It was somewhere back in 2013 that I bought an album called The Gift Of Anxiety (see review). Insiders know immediately that this is the title of the first full Sylvium album. After reading a review of this album I knew that it would fit in my collection. Afterwards it turned out that “would fit” was an understatement. For me personally it was one of the albums of 2013.
The dark atmospheres combined with heavy-, up-tempo intermezzos and the unconventional approach of writing songs were things I really like about the Dutch progressive rock band Sylvium. But above all Sylvium was blessed with the phenomenal vocals of Richard de Geest. For me vocals are very important in music. Bad vocals can ruin an album, in my opinion.
To refresh some memories, 2013 was the year that also had the following Dutch progressive rock releases: Flamborough Head with Lost In Time (see review), Fractal Mirror with Strange Attractors, Hangover Paradise with Mirrors (see review), Leap Day with From The Days Of Deucalion, Chapter 1 (see review), Monomyth with Monomyth and Tumbletown with Done With The Coldness (see review). This listing is just to illustrate the spirit of time I am talking about.
In 2015 Sylvium released their second full album Waiting For The Noise (see review). After this achievement it became more or less silent around the band. In 2017 there was a memo that Richard de Geest and Sylvium parted ways. The memo declared also that the decision was made in consultation.
At the end of 2019 Ben van Gastel announced that he founded a side project, My Arrival. He announced also that Fred Boks and Richard de Geest were involved in this project. Especially the participation of Richard de Geest was a surprise for me. Richard de Geest is a very talented singer songwriter.
Resume, My Arrival has the following line up: Ben van Gastel (guitars, keyboard), Fred Boks (bass, drums, keyboard) and Richard de Geest (vocals).
Because of the fact that all three have roots in Sylvium, they probably didn't lose much time getting acquainted with each other. The project seemed to work fast. Within a couple of months their album Satur9 & Violet was announced and released. My expectations were high, maybe too high?
When I looked at the album and its cover, I immediately discovered that My Arrival have burned all ships behind them. Sylvium released all the albums on the Dutch FREIA Records label, My Arrival has chosen to release the album on Mey Productions. The band founded the Mey Productions label themselves. They describe it with the famous words of Neil Armstrong “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
The biggest advantage you have by releasing albums on own label is that the artistic freedom is guaranteed.
I think that many of us have one burning question: is My Arrival some sort of copy of Sylvium? Before I start writing about the album I will ease the tension. No, My Arrival is not a copy of Sylvium. It only has some common ground and that's all. My Arrival is a totally newborn progressive rock band with a fresh approach to writing songs and also a fresh approach to performing songs.
The album opens with the intro Ending Theme. This may look kind of weird, but if you know the details about the storyline behind the album it becomes obvious. The story of this album is all about a man with a bleeding heart on a dying planet, searching for a new home. This storyline combined with the dark atmosphere of the intro makes also clear that this album has a rather dark atmosphere in general. I must confess that this is the progressive rock I like and it also touches the atmospheres on the Sylvium albums.
Gone is the first track with vocals. The track is low tempo, dark and has a lot of tension in it. Tension which is also built up in the vocal parts.
The moment Richard de Geest starts singing I get goosebumps. Not one time, but every time I hear this track. I can't describe exactly what it is... but this voice is pure, honest, and unique and has an incredible amount of emotion in it. Often reviewers like to compare and to refer to similar acts or artist. I am “guilty” in this deed as well. I try to give readers some information of what they can expect. When I refer to something, I think it's the easiest way to create the correct “feeling”.
The voice of Richard de Geest is one of a kind and therefor I think it deserves a special mention and not to be put in some sort of reference frame.
Pale White Dot was the first single of the album. It was released at the end of 2019 to support the pre order campaign of the album. The song starts mid-tempo and lingers for a while. The middle section contains spoken words of the main character of the album. He observes the current situation. At the end section the song goes more up-tempo. This parts reminds me of the Sylvium era.
Strange Machine starts keyboard orientated and evolves into a modest- and more accessible song. The song is a break through with regards to the dark atmospheres and it gives the album an extra dimension. The vocals are driven up through the rhythm section, keyboards and drums and are going to a phenomenal status once more.
The title track Satur9 & Indigo has more or less the same song structure as the former songs. Remarkable is the end section of the song. After a Nasa-like countdown voice Ben van Gastel plays an incredible-, lingering- and sensitive guitar solo. This solo has so much emotion that it really touches me. The whole part reminds me of Pink Floyd a little bit.
The album continues with Null Echo. The track has a threatening atmosphere and is a perfect transition to Come Undone. This is a mid-tempo track which contains deep dark atmospheres with a melodic layer of vocals over it. The keyboards have a main role in many of the dark atmospheres on all tracks. They sound deep- and industrial and give a lot of tension to most of the songs.
Failure Of A Grand Design is a track of which the title gives away the atmosphere of the song. When you are talking of a failure of a grand design, you don't expect a very positive vibe. The title covers the load of this whole instrumental track. It's a beautiful intermezzo to the end section of the album.
Full Dark No Stars is another rather short track on the album. The function of these tracks are, in my opinion, to connect songs with each other and to sketch the atmosphere the main character is in.
This track is mid-tempo and lingers on up to Close Your Eyes.
Close Your Eyes continues in a mid-tempo. The bridges in the song are beautiful. Music and vocals bend from tragic atmospheres to heavier atmospheres and back again. I like that, it gives songs something extra. Especially extra tension and more experiences for the listeners.
The album ends the short outro Home. It looks like the circular path has been entirely walked through.
My first conclusion after listening one time through the entire album was: what an amazing album. After I listened to it several times it turned out that the album was brilliant. More and more I realized what an incredible piece of musical craftsmanship this album embodies. I also felt more and more what this album has to offer to all of us who love the progressive rock music. It takes the area of the progressive rock in a new direction. I find it hard to compare with other albums and that is something which I like. The album has a unique sound, due to a renewed approach of making music.
I only can name two little minor points. At first I missed a CD booklet with the lyrics. The theme of this album is so interesting that a lyrics booklet would add something extra to the release. Lastly, I think that more guitar solos would also give an extra dimension to the album. Some parts are a little bit poppy. My personal opinion is that guitar solos can breach this. But here I must confess that I love guitar oriented music.
As I said, there are some interfaces with Sylvium. But when you ask me which, I can only name the sound of the vocals and a little of the sound colors of the instruments. Nothing more, nothing less. These former Sylvium guys wanted to do something new. They succeeded in that! My Arrival is completely different from Sylvium, it's a completely different project.
Of course Sylvium was also music with a feel and that is also a parallel with My Arrival. But in my opinion the feel and the touch of My Arrival lays miles ahead. Maybe it lays a galaxy ahead.
This is an album that every lover of the progressive rock music should give a chance. Especially those who like the Dutch progressive rock music. I must admit that I am not quiet objective, because of the fact that I am a collector of Dutch progressive rock, I am sure that My Arrival has a unique- and high standard.
This is something I do not do often, but: this album gets a ranking of 5 out 5.
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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