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2008 : VOLUME 41
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Willowglass - Book Of Hours
Willowglass - Book Of Hours
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:WGCD002
Year of Release:2008
Time:49:49
Info:Willowglass
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Argamasilla (11:04), Willowglass (4:02), The Maythorne Cross (10:39), Book of Hours (7:13), The Labyrinth: (i) Prelude, (ii) The Journey, (iii) Don Quixote Rides Again, (iv) Nature's Cathedral, (v) Knight Of The White Moon, (vi) The Spiral (16:50)

Yorkshire's Willowglass follow up their eponymous debut album with Book Of Hours. The team who created that first album stays the same with composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marshall playing just about everything (electric, acoustic, 12-string and classical guitars, keyboards, bass pedals, bass guitar, flute, recorder, drums and percussion) with Dave Brightman contributing the majority of the drum work. Artwork throughout the stunning 16-page booklet is again by Lee Gaskins; check out his website for further information and images from the CD booklet, as well as some of his other impressive artwork. The Book Of Hours is loosely based on Cervantes' Don Quixote, who can be seen on his horse Rocinante and followed by his faithful companion and servant Sancho Panza. If you've not read the book then it's well worth it as it is a fantastically enjoyable piece of literature - a perect accompianment to listening to the album perhaps!

Speaking of enjoyable, that is one term that can easily be applied to the music on Book Of Hours. As on the debut album, Marshall's music harks back to the early seventies era of epic and lush compositions. Inevitably, given the nature of the keyboard sounds employed throughout a lot of the album there are the ever-present comparisons to Camel, particularly on opening number Argamasilla, named after Quixote's home town. However, it is not as if the music is in anyway a pastiche of that band, it has a style all of its own and manages to avoid sounding dated. I suppose, one could call it 'timeless'; the gorgeous Willowglass with its flute and classical guitar is a prime exemplification of this. The opening of The Maythorne Cross, a landmark of South Yorkshire, sounds eerily familiar to The Undercover Man by Van Der Graaf Generator but with all the acerbity of Hammill's band of troubadours smoothed out. Elsewhere, this piece blends the sounds of the Mellotron, Hammond organ and Minimoog as well as a host of other classic keyboard sounds to wondrous effect. Whereas the debut album was, in parts, reminiscent of Ant Phillips, the new album has some echoes of another ex-Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett. Again, the references are not overt and are more hints that provoke the similarities, like some of the themes in the title track and the opening classical guitar Prelude of The Labyrinth.

The 17-minute Labyrinth is split into six sections which are easily identifiable by the different moods spread across the piece. Expert use of the plethora of keyboard sounds that Marshall has at his disposable define the sections with, for example, the very realistic church organ which is prevalent in Nature's Cathedral. However, it is the way that the different sounds have been overlaid with each other that make the piece so rewarding. The combination of piano, various Mellotron sounds and synthesisers with the electric and acoustic guitars is quite masterful. As the writing, arranging and performing is all done by Marshall there is never any struggle for dominance between keyboards and guitar, they are in harmony throughout. The drumming is kept to just the right level and only appears when necessary, there are large sections when they are simply not needed and would actually interfere with the atmosphere generated by the other instrumentation. Themes are taken up and expanded upon, particularly in the closing section which needs to be played loud to generate best effect!

Speculation that Marshall is planning to attempt reproducing the music from his two albums live are intriguing to say the least. It would certainly be an experience to be witnessed and one would imagine plenty of rehearsals and some rearrangements would be required before that happens, but here's hoping it does. In the meantime one is left with the enjoyment provided by this album, a second solid release which is worthy of its recommended tag. With independent CDs sounding as good as this, combined with the quality of the booklet and CD art (something you can't appreciate with downloads), no wonder record companies are worried.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



After Forever – Prison Of Desire: The Album ~ The Sessions
After Forever – Prison Of Desire
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:2CD
Record Label:Transmission
Records
Catalogue #:TM-068
Year of Release:2008
Time:CD1: 75:21
CD2: 74:48
Info:After Forever
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

