About Blank are an Italian heavy prog band which originally formed as a hard/alternative rock band in 2015. The members comprise of Marco Venturelli (vocals), Alessandro Ambrosio (guitars), Francesco Mazziotti (guitars), Enrico Scorzoni (bass) and Raul Zannoni (drums). Their latest release, ‘Anthology Of A Cave’ (2019), in their own words represents an experimentation with ‘a new sound, new subjects and a new genre’ as they successfully retain a heavy rock sound but within a progressive context. This new album ticks all the boxes: a psychological concept album featuring a range of soundscapes and textures that neatly balance the unrelenting heavier moments that make it a heavy prog delight.
The concept places the human being at the centre using ‘the cave’ as a metaphor. The protagonist embarks upon journeys in a world created by fairy tales including giants (‘Giants’), robots (‘Ro-Both’) and more; in each journey, he encounters the negative traits that make up a human being. These encounters force the protagonist to search inside himself, inside ‘The Cave’, where he finds a new world full of new questions and contradictions. The prospect of another journey to answer these questions is hinted at by the end. The album also features an extra song that is not part of the concept; ‘One More’ fits more with the hard/alternative side to their earlier musical sound as it features other artists that have injected their own musical styles into it. It is a complete contrast to the rest of the album, which is musically darker and conceptually complex – nevertheless it acts as a light relief, a real headbanger that shakes off the weighty subject matter previously explored.
It may be a dark trip that uncovers some of our worst behaviours as human beings – but it is certainly worth it for the sound that goes with it! The band’s music can be likened to many famous names in the modern prog world, creating their own exciting modern sounds that refuse to hang onto the prog greats of the past. The most impressive focal point of the album is the reliance on the acoustic guitar; the band really explores the full scope of its sounds and uses. When I hear ‘Giants’, which opens the album, I instantly think of The Pineapple Thief, doubling a crushing guitar riff with an acoustic guitar to create a most interesting and powerful contrast. However in the same breath, ‘Giants’ also features a twin acoustic guitar section that creates a gentler soundscape. In ‘Orpheo’, the highlight of the album, a strummed acoustic guitar highlights the rich chord changes superbly by the fact that the opening is stripped to just acoustic guitar and vocals. The fast acoustic guitar licks at the end of each phrase adds a crisp edge to this gorgeous opening. The band contrasts this beautiful opening with moments of euphoria, such as the section beginning with a heartfelt guitar solo that builds into an ascending twin guitar climax (which reappears at the end of the piece). The return to an acoustic atmosphere reminds me of much of the acoustic work on Opeth’s ‘Damnation’ album – again, harmonically interesting and quite acrobatic in places.
There are then the many heavier moments on the album that balance the lighter textures; ‘The Cave’ and ‘The Unnecessary’ take the listener on a journey in which light and dense textures are conflicted. When it is light, we hear the gorgeous three part vocal harmony that is prevalent on the album, often underscored by the acoustic guitar – these vocals are allowed to shine through. As a general observation, Venturelli’s voice has the same warm tone that Blackfield singer Aviv Geffen has – a compliment for sure. When the textures are dense, the guitars are distorted and the riffs are unrelenting; the drums, in particular the powerful bass drum, are impactful and up-front. The guitars consistently compliment each other in every sense, whether that be in the lighter acoustic sections or the heavier riff-based sections, making easy work of complex rhythms and changes in time signature. ‘Ro-Both’ is heavy the whole way through, but is occasionally underscored by sounds of industry and robotic synths to match with the protagonists meeting with a robot. The track preceding this, ‘Before It Was Done’ and the track ‘Birds’ are both entirely synth-based one minute pieces that add more interesting colours to the album. ‘Before It Was Done’ sounds very robotised, almost as if it’s trying to emulate a robot powering up for the first time; while still being very atmospheric, it has a harsher sound in contrast with ‘Birds’ which is much smoother and flowing, creating a gentler atmosphere in preparation for the awesomeness of ‘Orpheo’ that comes after. The band ends their concept with an uplifting acoustic guitar piece called ‘A Place For Time’ which is the song that marks the protagonist’s time of rest before he embarks on a new journey. The major tonality of the piece perhaps represents the protagonist’s new found wisdom and sense of strength that will guide him through many more future travels. A beautiful fingerpicked guitar part over the sound of a ticking clock calmly ends this whirlwind of a journey – the calm before the storm of a new journey!
About Blank have crafted some diverse sounds to match their thought-provoking concept. It is a concept that we live through on a day to day basis; life is one big journey of self-discovery in which we encounter those negative human behaviours. If this album teaches anything, it is to be aware of our own negative traits but to never give in to them. The band have taught this lesson in style; the conflicting textures and soundscapes, ranging from the gritty, the reflective and the ambient, keep up the momentum of the album throughout. I look forward to hearing how they develop even further with the new progressive sound they have opted for.
Written by Dominic Sanderson.
You can find About Blank on Facebook and Instagram. ‘Anthology Of A Cave’ is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, Amazon Music and Deezer.