Album Review: Intelligent Music Project – Unconditioned

Rock collective Intelligent Music Project recently graced their biggest stage so far, representing their home country Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest. Led by founder and chief composer and lyricist Dr Milen Vrabevski, the productive group has just put out Unconditioned – the seventh full-length album in their ten-year history.

Intelligent Music Project have a long-established practice of working together with familiar names from the world of rock, and Unconditioned is no different in this respect. The lead vocals are sung by renowned rock singer Ronnie Romero who has previously worked with Rainbow and Michael Schenker Group, among others. The album also sees the return of Simon Phillips (Toto, Joe Satriani) behind the drums and as a musical co-producer. Nazareth’s Carl Sentance is another frequent collaborator, this time contributing his raspy voice with powerful backing vocals throughout the album.

Opening the record is the instrumental “Topic”, a Dream Theater-esque composition whose multi-layered melodies clearly demonstrate the band’s taste for progressive rock. “Intention”, the lead single from the album and the song which Intelligent Music Project entered into Eurovision, has an energetic forward drive and a chorus which, with repeated listens, gets seamlessly stuck into your head. Another early highlight of the record is the epic power ballad ‘Sunset Boulevard’, which could comfortably sit on a record by the likes of masters of the genre Scorpions or Whitesnake. It is one of two songs for which Ronnie Romero penned the lyrics and took part in writing the music, and it definitely plays to the singer’s strengths by showcasing his vocal prowess and range.

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The writing on Unconditioned is diverse, with a focus on exploring multiple styles and injecting them within the well-established traditions of classic rock. “Soulmate” is one of the most ambitious songs on the record, essentially a two-in-one song with two very different sections that constantly intertwine – perhaps a nod to the two soulmates in the title. Going through modal jazz chords, a brilliant Beatles-esque vocal harmony and a flamenco solo, it is an admirable experiment. Even the more straightforwardly rock songs find ways to bring variety into the fold. “Blue Morning” begins as a bluesy 80s rock song that gets adorned with a baroque-sounding solo interlude, while the glam rock of “The Long Ride” gets shaken up with a jazzy drum beat.

Alongside the worldwide contributors, there is a core of talented Bulgarian musicians who have left their imprint on the album. A special shoutout is warranted for guitarist Biser Ivanov who provides a meaty guitar tone and many inspired solos which perfectly blend melody and shredding. Closing track “Finale Grande” is a great demonstration of the group’s melodic and compositional talents, as it ties up motifs and lyrics from the entirety of the album so far in one last melodic whirlwind.

True to its title, the album bears the mark of a band unconditioned by any second-guessing of how it is expected to look or sound, but rather of a rock band completely confident with their style and aspirations. Through diverse writing and brilliant musicianship, Intelligent Music Project succeed in delivering a fresh, great-sounding rock record.

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Unconditioned was released on July 27th through Intelligent Music Records, and is available to order here or to stream online

Check out all the bands we review in 2022 on our Spotify and YouTube playlists!

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