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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Nexus Opera – La Guera Granda (The Great Call to Arms)

Label: Revalve Records

Date: April 23rd, 2021

A concept album about the Great War? Color me intrigued! Pinpointed to Italy’s involvement? Marvelous! That’s a story you don’t get to hear all that often. Even if you’re intent on following every channel of furthering your knowledge of history. “La Guera Granda” sounded exceptional right from the start! The problem is that you can only go one way from the top. So, I went on to explore Nexus Opera’s second full length record deeper. And it immediately started on a downward slope.

First of all, why would you write the lyrics in English, but keep the explanations in Italian? Yes, I’m Miloš, and I’m addicted to history and I’ve used some online tools for translating them. But still, it is a decision that makes no sense whatsoever.

Second of all, I was kind of looking forward to a full tale. Like, you know, Italy was an ally to Germans and Austro-Hungarians at the start, though without too much military meddling. So, how did it come to the change of hearts? What provoked it? Millions of questions that could have fitted into these fifty-six minutes.

Third, what happened to the timeline? The album starts with a “Great Call to Arms”, just to have the third track depict the “Raid over Vienna” in 1918. Followed right after with a navy battle from December 1917. Seriously? I’m almost outraged!

Fourth and final, the vocals! Well, the lead vocals. Others are quite good, but Mr. Davide Aricò desperately needs tutoring. He has a nice enough color. A bit on the unusual side, but that’s only a plus in this case. However, English lessons are downright mandatory! As well as a good training in manners of expression. Not kidding here, without using lyrics you would have to think twice if he is actually using English or some other language you are not familiar with. With power / progressive metal music on display here, he needs an infinitely better performance.

When speaking about music itself, we’re finally getting to a strongpoint of Nexus Opera. Progressive power metal on display here is decent enough. You could look at it from the perspective of old, Italian, masters of the genre. It is mostly done by the book. Epic battles between guitars and keyboards, recognizable drum patterns to raise your fist up high and everything in between. All of the basic elements of power metal are used as they should. Monumental composition are skillfully arranged to lead you through the storyline. On the progressive side of Nexus Opera, I would compare them to the northern legends. Stratovarius, for instance. Particularly in the keyboard department where it is most distinctly accentuated by the work of one and only Jens Johansson.

Yet another winning point for “La Guera Granda” is the use of backup vocals. Gang vocals are perfectly painting a picture of a fighting brothers in arms. The heavenly operatic female vocals play a role of a light of glory at the end of a horrifying conflict.

Okay, overall I’m quite a bit disappointed by the record. I can applaud the idea. Original, to say the least. It presented an opportunity for the band to push its name much further. Especially on their home front, with regards to the tales of national heroism. Unfortunately, they have failed. Even more unfortunate is the fact that most of the shortcomings of “La Guera Granda” could have been avoided with just a bit of more thought. They had seven years to think things through. I’m not able to comprehend this. And, of course, the vocal delivery that is simply subpar.

I was so eager to spin the album. Now I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Though I’ve learned a few things in the process, thanks to investigating further into the stories written in “La Guera Granda”.