Every once in a while something crosses my desk for review that gets the blood pumping, rekindling my belief that progressive rock is far from extinction. And as is the case with this latest entry “Realm Of Shadows” from KNIGHT AREA – much of these promising new prog revivalists hail from distant shores … in this case Holland .
KNIGHT AREA (quite a strange name) was founded by Dutch keyboardist Gerben Klazinga in 2004 when he recorded the first album “The Sun Also Rises”. Although no formal band was created at the time, Klazinga gathered an array of musicians for the recording session. The success of the album prompted him to assemble a performing band and take his project on the road.
“Under A New Sun”, the second album recorded in 2007 was a true group effort and helped establish the band as they expanded their foothold by touring throughout Europe, the UK, Germany, Canada, and the USA - performing at the NEARfest progressive rock festival in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.
And now with the release of their latest project “Realm Of Shadows” the band plans a massive tour including appearances at ProgPower Europe, Prockfest, and the Classic Rock Society (which took place last month).
“Realm Of Shadows” is an epic symphonic rock concept album from the old school of GENISIS, complete with Tony Banks style Mellotron chord washes, vintage Hammond organ, soaring synth leads, and those patented pastoral guitar leads that Steve Hackett brought to the early GENESIS classics.
Imagine for a moment you are transported back to that turbulent time in history between the completion of the “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” tour and the next phase in GENESIS career, as the remaining members auditioned for Peter Gabriel’s replacement. And instead of Phil Collins stepping into the limelight from behind his drum kit, the band settled on vocalist Freddy Mercury as his replacement. If you can imagine the direction “A Trick Of The Tail” may have taken, then you have a general idea of what to expect from the sound of KNIGHT AREA; just add a bit more bite and a harder edge.
The nine tightly constructed tracks on the album range in length from 2:20 to 11:15 minutes, without the bloated filler or grandioso rambling leads meant to showcase an egocentric musician. The synth and guitar leads are tasty, catchy and concise; the musicianship economical yet dazzling – with none of that annoying fretwork gymnastics and keyboard duels one might associate with many progressive metal bands. The emphasis is on composition.
I dare anyone to listen to this album and not come away with the tune “A Million Lives” running through their head throughout the day. It has a hook that could reel in a 25 foot shark, with the potential to be a real chart-topper if FM radio was the relevant force in the music industry it once was. Sadly it’s not.
Other stand-outs include the opening track “Ethereal” which sets the tone for the remainder of the album with a “Trick Of The Tail”/”Wind And Wuthering” flavor.
“Antagony” is a harder-edge DREAM THEATER, ARENA or SAGA type rocker.
“Two Of A Kind” is a quiet ballad that takes it down a notch with a Top 40 JEFFERSON STARSHIP quality to it - very nice.
“Momentum” and “Awakening” are two back-to-back energetic kick-ass instrumentals showcasing the bands virtuosity. “Momentum” provides a high energy adrenalin boost while “Awakening” slowly brings us down with an eerie melancholy melody.
The comparisons to Freddy Mercury and Tony Banks are quite potent on the ballad “Realm Of Shadows”. The vocals are spot-on Mercury – while the mood set by the chord progression has the unmistakably texture of a Tony Banks composition.
There are no weak spots on the entire album – so for once I can give an enthusiastic perfect score to an album I review.
Musicians on the album include Gerben Klazinga (keyboards), Mark Smit (lead and backing vocals), Mark Vermeule (guitars), Gijs Koopman (bass Moog Taurus pedals), Pieter Van Hoorn (drums).
For those who require comparisons to similar bands I’d suggest PALLAS, ARENA, DREAM THEATER, MARILLION, IQ, SAGA, and of course GENESIS.
Highly Recommended, with a perfect 10 out of 10 Rating.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on November 25th, 2009