by Joe Mis
– Columnist –
Three Wise Monkeys is the new release from well-respected bass player, progressive rock composer and producer Alberto Rigoni. Perhaps better known for his work with the Italian band Twinspirits and the electro-pop duo Lady and THE BASS, Rigoni has built an all-start lineup of musicians to help deliver his unique vision. And deliver he does, presenting a nice genre-blending mix of five instrumental tracks and five with vocals.
For those not familiar with Alberto, he is a native of Montebelluna, Italy. He joined Twinspirits in 2003, and released three solo albums: Something Different in 2008, Rebirth in 2011, and now Three Wise Monkeys (available 01-October-2012). The prolific bassist has gathered an impressive roster of special guests to assist, including vocalists Jonas Erixon (Alicate) and Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, John Norum), guitarists Tommy Ermolli (Twinspirits) and Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios), keyboardists Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Rock) and Kevin Moore (Dream Theater, OSI, Chroma Key), and drummers Mark Cross (Outloud, Helloween, Firewind) and Paco Barillà (Daniele Liverani). The roster alone shows the respect Rigoni’s name carries in the music world.
Three Wise Monkeys is based upon the Japanese folk legend of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” which embodies the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The three monkeys are named Mizaru (who sees no evil), Kikazaru (who hears no evil), and Iwazaru (who speaks no evil) – and each gets his own instrumental on the album. The source of this legend is a 17th century carving over a door of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan (the shrine also gets its own track).
Rigoni wrote and produced all tracks except for “Coming Home” and “Believe,” which he co-wrote with Jonas Erixon. Musically this album spans many genres, from progressive metal to jazz to rock to ambient and atmospheric. Alberto’s bass is the keystone to the music, tying each track together. Despite this fact he manages to keep the bass from hogging the spotlight, allowing his many guests to step to the front as needed. Each performer is allowed to shine, and the music moves from genre to genre without abrupt or jarring transitions making it a true “album” and not simply a collection of songs. Like its predecessor Rebirth, Three Wise Monkeys is not just an exposition of fine bass work; rather it is a solid musical release. Nicely balanced and well-engineered, the music manages to dazzle the listener without making it a “bass guitar” album.
Soft temple bells provide the meat of the opening track “Toshogu Shrine,” leading nicely into the varied tempo changes, driving rhythms, and intense Kevin Moore supplied keyboards of “Mizaru.” “Three Wise Monkeys” is an up-tempo rocker featuring the warm and unique tone of vocalist Göran Edman and some fine drumming by Paolo Valli over Rigoni’s slick bass. The soft and moving “Kikazaru” is Rigoni’s bass expo, and he proves just how much emotion and feeling a well-played bass guitar can produce. Jonas Erixon contributes fine vocals and Tommy Ermolli plays some amazing guitar breaks on the intense and heavy prog rocker “Blackened Tornado.”
Rigoni makes his bass sing on the instrumental “Iwazaru,” laying out some interesting patters and getting almost bell-like tones from the instrument. He is capably backed by the ethereal keyboards of Federico Solazzo and complex patterns of drummer Sebastian Persini. A bluesy and gritty rock-jazz tone drives “Free Falling,” another vocal track that features the fine guitars (and very metal solo) of Simone Mularoni. “Between Space and Time” is a soft, almost ambient instrumental, driven by the gentle and distinctive keyboards of Mistheria. “Coming Home” is a very good mid tempo rock ballad, and it allows vocalist Erixon to take the spotlight. The album wraps with the slow and emotional “Believe.” Erixon’s vocals again shine, but the track is fully anchored by Rigoni’s bass and Barillà’s drums.
Bass players everywhere could learn a lesson from Alberto Rigoni. His eclectic mix of influences and styles proves him to be a complete musician who fully explores the limits of his instrument of choice. He is an outstanding performer whether delivering simple rhythms or pounding out complex riffs. He never neglects the melodic elements of songwriting and plays with his heart, not just his fingers. Three Wise Monkeys should be seen as a solid progressive rock-fusion “journey,” and NOT a bass player’s ego trip. Very highly recommended!
Genre: Progressive Rock
Alberto Rigoni – bass
Göran Edman – vocals on track 3
Jonas Erixon – vocals on tracks 5, 7, 9 & 10
Kevin Moore – keyboards on track 2
Federico Solazzo – keyboards on tracks 5, 6 & 9
Mistheria – keyboards on tracks 8 & 10
Alessandro Bertoni – keyboards on track 3
Tommy Ermolli – guitars on tracks 2, 3, 5, 9 & 10
Simone Mularoni – guitars on tracks 7
Mark Cross – drums on track 7
Paolo Valli – drums on tracks 2 & 9
Paco Barillà – drums on track 3 & 10
Sebastian Persini – drums on tracks 5 & 6
1. Toshogu Shrine
3. Three Wise Monkeys
5. Blackened Tornado
7. Free Falling
8. Between Space and Time
9. Coming Home
Label: Any And All Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10