Kaizen – Gargula

1994 (Progressive Rock Worldwide)

1: Abertura (4:42)
2: Zenith (12:56)
3: Gargula (5:56)
4: Noturno (6:22)
5: Runas (9:38)
6: Horda (6:47)
7: Kaizen (9:10)

The Brazilian band Kaizen was formed in 1992 by Kleber Vogel, the virtuoso violinist who had recently left the promising Quaterna Requiem. As far as I know, the fact that both bands were in the same musical realm was never a problem. The style of both Kaizen and Quaterna Requiem is a blend of progressive rock, classical music and   jazz, naturally presented instrumentally. “Gargula”, the debut album by Kaizen discussed here from 1994, showcases the band’s identity in seven compositions. Remarkably, “Gargula” remained their only album for 25 years until their second release, “Aquila”, came out in 2019, by which time the lineup had completely changed, with the exception of Vogel. This makes “Gargula” even more legendary than it already was. The question is whether we are dealing with a gem here.

Let’s first take a look at the songs. Opener Abertura is a textbook example: an orchestral piece with a cinematic character, full of grandeur and the associated heroism and combativeness. It features a lavish mix of keyboard sounds and real classical instruments such as flute, bassoon, oboe and   cello. This promises a lot for the rest of the album.

With the twelve-minute-long Zenith, the gentlemen let their prog hearts speak in a way that is inherent to the Brazilian temperament. Beautiful keyboard and guitar passages alternate in a Camel-like setting, while Vogel’s violin clearly evokes the Canterbury sound of Caravan. It is a beautiful epic with enjoyable bass and drum playing. The space given to guest flutist Roberto Meier is characteristic of the controlled atmosphere of the album.

The opening bars of the title track bring the music back into classical mode, but soon the baroque attire is shed to continue in a pleasant Genesis-like fashion. In Noturno, the focus is entirely on classical music, with a composition that aligns with the works of Prokofiev, for example. The band then continues in a more prog-rock-oriented direction. A song like Runas is exceptionally appealing, starting with a fantastic mandolin part (I never thought I’d say that). In Horda, the euphoria of a Rick Wakeman composition shines through, which is delightful. Thanks to the craftsmanship of each member, this is also a good track. The closing track, Kaizen, is characterized by a substantial bass solo. Although I find it excellent, I have the most praise for the way the band continues afterward, not with much fanfare, but with a subdued violin. Such craftsmanship.

In the first paragraph of this review, I wonder if this is a gem. The answer is obvious.

Carlos Albuquerque: acoustic and electric guitar
Ronaldo Dos Guaranys: keyboards
Kleber Vogel: acoustic, electric & Midi violin, mandolin
Álvaro Seabra: bass, keyboards, electronic percussion
Cleto Castañon: drums
Mauro Ávila: bassoon
Francisco Gonçalves: oboe
Roberto Meier: flute
Duo Santoro: cello

© Dick van der Heijde 2023