Bulgarian rock group INTELLIGENT MUSIC PROJECT is the brainchild of Dr Milen Vrabevski, founder and producer of the project, and its principal composer and lyricist. The project is known for bringing together talented Bulgarian musicians with a star-studded cast of familiar faces from classic rock. For their seventh full-length album Unconditioned, Simon Phillips (TOTO, JOE SATRIANI) returns for drumming and co-production duties, while lead vocal duties are once again taken by Ronnie Romero (RAINBOW, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP).
The record kicks off with Topic, an instrumental which builds layers upon layers of melodies and harmonies with a hint of neo-classicism – bringing to mind pleasant associations with the symphonic sound of the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. The full line-up is at hand for the next track Intention, with which the band represented Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest. It is a fast-paced rocker with a catchy melodic chorus, and an excellent showcase for singer Romero, whose voice is full of character and a powerful hard-rock raspiness. Admittedly, the song is an outlier compared to the usual flavour at Eurovision and that may have hurt its popularity with the voting public there, but in its natural habitat on a rock album it holds up.
There is a clear strain of the progressive musical mindset throughout Unconditioned, most evident in the mixing of styles and ideas from outside of rock. This is employed to great effect in How, whose first acoustic verse lulls you into expecting a typical power ballad, but then confounds expectations with a bossa nova feel as the percussion kicks in. Elsewhere, Madness delights with an accordion-led chorus which transports you to the atmosphere of a French village fête. This eclecticism helps to keep the attention of the listener, and INTELLIGENT MUSIC PROJECT succeed in the difficult task of making a genre as well-trodden as hard rock sound fresh in 2022.
There are, of course, a fair few hard-rockers which tend to be in the major keys and, like the lyrics, carry an uplifting feeling. A case in point is And Stars Never Fall, one of two songs for which Romero wrote the lyrics and co-composed the music. With its driven rhythm, it passes the ‘How good would this sound at full blast in a fast-moving car?’ test with flying colours. Overall, the composition on the record is tightly edited so that none of its 13 songs overstay their welcome, with most of them clocking in around the three-minute mark. Through leaning into variation in the musical key, tempo and mood, the band ensure that even if one section does not pack as much punch, another interesting passage comes soon after. A particular highlight on the record is the soloing by guitarist Biser Ivanov and keyboardist Ivo Stefanov which is infused with a lot of melody and re-iterates the neo-classical sound.
Album closer Finale Grande is a climactic reprise of musical and lyrical sections from many previous songs, and in this capacity it is appropriately named. Tying together hard-rocking riffs, soaring power ballads and progressive elements, it sums up Unconditioned as a musically varied and impactful rock album.
Unconditioned is out now via Intelligent Music Records.
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The post ALBUM REVIEW: Unconditioned – Intelligent Music Project appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.