Koen Herfst..? You might wonder why a drummer who participates in DJ Armin van Buuren's live shows appears on a progressive rock website. Well, it's just plain simple: Herfst recorded a very strong album with fine compositions. Back To Balance also features the participation of a large number of well-known musicians from the progressive rock scene, amongst others.
The album contains both instrumental tracks and a number of vocal songs. I'll review the instrumentals first. During The Kramer and the titletrack you're treated to some fine guitar playing by Marcel Singor, who creates two very rock influenced songs with only few fusion elements. On Ghetto Cornetto, Leif de Leeuw plays the guitar together with the funky bass parts of Joost van der Graaf. They create a nice and heavy blues-rock sound. Siamese Support is really amazing thanks to guitarist Wim den Herder who adds a virtuoso, nasty sound to the song. On 1916 Den Herder is assisted by the violin of Judith van der Klip, which turns the song into a metal-fusion track. So, three guitarists leave their mark on Herfst's compositions creating their own sound. I love 1916 and Siamese Support and I look forward to further cooperation of these musicians in the future.
The vocal tracks on the album have the same intensity as the instrumentals. Each singer adds his own style to a song. On the opening piece Here I Am, Koen Herfst plays all the instruments while the vocals are provided by one of the best Dutch singers I know, namely Daniel de Jongh of Textures. This results in a powerful song and one of the best on the album as far as I'm concerned. The following Erase Or Rewind is darker. On this track Mats Levén (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion) takes over the vocal duties and he shares the vocals on I Don't Need To Tell You. Marcela Bovio (Stream Of Passion) is the perfect counterpart of Levén's voice, creating perhaps the most progressive rock song on the album. Total Hate is completely different. Modern metal mixed with rap won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it indicates the variation on Back To Balance. Begone shows the theatrical side of Koen Herfst; his spoken lyrics are accompanied by Valerio Recenti's vocals. Here the modern metal sound gets a nice bombastic touch.
During Social Junkie it seems as if this metal sound, that is overly present on the CD, has been transformed to the eighties with the distinctive voice of Rodney Blaze. I guess this also applies to Now Is The Time, wherein Ward Palmen takes you back to the days of Led Zeppelin and Guns 'n' Roses. An absolute killer is Never Been So Wrong. Here Herfst take the lead vocals himself, making it a very impressive composition in the vein of Alice In Chains. His voice resembles Lane Staley quite well. Recenti returns to contribute on Attitude Of An Astronaut, the album's final song. This wonderful piece consists of an amazing line-up with keyboardist Joost van den Broek, Daan Janzing (Unchained Reality) with a great guitar sound and Johan van Stratum (Stream Of Passion) on bass. I really hope that this line-up will return on the next album.
With Back To Balance Koen Herfst wrote and recorded an album in the musical styles he likes. The result is a CD that shows a lot of variation and with many guest musicians. I think the album shows where Herfst stands today. It's a surprising album containing much musical qualities.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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