BY DAVID R. STAMPONE Red was the color predominant in the nightly onslaught of the top-tier, cinematically fiendish prog rock visited upon Philadelphia last week. Starting on Halloween, two veteran headlining bands, respectively, over successive evenings, brought oft-fiery displays of lurid eclecticism to town. Haunting arpeggios and scary time signatures abounded. Each group was distinct but all were inter-related (both fundamentally and via some notable, near-spooky instances of coincidence). Yeah, they burned, with head-spinning, credibly deal-made-w-the-Devil levels of musical mastery (if you insist on such Mephistophelean metaphor): Italian maestro of horror film soundtracks Fabio Frizzi with his Frizzi 2 Fulci ensemble at Underground Arts on Wednesday; and, to start the spree on All Hallows Eve, another horror film soundtrack-associated act from Italy, the legendary Goblin, at a packed Union Transfer. This scribe went on said prog bender, saw all & thought presumably shareable thoughts …
Allora, if you like your prog good ‘n’ bloody – and played con brio – those two Italian groups are hard to beat. The nucleus of Goblin formed in 1972 but it was their 1975 soundtrack to Italian horror director Dario Argento’s film Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) that made them international stars. On Halloween at UT, they played some of its sinister score as clips from that murder-by-meat-cleaver flick screened behind them. With guitarist Massimo Morante seated at center stage in front of (Sicilian) drummer Agostino Marangolo and bassist Fabio Pignatelli, flanked by keyboardists Maurizio Guarini and – relative newcomer to the core four – Aidan Zammit, Goblin cranked their orchestral-to-futuro Italo-prog compositions, full of bright flourish and darker tones. They closed their regular set with a wildly received suite of tuneage (accompanied by clips) from Suspiria, director Argento’s classic 1977 horror-thriller tale of (bad spirits run amok &) blood-curdling shrieks in dancing school.
Before that, Goblin especially dazzled in presenting some of their score to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (complete with choice gory video behind them, ma certo). The second film in Romero’s flesh-eater franchise, 1978’s Dawn was released internationally as Zombi with a stellar Goblin soundtrack; at UT, its driving, bass-heavy ostinato recalled that of “Watcher of the Skies” (1972) by English prog princes Genesis. In fact, the influence on Italy’s prog rock by early Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd – Morante’s guitar work can suggest a more florid David Gilmour – bears note. Significantly, though, Italo-prog has often boosted certain genre attributes, making for music even more ornate, more sweepingly dramatic, more frenzied, if also more solemn, and, in the cases of both Goblin and Fabio Frizzi’s Frizzi 2 Fulci, more colorfully unnerving. Goblin’s blazing encore of “E Suono Rock” from their 1978 non-soundtrack album Il Viaggio Fantastico del Bagarozzo Mark (i.e., The Fantastic Voyage of Cockroach Mark – see? You know more Italian than ya thought – pro’ly only needed 1 word defined for full comprehension), showed them to be, as desired, as formidably tight and virtuosic as such English prog pioneers as King Crimson itself. Let’s just say: if the perceived prog kingpins (& proto-math-rockers, etc.) KC plays the fine-tuned Grand Prix racing car to the various Indy & stock cars of the prog rock pack, then let’s posit Goblin as a snazzy Italian sports car, modified for further flash & performance.
Morricone Youth (NYC), opening for Goblin on the Italian band’s current Sound of Fear tour, put on a fine exhibition of their live-soundtrack craft and provided a de facto preview of what was to come. In the same 5-pc configuration as the headliner, MY huddled together at center stage in front of Goblin’s gear and played selections from their original film scores (e.g., F.W. Murnau’s 1927 silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, etc.). Best was closing with their ominous music to Romero’s 1968 genre breakthrough Night of the Living Dead – nicely setting up Goblin to later deliver their score for the sequel – as the familiar film screened. Bassist John Castro throbbed with authority as band director Devon E. Levins shadowed him on guitar. (FYI #1: Levins hosts the Tuesday night soundtrack specialty radio show Morricone Island on WFMU, where he has recently interviewed and showcased both Italian groups; playlists & archived interviews found here: https://wfmu.org/playlists/PE.
FYI #2: Goblin finishes their 2nd American tour this weekend by coming up the I-95 corridor for shows in Balto., MD, tomorrow, on 11-11, @ the Baltimore Soundstage, & a finale in NYC at the Iriving Plaza on Sun., 11-12.)
By pure coincidence, the night after Goblin’s Halloween spectacle, affable Italian maestro of horror film soundtracks Fabio Frizzi and his 7-pc Frizzi 2 Fulci ensemble offered a more intimate (though no less movie-clip enhanced) concert at Underground Arts. Whereas Goblin is most associated with Dario Argento’s films, Fabio Frizzi is forever linked to the work of his good friend, the late Italian director Lucio Fulci (known in Italy and elsewhere as the “Godfather of Gore”). Frizzi, age 66, scored many of Fulci’s variegated flicks, which included westerns and comedies as well as the stock “giallo,” that Italian genre of richly over-the-top horror, sci-fi, noir & psycho thrillers that he, Argento, Mario Bava and others created. Thus, though last Wednesday’s generous set here by his Rome-based Frizzi 2 Fulci was focused on soundtracks for Fulci films, it was, musically, inherently diverse. Not that the prog was ever too far removed – they also did an old King Crimson cover, completely unaware that said band was due in Philly for the next two nights.