Black Swan
Mystical Elysian Love


Not the Anthrax singer nor the adult film star, Belladonna is an Italian band that falls somewhere between hard and goth rock. But these terms are really too crude to describe this band. The former implies a certain simplicity, and the latter a certain aesthetic, neither of which apply here. Whatever it's called, I'm not normally into music like this; it's a testament to its quality that I quite enjoy it.

Evidently, almost 48,000 other people on MySpace do, too. The band currently boasts over 200,000 profile views, a staggering number for an unsigned band. By comparison, Helmet and The Haunted have fewer profile views. MySpace is the promotional tool de jour of bands, but I'm suspicious when one pushes that angle this hard. "The most popular Italian unsigned band on Myspace!" "Belladonna in the Top 100 Artists MySpace chart!" What do these things mean?

For one, it means they have someone who sits at the computer and sends out a lot of friend requests. But to get that many "friends" in the approximately 15 months the band has been on MySpace, it would have to average over 100 requests daily. That would be physically feasible, of course, but hugely time-consuming. Thus, I'd bet that a good number of these requests are not outgoing, but incoming, meaning that many people actually like this band.

All this talk of MySpace might seem ancillary to the music. But I'm trying to figure out why a band that's posting these kinds of numbers isn't signed yet. After all, on the Earache Records blog, Digby Pearson said that 100,000+ profile views get labels salivating.

My guess is that the band's sound isn't hip at the moment. This album has a rock vibe rooted in the '70s and '80s. The band lists Kate Bush, Led Zeppelin, Ziggy Stardust, and Blue Oyster Cult as influences; these don't necessarily reflect in the sound, but they do in the band's sympathies. There's a passion and romantic quality here that's almost unheard of today. Key to this is Luana's strong, expressive, and soulful voice. The goth aura here isn't shiny and Hot Topic-esque like Lacuna Coil; it's more like PJ Harvey or Nick Cave.

Lyrically, the band straddles a line between pop and darker matters. Take "Black Swan," for example. It begins,

Prayer for a fallen hero
Angel with a broken wing
Am I going down?

The first chorus is

Black Swan ? A new moon is on the rise
Black Swan - I?m alive
Beyond the speed of life
Free will is on my side
Black Swan ? I ride - Back home

Typical gothspeak, right? But see the second chorus:

Black Swan ? Wings of destiny open wide
Black Swan - I?m alive
Astray from Paradise
Hell-bent on homicide
Black Swan ? I ride ? Back home

It would seem this song describes Lucifer with beautiful, sympathetic imagery. And that's interesting for a band that could conceivably hit the pop charts someday. I hope that if/when this band gets signed, that its label doesn't sand off its edges. I could see a label trying to turn this band into the next overproduced Lacuna Coil. That would be a shame. Here's a band with a very analog sound - guitars, piano, drums, and that voice - writing impeccable songs that generate their own atmosphere. End to end, this album is a classy, intriguing listen. You can get it directly from the band.