Clepsydra - Fears

Year of Release: 1997
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: CCD 4410
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:55:00

Richard reviewed both Fears and More Grains Of Sand together; they are indexed separately -ed.

Clepsydra is a Swiss (Italian side) neo-prog outfit that you rarely hear things about. They've put out three albums in the 90s, two of which I'm lucky to have in my collection. I say "lucky" because both More Grains of Sand and Fears represent the neo-prog sound in the finest manner, keeping faithful roots to the classic prog sound, yet up dating it in a tasteful and well executed manner.

Clepsydra's real strength lays in its song writing. Both Fears and More Grains of Sand, for instance, clock in at well over 60 minutes in length and not one minute of the disks can be considered filler. Each song is good in its own way. Generally the sound is keyboard rich with the odd guitar-dominated lead (a la Steve Rothery). The rhythm section is tight though not demonstrative.

The English vocals are delivered passionately by Alu Muggini who sounds like a cross between Klaus Meine (Scorpions) and Ad Infinitum's Goose, yet with a distinct Swiss/Italian accent. Please don't get turned off by the Scorpions comparison, as Muggini's delivery has nothing to do with the metal/grating style that many get turned off by in Meine.

My only criticism of Clepsydra is that the mix often leaves the guitar too faint, and in areas where songs need an edge, you only hope that guitar would just break through. This seems to be a common fault of the neo-prog scene in general.

94's More Grains of Sand opens with Nektarish keys (almost imitating the opening of Tab In The Ocean). This is as close as Clepsydra gets to be derivative but "Moonshine On Heights" soon segues to the powerful "Birthday Party." In this song, scorching heights are offset by softer moments. Clepsydra soon displays the diversity that makes their CDs a joy to listen to.

"Eagles" opens with a similar sound but soon progresses to a heavy guitar riff based melody. It explores fantasy topics. Clepsydra's CDs, sung in English, generally follow concept themes. A soft transitional song, "Hold Me Tight" leads to the epic "No Place For Flowers." "Outermost Bounds" is a heavier song with a very nice melody. Muggini's emotional delivery really works well here.

Clepsydra is obviously influenced by early Marillion. The body of the latter half of More Grains Of Sand gravitates between ballads and long prog rock pieces. The melodies are languid and beautiful. Besides the abundance of multiple keys, there's also some tasteful Spanish guitar.

Their latest CD, Fears, released in '97, is much stronger though virtually similar in style. What Clepsydra does to improve their style is mostly found in production. There's much more clarity in the instruments, partly due to recording and partly to arrangements.

The CD begins beautifully with moody Gregorian chants and driving drums. The mighty "Soaked" has powerful, yet subdued guitar. This is virtually out the Script For A Jester's Tear songbook - and a wonderful melody. "The Missing Spark" continues the Marillion textures and at 9 minutes explores new ones as well. A beautiful ballad, "Into My Cartoon" leads to "The Urge of Glass." Here some spacey keyboard layers and harpsichord sounds embellish Muggini's singing. There's a classical/Baroque feel to the music. I'm reminded a lot of Banco here. But when that heavy guitar riff enters, the song takes off. An analogue synth and heavy guitar takes us through "Fearless" into an acoustic bridge. "The Cloister" is Floydish in the use of nature sounds and spacey keys. It's also as commercial a sound as Clepsydra gets. "The Nineteenth Hole," another epic that takes us through tape loops, nice synth, and powerful hard rock passages. It ends in a flurry of guitar and sax, both provided by the talented Marco Cerulli.

Another short ballad leads to the eleven-minute title track. "Fear" epitomizes everything that Clepsydra does right. And like the brilliant conclusion to "Supper's Ready," ends things in grand style.

I don't know how long it will be to the next Clepsydra CD, but according to their web page, they're still together. Though their albums may be hard to get a hold of, I highly recommend this emotional, passionate and honest prog rock band.

Soaked (9:03) / The Missing Spark (9:03) / Into My Cartoon (4:09) / The Age Of Glass (5:53) / Fearless (3:59) / Daisies In The Sunshine (2:32) / The Cloister (5:46) / The Nineteenth Hole (8:45) / Sweet Smelling Wood (2:47) / Fear (10:56)

Aluisio Maggini - vocals
Marco Cerulli - guitars, saxophone
Philip Hubert - keyboards
Andy Thommen - bass
Pietro Duca - drums, percussion

Hologram (1991)
UGUM Part II* (1993)
More Grains Of Sand (1994)
Molecule* (1995)
Fears (1997)
Sysyphus Vol. 2* (1998)
Alone (2001)
3654 Days (2014)

* compilations

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin CH

Added: June 1st 2000
Reviewer: Richard Zywotkiewicz

Artist website:
Hits: 1101
Language: english


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