[Artalia/Edizioni Musicali 22R, 2017]
Intro: Lila Gatzioura
Translation: Niki Nikolakaki, Thanos Patsos
08 / 05 / 2017
Barock Project come from Italy and were initially introduced with their debut Misteriose Voci (Musea Records) in 2007, followed by Rebus (Mellow Records, 2009), Coffee In Neukolln (Musea Records, 2012), Skyline (2015 – after their collaboration with Stars of Italy to get this year to Detachment. The main character of the band is Luca Zabbini, who contributes a lot (piano, guitar, vocals) and is framed by Francesco Caliendo in the bass, Eric Ombelli in the percussion and drums and Marco Mazzuoccolo in the electric guitar. Zabbini is an admirer of the progressive rock scene of the 70s, and especially of ELP and the remarkable recently deceased Keith Emerson (our feature article here). Are Barock Project at the end of their ten-year course at their peak? Probably yes.
Balance of old and new
As the band’s name reveals, Barock Project’s music is a mix of barock elements, classical music, rock aesthetics, jazz fills, traditional harmonies, and heavy doses of progressive rock. A small piece with sound effects and piano opens the album.
After the introductory Driving Rain, comes Promises that starts with pop aesthetics and neo-prog elements and unfolds in Porcupine Tree style, while Happy to See You that follows has influences from classical music. One Day which follows is a ballad with a wonderful introduction with acoustic guitars, where folk elements are added with the flute standing out. One of the most interesting compositions of the album is Secret Therapy. Its distinctive folk orchestration reminded me of The Incredible String Band, while the modern vocals and the flamenco turns of the guitar make the piece deviate from the expected course. Broken is next in the series, which features Pete Jones phenomenon (aka Tiger Moth Tales), who has had countless collaborations with huge names of the genre, and is a highly talented multi-organist despite losing his sight when he was just 15 months old. Synthetically the track did not excite me, but Peter’s voice is incredible. The next piece, Old Ghosts, has dynamics that comes mainly from its flamenco outfit, while Alone that follows appeases the tone, and Peter Jones is moving with his interpretation. Rescue Me puts the listener in a thrilling climate with its dancing pace. The drum combination with the electric guitar solo is excellent. A symphonic ballad that follows, Twenty Years, is good but sappy. Fortunately, however, as the piece develops, it gets tense and rock dynamics that saves the day. Waiting which is next has an electro-pop frame and fantastic melodies. The keys can travel the listener, the changes are effortless and the symphonic element is dynamically integrated without altering the overall result. Here is one of the best compositions of the album, A New Tomorrow. The influence by Jethro Tull is more than obvious both with the musical and the vocal parts of the track, while the second part of it could easily be an adaptation of Atomic Rooster. Again, the addition of modern elements turns this song into a modern sound. The album closes with the amazing Spies, which is incredibly inspired by a gorgeous mix of melodic lines. Whatever doubts I had disappeared by hearing this last piece. I found intelligent the jazz theatrics in the middle of the track, while the landing on the basic melody with symphonics is a thrill. An ideal closure of a very good work, both in composition and song.
Fortunately, the production of this album does not bury the talents of the group members, but instead highlights the harmonic link between them. The duration of the album could have been limited, but the compositions alone are not commercially prohibitive. On the contrary. The executive level of the band’s members combined with their young age makes the result even more remarkable! A closely-knit band that we hope will continue to offer such high-quality work in the future.
8 / 10
Eloquently mixing neo-symphonic prog and pop/crossover prog, Barock Project deliver yet again another album full of optimism and skill. With influences ranging from Proto-Kaw and Kansas, to Jethro Tull, New Trolls, Spock’s Beard and the likes of Frost* (in their pop moments), the result is fresh, melodic and dynamic, a worthy representative of today’s progressive rock.
Shadow Gallery-infused pianos, oriental passages akin to fellow Italians Profusion, bombastic and inspired keyboards straight out of 70’s Rock Progressivo Italiano, these guys are indeed prog “Stars of Italy” (their promoters there doing an excellent job). A very accessible and pristine sound, at times approaching the dangerous levels of mellow but counterbalanced by the excellent musicianship and enough complexity to keep it afloat, Detachment, although emotionally burdened, unleashes an enchanting aura of optimism. Probably among 2017’s top-10.
Top moments: Happy to See You, One Day (reminds me of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page vocal lines), Twenty Years
8.5 / 10