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Barock Project


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5 stars Happy to see Barock Project have progressed but still managed to stay true to their unique style. The new album sounds more modern, more diverse, more varied, and even at times heavier than the previous outputs. It's a flawless musical delivery in composition, execution and production. The album works when paying undivided attention to its many details, but it also works quite well in the background (I was cooking dinner when I gave it the first spin) providing a very pleasant and uplifting soundtrack.

For those amongst you who are not yet familiar with this Band, I struggle like on their preceding albums to draw comparisons to other bands. Barock Project somehow have defined their own genre of very melodic and uplifting 'symphonic-neo-barock-retro-folk-crossover Prog' ;-) Again like on the last album 'Skyline', Jethro Tull here and there springs to mind, but only momentarily. If I have to come up with another comparison, I am sometimes reminded of Big Big Train but with much more oomph, dynamic and variation.

So how do I rate this album? I personally don't hesitate to give big fat 5 stars as I haven't found a boring minute on this album plus the fact that the band progressed further but still sounds pleasurably familiar. Because I am really a kind of a fanboy since their Coffee in Neuk'lln album I guess, I need to subtract half a star to make up for my potential subjectivity. That gives you 4.5 stars which rounds up to five stars! Get this album is all I can say!

Report this review (#1705557)
Posted Monday, March 27, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars Many years ago, long before the days of progressive rock being back in fashion and being discussed in the mainstream, I had been at a gig in London. Afterwards the normal band of hardcore progheads had gathered together, and there was only one topic that everyone wanted to talk about, "Had anyone else heard this amazing debut album that had been released in the States?". The album was 'The Light', and the band was of course Spock's Beard, and it amazed me firstly that everyone knew about it when it was yet to be made available properly in the UK but also that we all felt the same way. Fast forward to 2017 and I was in conversation with Artur at MLWZ in Poland asking him he thought of the new Cast album, and while he loved it he wanted to know what I thought of the new Barock Project release as it was amazing. The following week I asked Windhawk up in Norway the same question, and received the same response, which got me thinking that if two of my greatest progressive friends both thought the same thing I really ought to get onto it.

A short time later and I had this, their fifth release, playing and I immediately knew exactly what all the fuss is about: this is incredible. It is music like this that first got me into progressive rock ? it is complex, it is magical, it keeps jumping into unexpected musical places, all with a sense of joy and happiness. I'm not going to bother trying to pick out all the musical clues and keys to their influences as they are many and diverse, but they have put them together in a way that is new and different, yet also incredibly melodic and the whole album is immediately accessible the very first time it is played.

The four-piece band of Luca Zabbini (lead vocals, keyboards, guitars (electric, acoustic & 12-string), mixing & mastering), Marco Mazzuoccolo (electric guitar), Francesco Caliendo (bass) and Eric Ombelli (drums, percussion) have been joined by three additional singers in Alex Mari, Ludovica Zanasi and Peter Jones and the vocals are wonderful, but it is the diversity of the music and how it is performed that keeps the listener glued to the speakers. I can't pick a favourite song, as whatever is playing is always the one I want to listen to most, whether it is with vocals and just a simple piano, or harpsichord, or something that is way more bombastic and over the top. These guys are masters of all the styles, and I am having a hard time understanding that they have been around for years yet it is the first time I have ever come across them.

That is something I am going to have to get on top of it, as if the rest of their output is even half as good as this then they are all essential. There have already been some incredible albums released this year, and this one may just be the best of the lot. This is indispensable. When it comes to progressive rock, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Report this review (#1713015)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sometimes I'm shocked by how much my taste can clash with the majority on this site -- which is usually my best tool for discovering music.

This is my first and perhaps last Barock Project album. Frankly, the songwriting is dull.

I love classical music (chiefly baroque/romantic), but here, aside from the piano which is at times good, the classical instrumentation adds little. When classical music is bad it's soporific; this album brings out the worst in those influences. It's like someone imitated Bach without understanding music theory, and tried to make up for it with weird rhythms, time signatures, the occasional abrupt key change, and out-of-place guitar solos. Several of the songs have nice instrumental outros, though.

