Knight Area - The Sun Also Rises


Year of Release: 2004
Label: The Laser's Edge
Catalog Number: LE1037
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:03:00

I put this CD on and within moments - the length of that first track (27 seconds of slinky, seductive guitar backed by drums) - I knew I was going to like this. Having been drawn in to the prog rock realm by likes of Marillion, IQ and Pallas, among others, I was already predisposed to like this. But that was no guarantee, because as we know, bands can take those influences and either emulate them badly - becoming a clone band or inexpertly getting it right (poor performance, for example) - or use it as point of reference or launching pad and take the sound and style in a new - or at least newer - direction. I'd say Knight Area fall into the latter camp, as the execution here is terrific. The music has depth and shading, texture and lushness that is just beautiful. And even as I can spot a stylistic influence, I never once thought of any particular track by any band (okay, maybe I did a tweensy bit, but so minimally, it's not really worth mentioning) ... and perhaps that's because these influences are mixed together such that they create something new.

What are those influences? You've probably already guessed by what I said above... As the other reviews here indicate, Knight Area's sound is strongly influenced by a number of UK prog rock bands, the strongest being IQ (keyboards) and Pallas (a certain heaviness to the music), but you'll also think of, if only by association, classic Marillion and Pendragon. "The Gate Of Eternity," the second track and longest at 7-plus minutes, is a heavy, chugging, emotive piece, with lots of keyboards and guitars giving the music a full sound. And really, this verily describes every track here, except maybe the heavy. And I don't mean power metal heavy, as they don't get much heavier than Threshold or Arena. And though vocalist Mark Smit doesn't have a distinctive voice - as say does Fish, Nick Barrett or Peter Nicholls - it's a pleasant voice well suited to this style of music. That's not faint praise, I really like his voice... it's a bit, just a bit, like John Wetton. Let's say it's Wetton-esque... certainly in the same tonal range. And "A New Day At Last (For Ferry)" has a certain early Asia epicness to it mixed with IQ-like keyboards (with a touch of Pink Floyd at times).

If you love keyboards and guitars, then you'll love this. There are four guitarists here, though it's Peter Van Heijningen playing fabulous lead ? and if you've been following my story so far (i.e., been reading my reviews), you know just the sort of solo that gets me going ? in short, Rothery, Gilmore, Groom, etc. The other three guitarists here are Jeroen Hogenboom, Arjan Groenendijk and, on acoustic guitar, Vincent Frijdal. Of course, at the center of it all instrumentally and musically is Gerben Klazinga on keyboards and drums (though Mark Van Nieuwenhuizen also plays drums), aided and abetted by brother (and lyricist) Joop Klazinga on flute. Ron Van Der Bas on bass; Gijs Koopman on bass and bass pedals; and Kees Flameling on accordion (yes, really; and not kitchy at all) round out the group. Though not in the main credits, subtle, husky vocals from Stephanie (no last name mentioned...) play welcome guest on "Mortal Brow." Klazinga can be parpy, classical, symphonic... all providing the right touch to each piece. He's studied, or absorbed, the right elements that make this style of prog appealing and engaging.

The music is dark - and the fabulous artwork from Mattias Norén certain adds to that atmosphere. Has he ever done a bad cover? But there are lighter, brighter passages, such as the parpy Mark Kelly-esque keyboards that feature in the instrumental title track. In fact, it's a track that has both the dark and the light elements to it. "Conspiracy" is another fine example of Knight Area's use of texture and shadings, including some "softer" parts - not quite pastoral, but a gentler contrast to the heavier rock that dominates the album. "Forever Now" is track with a lot of high energy, made all the more apparent by the calmer sections. This is a track that seemed to me, keyboards aside, very Pallas-like (circa Knight Moves/The Wedge). "Conviction" has a bit of an 80s feel to it that I can't quite pin down, but it is mostly in the soft vocals of Smit. It certainly has more of a pop edge than the other material with the chorus, verse, chorus structure and memorable melodies, catchy lyrical phrases. But still none of that which is wrong about pop music today. IQ really comes to mind with dark, regally gothic "Mortal Brow." Lighter, pastoral textures come in with the balladic "Moods Inspiring Clouds." The album closes with the beautiful, and pastoral, keyboard/piano instrumental "Saevis Tranquillis In Undis."

There's a concept at play here, thought not an obvious narrative tale. It's a story that involves war (surely a metaphor, but also tying in with the band's name), lost childhood (or innocence), and searching for something spiritual... answers, hope, all these things, and really whatever you read into the lyrics.

I always think that bands that have this strong a debut have a tough act to follow with their follow up. It has to be at least as good as, but different; or better than, and different. And the tendency is to follow up with the same as, same as. It worked once, should work again, right? Well, I hope that Knight Area follow up with better than and different as I'd hate for them to suffer a sophomore slump. Especially as I think more eyes will be watching what they do next after their NEARFest 2005 appearance.

In short, this is a great debut that comes highly recommended.


Tracklisting:
Beyond... (0:27) / The Gate Of Eternity (7:21) / Conspiracy (5:38) / Forever Now (4:21) / The Sun Also Rises (5:51) / Conviction (5:44) / Mortal Brow (6:21) / Moods Inspiring Clouds (5:14) / A New Day At Last (5:21) / Saevis Tranquillis In Undis (3:14)

Musicians:
Gerben Klazinga - keyboards, drums (1, 2, 5-9), and vocals (8)
Joop Klazinga - flute (2-9)
Mark Smit - lead vocals (2-4, 6-9)
Peter Van Heijningen - lead guitar (1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10)
Jeroen Hogenboom - guitar (1-5, 7-9)
Arjan Groenendijk - guitar (4, 6, 7, 9)
Gijs Koopman - bass (1, 3, 4, 5, 6), bass pedals (1, 3)
Ron Van Der Bas - bass (2, 6-9)
Mark Van Nieuwenhuizen - drums (3, 4, 5)
Vincent Frijdal - acoustic guitar (6)
Kees Flameling - accordion (2)
Stephanie Lagrande - vocals (7)

Discography:
The Sun Also Rises (2004)
Under A New Sign (2007)
Realm Of Shadows (2009)
Rising Signs From The Shadows (2010)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NL

Added: February 19th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.knightarea.com
Hits: 898
Language: english

  

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