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Friday, June 6, 2014
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Bit of a weird one, this "re-issue". You see, in the info that comes with the download promo, there's no mention at all of a release date, and an extensive search on the internet failed to give me any info on that current date. What I did learn, is that the original album was released on vinyl in 1983 through the Durium label, and that the album has been re-issued thrice before: a first time in 1999 through the band's second label, Minotauro Records, a second time through "Markuee Records" (could that be a misinterpretation/ misprint, I wonder, and would the renowned Japanese Marquee be meant?), and a third time in 2007...coming in the format we have in front of us now, with three bonus tracks! But hey...I guess it's about time for me to get into the history of this "First Heavy Metal Band Of Italy", right? Prepare yourselves for a somewhat lengthy tale!

It'll not surprise you that the origins of this Italian band (then based in Savona – the third important coastal town you'll encounter having passed the French border on your way to Genova, which is 55 km further on) go back to the year 1979, when the band Vanessa (named after a mid-16th Century Italian witch, about which the band members had heard somewhere during the mid-'70s from their old philosophy teacher at school) is founded by the original mainstays trio of bassist Sergio Pagnollo (whom you might know from Labÿrinth) and drummer Silvano Bottari, alongside longtime guitarist Roberto Merlone. Together with original singer Fabricio Cruciani, the outfit recorded the band's first two demos (released in '79 and '80), before the arrival of new singer Alfio Vitanza (both first singers doin' their thing in Italian, by the way – and the latter would later make a name for himself, fronting New Trolls under the name of Nicolee Vani) gave birth to the third demo, also released in '80.

Meanwhile, the band had gotten acquainted with the NWoBHM sound (listening to the music of Saxon, Iron Maiden, and others) and, adopting that style, decided to re-nae themselves to Vanexa. Obviously, with the ambitions the musicians had, a new singer was swiftly sought and found in Marco Spinelli. With him, the band records its two next demos, both released in 1980, and starts making a name for themselves on the northern Italian scene. The band is eventually given a chance to release its self-titled debut album through the Durium Records label, and to do so the guys even re-write some of their old songs' lyrics to fit their now completely Anglo-Saxon sound. Recorded in only 6 days, the album is released in 1983 and literally explodes on the Italian scene and beyond, with a #6 position being reached in the Dutch album charts, beating even albums by Raven and Venom. What follows are shows in somewhat bigger venues, broadcasts on Italian national TV RAI...and a participation as headliner to Italy's very first Heavy Metal festival at Certaldo. 1984 finds the band's song “It's Over” being included in the ambitious Metallo Italy compilation, released on both vinyl LP ànd VHS tape (the precursor to DVD, you know!), and getting attention on both the RAI and Italy's first music TV channel, Videomusic.

Everything went relatively fine to the band for a while, but they soon found attention wane away, as the innovative NWoBHM sound which had caught the public's attention between 1978 and 1984, had now been supplanted by Thrash Metal...a change which was also felt in Italy. By 1988, the only record label willing to release Vanexa's sophomore album Back From The Ruins, was Minotauro Records, and the owner did not have a lot of money to spend on production, and even less on promotion, for that matter. Not surprisingly, the album didn't sell too well, and the band's disappointed members slipped away into alcohol and even drugs abuse. Something which the guys came back from in 1991, when the American compilation Mountain Of Metal is met with some relative success, thanks to “The King Of Punk”, G.G. Allin, whom the band had made friends with during their heydays (when they even made passing friends of the likes of Jello Biafra, Dennis Stratton, Graham Oliver, and Steve Harris).

