A phrase like “lost Italian demonic religious rock opera” is certain to attract the attention of even the most jaded music writer. When categorized thusly, Stefano Marcucci’s Tempo Di Dimoni, Papi, Angiolie, Incensie E Cilici seems like a dream come true for aficionados of weird music.
Described as a “bizarre one-off theatrical project,” Tempo Di Dimoni was originally performed and recorded in 1975 at Pierre Umiliani’s Sound Workshop in Rome. Founded in 1968 in order for Umiliani to record soundtracks under a variety of pseudonyms, this recording studio was equipped with then-brand new synthesizers from the U.S., including the Moog, mellotron, and the EMS Synthi.
Marcucci mostly composed music for theatrical productions but was also the member of two different bands — The Ancients and Myosotis — in the mid-1960s. While his work with those groups bears the stamp of The Beatles’ influence, he also contributed to Paolo Ferrara’s 1977 album Profondità, a decidedly more prog-rock creation. Selections from all of these projects can be found with relative ease on YouTube, which makes the lack of information on the Tempo Di Dimoni release that much more maddening.
The album was initially released by Flower Records but the recent Finders Keepers reissue adds another layer of mystery as it only includes part of that original release. A scan of the back of the Flower Records album cover reveals that Side B was credited to “Ottetto Vocale Italiano,” and featured some Renasissance-era compositions as well as one credited to Marcucci and Luciano Bellini. While the Finders Keepers reissue contains both an instrumental and a vocal version of “Pange Lingua,” on the Flower release, that second version appears at the end of Side B.
Some of the difficulty in learning more about this release is certainly due to its niche appeal (not to mention that it was performed at a time when every activity was not documented on social media), but as it turns out, the album was also misfiled for many years. As the press release notes, it:
“…confusingly shar[ed] an identical catalog number to another collectable Flower release called Ritimico by (close friend) Paolo Ferrara (LEW 0551)… this album has slipped under the radar of many Library label completists over the years.”
What of contemporaneous critical discourse on the album? The press release notes that it has attracted “confusion, scepticism, [and] polarised opinion,” but offers no examples of this; one is forced to imagine what people may have thought of Tempo Di Dimoni in 1975. Since the Finders Keepers reissue rearranges the track order and is only 19 minutes in length, one can only extrapolate, but it’s certainly a compelling listen in the exceedingly post-modern 2017.
The lush synths of instrumental opener “Pange Lingua” would fit in nicely on a 1970s Giallo film score, while the bouncy “Alleluia” sounds like a bit like Godspell via the Carrie Nations.
The third track, “Inferno,” is weird and unsettling, like a lost Goblin track from Suspiria. This should not be too much of a surprise as Marcucci was loosely associated with the band; his former associate, Myosotis drummer Federico D’Andrea, left prog rock band Libra in 1976 (they went on to score Mario Bava’s Shock) and was replaced by Goblin’s Walter Martino.
“Coro Dei Penitenti” (“Chorus of Penitents”) includes harpsichord and tambourine along with some lively vocals from the aforementioned Ottetto Vocale Italiano. “Gli Occhi Di Tutti” (a variation on the idiom “For All The World To See”) begins with delicate acoustic guitar melody not far removed from The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” It’s a beautiful piece that boasts a lovely operatic female solo voice atop the chorus.
“Roma Nobilis” is a version of the Medieval Latin poem “O Roma Nobilis” that was discovered in the 19th century and even includes the same Latin lyrics. “Rendete Grazie” (“Give Thanks”) has the vibe of those Contemporary Christian masses that were held in the 1960s and 1970s to try and encourage youth to attend church; its gospel flavor also incorporates handclaps, synthesizers, and groovy bass. It may be a revamped version of the psalm-based song “Rendete grazie al Signore perché è buono” (“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good”).
Finally, there is the rather liturgical-sounding “Pange Lingua,” which opens with some stately organ music. “Pange Lingua” is better known as “Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium,” a Gregorian chant composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. My Italian is rusty, but the lyrics of the Marcucci/Bellini composition don’t sound like either the original Latin or the more modern Italian, which begs the question: what are the lyrics to this rendition of “Pange Lingua” (not to mention the other songs) and are they, in fact, demonic in nature?
Tempo Di Dimoni, Papi, Angiolie, Incensie E Cilici is remarkably enjoyable. Was Stefano Marcucci the 1975 version of Swedish band Ghost, trying to woo people with music that sounds Christian but is secretly Satanic? Perhaps some time spent studying Latin (or at least a consultation with an old priest and a young priest) is in order to fully grasp the ramifications of this truly occult musical oddity.
Tempo Di Dimoni, Papi, Angiolie, Incensie E Cilici was released on 27 March 2017 by Finders Keepers Records.
“Tempo Di Demoni, Papi, Angioli, Incensi E Cilici.” Finders Keepers Records. http://www.finderskeepersrecords.com/shop/stefano-marcucci-tempo-di-demoni-papi-angioli-incensi-e-cilici/. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“Sound Work Shop.” Umiliani.com: The Official Site. http://www.umiliani.eu/sound_work_shop.html. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“Tempo Di Demoni, Papi, Angioli, Incensi E Cilici.” Stefano Marcucci (2). Discogs.com. https://www.discogs.com/Stefano-Marcucci-2-Luciano-Bellini-Tempo-Di-Demoni-Papi-Angioli-Incensi-E-Cilici/release/6244800. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“Libra.” ProgArchives.com. http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=3499. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“O Roma Nobilis.” Encyclopedias almanacs transcripts and maps. Religion. Encyclopedia.com. http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/o-roma-nobilis. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“O Roma nobilis, orbis et domina.” The LiederNet Archive. http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=112389. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“Cristo nel salmo 117 (118): “Rendete grazie al Signore perché è buono.” Natidallospirito.com. August 18 2010. http://www.natidallospirito.com/2010/08/18/cristo-nel-salmo-117-118-rendete-grazie-al-signore-perche-e-buono/. Accessed 4 April 2017.
“Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium.” Preghiamo.org.
http://www.preghiamo.org/pange-lingua-tantum-ergo-canta-lingua.php. Accessed 4 April 2017.