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Synth Album Review: Salvatore Mercatante, Il Lamento Della Strega (The Lament of the Witch) Part 1

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

Album art by Danielle Otrakji

Album art by Danielle Otrakji

If you ever want to set an ominous, creepy and dramatic mood for yourself with music, you can’t go wrong with Il Lamento della Strega by Salvatore Mercatante. Analogue synths have never sounded as menacing. This whole album is drenched in ‘80s horror film atmospherics and is the first in a trilogy telling the story of the Benandanti, Northeastern Italian witches of the 16th and 17th centuries, and their battle against a warlock of the Malandanti sorcerors. This is the first of three parts telling the story.

Each track is a part of that story and let me tell you, they produce an incredibly creepy and unsettling result when taken as a whole. I’m not sure I’d want to listen to this late at night, as it might well guarantee nightmares. Salvatore Mercatante has managed to set a heavy, oppressive and shadowy mood on Il Lamento della Strega and in so doing has definitely fulfilled the horror aspect of this album.

The first effective part of this mood-setting is the overall sound design. Everything is full of tension, there’s a lot of droning noises and overall sense of something heavy pressing down being generated by the bass that rumbles under all of the tracks. He also creates a crypt-like reverb that conjures up images of underground rites carried out in catacombs.

Salvatore Mercatante also sets the mood well with his choice of synth sounds. The way he deploys everything from synths that almost sounding like chanting voices to high bell-like or chiming tones to (my favourite) pipe organ is well-suited to the atmospheric nature of the album. Combined with the drones and the weight of bass, the effect was intense and deep.

When an album tells stories, it has to keep a consistent thread throughout to ground it and in the case of Il Lamento Della Strega it’s grounded by the bass and percussion. The bass always rumbles in a most satisfying way and the percussion is an integral element in setting up the pacing of each “capsule” of the story.

While it’s important to remember that this album is best taken as a whole, I still want to take the time to comment on the tracks that made a particularly strong impression on me.

The first track "L’altare Vuoto" (The Empty Altar) starts out with a solid pulse of bass that varies slightly as the hard-hitting drums kick in. The pulsating feeling grows as the first synths sweep in and the drums hammer out a pounding beat. The sense of doom radiating from this track is powerful. Bell-like synths play arps that rise and fall over that relentless bass pulse. The sound of the pan flute-like synth also was something that I enjoyed in this track.

"L’ultima Rituale" (The Final Ritual) is a track that delivers the image of something ritualistic through the throbbing drums and chanting synths that propel this track forward. Again it’s washed in darkness and has a sense of the dramatic about it. I was definitely able to picture cloaked figures calling to eldritch powers in this track.

The full weight of Il Lamento Della Strega really shines through on "L’urlo Stregone"(The Warlock's Scream). This is a track with a real sense of the sinister about it. The combination of rumbling bass, drums that never let up and the appearance of a pipe organ sound in the track exude menace. I want to single out that organ because of the ominous sound to it that contributes to the tension and sense of a powerful struggle conveyed by this track.

I could very easily imagine this album as the soundtrack to a horror film. Il Lamento Della Strega tells a dramatic, terrifying and tension-inducing tale through Salvatore Mercatante’s combination of synths, sound design and ability to evoke emotions through music. As a way to set a mood, I think this album worked very well.