Italian art rock outfit The Metamorfosi’s second album, Chrysalis, is their first English language release and represents a watershed moment in the band’s brief existence. Beyond the obvious implications of recording the album in English, The Metamorfosi’s latest work has impressive, Aristotelian unity. Chrysalis’ storytelling mode isn’t linear, however, but rather thematic and emotional. The album’s often quasi-classical musical bent benefits from a lush mix surrounding each instrument with depth and resonance, but The Metamorfosi expertly blend strong pop music elements into their orchestral sensibilities. The melodies are seldom brief or direct; instead, Chrysalis is a fully immersive musical and vocal experience demanding listeners’ patience. It is amply rewarded.
The opening track “Essence” is a vivid illustration of the aforementioned approach. Despite its relatively concise running time, The Metamorfosi exhibit impressive patience developing the song’s melodic elements. Vocalist Sarah D’Arienzo is key. Her ethereal, practically cinematic singing glides over the instrumentation with great sensitivity. She hits impressive technical high points but the true merit of her performances lies with her ability to seamlessly incorporate herself into the backing track while still attending to each syllable with apparent care. Acoustic guitar opens the title track and shifts into an odd half-time shuffle. The band lays lilting and tasteful transitions between the verses and the percussion brings an urgency not heard in the opener. The musical textures expand in the song’s second half – the tempos restlessly reorient themselves and outright rock guitar erupts from the mix. It’s a thrilling, unpredictable ride of great intelligence remarkably punctuated by an unexpected violin laced coda.
Choral vocals buttressed by a thin keyboard sheen drive the brief instrumental interlude “Gregor Samsa”. Name checking arguably one of Franz Kafka’s best known characters, the doomed protagonist of his novella The Metamorphosis, is a wholly appropriate allusion that never smacks of pretension. It segues into “Levity”. The song has a slight folk song tint with its loping vocal melody, but soon evolves into a much different animal. Electric guitar and forceful drumming emerge to bolster the keyboards with added sonic muscle, but it never obscures another stunning performance from D’Arienzo. “Keep the Pain” pushes back against listeners’ expectations again with a vocal duet between D’Arienzo and guitarist Tyron D’Arienzo. He has an appealing pop voice that plays well against her higher register. It’s a much more Euro pop flavored track than the surrounding material but doesn’t lack the same inherent intelligence powering the band’s songwriting.
Chrysalis’ penultimate number, “Light”, is the first outright rocker from a band who clearly doesn’t view any stylistic turn as verboten. The finale “The Moon is Kiddin’ Me” is the album’s longest song, clocking in at a little over seven minutes in length, and possible implications that it’s the band’s proggiest turn yet aren’t far off the mark. Fusion is, perhaps, a more accurate label as this dazzling musical exercise encapsulates the best of The Metamorfosi while still carving out new territory on a work of remarkable dexterity. This watershed release will, undoubtedly, win this Italian trio many passionate converts – few bands, irrespective of genre, are writing and release such fully realized art rock for our modern age.