How often does it happen, that progressive rock bands are named after a song written by well-known prog acts? I guess many times! I can give you plenty of examples. Take for instance bands as Ritual and Relayer that are probably named after compositions recorded by Yes. Bands like Trespass, Foxtrot and For Absent Friends were most likely inspired by a song or album title by Genesis, and Trilogy and Tarkus might have been influenced by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Song titles from Marillion have been used as well; Grendel, Gazpacho and Forgotten Sons are good examples. However, these bands don't necessarily play the same kind of music as the band from which they might have derived their band name. Take for instance the Polish band Grendel formed in 2002 by guitarist and singer Sebastian Kowgier, keyboardist Ula Swider, bassist Czarek Swider and drummer Wojciech Bilinski.
Grendel released their debut album The Helpless in 2008. At the time I didn't have the chance to review, but now I've got a second chance since it was re-released in 2012. Well, I realized that I was lucky that a reissue of this concept album was made. It deals with men's helplessness at various stages of life. The eight tracks on The Helpless contain neo-prog rock which is worth listening to. Grendel are certainly no clone of Marillion fronted by Fish! Their style can surely be labelled as neo-prog as well, but singer Sebastian Kowgier doesn't sound like Derek William Dick at all, but much more in the style of Mariusz Duda (Riverside) including the Polish accent. The way he occasionally played the electric guitar reminded me of Steve Rothery (Marillion). Then again you can also hear traces of Pink Floyd, Riverside and Porcupine Tree. I think guitarist Sebastian Kowgier is the musician, who shines the most on The Helpless. His guitar parts are done very well and his fantastic guitar solos prove that he's a very talented musician. The other musicians in the band are good as well, but they never reach the same high level.
There's enough to enjoy on this album. In fact I couldn't spot any weak tracks. However, Grendel don't reach yet the high level of other neo-progressive rock bands like Arena, IQ, Pendragon and Pallas. I think the band members are talented enough to grow music wise on their next albums. This is already a good start and they can only get better if they explore new horizons. The Helpless is recommended to people who enjoy neo-prog the most of all progressive rock genres.
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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