Two years ago the Dutch progressive rock band Knight Area released their third album Realm Of Shadows (see review). It was a bit difficult for me to get that album into my system. When I listened to the music for the first time, I thought it to be rather simple. However, conceptual albums often have a tendency to sound simpler than 'normal' albums, but after a while I noticed the musical qualities of Realm Of Shadows, just like I did on the previous releases The Sun Also Rises (2004) and Under A New Sign (2007). About Nine Paths, the band's latest release, I never had any doubts. This time the music immediately grabbed me by the throat just like their first two records did. Apparently, working without a concept give these musicians more room to stand out at all tracks, because all nine tracks contain a very high level of musicality and that's just what Knight Area stand for.
While listening to the opening track Ever Since You Killed Me I noticed that Knight Area once more created a special album. The brilliant keyboard parts of Gerben Klazinga are working over time. Guitarist Mark Vermeule delivers some outstanding guitar riffs and solos and the bass guitar of Gijs Koopman sounds as if Chris Squire has joined the band. Together with drummer Pieter van Hoorn Koopman provides this track with some perfect rhythmic beats. After a couple of minutes, when the tempo has slowed down a bit, Mark Smit starts to sing. I think he has grown as a vocalist. What more can I ask for after listening to such a stunning track? Summerland, the second track, is magnificent as well but now the musicians display a more powerful side due to the rather heavy and aggressive guitar riffs. Sometimes the music shifts in the direction of Dream Theater. Please Come Home is a beautiful ballad whereon guest vocalist Charlotte Wessels (Delain) excellently sings. She also wrote the lyrics for this piece. At the end of this track you'll enjoy a breathtaking guitar solo. For the first time it struck me that this track could have been influenced by Kayak. Clueless can be regarded as an average Knight Area-track tending a bit towards mainstream rock music, but still worthwhile listening. The River has been written by Gijs Koopman. It's a strong piece with a lot of pathos due to the superb use of the bass pedals and the dramatic keyboard parts. An amazing synthesizer solo lifts this song to an even higher level.
Pride And Joy is a fine short instrumental piece whereon Klazinga and Vermeule live their lives to the full with interesting duets on their instruments. The Balance starts with a strange and kind of mellow drum rhythm before the rest of the musicians join in. A fine break gives this song a fresh impulse and then the keyboards take the lead. Every now and then the band shows its aggressive side as well. On Wakerun the music is up-tempo containing many fine passages of guitar and keyboards. After the magnificent break some mellow playing on the acoustic guitar follows. After a while the changes of tempo accelerate. The album ends in style with Angel's Call written by Mark Smit starting as a simple ballad on the acoustic piano while Smit sings with an outstanding falsetto-like voice. The synthesizer solo sounds delicate and beautiful, but I guess it's a bit too short. When this mellower tune ends you'll hear a kind of short drum solo, that is, if you don't remove the disc out of your player; a nice gimmick.
On their fourth studio album Knight Area again produced a high international level of progressive rock music. They can easily compete with all the big names in the prog rock scene. Nine Paths is highly recommended to people who love the music of Pallas, Pendragon, Arena, Genesis and Yes. I think Nine Paths is a superb album that must be heard by all people who call themselves prog heads.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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