Disc 1: Chapter 1 - Prison Of Desire: The Album – Mea Culpa "The Embrace That Smothers - Prologue" (1:59), Leaden Legacy "The Embrace That Smothers - Part I" (5:09), Semblance Of Confusion (4:07), Black Tomb (6:28), Follow In The Cry "The Embrace That Smothers - Part II" (4:05), Silence From Afar (5:52), Inimical Chimera (4:59), Tortuous Threnody (6:12), Yield To Temptation "The Embrace That Smothers - Part III" (5:53), Ephemeral (3:04) Beyond Me (6:22) Bonus Tracks: Wings Of Illusion - Non-Album Track (7:22), Mea Culpa - Instrumental Version (2:01), Mea Culpa – A Capella Version (1:50), Semblance Of Confusion - Instrumental Version (4:07), Follow In The Cry - Instrumental Version (4:05), Follow In The Cry – A Capella Version (1:20)

Disc 2: Chapter 2 - Prison Of Desire: The Sessions - Silence From Afar - Demo Version (5:55), Wings Of Illusion - Demo Version (7:21), Follow In The Cry - Session Version (4:04), Yield To Temptation - Session Version (5:51), Semblance Of Confusion - Session Version (4:06), Beyond Me - Session Version (6:13), Black Tomb - Session Version (6:29), Tortuous Threnody - Session Version (6:10), Ephemeral - Session Version (3:03), Inimical Chimera - Session Version (4:58), Silence From Afar - Session Version (5:50), Mea Culpa - Session Version (2:01), Leaden Legacy - Session Version (5:04), Wings Of Illusion - Session Version (7:21)

Geoff Feakes' Review

Originally released in 2000, Prison Of Desire passed me by first time around although it received a very favourable DPRP review and recommendation. My interest in this reissue was prompted by the excellent self titled After Forever, the bands most recent album from 2007. The Dutch metallers are currently experiencing a lengthy hiatus due to stress related health concerns for guitarist Sander Gommans. In the meantime the Transmission label has taken the opportunity to re-release their debut album remastered and generously expanded over two discs. The original album takes up most of disc one with several bonus tracks occupying the remaining space. Disc two is made up of session tracks and demos. The line-up for the album comprised Floor Jansen (vocals), Mark Jansen (guitars), Sander Gommans (guitars, grunts), Luuk van Gerven (bass), Jack Driessen (synths) and Joep Beckers (drums). Since the initial release the band has undergone several personnel changes with the most significant being co-writer Mark Jansen’s departure in 2002 to form his own band Epica. He does however provide new and insightful notes inside the CD booklet which is so thick once you’ve extracted it from the case it’s virtually impossible to get it back in again!

Although I’ve only become acquainted with Prison Of Desire through this reissue it’s not hard to except that time hasn’t blunted its impact. Driven by the powerful and relentless rhythm partnership of van Gerven and Beckers, it’s an impressive display of metal bombast with the dual guitar dynamics of Jansen and Gommans providing an irresistible combination. The icing on the cake comes courtesy of female singer Floor Jansen’s pure, soprano delivery and Driessen’s symphonic keys. Classically trained, Floor is able to adopt both an operatic style and (to my ears) a more naturalistic rock voice as exemplified by the stunning Semblance Of Confusion. The only real drawback for me is Gommans’ grunts, a staple ingredient of dark metal I can happily live without. Thankfully they’re sparingly used as to my mind they distract from, rather than adding to the music. This is most apparent during the intense Yield To Temptation where the unintelligible growling sounds like a demonic beast from a horror movie. In contrast the sumptuous ensemble choir that embellishes songs like the opening Mea Culpa and the middle-eastern flavoured Follow In The Cry display all the pomp normally associated with a Hollywood biblical epic.

