It’s been an 8-year absence since Italian Progressive Rock band Deus Ex Machina made another album. This year, they’ve released their eighth album on the Cuneiform label entitled, Devoto. It’s their first release since 2008’s CD/DVD release of Imparis. Which was a live DVD performance and studio CD release which Cuneiform released showed new and looking through DEM’s career. Devoto is the band’s return to capture more of the energetic, virtual, and eruptive sonic force.
With the styles of Rock Progressivo Italiano, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Banco, and Premiata Forneria Marconi, Devoto is a welcoming return of the maestro’s back into the musical machine again since their formation back in 1985. Now while I’m very new to the bandwagon of Deus Ex Machina, I have to say that listening to their new album, their textures are mind-blowing and going into different groundings.
While the other band members were doing different projects and after the departure of keyboardist, Fabrizio Puglisi, the band wanted to see where they wanted to go next. The recording of Devoto was done quickly as a result a long reflective procedure. It also marked the return of Luigi Ricciardiello after a two-decade hiatus to replace Puglisi.
Mauro Collina’s guitar still delivers the virtuosity and experienced advanced work as Luigi’s keyboard brings the futuristic, experimental, and jazz orientations, Devoto is a challenging listen from start to finish. And the seven highlights on the album, shows that they still got the energy and still have the captivating results that is like a motorcycle that is ready to launch to make the jump to hyper-speed.
Autore del Futoro (Author of the Future) has this essence between Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti and Traffic featuring Steve Winwood. There is a Funk-Soul-Jazz Rock crossover with the Blues for the first 4 minutes and 24 seconds before the last 2-minutes for a split second sees Bonetti carrying the torch of Jerry Goodman’s style of The Noonward Race.
Quattro Piccole Mani (Four Small Hands) is Collina’s haunting Blues Acoustic gothic essence between Ry Cooder and Jack Nitzsche. Sliding electric approach and layered effects with a classical/folky twist, it feels as it was straight out of the score sessions of the 1970 controversial cult film classic of Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance.
Devoto (Devoted) is the opening title-track that starts the album off with a big bang. Featuring Mid-tempo riffs that is motioned between Italian Prog bands such as Banco Del Mutuo Sorccoso and Corte Dei Miracoli, Bonetti’s violin passages filled with sparkling ignition as it swells through the structured different time signatures. But it’s Multiverso (Multiverse) that got me really under my wings.
Here, Deus Ex Machina are taking you as a listener into the universe and the passages of time. It’s a nod to Rush’s early ‘80s sound between Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures as if they were doing their own twist of the continuation of YYZ and the French Progressive Rock group, Atoll. Mauro himself, just had me on the edge of an amazing roller-coaster ride as he channels the styles of Alex Lifeson throughout the composition like a battering ram hitting the doors down really good.
Distratto Da Me (Distract By Me) starts of in a time signature of 3/4 in the style of waltz for the first 2 minutes and 50 seconds with a three-piece horn section before it changes with Vivacissimo beats thanks to the drum patterns of Claudio Trotta as he goes into his styles of Billy Cobham and Bill Bruford before Luigi himself goes to the synths and organ and delving into the essence of the late great Jon Lord, Premiata Forneria Marconi, and ELP.
Figli (Sons) shows how much Alberto Piras’ vocals are stronger, passionate, and at times operatic in the reminiscent of Francesco Di Giacomo. He knows exactly where he wants Deus Ex Machina to go into when he those cords in his voice and show the power and glory he can take with him. The song itself is like a whirlpool of amazement as Bonetti fires up his Violin engine to go into the speed with unbelievable results.
Sotterfugio (Subterfuge) is an instrumental passage. It features a mini-experimental atmospheric improvisation on the keyboards and featuring strings to set this futuristic tone that is like something out of an innovative dream. And while it’s short for a minute, I wish they could have continued with more of the electronic vibrations with this piece and carry a Tangerine Dream effect to see what is going to happen next.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m new to Deus Ex Machina’s music. And for me, Devoto isn't just a superb album, but it is a remarkable and a stimulating release I have listened to from beginning to end. And the Cuneiform label have never disappointed me when it comes to both Progressive, Avant-Rock, and Jazz. And yet it gives forth with these inventive and compelling arrangements that will make you dig deep into more of the excellence that has come forth with Deus Ex Machina’s return.