Barock Project - Time Voyager

Barock Project – Time Voyager

The long awaited new Barock Project, Time Voyager, has finally materialised from Italy, five years since their well-received Seven Seas release. Purveyors of high class, ornate melodic progressive rock, Barock Project, have delivered another intoxicating blend of musical influences, intricate ear worm melodies and thrilling rock passages.

Barock Project have shared that “Time Voyager is a journey through the folds of time; songs are like doors that swing open into unknown dimensions, traveling through the darkness of the past and the uncertainty of the future. In our album, time is not just a straight line, but an intricate labyrinth of endless possibilities.

That is an ambitious sounding concept for Barock Project which they successfully achieve with an elaborate set of varied songs, ranging over the different eras of the ‘Time Voyager’ with varied styles indicating the changes in era. Talking about the passage of Time, it has been a long time since their last album in 2019 (partly due to the inevitable pause for the pandemic), but in this beautifully crafted album you can hear the considerable time and thought put into imaginatively creating these songs. Barock Project’s main man Luca Zabbini has definitely not been idle in that period. He contributed to the P.F.M. album I Dreamed of Electric Sheep (based on Bladerunner) in 2020 and then joined the P.F.M. touring band on keyboards, rhythm guitar and backing vocals in 2022 so they certainly keep him busy. It is testament to Zabbini’s skill and quality that he has been welcomed into the fold of that legendary Italian progressive band.

A suitably baroque orchestral intro opens the overture-like Carry On, which explodes into an exuberant keyboard led rock passage with dashes of flute sounds. Marco Mazzuoccolo chimes in with an exhilarating electric guitar led mid-section as the band weave in different instruments with aplomb. After a brief orchestral interlude, the whole band return forcefully with a muscular guitar and keyboard section fizzing effervescently, before a softer coda with harmony vocals… but the same theme is picked up in the staccato rhythm and sparkle of Summer Set You Free. Eric Ombelli drives the beat on deftly with some cracking drums as the flute sounds and keyboards give this piece an Eastern feel. Both of these opening songs are a real show case for the talented vocals of Alex Mari, with a hint of Saga singer, Michael Sadler. Mazzuoccolo and Zabbini throw in some typically flamboyant guitar and keyboard passages as this piece rolls on. As an opening couplet of songs Carry On and Summer Set You Free really set the bar very high, and set the agenda for some captivating music. A serpentine synth line cues in the complex but concise An Ordinary Day’s Odyssey which sweeps along in the first half before giving away to a delicate piano interlude and some sensitive vocals from Alex Mari.

The time travelling nature of this album is displayed to dramatic effect on the superb maritime rock sea shanty of The Lost Ship Tavern. The opening sounds of a tavern along with the use of a violin evokes the sea shanty, swashbuckling atmosphere. A Jethro Tull like guitar break is great fun and the organ work is outstanding – simply one of the best songs on the album. Barock Project premiered this new song at their most recent U.K. gigs at Trading Boundaries in November 2023, and this exciting, evocative number had a few fans (including this reviewer’s wife!) on their feet dancing to this prog-folk jig. (Dancing at a Prog gig – whatever next?!!!).

Later on Barock Project take us on the more contemplative Morning Train, arriving at our platform on a bed of gentle piano and vulnerable sounding vocals. The whole band board the train in a more assertive recapitulation of the opening theme. A more grandiose mid-section welcomes aboard a Queen like guitar break and an orchestrated playful nursery rhyme like section… Barock Project seem willing to throw anything into the melting pot to great effect. The song picks up speed greatly in the latter section when it feels like the Morning Train has become an express, or even an out of control vehicle, before another Queen like fanfare of guitars bring it to an end.

Luca Zabbini has shared that:

Time Voyager embarks on a conceptual journey unlike any of our previous albums, as we explore the notion of “a voyage to tour temporal wrinkles.” This concept was born from a collective desire within the band to delve deeper into the intricacies of time, memory, and introspection, while also paying homage to our musical roots and evolution as the Barock Project.

This desire to explore their musical roots has impelled the band into some different musical avenues on this album, nowhere more so than on Propaganda, which opens jazzily with Manuel Caliumi’s sultry saxophones. The tempo picks up with the whole band swaggering along with a hint of funk provided by some great bass from the multi-talented Zabbini again. There’s a hint of Hall and Oates, particularly on the harmony vocals of the chorus, and there may even be hints of Steely Dan – this is not a Barock Project with which I am familiar, but it’s great to hear them explore other music with such style.

Next up the ‘Time Voyager’ appears in Shibuya 3 A.M. which materialises in a dreamy cloud of synth, piano and gentle percussion. Luca Zabbini takes on the vocals, giving this a different feel. Barock Project have played Japan a few times and this experience has clearly left its mark on the band. Shibuya is apparently a district in Tokyo and is a centre of Japanese fashion and youth culture, providing some of Japan’s most popular nightlife (thanks Wiki!)… that piece of research confirms what the music conveys – a restrained piece evoking very late nights and a sense of lost love or yearning. Therefore, it is possibly apt that Lonely Girl follows with a jaunty key and guitar intro. The chopped feel of the opening section exudes a sense of frustration before the song opens out musically. Ombelli’s rhythmic drumming really impels this song along with brio, which reaches a crescendo with thunderous drumming accompanying an energetic rock passage filled with strings, guitars and stabbing organ work.

