ALBUM REVIEW: Bosco Sacro – Gem


Gem (Avantgarde Music) is the debut album from Italy’s Bosco Sacro, a band formed in 2020 by seasoned contributors to the Italian and European underground heavy music scene. 


And it is indeed a gem. 

The six songs here (totalling a 32-minute running time) all burn at a slow and drawn-out pace. The music is suffused with a meditative tranquility rooted in the band’s ambient and trip-hop influences, but there is also a waxing and waning undercurrent of doom-metal-inspired menace that lends gravity and urgency to the ever-changing dynamic flow.


Giulia Parin Zecchin’s voice recalls Emma Ruth Rundle and Tori Amos as it glides across the mountainous sonic textures. Her singing is somehow both intense and fragile, commanding and vulnerable, otherworldly and deeply human, as she effortlessly moves from a whisper to chant to folky melisma. Francesco Vara and Paolo Monti’s electric guitar work is beautifully restrained. They mostly use clear and chiming clean tones and work with minimalist repetitive melodies and chordal textures that slowly develop and blossom into colossal soundscapes enriched by vast washes of reverb and delay. 

Presumably one of the two guitarists is also responsible for the underlying distorted bass drones that act as an earthy ground from which the swirling atmospherics spiral and bloom. Luca Scotti’s hypnotic drum grooves are heavy without being overstated, lending a visceral power that underpins the solidity of the bass riffs so that the ambient textures are free to sweep out into the cosmos.


The songs here seem to place emotional pain next to transcendental peace, with a developing discourse and interaction between these two extremes forming the contours of the record’s shifts in mood. During the calmest and tender moments, there is always a layer of darkness and melancholy, and even the most powerful and dense sections are infused with an uplifting sense of serenity. In fact, Gem’s contrasting elements are so well integrated that the record defies simple classification. 


It is not straightforwardly “heavy”, but certainly displays the fingerprints of post-rock and doom metal. That said, there is a pop sensibility to the songwriting, and Zecchin’s vocal melodies, though often delivered in sombre tones, are as accessible as they are evocative. The expertly crafted production and mix places atmosphere and emotion at the forefront so that the arrangements breathe with the songs. The juxtaposition of disparate stylistic influences feels absolutely right, and the sea of shoegaze reverb never erodes the clarity or directness of the emotional messages.


There are times when the songs on Gem hint at the potential to be timeless genre-defying “classics”, the likes of which helped bands like Portishead to bring ambient and experimental music to a wider audience. But Bosco Sacro seem to steer away from the temptation of the earworm chorus, instead encouraging a little more work from the listener to appreciate each moment in the context of rich and sophisticated full album that, taken as a whole, feels like a spiritual journey.


It’s a journey that will feel somewhat familiar to fans of Slowdive, Sylvaine, Amenra, and Chelsea Wolfe, but Gem’s idiosyncratic and perfectly cohesive fusion of abundant beauty and primal power will be welcomed by anyone prepared to give a deep listen to immersive and emotionally resonant music. 


Rarely have darkness and light been woven together so seamlessly and successfully as this.


Buy the album here:


8 / 10