If you're a fan of traditional heavy metal in the vein of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Virgin Steele or UDO, then you will certainly love Italy's Etrusgrave. The band have been around since 2004, but released their debut record, Masters Of Fate in 2008. They haven't released an album since 2010's Tophet, marking Aita's Sentence the band's first album in six years. It is also interesting to note that their name is a combination of the terms “Etruscan” and “Grave.”
Not much has changed since the band's last record, aside from the addition of drummer Stefano Giugioli which means that these guys are pretty much the same band that they were six years ago. I really can't say, as this is the first release I've ever heard from them. Yet I can certainly accrue something from the listen – they're not bad. Not bad at all. As a matter of fact, they have some real staying power and will appeal mainly to those looking for a style of production that feels a little bit more organic. When I listen to this record, I can tell that there are actually musicians in the studio, recording their instruments live with little to no edits during the mixing process. As it sounds raw, perhaps frontman Tiziano Sbaragli won't quite hit every note perfectly and maybe Fulberto Serena's guitar will have a little bit more feedback and hiss than necessary. But those are just the sort of things that you should expect with a warmer performance, which almost echoes what the band can undoubtedly offer in a live setting. Fortunately, Aita's Sentence is a record I would love to hear in just that kind of setting, with the Priest meets Saxon feel of opener “Anxiety” or the Virgin Steele influence apparent in “Festering Slash” (yes, Sbaragli can hit the kind of almost feminine tones that David DeFeis is known for and it is sometimes to a startling degree) as well as the Queensryche aura that I'm getting from the album's title cut. Maiden riffs seem to appear “Coward” as well, showing that Etrusgrave are a heavy metal act who have done their research into what made the genre so memorable in the eighties.
Aside from Sbaragli, we also have quite a bit of compositional research coming right from the direction of Serena's guitars. The man can clearly play, and in so many different styles that I would say range from traditional heavy metal all of the way up to progressive and classic rock music. There's no doubt that listeners are getting a wonderful performance in this area, which is only peppered by the extent of his mind-guitar solo efforts. Yes, I said mind-boggling and I truly meant that. You will just have to listen to the disc yourself to verify that, and by all-means, a guitar solo nut like myself will challenge you to that.
Most of the time, I open up my mailbox and have no real idea what kind of records I'm going to receive when I open the packages, so there's no expectation in the very beginning. I don't even know what kind of bands I'm getting sometimes, so you just have to hope for the best. This one, well... it was pretty awesome. Not only does Serena play up a storm, but Sbaragli hits some extremely high and unexpected notes throughout. Most listeners won't even expect the degree of vocal perfomance that they're getting here and it's even more reason to check it out and give it a listen immediately if you're a fan of metal in it's golden age. I'm not even bored by the record after a long time listening to it, because there's just so much that I've noticed and I've liked about the performance.
Admittedly to some, the record might sound a little thin and the bass isn't very thunderous in the mix, neither would I say are the drums. Though both seem to keep up a relatively decent pace and I wouldn't fault bassist Luigi Paoletti or skinsman Stefano Giuggioli for this issue, as they are merely crafting the tempo and building the foundation upon which the vocal and lead guitar end of the act truly soar. I don't think listeners will be checking this one out for either of those instruments, and feel that they would probably sound better performed live along with the proscenial elements of the act which altogether feel like they would truly take wing on the stage. Without a doubt, check it out.
(7 Tracks, 48:00)