Veritas is a Mediterranean military pop album by Lupi Gladius, released in February 2014 by the Italian Hau Ruck! SPQR as a digipack CD limited to 500 copies. The genesis of Veritas, technically Lupi Gladius’ debut proper, is something of an oddity. Lupi Gladius was formed in 2002 by Fabio Vitelli, Giampiero Di Barbaro, and Antonio Losenno, who recorded a few tracks for a demo called Lucania in 2003. However, instead of releasing the demo, the Lupi Gladius project was shelved. The trio then incorporated Sara Lux into the lineup, abandoned the neofolk genre, and embraced synthpop and new wave sounds, becoming the electro band that we know today as Hidden Place. Lupi Gladius was resurrected in 2013 when their Luciana demo was released (a full decade after it had been recorded) with additional remixes. A year later saw the release of Veritas as the band’s debut full-length release.
The difference between the two releases is staggering. Lucania, though competently made, sounds like a muddled mix of neofolk and martial music that was coming into vogue at the time, emulating the sounds of early Dernière Volonté, while outright borrowing cues from other bands (the howling wolves from Blood Axis’ Blót album make an appearance here, for example). In short, it was a demo release drawing tropes from other successful projects.
For Veritas, however, the benefits of a ten-year hiatus with another project of a completely different genre are easily witnessed. Instead of being a carbon-copy of other projects, the band has brought over higher production values and a more Romantic, catchy, and accessible sound. In other words, Lupi Gladius have put the “pop” into military pop and infused it with Mediterranean sentiments, creating a sound that stands out among other martial industrial bands, perhaps comparable only to the present sound of the aforementioned Dernière Volonté.
The eight tracks of Veritas play out with a variety of instruments: light martial drumming, sweeping acoustic guitars, accordions, synths, violins, and trombones. “Umano E Imperfetto” showcases Lupi Gladius at their best on this album, with a pulsing drum and fast acoustic guitar that carries the song, along with accented vocals to charm the lady listeners. “L’Elogio Dell’Alterità” is another excellent track; its drum, guitar, and accordion combination recalls the best of Dernière Volonté’s Devant le Miroir album, only with Italian vocals.
Sara Lux, while not acting as an official member of Lupi Gladius, does make two guest appearances on Veritas with the tracks “Gli Ultimi Bagliori” and “Nel Vento.” Her ethereal voice gives both tracks that familiar hint of magic that can be found on Hidden Place’s releases. Her vocals are reminiscent of the heavenly voices genre of music that was so popular in the ’90s, and juxtapose well with the martial drums of “Gli Ultimi Bagliori” as well as the neofolk approach of “Nel Vento.” It is a little disappointing though that both tracks, though composed with different sounds in mind, have Lux singing the same lyrics in the same fashion. It’s as if she recorded one set of vocals and they were mixed into two different songs.
The packaging for Veritas is spot on, as classy music needs a classy vessel. The photography of nude European statues in different poses is a visual cliché for the genre, and therefore is not really interesting or inspiring. However what is interesting is the creative use of text. The typeface, text embellishments, and layout mimic both Soviet Agitprop, and the silent film style of the 1910s and 1920s, making this visual component of the album stand out. The colour scheme sticks to browns and tans, giving the digipak release a nice conceptual continuity. The presence of lyrics in the booklet is also a huge boon, especially in a genre of music not known for providing lyrics, let alone titles, for their songs.
While Veritas is good, there are truly no bad songs on this album; what it is missing is at least one stand-out, memorable track that would be worthy of a single release and anchor the album. The two tracks with Sara Lux stand out just by virtue of having female vocals, but it is not enough of a calling card. At only eight tracks, clocking in at a shade under thirty-five minutes, this short album has plenty of room to have such a track. In fact, the album really needs more content, period. The sound is good, and the direction that the band is going in is good; they just simply need more of it.
Veritas is a solid and pleasant release, with its unique sound being attractive not just to fans of neofolk, but also synthpop and darkwave listeners as well. Its non-abrasive, more sentimental stance is a superior improvement over their Luciana debut, which interestingly enough, is currently enjoying a second printing with even more remixes. But with Veritas, Lupi Gladius creates a nice aural experience: martial music for coffee houses overlooking the sea.
01) Sulle Rive Del Basento
02) L’Elogio Dell’Alterità
03) Gli Ultimi Bagliori
04) La Nuova Adunanza
06) Umano E Imperfetto
07) Nel Vento
08) I Figli Del Tramonto