Barock Project / Criminally Under Appreciated In The UK

Why the Barock Project isn’t better known in the UK is beyond me. In fact, the UK’s lack of awareness of this fabulous Italian band borders on criminality. Just ask anyone who was lucky enough to get tickets and attend one of these two shows at Trading Boundaries.

Barock Project

Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 18 November 2023

Words And Photography: Adrian Stonley

It should also be noted that, yet again, these were the only dates that the band played in the UK this year. Furthermore, Trading Boundaries is the only venue that the Barock Project have ever played in the UK. What this means is that the majority of the UK is missing out on something that is very special indeed.

Barock Project - Trading Boundaries - 18 November 2023
Barock Project – Trading Boundaries – 18 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stonley/MetalTalk

Certainly, Directors of Trading Boundaries have a soft spot for this band and, in the past, have been prepared to dip into their own pockets to bring them over to the UK to play at this venue. It’s fair to say that tonight’s showing was indeed a wise move.

Barock Project is a band who have an impeccable musical pedigree and certainly are not strangers to filling large-sized concert halls back in their home country of Italy. They have been releasing albums since 2007 and now have seven studio albums and one live album released so far, with a further new album due out in 2024.

So, what to expect from the Barock Project? This is a band who put the rock into Barock. Yes, they are predominantly a very strong progressive rock band, and the music contains enough complexity (with a few very strong nods to a certain Keith Emerson) to assuage any Prog fan.

Yet this is also a band that knows how to turn up the volume and rip up the stage. Quite honestly, they tick all the boxes for a great night out.

Barock Project - Trading Boundaries - 18 November 2023
Barock Project – Trading Boundaries – 18 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stonley/MetalTalk

The set tonight was predominantly built around the Skyline (2015) and Detachment (2017) albums, with nine of the thirteen pieces being played coming from these albums. If you are new to the Barock Project, then quite simply, these are the two albums to start with, as they provide a clear indication of what they are all about – quality musicianship, quality songwriting and phenomenal performance values.

So, to the show. This was a set that was started and closed with a visit to an earlier album, Coffee In Neukoln. Back To You is an instant showcase for Luca Zabbini’s keyboard skills, as it swoops in with a neo-prog keyboard run before opening up into a pomp-laden tune that would not go amiss on any classic Styx or Kansas album.

Happy To See You starts as a gentle ballad with a haunting piano refrain before the guitars and synths kick in. The song develops into an up-tempo romp, allowing the band to show off their individual musical abilities. Frontman Alex Mari addressed the audience with the full array of his vocal strengths.

Barock Project - Trading Boundaries - 18 November 2023
Barock Project – Trading Boundaries – 18 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stonley/MetalTalk

The only tune aired from their latest album, Seven Seas, was Ashes. This is a tune that was co-written with the band by the one-man musical tour-de-force, Peter Jones. Yes, he of Camel and Tiger Moth Tales fame. Jones joined the band on stage, taking the lead vocal for this step back down memory lane. Producing a stripped-back version with Luca on keys and acoustic guitar, they brought about a gentle ambient feel to the piece.

Luca has never been ashamed of his love for all things Keith Emerson, and Overture from the Skyline album is an instrumental that pays more than a nods worth of homage to the great man. Quite simply, the quality and intensity of Luca’s playing show him for the keyboard magician that he is.

With the band whipped into a frenzy driven along by the most immense backroom of Eric Ombelli on drums and Francesco Calliendo on Bass, this piece is quite simply the most euphoric over-the-top instrumental that Keith never wrote. Yet we know from past performances at Trading Boundaries that Luca and his musical love of Keith is completely reciprocated by the Emerson family.

Luca is a classically trained musician having written a concerto for piano and orchestra in 2006 and having majored in composition. It is very clear from the nature of the songs that these skills clearly impact the writing approach taken by this band.

However, that said, and it does need to be said, this is not a one-man band. Certainly, Luca’s keyboard sound does contribute massively to the band’s sound. Yet the guitar input of Marco Mazzouccolo certainly cannot be ignored as his love of all things classic rock-orientated shines through in his playing and writing style.

Following Overture came a new song, Lost Ship Tavern, an introduction to next year’s forthcoming release. This was a piece with more than a touch of an English traditional folk feel to it, as it provided a musical rowdiness yet also showed a further side to the band’s abilities.

Barock Project - Trading Boundaries - 18 November 2023
Barock Project – Trading Boundaries – 18 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stonley/MetalTalk

Finishing with the bombastic Fools Epilogue from the Coffee In Neukold album, the audience was treated to an intense, overblown musical extravaganza that had them on their feet and yelling for more.

What is clear about the Barock Project is that they are a band of immense talent and ability, not only for their musical strengths but also their songwriting approach. Their songs contain plenty of the technical expectations of any prog fan, but they have the ability to match this with thought-out vocal interludes, clever and thoughtful lyrics and …shock horror…melody.

Their songs reverberate with beautifully channelled playing, catchy choruses and definite melodic passages that raise their songs to a higher level of quality. Perhaps with their musical pedigree, we should not be surprised. But their continuous ability to operate at such a high level of musical integrity should not be overlooked, and it certainly puts them above many of their compatriots.

Quite simply superb. Roll on 2024, when hopefully, they’ll be back on this stage again.

And also a message for other venues and agents. These guys need to reach out to a far wider audience. They have the ability and songs to win over any audience. Take a chance….

Barock Project - Trading Boundaries - 18 November 2023
Barock Project – Trading Boundaries – 18 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stonley/MetalTalk

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