Third Project, The - When Remembrance Becomes A Thing,
Just recently I have found this new Polish band The Third Project from Warsaw and their debut album "When Remembrance Becomes a Thing". The album was released last year (July, 2018), but so far only a digital version is available on their bandcamp webpage.
Looking up the album there initially I did not think too much of it because of the price for the album’s digital copy (5 zł / ~ $1.50 at the time) and how many hits/buys were there, but then the cover (a photo of a dog with the gas mask circa WW I) and the description (more specifically references to King Crimson, Yes and ELP but also to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple) looked too intriguing to let it go. Started listening beginning with the title track, expecting it to be a good indicator of what the whole album is about. Hearing the music I almost fell off my chair, it sounded simply awesome. Perhaps there is less than perfect English and the recording/production is less than top notch, but then the music ... simply loved it. This was the point of no return, had to give a try to the whole thing.
In a way of explanation to the previous comment and not to discourage anyone from giving the album a try, the vocal itself is very good, fits the music nicely and English is not too distracting. As for the recording/production, it turns out the album was recorded with the whole band playing live in the studio, perhaps explaining limited space for any corrections. Recording this way is quite a feat and going back to the beginnings; a big plus in my books and on top of everything shows proficiency of the band playing together. It is also a good indicator of how good the band must be, or could be, at live outings. Lastly, if someone likes to follow the lyrics the band provided texts to four (4) of the album tracks (so far) on their You Tube channel. These can be accessed by expanding the information at a given track/video webpage.
Back to review and taking it from beginning:
The album was recorded by the following line-up: Cezary Jastrzębski (vocals, guitars), Mariusz Janik (guitars, oud*, bouzouki**), Marcin Korzeniewski (keyboards), Karol Kryża (bass), Sławomir Kuchta (drums) and guest appearance by Nasta Niakrasava (dulcimer on "Hate Love Lust Pride & the Other Marketing Stories”). It includes nine (9) tracks, clocking at slightly over 66 minutes (more precisely 66:11 for burned CD-R), in the track order below:
- A Letter Home (6:19)
- When Remembrance Becomes a Thing (9:49)
- Following the River** (3:41)
- The Sea of Slaves (9:04)
- Hate Love Lust Pride & the Other Marketing Stories (5:27)
- Tears in the Rain (4:40)
- Appointment in Samara (5:59)
- Beirut Blues* (10:24)
- Ember Stones (10:41)
A Letter Home starts off the album with some eerie sounds by keyboards, guitar and pulsating synthesizer creating a feeling of uneasiness and lurking menace with sounds of what could be the lough of hyenas. It quickly becomes a wall of sound with a powerful drive by the whole band, topped by vocals. This is followed by built up instrumental middle section driven by Hammond organ sound (somewhat Purplish) and guitars. The song is a powerful antiwar statement starting as the letter written home in the aftermath from the battle ground, then moving to uncertainty of our civilization’s actions and its inclination for destruction and the war that will find you “My son, right cause to die”. The 21st Century Schizoid Man it is not but lyrically and musically certainly serves a similar role here.
When Remembrance Becomes a Thing, the title track, follows. Already mentioned in the beginning of this review, it is certainly my contender for being the best track of the album. It opens up with over two minutes of intense improvisation with heavy guitar and swirling keyboards, their interplay, and with hard driving background of the rhythm section (mind you the band is playing live here). Then the guitar leads into the amazing transformation and the highlight of the track - a “one-day larva morphs into a beautiful, colorful butterfly”. With a great melody the vocal steps in, fitting exceptionally well into the composition and certainly showcasing the voice abilities of Cezary Jastrzębski (yeah, try to pronounce the last name if you are not of Polish background). The hints of Led Zeppelin are there in the keyboard background playing. The track finishes off in the intense guitar soloing and keyboard interplay. The lyrics touches on something that should be very close to everyone’s heart - memories of people in our past, be it father, lover or a friend and the things we remember them by.
