Standarte - "Stimmung"
(Black Widow 1999, BWRCD-028)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
Standarte is an Italian quartet that has brought back a previously long-dead 70's style (I suppose that's just because no one else had yet chosen to revive it), that being the majestic organ-heavy hard rock of so many European rock groups of the time. Most notably Deep Purple, but there were many more bands of the sort in Germany and elsewhere I'm sure. Stimmung is Standarte's third effort, and is a mix of new studio recordings and two separate live performances. An important point is that the band has added Davide Nicolini on guitar, filling the hole left behind by the unexplained departure of the guitarist who appeared on the eponymous first album (oddly no credit was given). After then forging on as a organ/bass/drum trio for 1996?'s 'Curses and Invocations,' they've now returned to the more traditional rock band lineup.
Apart from the obvious Jon Lord-style organ, Standarte is pretty difficult to pin down overall. At times, the music is symphonic progressive, other times jazzy, funky and/or bluesy, and quite often psychedelic. Following a brief instrumental intro, what appear to be the same opening chords to Hawkwind's 'Assault and Battery' kick in and introduce the bombastic, almost stoner-heavy '(We want) a Peaceful Village.' The BIG sound that the four produce (actually more like Captain Beyond than Deep Purple, to be precise) plays well against the moody organ and Mellotron stylings of Michele Profeti. Drummer/Vocalist Daniele Caputo has a strong, resonant voice, and sings in English with hardly a detectable accent. Following a brief quiet intro, the crashing and stomping continues in 'Kankweezler,' then things become a little more fluid and brisk in the title track. Penned by the newcomer Nicolini, 'Sonnermensch' is a bit of a departure, leaning towards a more driving and repetitive rhythm, but then also with dabbles of spacey synths applied.
The live portion (the first three recorded in Stockholm, Sweden), starts out with 'Moon in Cancer' (originally on the second album), including a touch of extra-boomy bass from Stefano Gabbani and a really long-winded organ solo. The previously unreleased 'Dark Satanic Mill' offers some nice slide guitar work and then an extended bridge section... at first, a space march - then leading into a quiet section which Nicolini colors with fluid guitar soloing. The traditional 'In My Time of Dying' is redone here (also on the first album), a heavy blues anthem underlain by some particularly active drumming. After a puzzling (i.e., lengthy) bit of audience applause, we finally get to the last two tracks, recorded live from a radio broadcast. The sound is a bit muddy, but here they branch out more into the bluesy-psych side of things, especially with the cover of Velvett Fogg's 'Yellow Cave Woman.'
Stimmung is strong throughout, and is a fine choice to discover Standarte's throwback style. Especially now that the guitar has been reintroduced (you *really* had to dig organ to enjoy the second album). Fans of the not-so-krautrock (but still German) 'big sound' artists of the 70s (like Grobschnitt, Jane, Birth Control, and Os Mundi) should really enjoy Standarte, and will have a hard time believing this material was recorded in the late 90's. I know I did.
For more information you can visit the Black Widow label web site.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson