Fabio Zuffanti is a very, very busy man when it comes to projects. From his work with La Maschera Di Cera, Aries, Finisterre, the Rock Opera, Merlin, and La Curva Di Lesmo. One of the projects that has been around for 20 years is Hostsonaten. They have released seven studio albums including one based on Samuel Taylor Coledrige’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which he turned it into a musical stage version. Their music is symphonic, jazz, classical, folk, and in the styles of Rock Progressivo Italiano.
And you can kind of expect what you may never know what Zuffanti will come up with next. This year, Hostsonaten have released their new album on the AMS label entitled, Symphony N.1: Cupid & Psyche. It is based on the famous story written by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis. The story is told through Lucius who is turned into a Donkey and goes through this journey and regains the human form by eating sacred roses to Isis. Psyche is a woman who goes through the trails, the punishments, and redemption of getting married.
It’s a strange story, but the music gives it a dramatic and epic score that Zuffanti and his Luca Scherani (La Coscienza Di Zeno) drive through into the story. There’s also Laura Marsano on Electric and Classical Guitar, Daniele Sollo on Fretted and Fretless Bass, and Paolo “Paolo” Tixi on Drums and Orchestral Percussion. There’s elements between Ennio Morricone, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Banco, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Le Orme.
I’ve mentioned a few times with bands that they could have done an alternate score for a few filmmakers. But with Symphony N. 1: Cupid and Psyche, it feels like this combination between Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, and Alejandro Jodorowsky as if the three of them had worked together and created a surreal and embarking collaboration of making the story a twisted yet mind-boggling tour de force.
The galloping intro of The Sacrifice features dramatic string and brass sections as Luca conducts them and showing where he and Fabio would take them into. It has a spaghetti western-like energy before the dooming sax resembles David Jackson of VDGG fame kicks into gear. Zephyr is the cross-between ELP, Rick Wakeman, and Laura’s energetic guitars creating a sort of Symphonic Metal approach that flashes through the golden years of the 1970s.
Woodwinds set up the sexual momentum for Psyche as she encounters the god to have a chance to never-ending nights between the two of them, the Love Scene finds a higher orchestral ballad with soaring guitars to fill the atmosphere as the sex sequences really hit at those right moments. The tension you can cut with a knife and kicking you in the gut with Unmasking.
Intense time changes between saxes, keyboards, and as I’ve always say, Mellotron’s galore! It goes through various movements between Classical, Jazz, and an evil force that shows Psyche to go through the four trails she will go through her punishment. Venus (1st Trial) features a Jazz-Symphonic Rock approach. Think the cross between Gershwin and Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die-era meeting King Crimson’s Larks Tongues in Aspic sessions as it displays a surreal water-pool effect in the last minute of the price she pays while Entrapped gives the heavier instruments a chance to relax as the string section, classical guitar, and piano take a trip into the spiritual boundaries to find the inner self.
There’s are times it reminded me of both Beauty and the Beast meets the 1970 surreal cult classic Western, El Topo, and Zuffanti knows his musical inspirations well into the conceptual storyline. Sheep and Water with its Rhodes-like intro is heading into from the Wakeman-sque approach and even giving Daniele’s fretless bass lines a chance to really go in there for some Jazzier lines between him and Luca.
Eruptive and roaring, Underworld completes the trials that Psyche embarks on in the reign of Hades. It sounds of a mission and task complete and allowing to see where she will take the next logical step to be a better person. I love the Gilmour approach that Laura pays tribute to. I can hear the early Pink Floyd in the last 2-minutes on this track. It shines brightly as he nails those chops before kicking into overdrive with The Awakening.
It’s back to the driven sections of the keyboards and drums. Luca takes the listener into a swirling synth adventure before the horn and brass sections come marching in power. And then suddenly the Strings and Woodwind followed by the drums shows that knowing that Psyche has become a better person, but then Cupid leaves her behind once again after that brief embrace they have together with a climatic erupt end.
The Ascension doesn’t stop there as it closes the album off with a big bang. Here all the instruments come together in full circle for the banquet and intense enchanted dance to get you into the floor for the marriage between Cupid and Psyche. You can hear the touches of Edenbridge’s The Bonding meets Le Orme’s Felona E Sorona flown in to come at you in full swing like a roller-coaster ride of your lifetime.
All in all, this is a crowning achievement for me. Whilst I’m getting on the bandwagon of Hostsonaten’s music, this is the movie and soundtrack inside your head. I hope Fabio and Luca continue the story of what will happen next for their daughter, Voluptas. AMS Records for me, have scored another home run in the adventures of Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI).