Together with his previous release; Songs Of Seas And Oceans (2014, see review), Sebas Honing'' latest effort From Middle To East can be seen as one big production. The digi-pak sleeve that holds the debut album has an open spot, where this new album perfectly fits. So basically, when you bought that album, you are almost obligated to pursue this new album as well, at least if you want to complete the whole package.
Now the big question is, whether that open slot deserves to be filled by the new album? Okay, I really liked the first part and am anxious to hear new material of this young and very gifted musician. Again, the album is a pure solo effort, with Sebas taking care of all the instruments and vocals, except for the female vocals that were sung by his partner Petra once again.
From Middle To East takes you on a musical trip from the shores of Turkey, visiting India, and ending up in Indonesia. Elements from progressive rock are blended with authentic traditional music from the areas we visit. All this starts with The Moon Decides, where Middle Eastern percussion lays a base for Sebas' orchestration and guitars. His vocals have a Western orientated vibe, just to make us western people feel comfortable. Since the previous album, I think Sebas' voice has grown stronger and, especially in parts of the album's opener, the contribution of Petra's powerful voice to his, adds something very special. After this slightly mellowed, but intriguing song, the next composition sees a more metal and fusion orientated part of the journey. The power of Escape From Arabia in no time takes you to the borders of India. Sitar sounds make you feel welcome when you enter this beautiful country and Sebas decides to write an Ode To The Sun; instrumental parts that show influences of Steve Vai and John Anthony's Karnatriix lead to a vocal orientated part which is sung strongly in a style now recognizable as Sebas' relaxed way of singing. In reality not quite a small step, but for the listener more of a small chasm, we travel further to Indonesia. Ramayana has a doomy slow guitar melody with gamelan-kind of percussion that creates an alternate counter-melody, which go hand in hand. Very impressive solos are taking over and make this one of the best compositions of the album in my opinion. We remain in Indonesia when the following Perang Peopoetan begins, smooth vocals are mixed with eastern percussion working their way towards a mood-changing, heavy part. Petra contributes her wonderful voice again to the dark staccato guitar that plays over the continuing percussion parts. Another strong solo does the rest. At this point the album has basically ended, nevertheless, there are another four extras present, with which we're already familiar. Those compositions are the radio edits for various songs presented on the two combined albums. A nice gesture to hear them in a different mix.
As you could read in the previous review, I was impressed by this young Dutch musician and the music he composed, played and sung. This “follow up” album, takes off were the previous one left us. Nevertheless, it seems the compositions have matured a bit, or perhaps it's just me, liking these compositions even more than the ones on Songs Of Seas And Oceans. The extra songs are nice, but in a way they don't add too much to the whole package, an extended journey to Australia would have been a welcome gesture. All-in-all a strong album really worth listening to.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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