Where to Start: The Sounds of Italy

I’ve been to Italy once in my life, for my honeymoon early in 2005, arguably the height of anti-American sentiment in Europe. Nonetheless, The Patient Mrs. and I basked in the glory of the Trevi Fountain above and many other of Rome‘s famous artifacts and tourism highlights. It was a beautiful country that I could have easily spent a lifetime getting to know.

This Where to Start comes by request, and I’ll confess to being no expert on the Italian scene, such as it is. Unlike Sweden, which has been a hotbed for heavy rock decades running, Italy doesn’t have the reputation of producing a killer desert or psych scene in particular, but what it does have as a diverse array of individual acts whose contributions to their respective subgenres has been considerable.

Through labels like Black Widow and Beard of Stars (both of which sign international as well as domestic Italian bands), Italy has had a slew of killer bands over the years. Here’s but a sampling to which I hope you’ll add in the comments section. Artists and albums to start with:

Paul Chain, Park of Reason: I started with Whited Sepulchres and it was a mistake. Paul Chain‘s catalog is intimidatingly huge, as it runs from his time in Death SS in the early-’80s to now in Translate, but if you stick with his solo stuff and Paul Chain Violet Theatre, you should be alright.

Ufomammut, Eve: These guys might be the best drone metal act on the planet right now. To put it simply: their doom is bigger than your doom. Most people will tell you start with 2004’s Snailking, and if you buy vinyl, they’re right, but it can be pricey on CD, so I went with the latest, Eve, instead. Either way you win.

El-Thule, Green Magic: They’re pretty much straightforward stoner rock, but they do it well in a post-Kyuss kind of way. They’re not breaking much new ground, but if you want to hear Italian stoner rock, El-Thule more than fit the bill.

Void Generator, Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic: This is currently in my “to-review” pile, but I’ve listened to it and it’s killer. Four huge progedelic heavy soundscapes that rock at the same time they expand your mind. Void Generator is a good example of a band taking familiar elements and doing something unique with them.

Wicked Minds, Witchflower: Boasting the Hammond talents of Paolo “Apollo” Negri, Wicked Minds are about as close to Deep Purple as Italy has ever gotten. Driving epic rock, melodic to a fault. Sometimes Witchflower crosses the line into utter cheese, but that’s certainly not without its appeal.

If that’s not enough, look up the psych rock of That’s all Folks or the charming desert sounds of Black Rainbows. I recently discovered Oak’s Mary because they were opening on Fatso Jetson‘s European tour, but don’t know enough to recommend them one way or the other. OJM are also pretty good from what I’ve heard, but a little more straightforward.

As always, let me know if you’ve got any agreements/disagreements or suggestions for other bands by leaving a comment below.

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11 Responses to “Where to Start: The Sounds of Italy”

  1. UKGuy says:

    Thanks for doing this!

    I completely agree with Eve. It is awesome, in my view. Definitely most exciting thing I’ve heard so far this year.

    The Void Generator one sounds right up my street so will check that out. A few comments:

    Zu – “Carboniferous” is amazing. Includes some collab with one King Buzzo and also Mike Patton (neat weirdy vocals). This albums really rocks in a way some of the others haven’t, and so might be interesting to current audience. Someone posted in one of the previous “Where To Start” threads about starting with Shining with “BlackJazz” because previous were rather jazzy. Same with this monster by Zu.

    I recently picked up “Earthen” by Lento (only album from what I can tell – so not exactly a where to start gem!) after hearing some good reviews. Kinda ISIS’s Panoption meets Kinski’s more ambient outings. I was thinking of picking up Morkobot’s “Morto” next time I have some spare cash – any views on this?

  2. paul says:

    Don’t forget stake-off-the-witch!

  3. PostmanDan says:

    Check out Black Land and Godwatt Redemption, both of Italy!

  4. says:

    Dronish, psych and heavy as fuck instrumental trio.


    They’re on the label run by the Ufomammut guys and you know that has got to count for something! Comparisons to Zu can be made, but they are a bit harder to digest.

  5. Mazz says:

    I went to Rome a couple of years ago during the month of December. I loved the place…this was the DOOM highlight.


  6. JDee says:

    Nice post about a vibrating and awfully dynamic scene!

    Regarding the mentioned Paul Chain, i would heavily suggest starting with his “Sign from Space”!
    For OJM, try their first record “Heavy”.

    Records, mentioned in the comments that i’m digging heavily are Black Land’s “Extreme Heavy Psych” (unbelievable cool shit) as well as Lento’s “Earthen”.

    And i want to add and recommend ZIPPO’s “The Road to Knowledge”.

    And i think the artist collective maleus can and should be mentioned as well.


  7. Woody says:

    What, no love for Julius LaRosa? “Eh Cumpari” rules!

  8. UKGuy says:

    “Dronish, psych and heavy as fuck instrumental trio”

    Well, that’s sold it! Thanks, Zé! :-)

    BTW looking back on some of the bollocks I posted last night, I noticed I failed to mention Lento are instrumental and more doomed than ISIS and probably a bit less spacey than Panopticon. I’m crap at reviewing!

  9. UKGuy says:

    BTW Has the Void Generator album been officially released yet? I’m struggling to find it (but probably looking in wrong places). I’m currently suffering from Friday evening brain meltdown.

    Once again, that’s so much for the great thread and blog.

  10. From the past…please don’t forget ACAJOU, HOGWASH, THAT’S ALL FOLKS, T.H.U.M.B., E.X.P., COLT 38, …
    From the past to the present…and I hope to the future…OJM, UFOMAMMUT, VORTICE CREMISI, GANDHI’S GUNN, OAK’S MARY, MIDRYASI, ZIPPO and many more…
    The stoner-scene in Italy is now very hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Woody says:

    Italia produced some killer hardcore bands like Raw Power, Negazione and the Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers.


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