Sala Delle Colonne is the project and primary artistic vehicle of Italian Mehmet Frugis, who also releases music under his own name and the moniker Mekhate, the latter of which appears to have been dormant for nearly a decade. Sala Delle Colonne’s last album, XX.A.D, was a solid offering of dark martial music in the vein of projects like Arditi—big drums, ominous synths, orchestral flourishes, and the all too important atmosphere of tension and conflict. These recognizable elements were reinforced in the artwork and in track titles like ‘Militia’, ‘Legionario’, and ‘Imperialismo Pagano’ (which is itself a nod to the book of the same name by fellow countryman and infamous Traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola). Hidden amongst these songs were hints of something stylistically different from the pack of other artists saturating the martial scene, and now Il Destino della Orchestra Aurora shows Sala Delle Colonne developing these hints into a style of its own.
This transition between albums highlights an important disconnect; most martial industrial coming out today isn’t emulating what is played by actual military and marching bands, nor are these projects attempting to do so. Note the widespread practise of sampling an old march at the end of an album—I have never heard this done in a way that didn’t make obvious the stylistic differences; in fact, that is the whole point. With Il Destino…, Sala Delle Colonne has turned a corner away from modern martial music and stepped back in time. There are songs and sections of this album that sound like they could have been written hundreds of years ago (indeed, a piece of Baroque music is included that fits right in) and recorded in the ’50s. The strings and brass sound like they were sampled from a collection of old records—they have the distinctive timbre of some of my old orchestral and marching band albums. Either that, or Sala Delle Colonne has worked very hard to create this very effect.
Il Destino della Orchestra Aurora‘s theme is taken explicitly from Italy’s civil war from 1943-1945, when the Italian Socialist Republic was established as a German satellite state. Opposed to it were the remains of the Kingdom of Italy—Italian resistance and partisan forces—and their new Western allies. From the liner notes, helpfully printed in Italian and English:
‘Brothers against brothers, Italians against Italians. Italy into a civil war is divided between Fascists and “liberators”, but it is only chaos. As for Italy, even for the Orchestra Aurora splitting is fatal. Those who were close friends until then, fight on opposing lines. There will be on both sides gratuitous acts of unprecedented violence…’
I thought it reasonable, given the sound of XX.A.D and the album’s stated theme, that the songs on Il Destino… would convey tension, paranoia, struggle, and fear. This they occasionally do, but Sala Delle Colonne displays a much wider range of emotion. Gone are the grim Teutonic marches that I have come to expect from this style of music. On Il Destino…, each song has a certain tone, not duplicated by any other. This album reminds me keenly of a film soundtrack; the songs are sometimes quite short, and each is a study in one specific atmosphere and feeling. I would be genuinely shocked if Mr. Frugis did not have a distinct picture or story in mind for each piece during the writing process.
The album opens with ‘Al Tronco Sferzato dal Vento’ (‘The Windswept Trunk’), a somewhat chaotic, bouncing neoclassical track that might as well be heroic theme music from a ’70s fantasy adventure film. ‘La Commedia’ is where the record’s sound really diversifies, feeling like background music for serious exposition—in this case, spoken in Italian by Damiano Mercuri of Roman neofolk act Rose Rovine e Amanti. From here, the album moves scene-by-scene through a range of filmic moments: ‘Il Tempo di Mut’ is a tense rising action while ‘Un Impresa di Valore (Slow Version)’ could accompany an army marching through the quiet dawn to an uncertain fate, the sounds of horse & carriage audible in the background.
‘Funerale per la Regina Mary’ is the first few minutes of Henry Purcell‘s ‘Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary’, composed in 1695. Sala Delle Colonne‘s selection of this old standard fits perfectly into the album; a minimal piece with only horns and percussion, it sounds less regal without the choral sections and more like the funeral of an unknown soldier. Again, taking only a small piece of music here, Sala Delle Colonne turns it into a self-contained scene that fits within the overall story of the album.
One of the few songs that doesn’t sound like a trip back in time is ‘Anathema of Zos’, for which neofolk veteran Troy Southgate was invited to sternly recite an excerpt from Austin Osman Spare‘s short piece of the same name. This one feels almost ambient—instruments are restricted to a low, droning string section and the occasional distant percussion strike buried in reverb. Spare’s fierce declarations, recorded intensely by Southgate here, make this the rare song on Il Destino… with the atmosphere of danger present on XX.A.D.
Il Destino… took several listens to get used to. At first I was put off by having my expectations baffled, but given time the more nuanced compositions won me over. Continuing along the path implied by XX.A.D, Sala Delle Colonne has moved further in a new stylistic direction with this album—one with more variety and emotional range. I will be eagerly awaiting further releases from this project.
01) Al Tronco Sferzato dal Vento
02) Un Incontro Casuale al Cinema Aurora
04) La Commedia
05) Il Tempio di Mut
06) Un impresa di Valore (Slow Version)
07) Funerale per la Regina Mary
08) La Guerra Continua
09) Deus Vult
10) Anathema of Zos