I very nearly missed out on this one, as although the material was made available to me, I didn’t chase it down as I hadn’t heard the name anywhere, and it’s not as if I am hunting for albums to review. But, I was told that there was a PFM connection so thought that it may well be of interest, and I am glad I did. The label is a new one to me, but looking at their site they have released a lot of material so far. Their stated aim is to only focus on Italian bands, publishing the best from the past and present Italian “hard ‘n’ heavy” scene. The main Italian label I have worked with over the years is Black Widow Records, who concentrate much more on classic Italian progressive rock, so this in itself was intriguing. As to the band themselves, Arca Progjet was originally formed by Alex Jorio (drums, Elektradrive) and Gregorio Verdun (bass and keys), together with Sergio Toya (vocals), Carlo Maccaferri (guitar) and Filippo Dagasso (keyboards and programming). There are also some special guests, including Mauro Pagani, a founder member of PFM who appeared on their first albums before leaving in 1977.
I am guessing that Mauro provides violin, the instrument for which he is best known, but he is more important in having his name connected with this release as opposed to the music he provides on it, as that PFM link is going to get a great deal of people interested – and to be honest it was the reason I listened to this in the first place. But, I am glad that I did as here in an Italian progressive rock band that is using the sounds that one would expect from a band from that country playing this style of music, but also has been brought up to date so while many may expect this to be RPI, there are also elements of neo-prog, hard prog and crossover which make this an incredibly interesting and accessible album on the very first hearing. All lyrics are in Italian, often with harmonies, so I treat the vocals as part of the overall sound, and to my ears it all comes together very well indeed.
If this album had been released on one of the “usual” progressive labels then I am sure that we will have been hearing a great deal more about it, but as it is more “reviews” just seem to mention that it has been released and that it features Pagani. But, this is an accessible progressive rock album with a series of short and direct songs that allows the musicians just enough to room to display their skills without it ever becoming one long solo-fest after another. Two numbers manage to just breach the seven minute barrier, but most are around the five-minute mark, and while the keyboards often use keyboard or mellotron sounds they are never filling the sound and there is always plenty of room for the guitar to be heard as well. This is a really enjoyable album, that definitely deserves to be heard, and as it has been made available on Bandcamp while not give it a try?
8/10 by Kev Rowland