Hot off the Press

Kruk | Before

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —

Kruk BeforeIt’s been more than a decade since the Polish band Kruk (‘kruk’ is ‘the raven’ in English, hence a bit of ornithological terminology) left the nest and embarked on their musical journey. Throughout this flight, Kruk had their deserved share of glory supporting the likes of Deep Purple, Carlos Santana or Uriah Heep – and made their mark in the music industry with their ‘70s-inspired, guitar-oriented sound. Now, a few albums later, the band around mastermind and guitar player Piotr Brzychcy returns on the wings of their fourth authorial album Before. And, as it turns out, being here for the fourth time around Kruk is at the peak of their creative powers.

The first song “My Sinners” opens with a dynamic dialogue between the Hammond organ and the guitar. If anyone up to this point had been thinking Kruk were going to abandon their ‘70s-infused hard rock style in favor of anything else, a monumental, guitar laden opener should have proven this way of thinking wrong. At times, this epic track may remind one of the late ‘70s era Rainbow (especially the slightly Dio-esque vocal manner of Roman Kantoch, the band’s current singer, as well as the blistering guitar solo). Towards the end, some distant echoes of Deep Purple’s trademark sound are also to be heard.

“Last Second” is a fast-paced hard rock piece which one somewhat hesitates to label “radio friendly” – and yet, there is some certainly catchy vibe to it. The dynamic track ends with an instrumental coda, a real showcase of the extraordinary skill and musical feeling the band’s guitarist Piotr Brzychcy possesses. After this breakneck guitar gallop, there’s somewhat melancholic “Once” preceding a melodic mid-tempo “Wings Of Dreams” enriched with a Purple-esque Hammond outro. Kruk gets a bit bluesy in the uptempo “Grey Leaf” and gives exposure to the driving power of the low bass thrum in “My Morning Star.”

A moment of reprieve comes with “Farewell,” a beautiful, moving ballad with a surprisingly dynamic instrumental interlude towards the end. This certain highlight of the entire material is followed by the fast-paced, feisty “Open Road” (which was the first of the new tracks revealed by the band before the album’s release) and “Timeline.” The latter, being the instrumental, half-acoustic, half-plugged piece, is one of these rare occasions when the music itself does the talking – and the tale it tells is simply stunning. The icing on the cake – and a little curiosity for the foreign listeners – are the Polish versions of “Farewell” (“Moja Dusza”) and “Grey Leaf” (Szary Liść”), both included on the album.

Before was also enhanced by the addition of the bonus DVD – not only a certain treat for the band’s avid fans, but also a teaser for those not too familiar with them. Especially that the material included on this DVD is the footage of Kruk live in concert (February 2014, Spodek Hall, Katowice – as a support act for Deep Purple). “Are you ready for rock’n’roll…?” is the question asked as the concert starts – and, as the adage goes, rock ‘n’ roll is what the audience came there for and rock ‘n’ roll is what they got (long before that night’s headliner hit the stage!) That night, on Feb. 15, 2014, Kruk presented a cross-section of their earlier material, from the dynamic “Now When You Cry” (of their 2011 album It Will Not Come Back) to guitar laden “Kameleon” (of their debut album). And although most of the audience gathered in Spodek Hall that night actually came there to see Deep Purple and not their support act, their standing ovation towards the end of the Kruk’s gig speaks volumes, doesn’t it? For those interested in Piotr Brzychcy’s guitar technique, there are some acoustic improvisations and studio footage included on the DVD too – as well as the interviews with the band members, so as to know the guys behind Kruk a little bit better.

Kruk’s Before – which can be also spelled with a twist, as Be4ore – is the fourth album with the original material the band’s ever released and, most probably, their best to date. It pictures Kruk as a mature and experienced band who don’t have to struggle for their musical identity anymore – but also a band aware of their roots and inspirations, always eager to incorporate the echoes of their influences into their own material. Such approach, combined with musical adeptness and proficiency, results in an album one intuitively puts between the Deep Purple and Rainbow classic releases in their record collection. And although it’s the fans of the aforementioned rock giants should certainly dig Before because of its rootsy, classic hard rock inclinations, the listeners of other guitar-oriented genres may also find the flight on raven wings of Kruk enjoyable. To put it simple, Before is a very solid album altogether, and one that’s highly recommended. Check it out and fly high!

Genre: Hard Rock

Piotr Brzychcy – guitars
Roman Kantoch – vocals
Michal Kurys – Hammond, piano and synthesizer
Krzysztof Nowak – bass guitar
Dariusz Nawara – drums
Ewa Toczkowska-Brzychcy – additional vocals (track 1, 3)

Track List:
1. My Sinners
2. Last Second
3. Once
4. Wings Of Dreams
5. Grey Leaf
6. My Morning Star
7. Farewell
8. Open Road
9. Timeline
10. Moja Dusza (bonus track)
11. Szary Lisc (bonus track)

Label: Metal Mind Productions


Hardrock Haven rating: 8.5/10