S91 is a Christian progressive metal band from Tuscany, and with the release of “Along the Sacred Path” continue documenting the history of humanity through the lens of Christian theology, a study started on “Behold the Mankind” (2016).
“Constantine the Great” starts in such a moody way. The bass guitar riff makes you sway, and the time signature points to prog rock complexity. This complexity remains when vocal duties change hands – at first manly and gruff, and then melodic and feminine. Along the Sacred Path makes for a gripping journey.
Just when you think you have the genre pinned down, the blistering guitar riff that opens “Saint Patrick” makes me think of speed metal à la Cacophony (Marty Friedman & Jason Becker). I like how the voice also gets a hardcore treatment that fits this song particularly well. You’ll have to hold on tight, because S91 change rhythmic tac often. Here now is a beautiful soaring keyboard that carries female vocals singing, “Oh my Lord, thanks my Lord”.
“Pope Gregory I” is almost pastoral, as the band exchange heavy metal armory for lilting strings. S91 demonstrate how varying intensity in composition can truly punctuate songs. Though quiet, “Pope Gregory I” has that magic something that will keep you returning for another listen.
At this point, I wish I knew more about the founding fathers and the various valiant heroes of our collective faith. As a Protestant, Martin Luther stands out as a theologian who was prepared to challenge convention; salvation solely through belief in the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ on the cross. It is my contention that believers of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox faiths will likewise celebrate those saints, crusaders and thinkers familiar to them.
“Godfrey of Buillon” is one such crusader whom I don’t know, but from the lyrics it is clear that he championed the liberation of Jerusalem from occupation. What I love is how the battle is told in the music. It is a triumphant moment on “Along the Sacred Path”. Did you ever see the Joan of Arc movie, with Milla Jovovich in the starring role? That moment where she raises her face to the heavens springs to mind within the first few bars of the song. And such a tragic tale too, from heroine to heretic. The guitar solo towards the end of the song is emblematic of the technical mastery of this band.
The piano that opens “Martin Luther” is at once plaintive and hopeful. It’s like it represents Luther, who must have felt like a lone voice screaming into a raging storm. The instrumental interludes leaving enough room to think over the lyrics.
For me, “John Williams” is S91’s magnum opus. At just over eight minutes, you can truly experience the weaving of a compelling story. The keyboards and guitar work together beautifully here, underlining a strong melody, and driving the vocals ever forward – like a strong wind that bolsters the sails of an explorer’s ship.
I like the inclusion of church organ on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer”, the last song on the album. For a moment there, it was unblack in character. The protagonist struggles with his calling; whether he is called to be the pastor to God’s flock, or not. It makes me think of the gifts of the Spirit, and how each Christian has a special something with which they may illuminate the world. Oftentimes one wonders why God has placed you in this or that profession or company, and how to do His good work there. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”, to lay down everything and follow Him. And as the lyrics continue, “This is the end for me, the beginning of life.” It is our calling to celebrate the joy of the Gospel each day, and despite hardship to realise that in Him, we are more than conquerors.
“Along the Sacred Path” scores 8/10.
Written by Karakul
1 – Constantine the Great (5:40)
2 – Saint Patrick (5:24)
3 – Pope Gregory I (3:38)
4 – Olaf II Haraldsson (5:02)
5 – Godfrey of Bouillon (5:02)
6 – Joan of Arc (4:42)
7 – Martin Luther (4:39)
8 – John Williams (8:18)
9 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (10:50)
Maria “Marì” Londino – lead vocals
Francesco “Frank” Londino – keyboards
Francesco “Franz” Romeggini – guitars, lead and backing vocals
Giacomo “Jack” Manfredi – bass
Giacomo “Giachi” Mezzetti – drums and percussion
“Sto Per Tornare” (EP, 2009)
“Volontà Legata” (full-length, 2011)
“Behold the Mankind” (full-length, 2016) [review]
“Along the Sacred Path” (full-length, 2019)
Record label: Rockshots Records
Release Date: March 22nd. 2019
Lyric video for ‘Constantine The Great ‘