It looks like 2019 will be a great progressive rock year. In January and February a wave of great progressive rock releases found their way to my mailbox, and there's more to come. One of the releases that I especially waited for was Nocebo of The Dave Foster Band. Dave Foster is best known as the guitarist and co-songwriter of the English neo prog band Mr. So & So. The last couple of years he participates also in the solo band of Steve Rothery (Marillion), which brought him to venues all over the world.
My history with Dave Foster starts in 1992. I was asked to review Paraphernalia, the debut album of Mr. So & So. I immediately was caught by the freshness of the songs and the tight- but also sensitive guitar parts of Dave Foster. Since that moment I have always followed the band and Dave Foster in particular. Because of the fact that I play guitar as well, I have always a weakness for progrock guitarists in general. Call it occupational disability or something like that.
This all said, it brings me to the album called Nocebo. The Nocebo Effect stands for some sort of negative expectation and it's the opposite of the Placebo effect. But when you look at all the musicians which are contributing on the album, there can't be any negative expectation at all.
Dave Foster has chosen to record the songs in different band settings, so there is no standard line up. The musicians who are contributing on the album are: Dave Foster (guitars, bass, keyboards), Dinet Poortman (vocals), Yatim Halimi (bass), Leon Parr (drums), Anthony Hindley (piano), Stuart Brown (drums), Martin Jakubski (vocals and backing vocals), Steve Rothery (guitar solo), Andrew Coughlan (upright bass), Pete Trewavas (bass), Riccardo Romano (keyboards), Courtnay Reddy (backing vocals), Nicola Jones (backing vocals). The last song on the album has orchestral-, instrumental parts in it. These parts are played by Andrew Price (violin), Clare Dixon (violin), Glen Perry (violin), Mike Dale (viola) and Peter Dixon (cello).
When you look at all the musicians, especially when you're an insider, you can tell a long story short. Most of them are working together with him in his band Mr. So & So and in the Steve Rothery Band.
When I put the album for the first time in my CD-player, I was overwhelmed by the mysterious soundscapes which rapidly faded away and were followed up by heavy guitar riffs. The album had departed in high speed with the track Pata Dura. The heavy intro reminds me of some intros on the latest Mr. So & So album Truth, Lies & Half Lies. The song continues in a dreamy mid-tempo atmosphere. The strong vocals of Dinet Poortman makes it even more dreamier. Dinet Poortman is a fixed value on the albums of Dave Foster. And as a chauvinistic Dutchman I am proud to announce that she's from The Netherlands. Dinet Poortman is capable to sing all kind of different songs. Her pure voice goes from soft, modest up to heavy. She is also a vocalist with a completely own sound. It's a voice that I really like, it always drags me into a song.
The heavy parts and the more or less dreamy soundscapes alternate in the song. The guitar solo of Dave Foster is a really fast one. It's Petrucci-like in my opinion. The album starts off promising
And continues continues with Counting Down The Days, a mid-tempo song with very catchy guitar riffs and also very catchy choruses. It's a rather open track and it's suitable for airplay on radio.
Forfeit is a dreamy song with a folk rock character. The string orchestra has a main role in this song. The strings touch this song in a magical way. Dinet Poortman's vocals are also superb. These are the songs in which I like here voice the most. The most magical moment of the song is the guitar solo of Dave Foster. This solo is “just” played with feeling. Technique isn't always the best way to play solo's.
Karma is a track which breaths both tragic and sadness. The chorus of the song is phenomenal. It breaks the dark atmosphere. The guitar solo in Karma is really divine. It's unbelievable melodic and fits perfect. When you listen to it well, it is soon obvious that Steven Rothery plays it. What a living legend.
The fifth track of the album is Anything. It's a nice mid-tempo track with very melodic parts. The most striking event in this song is the fact that besides Dinet Poortman also Martin Jakubski is singing parts of the song. I must confess that this is a tasteful combination. Martin Jakubski is known for his vocal qualities in The Steve Rothery Band and also in Stillmarillion. It's therefore obvious that his voice has parallels with Fish.
Ephermeral is, besides some guitar parts, a mainly acoustic ballad. The track has also a rather sad atmosphere. The vocals of Dinet Poortman are once more phenomenal. When I am in the right mood I can easily listen to this track over and over again. In my opinion it's one of the highlights of the album.
After that all said, it's pedal to the medal again. Eventually, Everything Connects is a up-tempo track which would perfectly fit on a Mr. So & So album. The song has a new wave style character. The guitar solo part is heavy and fast, but tasteful from the beginning to the end.
Glitch is a track that opens modestly and has a rather low tempo. The vocals are woolly, but in a positive way. It's a track that laps from start to finish and it's suitable for radio.
The song From Within has also a new wave like sound and it's low tempo. The atmosphere modest, but once more the vocals of Dinet Poortman, the strong bridges and the excellent guitar solo are lifting this song it up.
When you give a song the title Ghosts it's almost obvious that the atmosphere of the song isn't uplifting. Ghosts starts therefore, creepy. Even the chord progression at the beginning has tension. Dave's voice is intense and creates a sound which fits perfectly in the song. The bridges in this song are guitar driven and have a lingering character. By lingering I mean a Black Sabbath like tempo. I must confess that this is one of my favorite songs of the album.
The album ends with the epic orchestrated song All That Remains. It opens with great strings that build up the tension. These strings repeat in the entire song. The song has therefore once again a kind of tragic atmosphere, which is great. The vocals of Dinet Poortman are exceptionally beautiful. At the end Dave Foster plays a phenomenal guitar solo. This one is 10 out of 10.
Dave Foster has grown as a guitarist, but also has grown as a composer. I think that all his work with the Steve Rothery Band pays off. He has managed to deliver a third album which is in creative sense maybe better that the first ones. Nocebo is more consistent and all the songs on the album are high quality progressive rock. The album has great tension and is never boring. So Nocebo to me isn't a negative experience, on the contrary it's a very positive experience.
The production of the album is also great, it's sounds great on my headphones and on my speakers. For my that's important, because I can be put off by bad productions.
This brings me to the rating of this album and that will be 5 points. Obvious.
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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