Photo by Barbara Pasquariello
Iza Grau is a dark wave rock band based in Modena, Italy, who recently released their outstanding debut album, Vastness Hurts. (It dropped Friday, April 3rd, which seems to have been a big day for new music releases, as this is the fourth in a series of seven reviews I’m writing for music released that day.) It’s an astonishing work that I loved at first listen, and am pleased to now share it with my readers. The album contains nine stellar tracks, all of them dark, complex, melodic and thrilling, with influences that call to mind The Cure, Depeche Mode and Interpol, three bands I dearly love. In their own words, their music “draws its influences from the obscure imagery of the industrial / new wave movement of the last century, combined with visual inspirations such as Wim Wenders’ Berlin and the claustrophobic spaces of ‘Possession’ by Zulawski.”
Making this awesome music are Luca Amadessi (vocals), Sergio P. Cardinali (guitar), Alessandro Stefani (guitar), Roberto Fordiani (drums) and Giuseppe Longone (bass). Released via Cleopatra Records, Vastness Hurts was recorded by Simon Maccari at Peak Studio in Rubiera, Italy and mastered at by Giovanni Versari at La Maestà Mastering Studio in Forlì. The interesting cover art “You and whose army” for the album was created by Giacomo Vanetti.
The album kicks off with “Naiad“, and within seconds of hearing those haunting guitar notes, ominous synths and deep, buzzing bass, I’m hooked. Amadessi’s smoky vocals hover in a sweet zone between seductive and menacing as he croons “All your nightmares turned out to be your lovers, your lovers tonight.” His vocals rise to impassioned wails as the music explodes in the final chorus with screaming guitars and dramatic synths that leave me covered in goosebumps.
I’m barely able to catch my breath before “The Grace Within Nocturnal Animals” arrives on an exhilarating wave of driving beats and dazzling guitar riffs. With its retro 80s new wave grooves and descending guitar lines, the song has a brooding Depeche Mode/The Cure vibe, and I love it! The dual intricate layered guitar work by Cardinali and Stefani is spectacular, dancing over Longone’s smoldering bass line. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. And speaking of great bass lines, Longone’s driving bass on “Cage of Blessing” is a thing of wonder. Once again the guitar work here is breathtaking, with frantic riffs of resonant jangly guitars that seem to pay homage to The Cure. Fordiani smashes his drums like a raging beast, and Amadessi’s powerful vocals are spine-tingling.
As the album unfolds, the great tunes keep coming on strong. “Recoil” is a dark, melodically beautiful hard rock song with stunning guitar work. Amadessi’s sultry, passionate vocals sound better than ever as he fervently sings “Changing evermore / Till you destroy your lies / Till your pain becomes a cross, and you’re about to die.” The anthemic “Inviolate” delivers raging riffs of gnarly and chiming guitars, nimble bass grooves and a thunderous mix of crashing cymbals and pummeling drums. By now, I’m in absolute awe of Iza Grau’s jaw-dropping musicianship.
“Northern Lights” starts off with distant-sounding psychedelic synths, then watery riffs of jangly guitars wash over us, plunging us headlong into a mysterious and beautiful soundscape as Amadessi ominously croons “Your life remains forever in the frail form of whirling waves / Waiting for a slow dive / It’s a slow dive into your fleshy rage.” Many of Iza Grau’s dramatic lyrics are rather allegorial and enigmatic, in their words “influenced and shaped by the theme of ‘the double’ that governs the forces of nature and humanity.”
“Burn Everything” has an Interpol sound to my ears, and in fact, Amadessi’s moody, droning vocals remind me a bit of Paul Banks, but with an Italian accent. Another favorite of mine is “Endless Dance“, a dark and spooky track with ghostly synths, haunting riffs, buzzsaw bass and pummeling drumbeats, all accompanied by Amadessi’s menacing vocals that turn downright scary at the end.
The album closes with the title track “Vastness Hurts“, a melodically complex and gorgeous song that borders on symphonic rock. The intense, sweeping instrumentals and progressive metal elements create a breathtaking cinematic soundscape that’s truly spectacular. I’m sounding like a broken record and running out of superlatives, but yet again I have to reiterate that the powerful and intricate guitar work is fucking phenomenal. It’s a grand finish to a magnificent album that I happily label a musical masterpiece. Vastness Hurts is a remarkable work, and an impressive debut for this incredibly talented band.