If it were a movie, King of the Opera’s Nothing Outstanding would be John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness”. This movie, mostly forgotten nowadays, is a vivid spiral of nightmares and hallucinations: from a reassuring setting, the audience is sucked into a Chinese puzzle, watching the psychological breakdown of the protagonist. Less disturbing, and yet quite powerful, King of the Opera latest release draws the thin line between dream and persecution, in what we’d call a rather challenging album.
King of the Opera rises from the dust of Samuel Katarro, alias Alberto Mariotti, who already published different releases under the pseudonym before “killing” it in the anthology The Death Of Samuel Katarro. Despite being accompanied by the same fellow travelers (the drummer Simone Vassallo and the multi-instrumentalist Wassilij Kropotkin), this project explores new shades and contrasts, which are clearly embodied by crystalline melodies and minimal folkish tunes a là Golden Leaves et al, with the same linear Elbow-y approach (Fabriciborio), that sometimes gets shaken by some noisy flashes (Worried About). The climax is slowly reached by going through arpeggios and echoes, and exploding with the outstanding (I can see the pun coming) Nothing outstanding, a pure condensation of Angelo Badalamenti’s pureness brushed with guitar distortions. You may be asking yourselves, where the “Mouth of Madness” comes into this review. The split which is visibly marked on the following track, Heart of Town, leads us in a distorted and gloomy landscapes, in which the ghostly King Dude-esque atmosphere is still matted by the instrumental lyricism. This dreamy ambient is soon negated by the psychotic, psychedelic gem of Nine-Legged Spider, in which both vocals and the instrumental pattern are drawn to create tension, still winking at horror tunes, such as Dario Argento’s well-known Suspiria (soundtrack by the progressive rock band Goblin). The same tension, like a roller-coaster of emotions, enriched by the violin on the foreground, (Pure Ash Dream) will die away in the closure of The Halfduck Misery, in which the lyrical core keeps fighting with the psychedelic side, like a schizophrenic musical character.
All in all, Nothing Outstanding is one of the toughest and yet most grabbing releases that you may find in the Italian independent scene, following a patch some already explored by unconventional artist such as the electro-ambient duo Roll the Dice and avant-garde visions of Maria Takeuchi. A release that, despite its complexity, is worth the effort to be digested and fully understood.