To single out tracks from Prison Of Desire for individual praise is difficult. From the gothic Mea Culpa to the stately Beyond Me it flows seamlessly almost like a single piece of music with a dark majesty that resonates throughout. The latter song includes a stunning duet with Floor joined by guest vocalist Sharon den Adel taking timeout from Within Temptation. The revealing remastering of this reissue only serves to highlight what a superbly engineered and produced album it was to begin with. The best of the bonus tracks is the mini-epic Wings Of Illusion, a song that could have easily been part of the Prison Of Desire release but wasn’t. It has already appeared on the 2000 CDM Follow In The Cry and the 2006 Mea Culpa compilation but it’s still a welcome addition here. Otherwise disc one concludes with three songs from the album, each with either the vocal or the instrumental track removed. Of these the instrumental version of Mea Culpa is for me the most interesting revealing the orchestral keys and tympani which go almost unnoticed submerged below the choir in the released version.

Disc two includes an alternate ‘session version’ of every track from the album plus a couple of ‘demo versions’ to open. These were all recorded a little over a month before the album and are in a fully worked state sounding very close to the final versions. The track listing makes no concessions to the finished album presumably appearing in the order in which they were recorded. The performances are tight and the sound full although it lacks some of the power and polish producers Hans Pleters and Dennis Leidelmeijer would bring to the completed work. Leidelmeijer is also a ‘guest’ on the album adding electric and acoustic guitar respectively to Leaden Legacy and Beyond Me. With the riffing guitars less prominent in the mix other elements are allowed to shine through such as the rich organ tone of Black Tomb and the aforementioned acoustic guitar that opens and closes Beyond Me. Also both Silence From Afar and Leaden Legacy are revealed as poignant ballads despite the absence of the full choir that would be added later.

Although I’m far from a metal expert (my colleague Andy Read would make better comparisons I’m sure), I can hear shades of Opeth, Ayreon, Threshold and Dream Theater in this work. In fact for me, its legacy dates back to Black Sabbath circa 1971 whose dark and atmospheric After Forever provided the inspiration for the band's name. It’s not an exaggeration I feel to suggest that with Prison Of Desire, After Forever delivered one of the most ambitious debut albums in the history of prog related rock. The fact that a label has taken the relatively unusual step of remastering and releasing an expanded version just eight years after the initial release is a testimony to its reputation and durability. Such attention is normally reserved for so called ‘classic’ albums from major acts. This release raises an already impressive album to a new level.

Martien Koolen's Review

This re-release of the original album Prison Of Desire (2000) contains two CDs with thirty one re-mastered tracks, including a track that has never been released before, unreleased demos, rarities and lots of alternative tracks. The double CD also features a fabulous twenty eight page booklet in which former guitar player Mark Jansen brings back memories of the early days of After Forever and the recordings of Prison Of Desire.

However I wonder if you really would like to listen to four versions of Mea Culpa, 4 versions of Follow In The Cry, three versions of Wings Of Illusion and three versions of Semblance Of Confusion... It is all a bit overdone I think... Do not get me wrong I love the original album but all the different versions of several songs are really redundant to me!

Best songs on the album are still: Black Tomb, Yield To Temptation and Beyond Me, which of course features Sharon Den Adel of Within Temptation. I would say that for fans of After Forever this is a must buy album but for other listeners there is really nothing new under the sun...

Edwin Roosjen's Review

After Forever is currently hibernating, this sabbatical was not planned but necessary, when co-founder Sander Gommans suffered from stress related health problems. To pass the time until the new album, their former record label Transmission Records decided to fill the gap with a re-release of their debut album Prison Of Desire. To make it a bit more interesting the original recordings were remastered and the rest of this 2CD set is filled with session, demo, instrumental and a cappella versions. The booklet includes a nice message from Mark Jansen about this album and the start of After Forever. Mark Jansen (together with Sander Gommans) founded After Forever and for years already has had a great amount of success with Epica.

As to the quality of the music I can refer you to the original DPRP Review, as when listening to this album I can only confirm the findings as stated in that review - therefore the interest in this album should come from the bonus material and the remastering. The production quality of the remastered album is superb, however I cannot make a comparison with the original. The alternate recorded versions are also of high quality, you can hear the immense quality of the band. The versions are so good that I sometimes don't know which disc I am playing. The compositions do not differ from the final result as recorded for the album. The a cappella and instrumental versions are a nice trip, but hearing them more than once is not really necessary.

This After Forever album is only for people who are interested in the band and really want to check out their debut-album. If you are interested in buying this album, you might as well buy this edition, because it costs the same and you get a bit more. The session versions on this album are great but do not differ much from the final recordings. If you are new to the band you are better off by starting with their latest album After Forever.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 8.5+ out of 10
MARTIEN KOOLEN : 7 out of 10
EDWIN ROOSJEN : Unrated



Pre-Med - The Truth About Us
Pre-Med - The Truth About Us
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:HAWKVP43CD
Year of Release:2008
Time:53:02
Info:Pre-Med
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Cerebral Escape (5:02), Wallpaper Warriors (5:31), The Crowning Of The Acid King (6:47), 5HTP (5:43), Death Of A Star (7:51), The Truth About Us (5:39), The Demented Man (5:07), Has The Whole World Gone Insane (5:29), Debouch (5:42)

Every now and then, I receive something for review from the DPRP pipeline that I can’t quite put a finger or label on. That is the case with The Truth About Us, the sophomore release from Pre-Med. The most accurate genre I can come up with is “space-grunge”. The band was put together by Essex, U.K.-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Danny Faulkner. He assembled Pre-Med after seeing a gig by Bedouin, a band formed by Alan Davey and Danny Thompson of Hawkwind. Faulkner struck up a friendship with Davey, eventually sending him some impressive demos, and Pre-Med was born.

On The Truth About Us, Faulkner handles vocals, drums, and keyboards. Davey provides rhythm guitar on a couple of tracks, and handles bass and keyboards for the whole shebang. Newcomer Eamon O’Neill is the main guitarist. Jason Stuart (Hawkwind) contributes piano to one track, and he and Steve Leigh (Landmarq) throw in a synth solo each. Poet Martin Faulkner, Danny’s brother, wrote all the lyrics.

The band plays riffy, 70’s based grunge/metal rock with a lot of spacey synths thrown in, giving them a dark sound similar to Van Der Graaf Generator. This sound is quite evident on the title track and on Has The Whole World Gone Insane, featuring Leigh’s guest synth lead over a relentless attack. Listening to the first three tracks of the CD will quickly tell you that Pre-Med means business and is not for sensitive ears. Who they are meant for is anyone who likes dark, experimental riff-based rock. The tunes are composed and produced well and feature excellent musicianship throughout. With this release, the band passes critical muster, and if they keep it up they have a great career ahead of them.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JIM CORCORAN



Spirits Burning – Alien Injection
Spirits Burning – Alien Injection
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Black Widow
Catalogue #:BWRCS 103-2
Year of Release:2008
Time:78:54
Info:Spirits Burning
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Alien Injection (5:27), New Religion (5:28), Alpha Harmony (7:14), Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune (3:12), Logger’s Revenge [Brian Tawn Speaks!] (9:02), Augustus (6:22), Future Memories (6:29), The Entropy Tango (3:22), Another World (4:14), The Hawk (4:36), Imported Serpents (3:48), Ingleborough (3:48), Upturned Dolphin (4:29), Salome (5:00), Montfallcon (4:12), Heaven [Is One Quality Tree For The Road] (3:16)

Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart – Earth Born
Country of Origin:USA/UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP431
Year of Release:2008
Time:64:05
Info:Spirits Burning
Samples:Click here
Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart – Earth Born

Tracklist: Earth Born (5:34), One Way Trip (3:56), Always (5:11), Sarah’s Surprise (4:33), Hit The Moon (4:18), Two Friends (6:33), Behind The Veil (4:34), Crafted From Wood (3:26), Child Growing (7:11), Candles (4:24), Storm Shelter (5:12), Evening (4:53), Dancers At The End Of… (4:11)

Some bands are very difficult to categorise with a couple of words. Spirits Burning are not one of those bands; the fact that they themselves introduce their albums as ‘space rock remedies’ should tell you that we’re very much in the world occupied by Hawkwind, Gong and the like; the sort of genre as known for the artistic element of their live performances and the musicians huge intake of mind-bending substances as it is for its music.

Spirits Burning are actually more of a collective than a band per se; the main driver of this collective is Don Falcone, whose name was vaguely familiar to me as I reviewed a CD by one of his other bands, Fireclan. On these two new releases Falcone has gathered together an impressive list of collaborators, including the likes of Daevid Allen (Gong, University Of Errors), Michael Moorcock (fantasy author and Hawkwind collaborator) and ex-Hawkwind guys Alan Davey, Simon House and Richard Chadwick. Other, less well known musicians come from bands with fantastic (and rather giveaway) names such as Secret Saucer, Weird Biscuit Teatime, Mushroom Men, Grindlestone and Demented Stoats. Like, far out, man.

Alien Injection is the stronger release of the two. The opening title track is a mid paced spacey rocker that bears some relation to the title track off Hawkwind’s 1980 album Leviathan and kicks things off strongly. Thereafter there’s plenty of variety on show amongst the whooshing synths and trippy guitar solos. New Religion is trance with a tribal beat; Alpha Harmony has some blues licks and vocoder-enhanced narration from ‘Thom The World Poet’; Augustus is a nicely mellow, pastoral instrumental; Imported Serpents sounds like a space rockin’ version of the Batman theme (yes, really!) whilst Entropy Tango is, well, a (psychedelic flavoured) tango, with plenty of trumpet and clarinet. The latter is one of several tracks which feature Michael Moorcock on very arch, cod-operatic vocals, which just add to the general ‘out there’-ness of the album.

Inevitably, on such a lengthy album and with so many different songwriters, there are a few experiments which don’t really work, but even during these you can find some entertainment just by reading the liner notes and looking at some of the ‘interesting’ instrumentation used – I don’t think there’s many albums which can claim to have been created with the aid of ‘nipple gongs’ and a ‘piece of Tibetan metal’!

Earth Born is released under the name Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart; Wishart, an ex-Hawkwind vocalist (late 80’s/ early 90’s era) has written most of the lyrics and takes the lead vocal for the majority of the set. The material is less varied and generally more mellow than on Alien Injection; if it wasn’t for the inevitable spacey synths, this could almost be an acoustic jamming session around the campfire. The sticking point with this album will, for many, be Wishart’s rather monotonous voice, her semi-spoken delivery can appear off-key at times and for me got rather grating after a while.

Overall, whilst these two releases are clearly not for all, space rock lovers would certainly be advised to check out Alien Injection, which certainly has something to offer fans of this style of music.

Conclusions:

Alien Injection: 6.5 out of 10
Earth Born: 5 out of 10

TOM DE VAL



Tanger – Mundos Paralelos
Tanger – Mundos Paralelos
Country of Origin:Argentina
Format:CD
Record Label:Viajero Inmovil
Catalogue #:TNGR031VIR
Year of Release:2008
Time:46:12
Info:Tanger
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ansiedad (6:37), Circulos Concentricos (3:51), Mundos Paralelos (5:32), Siete Pulsos (4:40), El Castillo (4:00), Metamorfosis (3:46), Dos Dimensiones (4:35), Insomnio (4:04), Marquesinas (4:53), Nova Lisboa [Nueva Version] (4:14)

Tanger is yet another worthwhile band from the stable of home-grown talent to be found on Argentina’s excellent Viajero Inmovil label. Bob reviewed their second album La Otra Cara back in 2002 but we seem to have missed out on Ciudad from 2006.

Between the second and third albums, there were changes in the ranks, with guitarist Ignacio Lois and drummer Julian De Ambrosia being replaced by Eduardo Ferrreyra and Ignacio Martinez respectively. This new configuration remains in place for Mundos Paralelos.

Despite the difference in personnel, I’m guessing there has been no radical change to their modus operandi since their second album, as much of what I hear gels very nicely with Bob’s description of La Otra Cara.

The main melodic focus remains with flute and guitar, in an entirely instrumental cocktail of prog, jazz and Latin influences; King Crimson are still the most obvious inspiration, but the heavy presence of flute and the odd Latin touch ensure that Tanger have their own sound. Imagine a South American Focus, which bypassed the European classical influences and majored instead in the jazz field.

The compositions are tightly constructed, rarely reaching the five minute mark, but each tune is a little journey in sound, full of surprising melodic twists and highly proficient musicianship; the emphasis favours melody over experimentation and fun over the academic approach.

There are some supporting keyboards here and there, and guest Florencia Genera adds subtle violoncello to the very Crimsonic concluding track Nova Lisboa, which is a revisiting of a number from Tanger’s debut album.

I found the album to flow along very nicely, through its many shifts from dynamic and thrusting to spiky and menacing, to calm and relaxing and back. The only real drawback with this very pleasant and engaging album is that once it’s over, it is pretty hard to distinguish one track from another or to recall any really obvious highlights.

For lovers of flute driven prog, Frippian guitar fans and instrumental aficionados this CD would make a solid addition to your collections.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

DAVE SISSONS



H˙dra – The Special One
H˙dra – The Special One
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:MP3076
Year of Release:2008
Time:27:37
Info:H˙dra
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Cards Of Life... (1:46), Love Is Not So Far (3:01), Free (5:20), Hero (3:50), The Special One (3:48), The Rock 'n' Roll Preacher (3:45),I'll Be There (3:17), ...A Better Life (2:33)

French band H˙dra released their first album, Rock Experience, in 1996, their style at the time being prog metal in the vein of Dream Theater and Queensr˙che. DPRP's Andy Read reviewed their third album, 2006's The Famous Unknown, and found it to be an almost entirely acoustic album without much to lift it from the pack. With this album they have changed direction again and are apparently attempting to produce a poppy prog album with catchy songs leading me to wonder about the schizophrenic nature of the band. It is quite right that they should make the albums that they want to in whatever style they fancy but I don't see how this will ever build them much of a following. Not only is this a very short album, the 8 tracks lasting well under half an hour, but also it is not very prog at all having a distinctly straight ahead AOR and hard rock sound. There are a couple of short acoustic sections and they do try some different things here and there but ultimately this is an unfulfilling listen that won't be in my CD player very often. The songs themselves are more pop than prog, generally with a hard edge, and the prog metal tendencies are gone.

The band is a duo comprising singer/lyricist Sébastien Dénarié and guitarist/keyboardist Pascal Lemoine with presumably synthesised drums but this isn't obvious and doesn't detract from the sound. Keys are used to fill out the sound but Pascal's focus is the guitar which is good throughout. The vocals on the album are all in English and are pretty good if nothing special, Sébastien's voice lacking any real finesse, best suited to a hard rock sound that works well with this material and multi-tracked when needed to bulk out the sound and add a choral effect. The album is well produced and recorded but it is the basic nature of the songs that let it down somewhat.

The brief instrumental opener Cards Of Life... starts the album promisingly with a Pink Floyd feel of desolate picked guitar over washes of keyboard but this promise doesn't continue as Love Is Not So Far takes things in a much more straight ahead rock vein with a solid beat and a nice guitar solo but not much else.

Free kicks off in Tom Petty territory (think Learning To Fly), the vocal is good if a little histrionic and over the top but with plenty of energy. The material doesn't allow much variation and next track, Hero, is another straight hard rock number with nice guitar, good vocals and a bit of acoustic at the end for variation but just too ordinary to be of note. The title track then opens with acoustic guitar and an impassioned vocal and unfolds into a solid and sedate song that is probably the best track here. The vocals sometimes carry some French accent but on the whole this is not too noticeable and can be heard most clearly on this one and the final track. The Special One is the only song with lyrics printed on the sleeve and are pretty standard fair with no reason to either rave or criticise and seems characteristic of the album.

