Karmamoi – Room 101 (Album Review)

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After delivering the critically acclaimed “The Day is Done” in 2018, the Italian prog rock trio Karmamoi is set to release its fifth album entitled “Room 101” on May 28th, 2021. Their latest record was gestated during the Covid-19 pandemic, which in its early stages devastated Italy and spread an overwhelming sentiment with quasi dystopian forecasts throughout the world. In the wake of tumultuous times, the album’s concept delves into intriguing topics, resulting in a fascinating and dark ride through the human mind and its weakness. A journey inspired by the central themes in the dystopic novel “1984” by George Orwell, that the band adopted to current times aiming to reflected how humanity is affected by present affairs. 

As a result, “Room 101” introduces the listener to an introspective and intense ride into our confronted psyche with typical situations in which we could find ourselves immersed, derived from daily struggles. The sensory process and the way we experience several problems are hardly linear, which Karmamoi adequately portrays through its changing and dynamic sound. At points, the music is calm and soothing; other times, it turns heavier or experimental but always keeps its immersive and cohesive atmosphere. 

The opening track “Memory Holes” shows the wide range over which Karmamoi manages to perform with ease. From ethereal and soft passages to emotive solos, there is room for the song to slowly grow as the instrumentation enriched by special guests dramatically reaches a vivid crescendo that leads to an electronica section. The following track, “Drop by Drop” presents a hypnotic trance where initially, the musicianship is kept at a minimum, helping to create a contemplative atmosphere that invites introspection. As the instruments continue to add up, a nostalgic and moving mood is suddenly created, resonating within the listener with its sad beauty. The ever-present keys provide an abysmal depth to the track, while at the same time, the closing guitar solo by Alex Massari, that with its David Gilmour vibes, manages to portray a handful of emotions that moves the listener. 

By representing the album’s concept, some tracks acquire a gloomy and aching atmosphere, full of melancholy and overwhelming sensations, as in the case of “Dark City” that with its driven acoustic guitar motif serves as the basis for the synth to unfold, generating somber vibes that reach its peak through a dark incomprehensible voice.

“Room 101” Album Artwork

Because each song’s duration in “Room 101” is extensive, it allows the band to approach each track dynamically. Every movement, rhythm change, or intensity variation is part of its organic evolution, upholding its bond and tightness. Derived from such approach, it is understandable why “Zealous Man”, being the longest track on the record, initiates with a gentle yet doleful piano and ends in a cathartic and liberating manner, denouncing that the Zealous Man is not who you think he is. In between, the musicianship gets somber and subtle, only to accelerate the pace and greet the listener with brilliant solos and immersive sonic passages. 

Although Karmamoi kept a balance between the subdued aspects and the melodic and cathartic instrumental deployment, for the most part, the last songs contain the heaviest levels that the band delivers. The title track “Room 101” and “The New World” continues to develop the elements already mentioned but managing to achieve a more aggressive and visceral sound with the aim of the stellar beats provided by the rhythm section, as the synth and guitar work turns heavier and defying, while the poignant and dark concept behind the album reaches its end.

For recording purposes of “Room 101”, Karmamoi had the support of a series of different guests, among which singer Sara Rinaldi and keyboardist institution Adam Holzman stand out. Nonetheless, all of them contribute and enrich the immersive experience that “Room 101” encompasses. Certainly, Karmamoi brings some of their main influences to the table, being some of the clearest ones, the likes of Pink FloydAnathema, and Steven Wilson. Several of their distinctive elements can be traced within the Italian trio’s music. Still, they manage to inject their seal, resulting in a superb sound that subtly envelops the listener, who gets inducted into a hypnotic trance that will provoke him strong emotions that, with its oppressive atmosphere, ranges from melancholy, sadness, and liberation. 

Released by: Independent
Released Date: May 28th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Rock

 Musicians:

  • Daniele Giovannoni / Drums , Keyboards and Backing Vocals
  • Alex Massari / Guitars
  • Alessandro Cefalì /: Bass

Guest Musicians: 

  • Adam Holzman / Piano and Keyboard
  • Steve Unruh / Violin and Flute
  • Sara Rinaldi / Main Vocals
  • Emilio Merone /Piano and Keyboard
  • Valerio Sgargi / Tenor and Backing Vocals
  • Francesca Zanetta / Solina

“Room 101” track-listing:

  1. Memory Holes
  2. Drop by Drop
  3. Dark City
  4. Zealous Man
  5. Newspeak
  6. Room 101
  7. The New World

8.5 Great

With an intriguing concept based on George Orwell’s novel “1984” that leads towards reflection and introspection, Karmamoi delivers through “Room 101”, a compelling album vast in sensations provoked through its enveloping atmosphere, poignant and melancholic themes, and its dynamic music that adequately reflects the story’s development.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8
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