The Metamorfosi are an Italian three piece aiming to make a big splash with their first English language release Chrysalis. This eight song collection bears hallmarks of tremendous effort. While not linear or plot-driven in any way, Chrysalis is a conceptual outing fixed on themes of transformation. This uniformity of theme, however, never constricts the band musically. Chrysalis’ eight songs bristle and pop with a wide range of tempos and textures veering from near Baroque art rock into straight, un-ironic forays into guitar based pop rock. If The Metamorfosi is guilty of any lapses on this album, the sheer volume of musical ideas might give some the feeling that the album needs a stronger sonic focus.
It isn’t an obvious weakness early on. Instead, “Essence” kicks off the album with a coherent and tightly focused piece that also serves as a vocal showcase for the band’s primary lead singer, Sarah D’Arienzo. Her jaw-dropping range is fully explored through the course of the album, but “Essence” certainly traverses the entirety of her upper register with highly sympathetic musical accompaniment. The Metamorfosi embrace a far simpler approach on the album’s title track and focus turns more strongly towards guitar. It is quite clear early on that D’Arienzo occupies much of the spotlight, guitarist Tyron D’Arienzo and drummer Gianluca Manfredonia deserve equal billing thanks to their superb playing and musical imaginations. The band’s art rock leanings emerge with the brief instrumental “Gregor Samsa” that seamlessly shifts into the next song. “Levity” has a relatively condensed length, but nonetheless sounds quite expansive and displays an outstanding understanding of dynamics.
“Keep the Pain” takes the band their closest yet to outright rock music, but the airy guitar melodies and aerobic drumming give it quite a distinct sound placed in comparison to far different earlier and later tracks. Guitarist D’Arienzo takes a vocal turn here and the duet ting between him and Sarah comes off splendidly. “Packed Smiles” is easily the album’s best example of how adeptly The Metamorfosi manipulates listener’s expectations before paying them off with stirring climaxes. “Light” makes a nice pair with “Keep the Pain” and goes even further over the edge into six string hard rock posturing. It never comes off as cheesy or dim-witted however and it’s a testament to the band’s songwriting skill that they can explore multiple approaches without ever dumbing down their work. The album’s final track “The Moon is Kiddin’ Me” is a rather enigmatic piece in some ways, particularly in its lyrics, but it is likewise the most ambitious moment on Chrysalis. Running over seven minutes, the band extends themselves more here than any prior song.
Chrysalis is a work of stunning bravery and imagination. The exuberance is awe-inspiring – The Metamorfosi sound like they are overflowing with ideas and braced with the conviction that music and songwriting are their lives. Pure inspiration, and the occasional pitfalls that come with it, is harder and harder to find in our castrated age, but The Metamorfosi convey that and much more.
8 out of 10 stars.