May 2, 2022

If you like your rock to be heavy, raw and bluesy then this one is definitely for you.

The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna has a long and rich musical tradition. Giuseppe Verdi was born here, as were both the legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini and the opera singer that everybody knows: Luciano Pavarotti. Modern day counterparts, including Vasco Rossi and Zucchero, keep the musical tradition alive, and it’s from the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, that the heavy rock/stoner quartet Tenebra have emerged.  This is the band’s debut full-length release. They came together in 2017 even if three of its members – Emilio Toreggiani (guitar), Claudio Troise (bass), and Claudio Collina (drums) – had already been active locally in the hardcore and death metal scene. But their love of classic ‘60s and ‘70s rock meant that Tenebra took a different path with a retro heavy psychedelic sound. The group dipped their toes in the water with an EP, Gen Nero, in 2019, and an EP/single What We Do Is Sacred last year which also showcased one of the songs on this debut album.

There is a great opening track on this album…. but it is not the first track! It is the album closer and first single, Moon Maiden. It begins with dreamy guitar arpeggios over a bass theme which is slightly reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Money. But then at the one minute mark it launches into heavy riffing with a sound that is straight out of the heavy blues catalogue of Led Zeppelin I and II. It’s musically brilliant but the secret weapon of the band is the singer. This was the first song I heard by this band and my first thought was ‘that singer sounds so much like Robert Plant’. That would be a fine complement for any male singer but in the case of Tenebra, the singer is….well, female. Silvia Fennino is her name and she has an incredibly raw and raucous voice that fits this music so well. So, apologies to Silvia for not spotting her sex correctly but congratulations on one hell of a voice!

Anyway, returning to the Iron Maiden song, after Fennino’s vocal efforts the song goes into an instrumental based on the opening bass theme. It’s a curiously structured song but reflects one of the strong points of the group in that they do go out of their way to avoid the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus type of predictable format. The actual album opener is Heavy Crusher, which as you might guess is rather crushingly heavy, even if the best part is the more upbeat and groovy central passage. Cracked Path has a great bluesy swagger to it but the next couple of tracks (Black Lace and Carry My Load) lack inspiration. Fennino’s superb vocals keep them interesting still but there’s a danger of the album drifting towards mediocrity. But luckily we then get a run of three excellent tracks. First up is Wind Of Change which is slow paced and languid and has a strong southern rock feel to it. Stranded is another fine piece although I sensed it was tipping the hat at a few classics (the opening is Iron Man, and the fine riff seems like a variation on Stormbringer). Space Child has a brilliant guitar hook line and some wonderful bluesy vocals from Fennino, and again is another song which surprises with the format because after a false finish and some heavy guitar chords…. we get a sax solo! Strangely, it works really well.

This is a band that seems very much at the service of the singer. Torregiani’s guitar work is good, but without standout virtuoso solos, and the rhythm section is tight. With average sounding singer this would be a promising debut album but unlikely to have enough oomph to create waves beyond the unit’s native Bologna. It’s singer Fennino that adds the X Factor, and in the process creates a compelling debut album. If you like your rock to be heavy, raw and bluesy then this one is definitely for you.