Homesick is the debut album from Dutch neo-prog band Chain Reaktor, something of a family affair consisting of the brothers Bart Laan (vocals, guitars and flute) and Arjan Laan (drums and percussion) from the band Skylake joined by their father Erik Laan (Silhouette) on keyboards. They are joined by bass player Mark op Ten Berg, whose background is in soul and funk to provide a cool rhythmic feel, as well as a host of guest musicians.
The seven songs on this collection all deal with the paradox of the loneliness of cities. If this sounds somewhat hard going, complete with the post-apocalyptic bleakness of the cover art then rest easy, this is an album to savour not endure. The compositions can be heavy and dark, but counterbalanced by melodic lines, strong rhythms and an intensity presumably brought about by the personal relations within the group. I don't know how long this collection has been in the making, but it is fair to say that in no way does this sound like a debut recording such is the cohesiveness within the band and the outstanding playing on display. This is the sort of work you would associate with a band with years of playing together such is the understanding and confidence of the concept and the compositions. Of the seven tracks only Enjoy Your Life comes in at under 5 minutes, which tells you a little bit about the fecundity of ideas on display. Nor, I should add are the longer pieces guilty of being prolix. Every one is an object lesson of employing multiple tones, whether heavy riffing, metal edged sections morphing into Camelesque flute or epic violin solo., bursts of keyboard wizardry or soaring multipart vocal choruses, I found it never short of engaging, no rehashing of old tricks and certainly no suggestion of putting quantity at the expense of quality. If I had to single any track out for mention, it would be The Lying King which takes pride of place as the central track in the suite, but mostly to say, if you want a taster of the album, you could do no worse than listen to that - if you like it, then you are sure to enjoy the rest. I also particularly enjoyed the way the saxophone is used to add warmth to the aching emptiness of the title track. The album is full of these touches ensuring that it is never short of engaging.
This is an album which exudes quality and is a great advert for symphonic, heavy neo-prog with a strong melodic base. We all know that family relations in bands can be tricky, and I haven't found anything to tell me whether it is intended to keep Chain Reaktor as a side project or resurface occasionally - nor is that any of my business. I'm just grateful to have been treated to this collection, and will hope to hear more one day in the future. As assured a 'debut' as you will get.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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