The Dutch band The Aurora Project is often described as a progressive metal band, which is known for having heavy progressive rock influences like that of Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater. The first four albums I liked a lot. The Aurora Project is a real master of alternate metal with atmospheric intermezzos influenced by Pink Floyd. When you are mixing these two musical components, you get a rather unique sound. The Aurora Project has that sound.
In 2014 guitarist Marc Vooijs died. There's no question that this had an enormous impact on the band. Marc was much too young and left a great gap behind. The Aurora Project decided to take some rest. I can imagine that. The surprise was really great when I got this album. The band had decided to continue.
When I put their fifth album for the first time in my CD player, I decreased the volume of my amplifier. This to save my speakers. My expectations were high. After the first minute I was totally confused and after 55 minutes I was pleasant in the background. They have made way for a modest sound. This new course slides the band a little bit more towards the “heavy mainstream” progressive rock bands such as Knight Area and even a little bit like RPWL. At first I have to give the band my compliments. It takes courage to change styles. This is because you lose some fans and you win some fans. Further on, the critics have sharp pencils. The first time I got the album in my hands the artwork astonished me. It was of really high quality. I always pay attention to artwork. It is clear to me that someone took care of this artwork and it was not the closing entry.
The 2017 The Aurora Project are: Remco van den Berg (guitar, vocals), Dennis Binnekade (vocals), Joris Bol (drums), Marcel Guyt (keyboards), Rob Krijgsman (bass guitar).
The album opens with Expect Us. The song reminds me of For Absent Friends. It is a modest song with fine guitar lines and brilliant vocals. Warmongers is the same sort of the song as Expect Us. For The Aurora Project it has a rather modest atmosphere. But don't get me wrong, choruses are heavy and contain walls of guitars. As I said before, not all The Aurora Project characteristics are gone.
Stone Eagle is one of the most interesting songs, in my opinion. Some parts in this song reminds me of Marillion. After nice quiet parts, more or less heavier parts take control. The quiet parts have a Marillion-like atmosphere. Further on the guitars sound a little bit like Steve Rothery sounds.
Deadly Embrace is a “continuation” of Stone Eagle. The song structure is great and once more I feel the Marillion atmosphere in this song. At the choruses I started to sing myself. So great was the melody! The tracks Media Puppets, World Of Grey and Dronewars have more or less the same atmospheres. Nice quiet parts, absolute marvelous vocals and great heavy riffs exchange with each other. The guitar parts are, in my opinion great. Circles In The Water starts with fine keyboard parts and a layer of modest guitar parts. In the middle of the song there is a sublime guitar solo. The surprise is at the end. The song ends in a sort of cacophony, but it's insightful. At least I must say that the lyrics are great. The Aurora Project takes the opportunity to transmit some messages. They don't evade political issues. I like that.
The Aurora Project have made a surprising- and excellent album. Once more I am proud of our Dutch progressive rock scene. This album deserves the maximum score!
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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