Our journey takes us to another time, place and musical style as the ‘Time Voyager’ emerges in the Mediterranean, which yet again features the more subtle vocals of Luca Zabbini in a gentle piano / vocal opening. A beautifully lithe and subtle bass from Francesco Caliendo shows that sometimes ‘less is more’ as it fits the sultry feel of this song, which at times feels like sunlight shimmering through leaves. The song opens out brightly in an optimistic, positive light. The song is becalmed with a diaphanous piano passage and then boy, does the wind and tempo in the Mediterranean pick up! A thumping, dazzling organ and electric guitar section swirls around this piece and brings it to a calmer end.

Barock Project are seemingly filled with talented musicians, characterised by the great skill that drummer Eric Ombelli plays both acoustic and electric guitars in the shimmering Kyanite Jewel. Kyanite is a blue metamorphic jewel used in ceramics… but is also said to have healing properties and promoting inner peace and tranquility – possibly the feeling that this delightful song was trying to convey.

The concept of Time Voyager is most clearly described in the two more extended pieces, Voyager and Voyager’s Homecoming. (Unlike a recent Big Big Train song, Luca Zabbini has made it clear that these songs have nothing to do with the NASA space probe.) He has explained that:

Each track on the album serves as a sonic exploration of different temporal “wrinkles” or moments in time, inviting listeners on a captivating journey through past, present, and future. Whether we’re revisiting musical motifs from our earlier works or charting new territory with innovative compositions, the overarching concept of ‘TIME VOYAGER’ provides a unifying thread that ties the album together thematically and emotionally.

He went on to explain that the final track, Voyager’s Homecoming, is connected to Voyager as the protagonist ‘Time Voyager’ returns to the present day. The Voyager track is placed at the centre of the album, and this standout track is also central to the whole concept. An orchestral, cinematic intro recedes into a Vangelis like synth wash before pulsing keys and drums take us on a thrilling musical journey through time. Chunky guitars from the excellent Mazzuoccolo add heft before pulsing synths and keys take us on a wave. Mari’s vocals heroically take up the narrative before an atmospheric percussive break with funky guitars and guitars giving way to Eastern tinged strings and percussion. To be honest this feels like it could go anywhere or, possibly more properly, it could go to any time! This piece just keeps just getting better as only Barock Project can, so melodically, orchestrally and brilliantly! There is a sense that the journey is just starting as the song recedes in a cloud of synths… ‘to be continued’… it would seem…

… and indeed it is continued in a very much similar vein for the dramatic final song Voyager’s Homecoming. The shimmering, ‘spacey’ synth opening quickly escalates in to a muscular, crashing melee of heavy guitar, keys and drums all seemingly fighting for supremacy… but all fitting together so fluidly. Zabbini’s organ and keyboard work here is powerful, playful and inspirational, leading into a processional theme. An acoustic guitar gives voice to the ‘Time Voyager’, sung again by the supremely gifted Zabbini, and they are off again on this thrilling Temporal rollercoaster. However, with a synthesizer sweep it seems our traveller is home with some great celebratory harmony vocals.

This ’Voyager Suite’ of two songs are the highlight of this excellent album, and will undoubtedly probably excite most Barock Rock fans as it is so in their melodic progressive rock wheelhouse. However, Barock Project have also so skilfully used this theme to explore different themes and styles adventurously in a range of songs, and have commendably dared to go beyond their comfort zone. Barock Project are well and truly back with their outstanding Time Voyager album – will it become regarded as one of the best progressive rock albums of 2024 – well, only time will tell… obviously!

01. Carry On (6:35)
02. Summer Set You Free (4:41)
03. An Ordinary Day’s Odyssey (6:04)
04. The Lost Ship Tavern (4:40)
05. Voyager (8:08)
06. Morning Train (6:08)
07. Propaganda (6:33)
08. Shibuya 3 A.M. (4:30)
09. Lonely Girl (5:09)
10. Mediterranean (5:18)
11. Kyanite Jewel (5:35)
12. Voyager’s Homecoming (7:37)

Total Time – 70:57

Luca Zabbini – Keyboards, Guitars, Bouzouki, Orchestra Arrangements Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar (3, 7 & 8), Lead Vocals (8, 10 & 12)
Alex Mari – Vocals
Marco Mazzuoccolo – Electric Guitars
Francesco Caliendo – Electric Bass (1,2,4,5,6,9,10,11 & 12)
Eric Ombelli – Drums & Percussion, Bouzouki, Acoustic & Electric Guitars (11), Lead Vocals (11)
~ With:
Alessandro Bonetti – Violin (4)
Manuel Caliumi – Saxophones (7)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 3rd June 2024

• Misterioso Voci (2006)
• Rebus (2009)
• Coffee in Neukolnn (2012)
• Skyline (2015)
• Vivo (2016)
• Detachment (2017)
• Seven Seas (2019)
• Time Voyager (2024)

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