What a strange complaint to voice on this site, but it feels too... proggy? Like, focused on complexity for its own sake instead of on compelling melodies and engaging harmonic progressions. Compare to IQ at their worst.

The musicians are skilled enough to keep me from giving just 1 star (vocals at times evoking Steven Wilson). The production is good. I liked bits of every song. But it was a struggle to make it to the end. The composition just doesn't do it for me. The musical narrative is missing, the suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat when each new phrase begins.

If you manage to get there, the second half is better than the first. Appropriately, "Alone" is simply vocals with minimal accompaniment. "Rescue Me" is the catchiest track. Finally, the first part of "Twenty Years" delivers beautiful melody over beautiful guitar harmony, soured only partially by the maudlin string accompaniment.

At least the record is unoffensive and easy to listen to. Plenty of major harmony and nothing too dark or aggressive. Recommended if you're having trouble sleeping.

Report this review (#1718349)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review #57. Barock Project is an Italian quartet that has been active for almost a decade, during which, they released five studio albums. What they are trying to do is, to play modern Progressive Rock with elements of Barock music, which sounds like a good idea. All their albums seem to be equally good, with just a few ups and downs. I learned about them with their previous work 'Skyline', and I must say that I was pleased with it. Detachment follows the path of Skyline, but it is slightly better in my opinion. The production is very good once more, and the songwriting is very 'mature'. It includes 13 tracks and has a total running time of 75 minutes. Here, you can find very beautiful and soft melodies mixed with some complex compositions and an overall excellent musicianship. All the members of the band are very good musicians, and that is obvious throughout the album. As for the leading instruments, I would say that both guitar and piano are equally important here. Also, the vocals are in English, which is positive. A very pleasant surprise was the addition of Peter Jones as guest singer, who is participating in 2 songs; both of them beautiful ones. I didn't have the time to 'digest' the album yet, but based upon the first 3 listenings, I must say that it is a very good and well-made album, that definitely deserves attention. I believe each person who is fond of Progressive Rock, modern or not, will find some songs that he/she will like. As for me, the first songs I noticed immediately, are: Broken, Happy to See You and Rescue Me, followed by Alone.

I will give 3.0 out of 5.0 stars, but maybe it deserves a little more than that.

Report this review (#1725559)
Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Without a doubt one of the highest profile prog-rock bands hailing from Italy of the modern era, Barock Project can be equally frustrating as they are superb! Press releases in the past have made wild boasts about the band being the `symphonic heirs to New Trolls, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso', and yet with the exception of some of the fancier orchestral elements and an accent detected in the English vocals, there's very little to associate Barock Project with much of the pure Italian progressive music over the decades.

But hang-ups (and typical press-release excitement!) aside, there's no denying that what Barock Project do, they do damn well, and they've delivered their strongest and most varied disc to date with `Detachment', their fifth full-length set since forming in 2004. The band fuse a wide range of rock, pop and even heavier styles to ambitious orchestral arrangements (actually worked into the music, not merely an orchestra slapped on top, mind you!), all coated in an overly polished production to appeal to as wide a worldwide prog audience as possible.

After a teasing little piano and ambient introduction, proper opener `Promises' is a punchy vocal rocker in the Enchant, Spock's Beard/Neal Morse and even Dream Theater manner, right down to charmingly accented vocalist Luca Zabbini's soaring radio-friendly chorus with slick harmonies - and great frantic drumming from Eric Ombelli on this one too! Some light touches of electronic programming flitting around gorgeous pristine piano would make Radiohead envious throughout `Happy to See You', quickly revealing to be a soft romantic rocker where lush orchestration weaves in and out of Luca's busy keyboard soloing and Marco Mazzuoccolo's slow-burn electric guitar soloing runs. Along with expertly delivered drama and tasty bombastic bursts, much of the vocal melody takes on a memorable `sing-along' quality after only a few listens! There's ravishing Gentle Giant-like chamber prog touches to the sparkling acoustic guitars, dancing flute and groaning group vocals throughout `One Day' which eventually turns into a defiant up-tempo rocker, and breathless Eastern flavours permeate `Secret Therapy' as well as a very spirited chorus.

