PFM – THE WORLD BECAME THE WORLD: Grandeur Meets Gloom In The Garden Of Prog

Premiata Forneria Marconi made their mark on the international prog landscape with Photos Of Ghosts, attracting a sizeable amount of attention in English-speaking countries and thus opening the door for other Italo-prog outfits like Le Orme and Banco.  All of this begged the question: what would these gentlemen do for an encore?

The answer arrived the next year with The World Became The World.  The group’s mixture of chops, musical complexity and grand soundscapes remained in place but the mood had changed in a noticeable way.  This change announced itself at the beginning of the first cut:  in contrast to the gentle, folk-styled opening of Photos Of Ghosts, the new album’s opening cut “The Mountain” begins with a gothic-sounding choir singing in an ominous, wordless style before erupting into a heavy, tumultuous rock passage anchored by throat-shredding, angry lead vocal.  The midsection of this nearly ten-minute epic retreats to lusher, gentler musical territory that shows off the group’s ability to play as tightly as a chamber orchestra but it ultimately returns to the choir and hard-rock elements that bring its turbulent mood full-circle.

The remainder of The World Became The World continues in a similar fashion, offsetting the group’s typically lavish, multi-style prog approach with flashes of dark moodiness.  Pete Sinfield’s English-language lyrics play a big role in evoking this mood.  For instance, the gentle, folkish melody of “Just Look Away” might bring to mind memories of the short-format songs on early Genesis albums but the lyric’s musings about human disconnection draw out its sadness and the jaunty musical acrobatics of “Four Holes In The Ground” are offset by the reflection on mortality offered in its words.  Elsewhere, the pastoral title track offers a mixture of grandeur and gloom in both lyrics and music, evoking memories of Greg Lake-era King Crimson (the surging mellotron at chorus time really aids this impression).

However, the album’s moody quality never detracts from its musical appeal.  Indeed, The World Became The World is a lively, dynamic affair that finds PFM putting their skill for instrumental pyrotechnics to the test.  “The Mountain” skillfully navigates through an album’s worth of tempos and atmospheric stylings in ten minutes and “Is My Face On Straight?”  offers enough melodic hooks for three or four different songs as it shifts its structure in complex but appealing ways.  That said, the album’s true highlight is “Four Holes In The Ground,” a dazzlingly-arranged powerhouse that constantly reworks and refashions a few simple themes in a way that makes its six-minute running time feel as symphonic as a side-length suite.

In short, The World Became The World capitalizes on the strengths of its predecessor without repeating them.  It’s a solid choice for fans of vintage prog, especially in the new remaster that was recently released by Esoteric Recordings.  It offers informative liner notes and crisp remastering.  Best of all, it also features a trio of bonus tracks: the non-album b-side “La Carozza Di Hans,” an unreleased single edit of “Four Holes In The Ground” and an unreleased 1975 single edit of “Celebration.”  The latter track is particularly interesting because it is substantially remixed, even adding a track of handclaps in a few spots.  The care utilized in all aspects of the Esoteric disc make it a great way to get acquainted with this classic.

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