace of these accelerations gets higher, almost punkish, and Ivano’s vocals follow and close with some raging growls!
The other tracks, both brand new and remastered, develop the multifaceted style of this band in similar ways as described until now, i.e. by and mixing many diverse genres, experimenting on them but never leaving the paths of groove-laden metal with modern dynamics sounds but deeply rooted in the past. The result is a sequence of highly enjoyable songs lead by clever melodies able to grasp attention in a different way any time and, at the same time, making you feel like headbanging to them. The last three tracks of the album, Deranged, Sunset Screaming and Let The Shit In, are very familiar to me and are among my favourite ones of this album. I listened to them many times. It may not be a case that the first two of them, Deranged and Sunset Screaming, were chosen for building up two cool official videos. “Sunset Screaming” is more indebted to acid desert rock à-la-QOTSA, and is very atmospheric and almost melancholic. The desert evoked is a Southern Mediterranean desert especially thanks the employment of a typical Sicilian mouth instrument towards the end of the track. Track Deranged is fast and “nasty” and the video duly shows the musicians and their friends (at work and in life) acting like wicked doctors into a deranged asylum and all ending up taking part into a grotesque satanic-like ritual. An album like this can’t but end with a hommage to the “old school”. Track “Let the Shit in” is modern in its dynamics and in its clear, crispy sounds, but it’s drenched with the vibe of the hard and psychedelic rock from the 70’s, and duly ends with some minutes of trippy, space noisy effects slowly fading away.
As it was for the début EP, also in the new album Il Malpertugio confirm their love for energetic groovy metal and develop their curiosity towards a wide range of styles although they never stray too much from the boundaries of the heavier forms of stoner rock. The combination of the rich, solid, sulphurous mid-tempo riff attacks by the axemen with the outstanding, peculiar vocal parts by singer Ivan Franzini results in performances which are not only expression of great combined technical skill by all musicians but also fresh and involving.
The début album can be entirely streamed on the band’s official website and is available for purchase directly from the band at the contacts below.
If you like stoner and you like heavy metal, but you are “curious” and you like to be “surprised” and you also like when a record does not get “dull” after only two or three spinnings, well, you’ll have good time with Il Malpertugio...... 9/10
Review by Marilena Moroni
Video of Deranged
Video of Sunset Screaming