The nine-minute multi-sectioned suite `Broken' is the longest and most ambitious portion of the disc, a dazzling and sophisticated Big Big Train-like symphonic pantomime utilising English multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Peter Jones as well as female singers. The darker and reflective `Old Ghosts' crams an insane amount of ideas, tempos and moods into a mere four minutes (a great track, but worth it alone for Luca's electric piano touches), Peter Jones takes the lead again on the heartbreaking and melancholic ballad `Alone' that could have been an Eric Woolfson standout on an Alan Parsons Project album, `Rescue Me' is a bold, cool and jangling indie-pop rocker full of momentum, and the wistful and reflective `Twenty Years' is initially elegant with plenty of delicate acoustic passages, soft sweeping orchestration and a sparse heartfelt vocal before crashing into boisterous bluster - phew, got all that?!

`Waiting' is a darker-tinged electronic rocker more along the lines of Porcupine Tree where Francesco Caliendo's thick bass slithers with eerie purpose (and Luca's recurring piano refrain is delightful). `A New Tomorrow' opens as another sweetly romantic piece with dreamy guitar bends and warmly embracing group harmonies that suddenly takes off with energetic up-tempo Kansas-like Hammond bursts and a swooning orchestral finale (the piece will likely become an anthem for the group when performed live!). `Spies' is then a sleek indie pop-rocker with heavier flavours, but it might have been better placed somewhere in the middle of the disk, where the previous track would have served as a stronger and more striking closer, although the devilish jazz-fusion middle instrumental stretch is especially superb!

Yes, the album is absurdly long at over seventy-five minutes (bands, just because you can fill a compact disc to eighty minutes doesn't always mean you have to!), but it's hard not to be won over by the impeccable and varied instrumental arrangements, killer choruses and quickly revealing strong tunes. The album is also constantly optimistic and loved-up, and it refuses to merely be a retro throwback by fusing vintage elements into a firmly modern style. Barock Project have absolutely delivered another crowd-pleasing collection of music here that will not only be adored by their large fanbase, but probably - and absolutely deservedly - bring in a whole new bunch of listeners.

Great stuff all round - four stars.

Report this review (#1776687)
Posted Wednesday, August 30, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars 94/100 When I heard Barock Project's Luca Zabbini keyboardist/Composer replaced lead vocalist Luca Pancaldi, who quit the band for family reasons...I abandoned my plan to preorder Detachment. Pancaldi's vocals was one of the reasons I fell in love with Barock Project's album Skyline. How could they replace Pancaldi's pretty tonsils with a backup singer? Could Barock Project pull off a Genesis?

But after hearing Detachment on a prog stream service, I fell head over heels and immediately ordered Barock Project's new album. Now, I listen to Detachment more than Skyline! And, I like Skyline a lot.

Skyline and Detachment are strikingly different albums with all the right things in common such as searing guitar solos provided by Marco Mazzuoccolo's emotion drenched guitar picking and chamber strumming, slightly reminiscent of Marillion's Steve Rothery.

Special kudos to Eric Ombelli / drums, percussion. Ombelli reminds me of a less bombastic John Bonham. Eric Ombelli's percussion and drumming is fun, unique, and offbeat accented with memorable drum fills I find myself waiting in anticipation for.

In the last two years, Luca Zabbini has become my favorite modern keyboardist. Why? Zabbini's Bach flavored compositions are complex yet extremely melodic, hook filled ear candy. If you swooned over the sweeping melodic originality of Bach, Rick Wakeman, and Keith Emerson's keyboard styles you must give Barock Project a listen. Don't worry, Zabbini isn't derivative. Zabbini writes catchy proggy melodies that you can hum and bang your head to. And to my surprise, there isn't a drop off from Pancaldi's vocals to Zabbini's. As an added bonus Pete Jones of Tiger Moth Tails sings lead on two wonderful tunes. One upbeat song and one heartbreaking dirge. In my mind Barock Project/Zabbini's strength is composition. Like Steven Wilson and Big Big Train, Luca Zabbini writes gorgeous songs! Songs you can sing to. Shiver up your backbone songs. It's hard to write complex yet catchy prog.

