Il Segno del Comando - The Sign of Command [Black Widow Records - 2020]
Originally released in 1996, The Sign of Command is Italian prog rockers’ Il Segno del Comando’s debut release, based on Giuseppe D'Agata's esoteric novel/screenplay of the same name and the 1971 TV miniseries directed by Daniele D’Anza that tells the story of a University professor who goes in search of Il Segno del Comando, a secret power created by a goldsmith, Mario Brandani, who lived in 1700. Il Segno del Comando is stolen by a musician who kills Bandari and with his dying breath the goldsmith promises to return every hundred years in search of his prize. That man appears to be the professor, who is searching for Il Segno del Comando.
The tolling of bells and disparate voices get the intro track, "Tenebrose Presenze" underway, this quickly gives way to some fairly epic-sounding church organ on title track "Il Segno del Comando", before a time change takes us into heavy prog territory. I am instantly reminded of several other bands, rather ironically, considering the band’s record label, English occult progsters Black Widow are the first to come to mind, along with Italian prog legends Jacula, Atomic Rooster and Iron Butterfly. This is the perfect mix of occult rock and prog with some heavy doomy riffs to cap it all off. Completely up my street and I am loving it. The musicianship is top notch and the band sound really tight. Vocalist Mercy reminds me of Iron Butterfly’s Doug Ingle at times. I guess that explains why I can hear them in the mix of influences. "Salmo XVII" is a short musical interlude performed on that lovely sounding church organ. That is followed by "Messaggero di Pietra", which after a chilled opening, picks up the pace returning to the heavier prog sound of the title track. What I really love is the mix of heavy distorted guitars with jazzier sounding instrumentation and that massive Uriah Heep style organ sound, this once again takes the listener back to the early 70s Occult rock scene. "Ritratto di Donna Velata (Lord Byron’s Night Promenade)" is up next, and it is a pleasant mid-paced instrumental. This is followed by "Missa Nigra", this one is a bass-heavy occult rock track with some lovely lead guitar work, with a kosmische flavour to it. "La Taverna dell’ Angelo" features more of what we’ve come to expect from the album, heavy occult prog rock that sounds like it was born in the 1970s. "Ghost Lovers in Villa Piuma" is a nice light instrumental before the album closes with the bonus track "Magia Postuma", a funky slice of jazz/prog that sounds like it features Geezer Butler on bass. The bass riff is so reminiscent of Sabbath’s NIB that I was half expecting the track to erupt into full-on proto-metal Sabbath worship, but it never happens.
Overall, I absolutely adore this album, it reminds me of so much of my favourite music, but the great thing is it never becomes a pastiche. The influences are completely evident for all to see; however, the band have put their own stamp on it. The perfect mix of jazz/prog/occult/doom rock and proto-metal. If you love bands like Black Widow, Black Sabbath, Jacula, Iron Butterfly, Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster, Blood Ceremony and Lucifer’s Friend, then you are going to love Il Segno del Comando.
One final thing I’d like to mention, please check out the album cover, it looks like it belongs to some obscure Sunn O))) worship or a really murky black metal record that was released in a quantity of 25 and recorded in a forest clearing by one man with a 30-year-old handheld tape recorder. Absolutely wonderful stuff.Darren Charles