I have always had a special place in my heart for the wonderful music of American prog rockers Kansas. Now they released their 16th studio album called The Absence Of Presence and in my humble opinion it is one of their best albums so far and already one of the highlights of the year 2020. The Absence Of Presence, with new keyboard player Tom Brislin, can be seen as a follow up of The Prelude Implicit (2016, see review), their previous amazing album.
The opening song, being the epic title track, is a full blast prog rocker in the true veins of the unmistakable Kansas sound. This is Kansas at its best, melodic, majestic, bombastic and featuring a complex heavy instrumental section. In short: a magical opener and one wonders if it can get any better than this? And , yes, it is possible, as follow up song Throwing Mountains is definitely one of the heaviest tracks Kansas have ever composed and recorded; what a phenomenal song, just check out the amazing guitar melody and ferocious solo of original Kansas member Rich Williams; this is head banging stuff with a violin!! Next highlight is the song Circus Of Illusion which again is a very powerful track and actually it is also a musical trip down memory lane as it really reminds me of the Kansas sound during their Leftoverture (1976) days; love it! The song Never is a very emotional and dramatic ballad featuring amazing vocals by Ronnie Platt, a superbly catchy chorus and a great musical duel between the violin and the guitar. The Absence Of Presence ends with The Song The River Sang, composed by new comer Brislin and it is a fantastic song to finish this almost perfect album. Brislin also sings the lead vocals on this track and the melody is magic, the song rocks like hell and it is also a very “dark” song, maybe even darker than Throwing Mountains, if that is possible... What a way to end an album, full blast and rock till you drop!
Conclusion: The Absence is an awesome Kansas album, the album has NO fillers as all songs stand out and all Kansas members really play their asses of; sheer prog rock magic with an awesome production, which makes this album even better! The Absence Of Presence proves that Kansas still belongs to America's prog rock elite and that you cannot miss out on this album. This is truly a buy or die album.
***** Martien Koolen (edited by Dave Smith)
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