Ironically, I can share Detachment with my wife as it's her favorite album since IQ's Road of Bones. I'm crossing my fingers Barock Project rereleases their back catalog as they continue to forge forward creating consistently resplendent music. I won't hesitate to jump on the next preorder.

Report this review (#1802619)
Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When compared to so many of the modern Neo Prog releases of this decade, this is an extraordinarily well engineered and produced album. The acoustic guitar sounds, bass, keys and vocals have clarity and separation and yet the mixing gives all instruments a blended feeling of "togetherness" which is so often absent from the over compressed, over neutralized tracks of other releases.

1. "Driving Rain" (1:03) piano-based opening could be an opening for an adult contemporary jazz song.

2. "Promises" (5:05) taking the same arpeggiated melody from the opening "introduction" and moving it to a synth bass and speeding it up, the band bursts into a very complex (all instruments working furiously to keep up with the others) symphonic beginning, the song settles into a STYX-like driving rhythm with way more complexity to it. This is truly an amazingly constructed and performed song! The cynical lyric is also quite interesting--what if it's really too late to recover from the damage we've inflicted?! (9.5/10)

3. "Happy to see you" (7:37) slowing the pace down a bit and using some computer-sequenced synth rhythms a la IQ gives the opening of this song a familiar feel to it. The Arabic themes put forth from the synth "violins" gives the instrumental parts of the song a bit of a OFRA HAZA or YOSSI SASSI sound and feel to it. Nice organ, nice hand percussion, nice acoustic guitar play in that dynamic fourth minute. Things then slow down into a PHIL COLLINS-feeling section (gone are the Arabic flavors). Excellent guitar work in that Mellotron-drenched sixth minute. Gorgeous! Then we return to the Middle Eastern themes and sounds for an up-shifted key for the final minute. Nicely constructed song. (9/10)

4. "One day" (7:23) opens with some flashy solo acoustic guitar soloing before strums at the 50 second mark set up a fabric for the joining in of 12-string, keys and singing. A bit ANTHONY PHILLIPS, a bit Eastern European. The amping up with electric guitars and medieval sounding instruments in support at the three minute mark cause me to back away and lose interest. Then, with the start of the fifth minute, we're off to the races (anybody else here the similarities here to the work of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE?). (8.5/10)

5. "Secret therapy" (5:37) way too poppy in a 1980s kind of way for my tastes. Nice, clear sound mix in the very middle. (7/10)

6. "Broken" (feat. Peter Jones) (9:10) bouncy, upbeat, almost-classical feeling piano-based start with Peter Jones' recognizable voice to lead us into a dynamic symphonic section that could have been taken straight from a MARTIN READ-era BIG BIG TRAIN song (an era of BBT that I LOVE--and like much more than this song/sound). (8.5/10)

7. "Old Ghosts" (4:07) opens with eerie reverse synths over which a MARCO GLUHMANN-like voice talk-sings in a low voice. At 0:45 the song shifts into a very Spanish-sounding Spanish guitar-based weave. For the first time, lead vocalist LUCA ZABBINI's English singing voice sounds accented. The song flounders a few times, losing my attention and interest (even through repeated listenings). I get the musical choices that fit with the title/subject, but... (8/10)

8. "Alone" (feat. Peter Jones) (3:14) piano-based story sang by PETER JONES (TIGER MOTH TALES, COLIN TENCH PROJECT) (8.5/10)

9. "Rescue Me" (4:55) muted-strummed electric guitar portends something far more aggressive. Meanwhile, somewhat muted, distant vocal opens the story. When FIXX-like rhythm guitar sets us up into a new section (for the chorus) we're given both CY CURNIN vocal melody and synth sounds. Interesting! Weak keyboard and guitar play in the third minute instrumental section. A disappointment. (7/10)

10. "Twenty years" 6:06 for the first two-and-a-half minutes this is stripped down, fast-picked acoustic guitar story told by Luca with some "strings" in support, but then a different course is chosen: a fast, breakneck paced full-band production with a Gary Richrath/REO Speedwagen-like guitar solo played over the top. Then synth-derived strings do the soloing before the song finishes with a cool section of vocally-harmonized acoustic guitar flourish. (9/10)

