In my opinion, a reviewer has to be honest about giving his verdict on the albums he reviews. Some albums are easier to review than others are. I noticed this when I had to review the latest effort of my fellow-countrymen of Knight Area. With The Sun Also Rises (2004) and Under A New Sign (2007), this Dutch prog band made two fantastic albums, loved on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Both albums got the maximum of five stars in our magazine. I even named Under A New Sign a true masterpiece and besides it was my favourite album of 2007.
It was much more difficult to get Knight Area’s latest release into my system. The first two albums grabbed me immediately by the throat, but Realm Of Shadows took a number of listening sessions in order to discover the beauty within. When I heard the tracks for the first time, they had a tendency to sound rather simple. However, concept albums often tend to sound simpler than other albums. Some songs just need a straightforward tune to tell the story. In this connection you might remember concept albums as Brave (Marillion) or Subterranea (IQ). These albums also contained standard material and it took me more time to discover how ingenious these albums were. For Realm Of Shadows this is the case as well, so afterwards I had to conclude that Knight Area made another great album. It’s not a true masterpiece in the genre, but still an album of a high quality level, that contains no weak spots at all.
For almost an hour, you can enjoy a fine balance between up-tempo pieces like Antagony, Momentum and A Million Lives, and mellow tunes like Two Of A Kind, Awakening and Realm Of Shadows. On all those tracks, the musicians gave their best performance possible. Enjoy the wonderful Chris Squire-like bass playing of Gijs Koopman, for instance in the instrumental piece Momentum, in Dark Souls and in Two Of A Kind. The melodic guitar solos are omnipresent as well. Mark Vermeule did a wonderful job in songs as Antagony and Occlusion. Keyboard player Gerben Klazinga was so kind as to include some awesome synthesizer solos. Listen to A Million Lives and Two Of A kind and you know what I mean. Klazinga is a fantastic pianist. He plays fine chords on his string synthesizer and makes the mellotron samples sound heavenly. The instrumental piece Awakening is a fine example of his skills. Lead singer Mark Smit already sounded great on the other Knight Area releases, but this time his background vocals sound even better. Sometimes he sounds as a real choir. Finally, some nice words about drummer Pieter van Hoorn. Without his stunning playing the band would certainly sound differently.
As I stated before Realm Of Shadows is a rather dark concept album that deals with a metaphysical journey. In both the concept and music wise, I found some similarities with IQ’s Subterranea (1997). I noticed the same kind of keyboard fragments to connect the songs. As far as the production is concerned, this album sounds fabulous. Gerben Klazinga aims at perfection and therefore he let the famous Bob Katz master the album again.
Perhaps the album title and the front cover make metal heads think that this is a prog metal album, but there’s no metal at all on this album. Realm Of Shadows contains only fine progressive rock music. A ‘must have’ for prog heads who like bands such as Arena, Pallas, IQ and Pendragon. Highly recommended!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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