Italian quintet Belladonna have an interesting history for a band with no record company support with tours supporting Nine Inch Nails and Staind amongst others, a collaboration with English classical composer Michael Nyman and they even get a mention in Vince Neil's autobiography.
They also claim to have created a new musical genre describing themselves as rock noir so they are a band who like to get noticed at least.
'Shooting Dice With God' is their fourth album and immediately on pressing play I was impressed by the mature sound of the band and the dark intense production. The album sounds like it was mixed by the bass player with all the lower end sounds high in the mix while Luana Caraffa's delicate plaintive vocals and Valentina De Iullis' beautiful piano playing are buried deeper in the mix giving an overall dark vibe.
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After a while it seems natural and does give them an intense, edgy quality so that the rock noir description starts to make sense.
Having established themselves a style mixing rock and gothic influences into a dense soundscape what has to come next is having the songs to back it all up and they pretty much succeed on that score too. 'Ishtar Blues' has an insistent guitar riff and a chorus you can even sing along with, 'Karma Warrior' mixes a strong driving rock sound with delicate piano sections and 'Abduction' has a Fleetwood Mac goes gothic grandeur to it which works really well.
I'm not sure making 'If I Was God' one of the songs to make a video for was a good idea though. While it is a both dark and memorable, the fact that it's effectively an acoustic ballad doesn't really represent who the band are to any new audience.
My favourite song on the album is probably closing track 'I Set My Controls To Overdrive' which mixes the dream like ethereal side of their sound on the verses with a mighty pounding rock chorus showing they have mastered all sides of rock noir but overall the songwriting is pretty strong here.
Verdict: This an interesting band in many ways and I can see why they've plumped for inventing a new genre for themselves as they don't fit into any obvious existing one. They have elements of rock, gothic, Metal, even a little folk here and there.
I am impressed by how they structure their sound and produce the album to achieve a dark noir vibe; these guys really know what they want to do.
I should warn that this is music that grows on you and benefits repeated listens. If I'd reviewed this album after just one listen it may have scored only two or three pints but it's really grown on me.
If you like your music dark and with interesting depth then Belladonna are worth checking out but I wonder in this day and age if enough people will have the time to give them a proper chance. I hope so.
Luana Caraffa - vox
Dani Macchi - gtr
Valentina De Iullis - piano
Taya Angelini - bass
Mattia Mari - drums