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(73.42, Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Corsa Elettronica 6.06 2. Don Giovanni 7.11 3. Save Your Soul 6.14 4. Akery 10.31 5. Polvere Di Stelle 6.38 6. Duellum 8.35 7. My Enemy 4.16 8. Veleno 8.52 9. Orione 4.00 10. Nostradamus 11.19 LINEUP: Luca Pancaldi – lead & backing vocals Luca Zabbini – keyboards; guitars; backing vocals Max Scarcia – guitars Giambattista Giorgi – bass Giacomo Calabria – drums With: Onelio Zabbini – flute (4)
Prolusion. “Rebus” is the second full-length album by BAROCK PROJECT, a quintet hailing from Bologna, Italy. Initially a solo project by keyboardist Luca Zabbini, they became a full-fledged band around 2004, releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2005. Their debut album, “Misteriosevoci”, was recorded by the band as a quartet, and released in 2007. Guitarist Max Scarcia joined the band in 2008 for the recording of “Rebus”, which started in 2007 and was completed in 2008.
Analysis. Barock Project offer yet further proof of how, over forty years after the explosion of the original movement, the Italian progressive rock scene is still alive and well – keeping a foot firmly planted in its glorious past, and the other in the present. Unabashedly eclectic, flaunting their influences without any qualms, yet showing enough of an individual approach to appeal to those who are constantly seeking for original ideas, they are definitely one of the new Italian bands to watch. “Rebus” immediately strikes the listener as an album brimming with energy and enthusiasm, conveyed by Luca Pancaldi’s commanding vocal performance and Luca Zabbini’s ebullient keyboard work. As the band name suggests, classical music is one of their main sources of inspiration, though revisited in a thoroughly modern manner, without the excesses that sometimes mar the output of higher-profile prog bands. Barock Project’s sound is also distinctly rooted in the Italian rock tradition, and not only on account of the mostly Italian lyrics. As a matter of fact, those few tracks that have English lyrics come across as somewhat less inspired, as is very often the case with Italian bands. Luca Pancaldi follows in the wake of the great Italian singers of the Seventies, his vocals expressive and melodic at the same time, suited to the more aggressive tracks as well as the laid-back ones. Though comparisons have been made between Barock Project and ELP, I believe this is somewhat restrictive. In fact, while Keith Emerson’s flamboyant style is definitely one of the inspirations for Luca Zabbini’s playing, other influences can be detected, some of them outside the prog ‘mainstream’. Barock Project’s approach on this album reminded me of Odessa, another Italian band whose latest release recently impressed me. Like Odessa, Barock Project’s sound hinges on vocals and keyboards, and both bands share a strong Deep Purple influence, with Luca Pancaldi’s vocal style more in the Gillan than in the Lake vein. On the other hand, shades of PFM can be clearly heard in the album’s epic, the 10-minute Akery, blending with Hackett-era Genesis reminiscences in the guitar work, and the inevitable harder-edged tones in the second half. More Italian flavour, though of a more contemporary bent, comes through in the dynamic opening song Corsa Elettronica, as well as the funky, Latin-tinged Polvere Di Stelle. The powerful Duellum is instead a keyboard lover’s delight, sounding like a meeting of minds between Keith Emerson and Jon Lord, with synth and organ (both of the Hammond and the church variety) let loose, and impassioned vocals. The flute inserts in Save Your Soul bring Jethro Tull to mind, though Deep Purple remain the main frame of reference, especially in the pyrotechnic ending; while Don Giovanni may be the most distinctive song on offer – a catchy, energetic Queen-meets-Mozart workout, with some vocal harmonies right out of Bohemian Rhapsody. The album closes with the prog-metal tinge of Nostradamus, which is much shorter than the 11 minutes advertised on the album cover – though, after some three minutes of silence, a surprise track begins, a ballad with English vocals and lots of classically-flavoured keyboards. From the above analysis, it might be easy to conclude that “Rebus” is a pleasant but ultimately derivative effort. This would, however, be very unfair to the band, who admittedly still have quite a wide margin for growth, but show enough personality to be considered more than yet another of the many really derivative acts around. They are obviously an ambitious lot - as clearly evidenced by the running time of the album, which, at almost 74 minutes, is definitely a tad overlong. However, for their next releases they will hopefully learn to streamline their material, and trim down any filler.
Conclusion. Those who like their prog to be eclectic and accessible at the same time will definitely find “Rebus” an enjoyable, rewarding listen. Barock Project indeed possess a lot of potential, and effectively manage to combine their uniquely Italian feel for melody with classic rock and prog influences. Another interesting find from the ever-exciting Italian prog scene.
RB=Raffaella Berry: June 8, 2010
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