11. "Waiting" (5:43) accented voice sings in English over synth arpeggio. DEPECHE MODE/TEARS FOR FEARS programmed drum sound plays in second section. Piano in the third. Chorus section is more rocking but melodies or lyrics aren't very engaging for me. Love the sound of the organ & harpsichord solo at the end of the third minute before Russian piano and accordion duet take over. Nice drumming and synth solo in the next section. Then multiple-voiced choral section takes over--unfortunately, over a synth sound that feels/sounds so 90s. Interesting outro. (7.5/10)

12. "A New tomorrow" (7:39) drums, synth and piano open before very pleasant singing voice and chord and melody choice draws me into this one. Great up to the 1:10 mark when the chorus starts. The second verse uses some really awesome multiple-voiced vocal harmonics (not unlike a Simon and Garfunkle efffort). AT 2:20 things amp up quite a bit with electric guitar power chords and Farfisa-like organ providing an interesting contrast to the previous sections, but also diminishing the song's overall feel to more of the early 1970s URIAH HEEP-kind of sound. Great section of vocals in the fifth minute before everything breaks down to a nice section of piano and bass. Almost JOHN TOUT-like! Then back to the GRAND FUNK/early Wakeman hard rock section. (8/10)

13. "Spies" (7:23) opens with an inviting weave of guitars, bass, drums and nicely-effected PETER MURPHY-like voiced vocal. Very engaging if poppy and more simple in construction and performance demands than previous songs. A break of silence at 3:13 makes one look to see if the song is over, but then a spoken voice comes in over a kind of cabaret piano. Heavier section soon ensues with effected male voice (not Luca?) singing. Then everything drops away again leaving a soft weave of piano, synths, guitars, bass and percussives (both live and computerized). It's very nice. Keeping the title of this song in mind, one can come to grips with all the twists and changes in directions this song takes. The final minute is even, engaging, and sublime. Interesting! (8.5/10)

Mega kudos, Luca! The compositional quality here is often right in the top tier of prog song-making but often falls back into old used and often tired sounds, riffs, and styles. And you have quite a capable and talented group of musicians to draw from and challenge. Still room to grow, Barock Project!

Four stars; a very nice addition to the world of modern progressive rock music, one that I recommend to all prog lovers.

Report this review (#1842905)
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been listening to this album for months, I have heard it dozens and dozens of times. It has stuck into my bones and it's my favourite release of 2017. Funny since I don't like much the previous output by the band, mostly because I think previous lead vocalist Luca Pancaldi would work best in a prog metal band, that Barock Project is NOT! Luca Zabbini is the star here, besides playing keyboards like a maestro (and also some guitar) he has written most of the stuff and sings also most of it. His vocals are more earthy, but also the guests vocalists do a fantastic job working around his tasty lines. And the songs are ... well, fabulous. There's hints of Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull ... but all these influences are very focused into the songs. My favourites from the album are Broken, the album's epic - a true masterpiece - and Alone, a wonderful piano and vocal duet, sang by Peter Jones; what's funny is that I don't use to like "piano and voice only" songs !!! In short: I declare proudly this album as my number one for 2017. I only hope they would record again something as good as this.
Report this review (#1845930)
Posted Monday, December 25, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian band BAROCK PROJECT was formed back in 2003, and have been on a climbing trajectory ever since then, their name and reputation steadily surging upwards with their third album "Coffee In Neukolln" something of a breakthrough one for them. "Detachment" is their fifth studio production, and was released through Italian label Artalia in 2017.

Those who are fond of high quality, modern progressive rock will have taken note of Barock Project already I surmise. If by chance anyone haven't done so, this album showcase just why this is a band that merits and inspection in an excellent manner. If you like your progressive rock to be open, inviting and with a keen focus on melodies and harmonies, without loosing track of being sophisticated on a structural level, "Detachment" is an album with your name written on it.

Report this review (#1870627)
Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 | Review Permalink

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