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(42:56, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Iron Curtain 5:07 2. Defilada 6:08 3. Camelele 4:51 4. Rozmowa z Mistrzem 5:14 5. Opwiesc 4:34 6. Blogoslawione Dni 5:00 7. Sunrise 3:02 8. Góry Tanczace 4:41 9. Dopóki Zyje Matka Jestes Dzieckiem 4:18 LINEUP: Jozef Skrzek – analog keyboards; bass; vocals Apostolis Anthimos – guitars; percussion Gabor Nemeth – drums
Prolusion. One of the oldest and most renowned Polish bands, SBB (originally Silesian Blues Band) first appeared on the progressive rock globe in distant 1971, and since most if not a majority of fans of the genre are well aware of its work, the outfit probably doesn’t need any special introduction. I would only add here that “Iron Curtain” (their latest release to date) is a studio album and that in addition to some of the group’s most recent outings, I – like many other prog lovers whose childhood and youth were passed ‘behind the iron curtain’ – also own some of their older releases, on LPs.
Analysis. It has been some 30 years away/some 30 miles ago :-) since SBB crafted the “Ze Slowem Biegne do Ciebie” album which – along with both its predecessors, “Nowy Horyzont” and “Pamiec” – still remains one of the heights of Polish Jazz and Progressive Rock in general. None of the band’s subsequent releases contain such complicated musical material as those three do, but nonetheless all of them are marked with a sign of genuine inspiration, to say the least. The band’s new outing, “Iron Curtain”, seems to be closer to 2006’s “New Century” than to their previous effort “The Rock”. Covering a number of styles, namely Rock, Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion, World Music and Blues, the album contains some solid progressive creations intermixed with simpler pieces of which, though, only the title track, properly used as an opening number, can easily be labeled as a radio friendly song. This is quite a catchy, vocal-heavy ballad, although Jozef Skrzek alternates real singing in his traditional manner with harsh, screaming, typically rock vocalizations. Half of the other eight tracks: the organ-driven instrumental Defilada (reminding me somewhat of a prog rock variation on Johann Sebastian Bach, this is my favorite tune here) and the songs Rozmowa z Mistrzem, Blogoslawione Dni and Dopóki Zyje Matka Jestes Dzieckiem (all three of which stand out for some impressive Moog-, guitar- and congas-laden moves), are remarkable creations, all being to a certain degree comparable with classic SBB. While both the remaining tracks with a lyrical content, Camelele and Góry Tanczace, have their merits (think above all vocal-free arrangements with jazzy piano and bluesy guitar leads at their fore in both cases), the instrumental ones, Sunrise and Opwiesc, despite containing some refined fusionesque guitar patterns, are both too groovy to challenge the ear. The last of these could have sounded way better, though: it’s Jozef’s – still harsh – vocalizations that make this track lean too close to the standard rock idiom and tend to mar what otherwise would’ve been a fairly decent piece. I like Pan Skrzek’s natural vocals, as well as the voice range he displays when really singing, but I can’t appreciate his screaming: it’s simply out of place here.
Conclusion. “Iron Curtain” is yet another good release by SBB. There is about half an hour of tasty music over the 42 minutes of the disc’s total length. I mentally take my hat off to these veterans who are still so young in spirit while their history counts almost four decades. Furthermore, with four live and three studio albums released during the last three years, SBB appears to be the most fruitful progressive rock band to date. Bravo!
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