Following the River, the next track, is a bit of a breather with quite calmer music but then also one of the weaker tracks on the album. Admittedly, without the lyrics in front, it is a challenge to understand what the song is about and plays a huge part in the lower appreciation of this track. Even though this is not uncommon, there is certainly room for improvement in this department.
The Sea of Slaves follows and musically it is another standout track. The first half of the track is a laid back music with lush keyboards creating symphonic background, toned down accompaniment of the band, hints of flute and vocal delivering the track’s story. Even if the English is of much better clarity here I will not venture into describing in depth what it is about. Just past a half point mark, a heavy keyboard and guitar change the mood that eventually leads into a heavy drive by keyboards and a great line by guitar that’s forcing it into your brain and make you wish it continues. All too soon the track goes back into storytelling portion. It is a great track and so far lagging only the title one.
Hate Love Lust Pride & the Other Marketing Stories, the next track, has quite big shoes to fit. But then one has to say “wow”, what a great title for a song. Then the title pretty much explains what it is about. Here the character of the music changes back to a bit Crimsonish sound, but to a large degree the change is the effect of the introduction of prevalent dulcimer. It is another interesting track showing more diversity in the band’s repertoire.
Tears in the Rain is a slow tempo, very lyrical and dreamy song … quite fitting with “the rain” in title. A beautiful melody with a vocal, accented by delicate guitar and keyboards, makes this another standout track. It is one of the shorter tracks on the album but serves nicely as a breather.
Appointment in Samara starts off with an acoustic guitar line that somewhat reminds the start of one of the best tracks by Rush “A Farewell to Kings”. But that’s where similarities end as the mood here is abruptly changed by a barrage of keyboards and then the whole band with the vocal joining in. The latter is quite expressive (or at least hitting some high registers) there. In a quite average melody line the band shows again an uncanny ability to throw in some melodic gems in the motif lead by the keyboards that again hints on the late Jon Lord’s legacy. Perhaps it is a fitting music for a certain affair in Baghdad that the track is about. Another track on the plus side.
Beirut Blues, the 2nd longest track of the album, follows a somewhat similar formula as the previous track; however, with some significant differences. The acoustic entry is quite longer and with a strong Middle Eastern accent by a characteristic sound of the oud (a string instrument of this origin) being the main instrument there. Then similar elements to the previous track take over with the extended portion of instrumental improvisation led by keyboards and guitars that lead to the conclusion of this affair, this time in Beirut.
Ember Stones, the last and longest track of the album, starts off again with the acoustic guitar with some keyboards thrown in and then continues in a slow tempo throughout the track. Not sure why, but some of the keyboard and guitar passages remind me of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, perhaps something is there (The Third Project)? But trotting along, the music here submits to the lyrics about rekindling of the relationship or a cause, stopping and going repeatedly along the way, as if reflecting start ups and falling out of the rocky subject. These stoppage points are revived by the acoustic guitar and keyboards theme. Then, in the instrumental passage in the middle of the track, the acoustic guitar invokes the main theme of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Whatever is the meaning of it, musically it is a nice touch. The magic of “Ember stones” and struggle of wills is punctuated at closing of the track with a short drum solo. As two tracks before, it is another one on the plus side.
To sum it all, the music on this album makes up for any shortcomings there may be. There are no new grounds discovered here but what the band has done here is done very well indeed. The band succeeded in combining the old classic prog rock with a heavier touch and uncanny ability of transferring improvisational “chaos” into beautiful melodies. Hands down it is one of the best albums coming from a new group that I have heard in years. Hopefully the band gains enough recognition to release this album on CD, vinyl or both formats. If it ever does I would strongly recommend to the band to include lyrics with the album, as it would go a long way in appreciation of it. Notwithstanding, I would love to hear where the band goes next and hope that upon hearing the album you will want to know that too … btw, you can help by getting the digital copy of the album (any format you may want) on their bandcamp website.