So, back to the rehearsal room the guys went, but Spinelli soon left, and the musicians only rehearsed sporadically. But things were soon to change quite positively, thanks to the son of a dude whom had been following the band from early on, whom frequently brought along his son to the rehearsals from the age of 12 on. One day, after yet another disappointing audition for a new vocalist, this ardent fan pushed forward his son and tells the guys to try his son for a singer, perhaps the guys could play “It's Over” or “Hanged Man”? Somewhat halfheartedly, the band agreed to have the 15 year-hold take the microphone stand, to find themselves blown off their socks by the powerful voice of a youthful Roberto Tiranti (later to be known also as Robert Tyrant, and fronting the bands New Trolls, A Perfect Day, Mangala Vallis, Live Fire, Headrush, Batti Becchi, 999, Amazing Maze, Wild Steel, Labÿrinth, and 5th Element). Forced to agree that they are in the presence of vocal greatness, the musicians get a serious wake-up call, and simply wrote an album's worth of new material in order to introduce this great voice to the Italian Metal scene.

Again approaching Minotauro Records, the band thus releases its third album Against The Sun in March 1994, but found the “Rock” scene changed all over again through the worldwide success of the Grunge genre. Nevertheless still fascinated by Tiranti's voice, the band recruits keyboardist Giorgio Pagnacco (of Cerchio D'Oro and Black Out repute), and hits the North-Italian stages all over again. They even succeed in releasing a 4-track EP entitled Sample Metal through the Lucretia Records International label in 1995, but find themselves playing the smaller venues again and, getting very little response to their releases, decide to bury the band that same year, and go on with their lives. For some of them, that life was still connected to music. Besides Tiranti's later bands upon which I already touched above, bassist Sergio Pagnocco went on with such bands as Klasse Kriminale and 404 Not Found (the latter one with Vanexa drummer Silvano Bottari), and eventually ended up with Tiranti again in Labÿrinth.

Towards the end of the past millennium, a new interest among Metal fans for the bands of old, and Minotauro Records makes Vanexa debut album available on CD for the first time, and in 2001 they do the same for the band's sophomore album Back From The Ruins. 2005 then, finds Markuee Records (I cannot get the feeling off my back that actually the Japanese label is meant here) making the debut album available in their territory, and doin' the same for Back From The Ruins the year after. In 2007 Minotauro  again re-issued the CD's, this time with previously unreleased bonus tracks (3 studio tracks for Vanexa, 5 live tracks recorded in 1984 for Back From The Ruins).

Obviously, the time was right to revive the band, and Pagnocco and Tiranti (active together in Labÿrinth at that time) connected up with Bottari and Merlone. The latter however sent his cat, or something of that effect, and to replace him guitarists Artan Selishta and Alessandro Graziano were recruited. To coincide with the band's return to the stage, Pagnocco (now a renowned person in Italy's Metal scene), decided to check his archives, and came up out with the band's third demo, on which Alfio Vitanza akà Nicolee Vani sang, as well as some live recordings of that era, and had it released as the “compilation” album 1979-1980 through Jolly Rogers Records (both on CD and limited vinyl). In the years that followed, the band played several shows, of which one was recorded for the late April 2011 My GraveYard Productions live album Metal City Live. Last year, the band again did a series of shows during Autumn, this time using Marco Spinelli as singer. His definitely last show with the band was performed on October 18 at Livorno's 'Elvis Club, and the event was recorded with the mobile studio of Alessio Lucatti (keyboardist of Vision Divine and Etherna) I guess we may expect a new live album in the near future? Meanwhile however, there's this on-line rekindling of interest in the band's debut album which, incidentally or not, features Marco Spinelli on vocals...remember?

Expect quite classic Heavy Metal in the style of the first NWoBHM bands, with a singer quite up to par, in spite of his ancestral origin (sings with hardly an accent)! I checked the internet for some music by the band, but found none available at the band's site (www.), and of course the out-dated browser on the network PC I use for my research would not support my getting onto the band's MySpace page. I however found some videos at YouTube , and I'm sure that the albums' pages on one of the trusted online sales stores will provide at least 30-second listening sessions of all tracks, eh? Find out for yourselves. At any rate, any true NWoBHM fan shoùld get themselves this band's albums, even if geographically it came from another part of the world!