FEDERALE ISN’T SHY about their influences—it’s pretty obvious that the Portland band longs to make snow angels in the red dirt of legendary spaghetti western director Sergio Leone’s dusty realms.
The group’s latest, All the Colours of the Dark, is 11 expansive, operatic desert symphonies that attempt to shadow the movements of composer Ennio Morricone in his scoring of Leone classics. Even the album’s title acts as tribute to the genre, with its European spelling of “Colours.” Federale’s last release was 2012’s The Blood Flowed Like Wine, and their music was featured in Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian feminist vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in 2014.
While it’s unreasonable to expect too much originality from a band that’s so deeply rooted in the soil of an icon like Morricone, All the Colours of the Dark finds Federale vastly refined and refreshingly creative. Their instrumentals come the closest yet to capturing the living, breathing feeling of the Italian composer’s work. Standout track “Almería” punctuates swelling wildness with the signature thuds and grunts of Morricone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme, while the elastic, harmonized whistling on “Run, Man, Run” rivals that of his themes in other Leone films. On All the Colours of the Dark, Federale repurposes their favorite elements of the great composer’s scores, sometimes to stunning effect.
It’s Federale’s least instrumental release to date, with many tracks centered on vocals. This shift broadens the potential directions for the band, who have previously been limited by their status as a sort of cover band. But this also places new emphasis on lyrics, which—at least for right now—are not Federale’s strong suit. The album’s self-professed themes of murder, revenge, regret, power, and corruption are painfully cliché in their broadness. It’d be kitschy if Federale were just an homage-driven soundtrack band, but on All the Colours of the Dark it seems they’re striving for ingenuity, to become the most convincing wax figure of Morricone’s trademark sound while also forging their own trail with inventive melodies and original (albeit weak) lyrics.
Bonus track “The Alchemical Antihero” plays like a post-apocalyptic ode to Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name.” The first four and a half minutes hang suspended in eerie stillness before the voice of a detached automaton announces, “The alchemical antihero exists as himself, for himself, without attachment to conventional morality... He is the Man with No Name—that part of us with no identity other than itself, that which is not seen in the world, always in the distance, hidden somewhere behind.” It’s undeniably weird, but acts as a declaration of intent, a revealing coda that illustrates those “colours” of the dark—the qualities of those old spaghetti westerns that continue to captivate Federale.