Dec Burke is best known for his participation in bands like *Frost and the one he founded; Darwin Radio, but personally I prefer the Audioplastik album; In The Head Of A Maniac over those bands. In Audioplastik Dec presented the lead vocals and played guitar together with former Pain Of Salvation member Simon Andersson and keyboard player Richard West, well known from the band Threshold. Over the years Dec Burke released two solo albums, from which the first; Destroy All Monsters (2010) was a bit on the poppy side of progressive rock, but on the second; Paradigms And Storylines (2011) his progressive rock roots had taken the lead, resulting in a much more balanced and guitar orientated album. Very curious how Dec's third solo outing would turn out too, I entered Book Of Secrets into my CD player.
Before listening I really wanted to know if the corporation with keyboard player Carl Westholm was continued because especially during the previous album it showed how the duo proved to be a perfect match. Luckily Carl is present for the third time. This time he is accompanied by drummer Steve Hughes, known from Kino, Big Big Train and The Enid. Also present is bass player Kristoffer Gildenlow, former member of Pain Of Salvation and now a solo artist. Book Of Secrets is mixed by Lee Abraham and mastered by Threshold's Karl Groom, so I am pretty confident, the sound quality will be more than fine.
Book Of Secrets turns out to be powerful, but accessible. Highlighting his very strong abilities on the guitar, which in combination with the classic keyboards of Westholm form the base for the slightly raw vocals. Opener, Reflection starts nice and bombastic, gently growing to a cool section, where a smooth piano backs up some furious guitar riffs. Songs like Everlasting and As High As The Sun are tough progressive rock songs, combining power with catchy vocal lines and wonderful guitar parts and solos. Take and Another Hope are pure progressive rock, highlighting Dec's distinguished vocals, that soar over the very strong foundation that Carl Westholm has played. The guitars and keys are nicely balanced during these compositions, where the previous two mentioned favoured the guitar. Dec's vocal talents are really shown in the soft power of Intervals, a piano and acoustic guitar driven power ballad style song. The acoustic base is continued in the first part of Hate & Lies, but halfway through the track, the electricity switch is found and the power kicks in, resulting in a great electrifying part giving the song a strong two-faced atmosphere. Perhaps the most impressive song of the album has been saved until the end. The Sun Will Rise is not powerful or loud, but has a more delicate sound. Audioplastik band mate Simon Andersson joines and adds the fine stings, backing up Dec's voice and acoustic guitar.
Over the years, Declan Burke has proven himself as a versatile vocalist for many bands and projects and his guitar playing might have been a bit underrated, but Dec is a real strong guitar player, providing perfect melodies, riffs and solos. The combination of Dec and Carl Westholm has stayed intact for this third solo effort, proving again how strong the collaboration of those two musicians is. Regarding the sound, I guess my predictions came true and I only can credit both Lee as well as Groom for their fine job on the album. In the end Dec Burke has given us a very impressive album, where power and emotion meet.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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