Making a concept record is, in some ways, rather like climbing down into a sewer to clear a fatberg: if you’re going to go to that much trouble then you might as well go the whole hog and do it properly. L’uomo Nero are clearly of a similar opinion, taking the novel approach of releasing a trilogy of EPs that ‘together form the framework of a gloomy occult crime investigation illustrated by special artwork and layouts that reveals some missing clues’.
Now, that might sound rather obscure, so I should point out that the overarching concept relates to a missing persons investigation carried out by two occult detectives that will ‘take the protagonist through the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance’. Which clarifies matters hugely, doesn’t it? In any event, Andiamo Nel Deserto is the first instalment of the trilogy, with the rest to follow in 2021.
Obtuse concept established, who exactly are L’uomo Nero? That at least is a bit simpler to answer: they’re a three-piece form Alberquerque, New Mexico and this is their first release. It’s coming out on vinyl on Desert Records and, from what I can see on Bandcamp, they’ve really gone to town on the gatefold artwork. As well as looking awesome in its own right, we’re promised that the three physical releases will all work together as a triptych to form a single snazzy package. Nice.
Right, lengthy preamble completed, to the music. What first struck me on listening to this is that singer/guitarist Dominic Cagliostro’s voice has definite overtones of Dave Wyndorf sharing a similarly confident delivery. This is a good thing and really gives the band a distinctive edge that immediately raises them above forgettable mediocrity. L’uomo Nero share other similarities with Monster Magnet as well. They mine a similar seam of straight-forward heavy rock, but put their own twist on things by adding a hefty dollop of dusty desert Americana flavouring. I mixed my metaphors there, but hopefully that made sense.
Andiamo Nel Deserto is a brilliant EP. It clocks in at under 20 minutes but still provides ample evidence that L’uomo Nero are both excellent songwriters and excellent musicians…
The four-track EP starts off brilliantly with Andiamo. Based around a simple but effective head-nodding bass riff, it really gives Cagliostro a chance to demonstrate what a quality singer he is. There’s a big chorus and the track has a real emotional charge to it. Aftermantakes things in an unexpected direction, with the band locking into a Bo Diddley rhythm that works surprisingly well and sounds almost jaunty. It’s the sort of off-the-wall thing that Monster Magnet used to do so well and it showcases the diversity of L’uomo Nero’s sound.
Nel Deserto shows the band shifting gears again, this time with a moody, gritty ballad redolent of the lonely high desert. It’s an excellent track – downbeat, brooding and sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. I can’t make up my mind about the final track Walk Away. Half the time I’ve listened to the record it seems like the perfect way to bring matters to a close with a liberal sprinkling of all the good things from the preceding tracks: solid vocals, tasteful lead guitar and a memorable chorus. The other half of the time it just feels a touch flat compared to the uniform excellence of what’s gone before.
That very minor quibble aside, Andiamo Nel Deserto is a brilliant EP. It clocks in at under 20 minutes but still provides ample evidence that L’uomo Nero are both excellent songwriters and excellent musicians. It’s never a bad sign when your only real complaint is that a record is too short. I’m already looking forward to hearing what the next two instalments of the trilogy bring and I’d suggest you get on at the ground floor as well.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc