This Duo Review is published in conjunction with a Silhouette interview by Theo Verstrael!
Silhouette - The World Is Flat And Other Alternate Facts - Duo Review
March Of Peace (5:38), The Flow (8:46), Six Feet Underground (9:36), Symphony For A Perfect Moment (17:57), Sakura (2:50), Turn It Off (5:29)
Geoff Feakes' ReviewWith a recording career spanning 10 years and 4 previous albums to their name, each successive release by Silhouette has seen the band go from strength to strength.
They started life as a four piece in 2005 but the last album Beyond The Seventh Wave (2014) saw a significant change in line-up with three new members, Daniel van der Weijde (electric and acoustic guitars), Rob van Nieuwenhuijzen (drums and percussion) and Jurjen Bergsma (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Its founding members Brian de Graeve (12-string guitar, lead and backing vocals) and Erik Laan (keyboards, bass pedals, lead and backing vocals) however who remain the principal architects, sharing as they do lead vocals and the majority of the song writing credits. Like fellow Dutch proggers Knight Area, Silhouette have toughened their sound in recent years mainly due to van der Weijde's harder edge guitar technique (prior to his arrival, de Graeve was responsible for lead guitar).
That said, their melodic style is still very much informed by mid-70's Genesis by way of 80's Marillion and 90's Pendragon even though the neo-prog reference I used in previous reviews no longer applies. The band are joined by two female backing singers and several guest musicians whose traditional instruments add credence and weight to the band's symphonic leanings.
The opening three songs are amongst the strongest the band has produced thus far, each lingering long in the memory. Opener March Of Peace benefits from majestic organ and blistering lead guitar that put me in mind of Trevor Rabin whilst The Flow boasts a gloriously symphonic mid-section featuring synths, piano, violin, oboe and flute. Six Feet Underground combines gothic Mellotron, organ and fluid guitar lines with solid riffs and given the songs subject, a surprisingly uplifting chorus. Clocking in 18 minutes and written mostly by keyboardist Laan, the 5-part Symphony For A Perfect Moment is the band's most ambitious piece to date. With the possible exception of the lengthy instrumental mid-section which is basically a showcase for individual solos, as long-songs go it holds together in a convincingly coherent fashion. Especially noteworthy is the opening song section with its rich counterpoint harmonies and romantic mood echoing Moon Safari.
The albums penultimate track, Sakura is an engaging instrumental allowing Van der Weijde to demonstrate his classical guitar skills, flowing almost seamlessly into the closing song. Co-written by De Graeve and Laan, Turn It Off borrows its subject matter and lyrical imagery from Genesis' Blood On The Rooftops and the connection is underlined by the songs melancholic keys theme and pastoral acoustic guitar and flute.
The World Is Flat is a worthy addition to Silhouette's growing roster of superb albums and The Flow in particular is their best song to date in this scribe's humble opinion. As a writer for the DPRP you can call me biased but the Netherlands, in my view, are one of the leading exporters of melodic prog at present and Silhouette are one of the finest exponents.
Theo Verstrael's ReviewWith their 2014 album Beyond the seventh wave Dutch band Silhouette entered my premier league of interesting prog bands. Their melodic songs full of great electric guitar and keys work and the extremely tasteful use of such nice instruments as flute, violins and cellos made it my album of the year. I certainly was not the only one because the album got loads of positive reviews, both nationally and internationally.
Yet there is also a downside in making a successful album. At a certain moment a successor has to be released that should at least meet the expectations the former album has set. It took Silhouette three years to compose and record that one which is now released under the intriguing title The World Is Flat And Other Alternative Facts. The album was recorded in keyboardist Erik Laans own studio called The Brewery adjacent to his house. Laan also took care of the production of the album while the mixing and mastering was done by his son Bart.
The line-up is the same as the one with which they recorded the last part of their former album: Brian de Graeve on lead and backing vocals and 12-string guitar, Jurjen Bergsma on bass, Rob van Nieuwenhuijzen on drums and percussion, Daniel van der Weijde on electric and acoustic guitars and Erik Laan on piano, keyboards, lead and backing vocals.
TWIF comes in a lush green and yellow digipack with a well-designed booklet containing all lyrics and some shadowy drawings by artist Antonio Seijes. The booklet also has all names of those who responded to their pre-order action. For me green (nature!) and yellow (sunlight!) immediately call upon positive feelings but the album title doesn't support that feeling at all. So what would the music sound like?
Opening track March of peace starts off with some cacophonic street noises interspersed with some musical notes. Fortunately after half a minute the De Graeve's vocals come in singing some 'Na na na' lines that read far worse than they sound. It is the bridge towards a nice up-tempo song dealing with the hopeful thought of a peaceful world after a terrible war. The lyrics by De Graeve make clever use of famous songs titles from the past such as Deep Purple's Child In Time, Simple Minds' Belfast Child, Billy Joel's Goodnight Saigon and Kate Bush's Army Dreamers. Yet the lyrics make sense and send out a not-to-misunderstand message: "Take guitars instead of guns". The music is quite rocky for Silhouette standards and the song will undoubtedly become a live favourite.
A slow piano starts The flow, a ballad more typical for this band. Van der Weijdes electric guitar and mellotron take up and pave the way to a very romantic vocal melody by De Graeve accompanied by both his wife Marjolein and Joke Laan Morsch on backing vocals. The violin played by Sophie Zaaijer is another very tasteful addition to the vocals while after some three minutes flute and hobo come in. It all blends together extremely well and makes this a standout song that has been given an appropriate title. Towards the end there is an extensive flowing guitar solo after which Laans piano takes care of the outro that gently turns into the intro of the more rockier Six Feet Underground. It has a very solid base in the piano melody which is strengthened even further by an addictive chorus line. Halfway the 'Na-na-na' vocal melody from the opening song reappears and that sounds quite natural here although this is a totally different song in pace and atmosphere; cleverly done. For those of you who like to be drenched in mellotron there is a lot to enjoy here, together with numerous outstanding duel solos between keys and guitar. The positive but far from cheesy lyrics deal with the feeling that you have to make sure who to love before you say goodbye to this life.
With its almost 18 minutes Symphony For A Perfect Moment is a real epic, the longest song Silhouette has ever recorded so far. I found it quite hard at first to get into the song which has nothing to do with the quality of the music as such. During the first spins I couldn't keep my attention up for the full length because not all parts are as exciting when heard first. Gradually the different paces and moods fall and start to grab into each other and lift the song to a higher level. The piece really comes to life around the 4-minute mark with Laans organ and Bergsma's pumping bass. Intricate piano parts then glue the piece together while Van der Weijde plays his heart out in many different guitar solos. The vocals are sung alternately by De Graeve and Laan adding to the variety of this piece. Halfway the hobo plays a beautiful bridge towards another soaring guitar outburst over energetic drum playing by Van Nieuwenhuijzen which then leads to a quiet organ piece that must have been inspired by Rick Wakeman. Guitar, piano, keys and flute come back to the central theme and then the music flows into another guitar solo followed by another solo. In-between both vocalists pick up the recurring vocal melody. The end of this epic is somewhat abrupt and demo-ish, almost as if they decided that 18 minutes was just enough. Given the variety they could have gone on for another 5 minutes or so and it would have influenced the whole piece only positively. Still this is a majestic song.
After this intensive musical journey the band slows down and gives Van der Weijde his two-and-a-half minute claim to fame with the instrumental Sakura. He plays it on a 8-string acoustic guitar accompanied by subtle keys. The song has a nice romantic melody which immediately made me think of Genesis - Hairless heart. It is a well-planned contemplative moment after the dynamic epic and a perfect introduction to the absolute highlight of the album, closer Turn It Up. The intro is of unearthly beauty with French horn played by Ger Otten, acoustic guitar, hobo and keys. De Graeve's subtle vocals are woven in-between and strengthened by very appropriate drum playing and tasteful keys. Acoustic guitars can be heard in the background, all pieced together in a brilliant way. After 3,5 minute the complete band merges in and the song develops towards a perfect outro with excellent electric guitar and, again, hobo, flute and keys. What a stunning song!! Too bad it doesn't last longer....
While their former album appeared more easy to digest because the melodies stuck to your memory sooner, this new one needs some more time to reveal its beauty. But the quality of this band shines through in each song, at best in the formidable closing song. There are countless moments full of symphonic beauty, numerous great musical highlights and much variety. No fillers and no weak moments to be heard although the album opening with the cacophony would not have been my choice. Yet it illustrates that Silhouette is full of confidence, that they record what they believe in themselves and don't give a damn what one might expect. And right they are. I can wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone who likes melodic, varied, flowing, moody and extensive songs like we use to know from bands like Pendragon, Camel and Marillion. Yes, these are not the least influential bands...
The World Is Flat is simply another gem by this fine band. I know for sure this album will end up very high in my 2017 list!
This Duo Review is published in conjunction with a Silhouette interview by Theo Verstrael!