Minor Giant - On The Road

(CD 2014, 53:52, Festival Music 201407)

The tracks:
  1- On The Road(12:34)
  2- Dream With Eyes Wide Open(10:22)
  3- Lead Me Home(3:52)
  4- Hand In Hand(6:32)
  5- We Are Strangers Here(4:46)
  6- The Last Road(15:46)

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At a very early stage in the career of the Dutch composer and keyboard player Rindert Lammers, I had the privilege to get acquainted with this talented musician. He was only seventeen years of age in those days! In early 2011, he sent me a message to ask my help by getting him in contact with the musicians he wanted to be on his album. He would name it On The Road, after a fantastic demo he recorded on his own, with only the help of Christiaan Bruin (Chris) on vocals. Furthermore, after he had completed the line-up of his band Minor Giant, I nominated them for Background Magazine to be one of the first bands to enter the Dutch Exposure band competition for a record deal (2012, see CD review). However, due to certain strange decisions they were forced to withdraw. It was at a time when the band had already started to record their debut album. Besides Rindert on keyboards, the musicians consisted of Roy Post on drums and percussion, Jordi Repkes on guitars and lead vocals, Harry den Hartog (ex-PBII) on bass guitar, and Jos Heijmans on keyboards and vocals, but it took the band another two years to finally release On The Road.

Expectations certainly ran high as to what could be expected on their debut. This was mainly due to the fact of the way they had presented themselves during several live performances, at which I was present myself. During their live-debut at the Progmotion Festival 2012 (see review), they showed they were a real professional unit, and left everybody behind speechless by the time they had finished their set. Their performance at the Northern Prog Festival 2013 (see review) was also one which will be remembered by those who were present. Here, with Rik van Dommelen on bass guitar and backing vocals, they proved once again, they belong to the top of the Dutch progressive rock bands. Finally, I saw them one week after the release party of their first musical effort. Their concert, given at 't Blok in Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel (see review), showed how much they had grown as a band that could easily reproduce live, the music they'd recorded for their debut album.

Because of watching this band on a Dutch stage three times, it meant that all of the songs presented on On The Road would sound familiar to me. I guess it hardly came as a surprise to me that the six compositions - all written by Rindert - still sounded as good as I had heard them during their aforementioned performances. So, bravo to all the musicians, who did a wonderful job recording all those brilliant pieces of music. Those songs were later mixed and mastered perfectly by Ruud Rijnbeek en Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area), giving them an even better sound!

Right from the start, the album kicks ass with the title track, and is followed by more musical highlights only. All those awesome tracks musically revere that of acts like Neal Morse, Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson. Mentioning every song in detail, is something that won't do justice to what they have to offer, because words can hardly express what I heard and felt while listening to them! What I can tell you, is that it features the amazing lead vocals and guitar solos by Repkes. Wow, what a brilliant singer and guitarist this musician is on every track! Other important things to mention, are the strong synthesizer solos and keyboard parts throughout the entire album. What Lammers and Heijmans present here is true prog heaven. Many times, I could dream away in those endless sounding synthesizer parts and Mellotron choirs. I have to mention the rhythm section as well, because Post and den Hartog sound very tight, and occasionally have moments to shine on their own as well so, bravo to them!

Not only does this album rise to an unbelievably high level music wise; the lyrics are all very professionally done too, and cover a certain concept, being the different roads people choose in life. The lyrics are about the hope and strength everybody needs in their travels through life. This is present most of all on the track The Last Road. This final track on the album concludes that spiritual voyage in a wonderful way. Certain themes taken from the tracks on the entire album return in this composition very well. The song, most of all, gives an optimistic end to the album, which is full of hope for the future. It has to be said that Jordi sings all these lyrics in a very emotional way, without any accent at all. Most of the time when you hear Jordi sing those lyrics, a feeling of longing comes over you!

Well, I probably have said it before, but fantastic artwork is the icing on the cake for most albums. The band must have felt the same way, and therefore made sure an amazing fantasy drawing is included on the cover.

Delivering such a superb album, which On The Road certainly is, only deserves the highest rating possible. What this band presents on their debut is of an international level and can compete with the likes of any other band on the globe! As a fellow countryman, I can only be proud to have witnessed the start of their career at very close range. Without a doubt, they will grow to an even higher level on future releases. It will certainly be very difficult for them to top this one, because it's one of a kind, and therefore the five stars given are well deserved! Without a doubt one of the musical highlights of 2014. Highly recommended to those who love acts like Neal Morse, Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson!

***** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)

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