The Rock 'n' Roll Preacher does just what it says on the tin opening in a Steve Tyler/Aerosmith kind of way with good energy in the vocals but is ultimately another ordinary song. I'll Be There is more of the same and the delivery of the chorus is reminiscent of another song that I can't quite recall. ...A Better Life concludes proceeding with some chanted vocals over a keyboard theme. It works OK but, again, nothing special.

Overall a pleasant if unexciting listen for those who like AOR with a hard edge but I doubt many readers here will want to rush out and buy this one.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Silhouette - A-maze
Silhouette - A-maze
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2006
Time:53:34
Info:Silhouette
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ocean Of Life (4:38), The Lie (5:29), Special Days (4:38), Where Are You Now (4:54), The World Is Gonna Get You (7:57), Betray Me (5:55), Reunion (3:31), Seize The Night (9:21), Long Distance (7:15)

Considering we are the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages it is almost unthinkable that we should have omitted to review an album by a Dutch progressive rock band. So with heads hung low in shame we belatedly present a review of the debut Silhouette album. Fortunately it is still the current release from the band although news from the band's website show that the group are well on the way to releasing their second album which is to be called Moods.

The four-piece band comprise Brian de Graeve (guitars and vocals), Erik Laan (keyboards and vocals), Jos Uffing (drums and vocals) and Gerrit-Jan Bloemink (bass). All of the members except Bloemink have composing credits, but each song is written by an individual with no co-compositions. Presumably the writers takes on the lead vocal duties of their own compositions. Guitarist de Graeve has the most numbers to his name, starting with Where Are You Now, a rather slow starter whose saving grace is the synth solo towards the end of the song. The World Is Gonna Get You has a more pompous opening and contains some nice musical sections, although the transitions between some of the sections can be a bit clunky at times. This flows nicely into Betray Me with a pleasing, but brief, keyboard/guitar interplay. Unfortunately the vocals are not that engaging but the instrumental section make up for it. The final track from the pen of the guitarist is the longest track on the album, Seize The Night. The piano and vocal intro is nice, with two lead vocals providing a bit of variety. Bizarrely it reminds me a bit of Haze in places, contains some almost folky sections and lots of different solos, one of the highlights of the album without a doubt.

Drummer Uffing has the three shortest contributions to his name. Opening track Oceans Of Life sets the prog scene with plenty of keyboards and some up-front drumming (unsurprisingly!). However, I was not grabbed by the song as one would expect from an opening number on a debut album, it certainly didn't grab my attention and pull me in as I would have expected. Overall, sounds somewhat dated and unoriginal and, again, the track does not seem to flow all that smoothly. Special Days starts with an acoustic guitar (probably played by Uffing) and some harmony vocals. One reviewer claimed that this song was similar to Pink Floyd circa Dark Side Of The Moon. That is just so far wide of the mark I suggest the reviewer actually listens to some Floyd before making such comments! Overall, Special Days is a rather generic ballad with a bit of Mellotron added and drums that are far too high in the mix. Reunion is the best of the three from Uffing, a decent melody, good vocals and an interesting backing track that offers something different from what has gone before. Surprisingly different from Special Day, particularly as they are by the same writer.

Final two tracks on the album are by keyboardist Laan which is almost instantly obvious as soon as The Lie strikes up. A more moodier piece with vocals that are the best from the three singers, shame then, that he only gets to sing on two numbers! There is a definite Floydian ARP synth sound to this one, although it only features briefly. Hopefully this is more the area the band are currently working in as it is easily a more interesting and unique style. This is enforced by the final track Long Distance, a tale of the disintegration of a long distance love affair. A good ending to the album with the contemplative aspects balanced by the more rousing solos and Mellotron choirs that bring the song, and album, to a close. Well almost, there is a brief solo piano coda that was somewhat unexpected but quite novel.

For a debut album A-maze has some promising qualities and there are indications that the band has it within them to build on what they have achieved with this album and produce something that will push them higher in the realms of 21st century progressive rock. This will hopefully be shown with the imminent release of the second album.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES




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