Zora is a flawed, but ultimately fun album by the bizarre Italian outfit Antonius Rex.
Were it not for the incredibly charming opener, The Gnome, I'm not sure that I would have stuck it out, but that tune is like a kiddy version of something Goblin might do (and I adore Goblin), with happy creepy synth melodies woven atop driving rhythms. The band adds some pretty questionable vocals to this piece--timid and off key--but since the cut feels a bit like Halloween for the bambinos, the singing comes off as charming rather than inept. The second tune (Necromancer) is acceptable lounge music, but it is the third cut that will probably eject most listeners. On this cut, Spiritualist Seance, Antonius Rex returns to the Jacula approach (the band that was their first incarnation) and discard that formal entity known as "song" in favor of organ music with sound effects and other adornments. This track is intended to be atmospheric, but it isn't for me, mainly because the organ delivers very little--- there's almost no melody and the lines (often held chords) rarely acknowledge a consistent tempo for the major part of its ten minute duration. It's not quite baseball field organ music, but it is close to that and isn't worthy of the hunk of time it devours, or even half that amount of time. Some latin invocations give it some flavor, and the final two minutes actually grow more interesting with some distant percussion and bass lines and wiry guitar and so it is not devoid of interest in its (long overdue) conclusion.
The following cut, Zora, peddles a riff with some strange tuning before exploring some melodic open sections and some new age music, and the final cut is an equally successful gothic/psychedelic rocker that brings Iron Butterfly to mind.
The very enjoyable bonus track Monastery seems to indicate that the sounds of Goblin, Mike Oldfield and new age music were pursued further by Antonius Rex, and so I intend to check out more of their music. This one is uneven, but more good than otherwise.
A side note/request to Black Widow and other record labels:
Please leave some space between the conclusion of the album proper and any added bonus tracks--- a couple of minutes or at least 60 seconds. Considering that I am in now the dwindling group that never downloads music and only buys hard copies, I don't want to lunge for the CD player, nor tear open my bag to get to my disc player so that the album can end where the artist intended it to end. An album has a stopping point, and it should be respected, even if more material is placed afterwards.