Label: Scarlet Records
Author: Kira L. Schlechter
It’s so weird how metal and electronic dance-type music work so well together (just ask Amaranthe) and how neither loses by the blending, only gains. Described as ‘modern metal meets dance and dubstep’, Bologna’s REASONS BEHIND does themselves an even bigger favor by conceptualizing their genre-mixing on their latest, ‘Project M.I.S.T.’
They’ve said it’s a “Concept album about life and reality” and it’s the brainchild of guitarist/keyboardist/programming whiz Gabriele Sapori, who wrote all the music and lyrics. But it’s really more about what’s really life and what’s really reality — and in a way, it might be a deeper commentary on the quality of life and perhaps even euthanasia, if in a bit more of a sci-fi context.
‘Unplugged’ sets the musical mood, with the spacey, trippy electronic sounds and atmospheric keyboards that are their signature and the basis and starting point of most of the songs here. If it gets a little repetitive in that formula, it definitely makes for continuity and flow and adds to the sci-fi feel. Add those big muscular riffs and Andrea Gardani’s lockstep, precisely paced drumming and you get the opener, ‘Fireflies In The Wind’. Singer Elisa Bonafè has a clear, bell-like tone, without a ton of variation — her register is high and even higher — but again that gives them that certain definable sound. If this is a concept album, this is an introduction, of finding oneself in a place unknown — that imagery of the title hints at fleetingness, something that goes by so quickly you can’t grasp it.
In the printed lyrics, there are brief snippets of the storyline that lead into the title of the next song — that will become really relevant later…
‘A Hidden Thread’ has a slightly slower, more ominous tempo and a darker key. Elisa’s voice is buried in the mix here and there so it’s hinted at, done for emphasis and to kind of add to the mystery. They treat vocals much like Amaranthe, with lots of overdubs and layers of backing vocals. This hints at another character, a mysterious man the narrator has met before but can’t remember (“Sense of deja vu / Visions from another life slowly breaking through”).
The songs here are nicely brief — they drag nothing out, they make the point, add a little to the story, then get out. They leave you wanting more, with memorable melodies and earworm choruses and tasteful soloing, but yet satisfied at the same time.
‘Shades Of Neon’ is loaded with detail and texture; the verses are sparse vocally with not much overdubbing, but it adds as each line passes. I could do without the spoken lyrics, though, as it’s a little cheesy — they do it a few times throughout and it’s to set a certain mood, of course, but it occasionally spoils the very mood they’re trying to set. It’s not clear where the story is going on this one — it’s taking its time getting there — but again it’s the idea of being caught between two worlds, as it says. That imagery of ‘shades of neon’ is a good one and quite vivid, hinting at madness or at some holding pattern, at hints of clarity.
‘Ghostwired’ gets a little sinister, like maybe we’re finding out why the narrator has been brought to, or is in, this unknown place. It’s sounding like an evil experiment and the ominous music echoes that. Elisa’s voice reaches way up high and it really evokes what’s being said — the lyrics too are a hint (“And while I breathe in silence / A clouded dream’s arising / Dragged down along the trails / Of a spoon-fed reality … The rainbow just bled to grey”). The solo is more of that creepy keyboard and spitting guitar, the drums marching in echo.
‘Beyond The Black’ is like a heartbeat and the tenseness of the music (the programming especially) is really effective. The chorus has a dynamic elasticity — the plays with rhythm, the mixing of the vocals. Perhaps the previous song leads into this one thematically — the narrator is starting to get it (“There’s a story someone chose me to forget / A truth lying hidden I shall claim” … “Shattered reveries falling into place” and “Find the story someone chose me to forget / The missing pieces from the page”), but the realization is happening slowly (“Still I’m far out of reason / Gambling moves to take my mind to light again”).
In ‘Living A Lie’, the narrator is “Aware but not awake yet”, a process perhaps led by someone else (“Come back to your senses / Hear me calling out your name”, they urge). The second chorus really brings that idea home — “Walking through this dreamlike flow / But the facade is crumbling / Chasing whispers that echo from my darkened life.” The pace of the story is certainly gradual and it’s a story told mostly in images — the reason for that, too, will become clear very soon.
Elisa takes the shimmering chorus of ‘Binary Stars’ and sends it flying, kicking into that super-high register to further mark the unforgettable melody. The reference of the title is the passing of time — “Binary stars set ablaze” is a metaphor for how long the narrator has been in this place. According to the intro to each song, our narrator has now fully awakened, but is still trapped by the unknown ‘they’ (“There’s something that keeps me here, consuming everything”) and it’s a plea for help.
By now, with only three more songs to go, the story needs to be resolved and soon. The pace is steady, the songs swift, but we’ve covered no real ground. ‘Between Here And Awake’ is just programming and drifts of barely audible lyrics and melodies of previous songs. It’s definitely a transition, like something is happening.
And by ‘(E)met’, we find out what that is — the written intro into the song reads: “So nothing’s real: everything I lived through these ‘years’ is just a neural-interactive simulation created by the machine that keeps my heart beating … Now that machine is hopelessly damaged and can’t be fixed before shutting it down, thus killing me. Otherwise, the collapsing world I’m living in will eventually turn into a void, where I’ll be doomed to wander without a purpose, slowly decaying. We both know there is no third solution, but I can’t choose on my own: whatever you’ll decide to do, whether to stop the life support machine or condemn me to a dark limbo, this is our last goodbye…”
Pretty fascinating stuff, kind of like the concept of Metallica’s ‘One’ in some ways, of being inwardly conscious while being seemingly and outwardly unconscious.
‘(E)met’ is dark and wrenching, with no lightness to its keyboards at all — they’re static sounding and cold. This is the pivotal track and it’s just as brief as the others (yay them) — basically the narrator is saying it hurts more to hang on to this hope that’s not really hope, to make a choice that’s not a choice. Everything has been an illusion in the narrator’s mind and the narrator just wants it to end (“Help me break the link to the lies machine / Selling dreams of you and me”). This might also be both of them speaking, the mysterious man in the verses (he basically tells her what’s been happening, “The cards are down, I revealed the secret” and “I can’t find a meaning to this semblance of life and free this soul again”), the narrator in the choruses.
By ‘No Dawn To Come‘, the decision is made: the end it will be. It starts more slowly, with almost a reminiscing, final tone. The prechorus is admitting this was all a lie (“False memories will drown with this reverie” and “This painless sleep can’t grant me serenity”), but the chorus is resolved, like this is how it has to be. And that chorus evolves each time, like you can feel and sense the end coming and that’s super effective. ”Let it end” she sings each time, “From a world born from a dream” and “Born on the wings of a prayer”, like it was only an illusion that I could continue living, “Now the bricks are falling”, the illusion is fading, and “Every day I was lost in another’s dream” and “I just dreamed of a world that’s never been.” ”The night took its place, it’s my final frame / Nothing’s left, the dark’s coming in”, the narrator sings, and the final lines, “While everything fades in a shade of grey / Like a tear on a blank page”, are really quite moving. There’s no happy ending here — it ends with the sound of a monitor flatlining.
There’s much to be said for a concept album that keeps things this brief, this suspenseful, that keeps you wondering until the end, and that doesn’t give you an easy or satisfying way out. That is, after all, life. REASONS BEHIND might borrow plenty sonically from dance music, but the drama and emotion of their metal side really carries the day here.