With any project Clive Nolan and Eric Bouillette produce or are involved with, you’ll know it will be a masterpiece. Initially formed by Eric Bouillette, Clive Nolan, and Laura Piazzai, the band Imaginaerium doesn’t settle for less.

The group is now back with a new album called “The Rise of Medici”. Its story goes back to one of the most significant families of the 15th Century; the Medici’s of Florence, Italy. The Medici family are called the Godfathers of the Renaissance because they laid the groundwork for cultural prosperity in Florence. It’s one of the most powerful and influential groups in European history.

According to Clive, the album “features some of the major episodes in the life of Cosimo and Contessina De’ Medici. Their lives were far more intricate and complex than this album can possibly put across, so we simply offer a small part of their dramatic place in history.

Before going any further, let’s get to know the characters better:

⦁              Clive Nolan: composition, lyrics, keyboards, drums recordings, and vocals as Rinaldo Degli Albizzi

⦁              Eric Bouillette: composition, guitar, mandolin, violin, and keyboards

⦁              Laura Piazzai sings the vocals for Contessina de’ Medici

⦁              Andy Sears sings the lyrics for Cosimo de’ Medici

⦁              Elena Vladyuk sings the vocals for character Lucrezia de’ medici

⦁              Mark Spencer sings vocals for the Monks

⦁              Bernard Hert plays bass

⦁              Scott Higham plays drums

⦁              Isabella Cambini plays harp

“The Rise of Medici” begins with ‘Festina Lente.’ The first track starts with powerful background effects, including a loud bell chiming. Lucrezia de’ Medici (played by Elena Vladyuk) whispers at first, ending up singing as the monks accompany her in background support. It’s worth acknowledging that the very opening of the opera vocals is bewitching, carrying the backup story on an irresistible stream of music—the second track, ‘Duty of love,’ refers to the marriage of Contessina and Cosimo. Here Laura Piazzai brings a theatrical aspect to the album, envisioning a woman who examines the benefits and costs of joining the prestigious family of Medici. She sings about understanding her privileges and responsibilities. Piazzai’s musical style in this fascinating rock opera seems very accessible: depictive, passionate, sometimes moody, and emphatic. They did a great job with the vocal lines, as they are beautifully shaped and suited for singing.

‘House of Dreams’ sees Cosimo and Contessina singing together. This interpretation is quite different. There is something more poetic in the way Laura’s and Andy’s voices move and deliver a vital element of loyalty as they sing, “This is an oath of loyalty. This is a bond of faith. Together we shape our destiny. Together we shape our fate. Our family will reign supreme”. This song brings back memories of the early ages of Nightwish and Sonata Arctica.

‘Tide Will Change’ introduces Clive Nolan as Rinaldo degli Albizzi, the rival of Cosimo de’ Medici. The track shows the angry side of the album, as he promises, “If it’s the last thing I do. I will cut you to the heart. I will tear your world apart”. What’s great about this album is that the songs don’t fade into each other. Instead, you’ve got everything you could hope for from such an album: a musical number, noir tracks, and rock tracks.

In ‘Never Close Your Eyes,’ the arrangements are exciting and smart, the orchestrations are huge and beautiful, and the production is simply good. The song opens with a stunning choir signing. At first, Lucrezia de’ Medici, the story’s narrator, sings about how this noble house is more than just a family, but then warns everyone that “With success comes envy” and to “never close your eyes.”

‘Glass Throne’ has Eric Bouillette signing at the soft mandolin while Laura Piazzai plays the Contessina’s part, which celebrates the rise of the Medici. But as glorious and powerful as the family may be, Contessina feels that the throne is made of glass. The album continues with ‘Treachery’ and shows Rinaldo Degli Albizzi trying to put Cosimo in jail. He even uses lies to turn the city against the Medici family. As Cosimo pays the price, Contessina and the Medici family are trying the fight the charges against Cosimo.

We then have ‘Fall from Grace’ and ‘Will I Never Return.’ The first one opens with Eric’s excellent acoustic guitar performance, while Lucrezia tells the story of how Cosimo is about to lose his place in society. The inspired-march orchestration and regal horns on ‘Will I Never Return’ are simply majestic. You’re transported to the background settings to feel Cosimo’s rage and anger once he is removed from his lofty place. He even sings that he’s been “turned upon. Cast aside. Forced to leave. Vilified, banished from my home. Spurned and in disgrace. Isolated here. Where’s the dignity and honor in this place?”

We’re not about the explore the last three songs, ‘Fortunes Reverse,’ ‘Return of Medici,’ and ‘Legacy.’ On ‘Fortunes Reverse,’ there are plenty of powerful sentiments vowed, but overall there is a pervasive sense of tension. The table seems to have turned because Rinaldo’s strategy has failed, and he’ll face exile. Contessina sings, “You were wrong to turn against us. You were wrong to plot and scheme. You were wrong to think your friends would know what ‘loyal’ truly means”. Eric’s incredible solo guitar is the perfect companion to the journey.

‘Return of Medici’ has that churchy vibe, opening with the monks singing. There’s no doubt that Imaginaerium employs overblown orchestral and instrumental elements, and all the singers have a beautiful tendency towards dramatic operatics. The last song, ‘Legacy,’ follows Contessina singing, “Time goes by. Many things have changed. Many friends have passed away. Time goes by. And yet our name is strong. Stronger every fleeting day. There is so much to come. We’ve only just begun…”

“The Rise of Medici” accomplishes a lot, from epic storytelling to beautifully composed symphonic music and excellent vocals. Overall, the album is a hauntingly poetic contribution where beauty, sadness, and loyalty, waft through orchestral tunes and lovely guitar-driven melody. Strong material deserves the proper support, and Clive Nolan and Eric Bouillette get it here with Laura, Andy, Elena, Mark Spencer, Bernard, Scott, and Isabella.

Even when menace and tragedies abound, the Medici never loses the belief in fighting what they were destined for, and that may be the album’s underlying message, to go in truth and keep your faith. All the artists involved in Imaginaerium have put their art where their hearts are, and it has come out with a triumphant artistic statement.

You can pre-order “The Rise of Medici”, here.

Artwork: Steve Anderson
Painting Cover: Ouzo Kim

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