Forever Times - Forever Times


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Zizania Entertainment Group
Catalog Number: ZEGO 199
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:30:00

I first heard this band some time ago when Martijn Balsters was kind enough to send me a demo of their soon-to-be released songs. Martijn knows my avoidance to female singers but he sent the music anyway to get some feedback. Now, with the release of the disc, Forever Times prepare to make their mark in the prog metal world with their brand of music. Knowing that there is a female singer fronting this band certainly would lead one to believe that any review I put forth would condemn the band to certain death, but the emphasis here will be on the music, not the singer, and certainly this wouldn't influence me from writing about the music in general.

THE STYLE:

This is a tough one, although I want to say that Forever Times sounds like a strange mix between Sunblaze, The Gathering, and maybe some Rush undertones. These Rush sounds I'm hearing don't necessarily come from the style, but from an underlying baseline structure to some of the music, possibly in the guitar parts that sound so much like Alex Lifeson in his quieter moments. Utilizing lots of atmospheric keyboards among neo-prog-like guitars drives this sound. It is an interesting combination of beauty that you will hear instantly, not any particular heaviness or loud passages like you might expect from The Gathering. This style of progression seems to be popular these days, with bands like World of Silence, Timesphere and others joining a group of bands that seem to mix more of a neo-prog, laid back guitar sound to the soft, plush keyboards that fill in the rest of the sound. The song structures are nicely written so that even though at times the tempos are tough to follow and change frequently, the band never loses sight of the melody and beauty that dominates their sound. Try to imagine how Sunblaze remains so beautiful while writing tempos that change so drastically and you get the idea what Forever Times is like in their writing. The band even throws in some saxophone along the way to round out the variety - and don't let the neo-prog similarities throw you off, it's just the way I describe the plush sound that the band has at times when they really lay back and let the atmosphere flow. The disc clocks in at around 46:00,and even with a female singer leading the way, it's hard not to love their 19:00 finale called "Skyang Khang-Ri" which I had heard some moons ago and still love it now.

THE BAND:

Robert Spaniks / drums
Laura Van Driel / vocals
Job de Beer / keyboards
Niels van Dongen / bass
Martijn Balsters / guitars & vocals

I will again mention Sunblaze as I hear many similarities between the players of both bands. For instance, the drummer, Robert Spaniks, really stands out here. He does not just keep a beat - he is part of the music, wanting to create his own part of the song on drums, and drummers will get a kick out of this as it's easy to hear him doing his own thing while the music goes off in another direction. The interesting part of bands that have drummers that play in this style (Sunblaze, Power of Omens come to mind) is that the music never seems to get lost while these drummers are going off on a tangent, and somehow the music still remains cohesive enough and melodic enough to maintain interest for the listener. Track 4, called "Instrumentally Ill," really shows what this band can do, and for me to say that an instrumental song is one of the highlights of a disc is definitely paying tribute to the talent level of the band. The bass player keeps great time with the drummer, and it's no easy feat to do considering the style in which the drummer plays. I'm really impressed with the talent of this band in the bottom end - and usually it's either the guitarist or a singer that takes center stage, but here each member really contributes a huge part in making this a success. The keyboard player reminds me a lot of Jorg Enke of Sunblaze; who utitilizes a host of sounds to make the keyboards an integral part of the music. It's this wall of sound that also reminds me of The Gathering as well. The keyboards are primarily used for background here. Our own Martijn Balsters is the guitarist, and I swear he sounds a lot like Alex Lifeson in his quieter moments; holding down those power chords at times but then backing off to a quiet, plush, atmospheric, neo-prog sound in the blink of an eye. He doesn't have too many solo parts on the disc, but this is not a showcase for Martijn, but rather he serves as another major contributor to the beauty of the music, and he certainly has a knack for laying down beautiful accompanying guitar tracks along side the keyboards. He is obviously driven by beauty and achieves his goal wholeheartedly.

THE VOCALS:

I'm still a firm believer that female vocals and prog metal just don't mix - it's always been a sore spot with me, and it's a bit ironic that while I look for the beauty in prog metal, I have this aversion to female vocals which, in essence, stands for beauty. That said, Laura van Driel has a pleasant voice - as all of the female vocals I've heard in prog metal do. The problem is, they all seem to sound the same to me; pretty voices, but with a certain monotone style that never seems to give off emotion or power. It's almost as if the females just can't give to the music what the music gives to me, and that is power and emotion. True, the beauty part is there most of the time in the female voice, but the power and emotion seem to be lacking. In the meantime, Laura van Driel certainly fits the bill of the problem that I have with female vocals, but to those who look forward to them, her voice will please those ears. I also have a problem discerning one female voice from another unless under extreme conditions, but in this case I would say that Laura has a much younger sounding voice Anneke of The Gathering, but resembles that style. Personally, I hear more emotion in the music than I do the voice, but that is certainly a matter of preference and most will like what Laura has to offer.

THE PRODUCTION:

I've heard a few complain about the production of this disc, but I can't figure out why. It sounds just great to me, and I compliment the individual responsible for the sound quality. I believe that the drums are programmed which may account for the negative comments I've heard, but to my ears, they sound great pounding out the bottom end of this beautiful music. The bass is rich and full as well, and rounds out the bottom end - you can also hear the bass as well as feel it, and that's an uncommon thing found in a lot of recordings these days. The guitar and keyboards share about the same mix level, and both sound clean, full and never overbearing. I believe that the fact this is not a heavy, crunching disc made it somewhat easier to grasp onto the proper mixing level versus some of the more heavier prog metal that takes on a more boomy, muddled sound. The vocals, as expected, are recorded nicely and are placed just a bit more up front than the other instruments. I don't seem to be able to distinguish all of the words properly but I'm sure it's due to a combination of an accent and/or the monotone style with which she sings. It's almost as if Laura "drones" out the words rather than sing them clearly, and I'm sure that there is an accent as well preventing the words from ringing out clearly. Overall, the guitar and keyboards get the thumbs up from me as far as being the focal point of the music, and well it should be as those instruments drive this symphonic sound of Forever Times.

THE COMMENTS:

This is a great debut disc. I recommend this highly to anyone who loves symphonic, laid back, prog metal on the lighter side with female vocals. I love this type of music - atmospheric, laid back, dramatic and symphonic. Of course, to make this a gem for me there would be a melodic male singer at the helm, but my aversion to female singers won't take away from the beauty and grace of this music. It should also be noted that the artwork for the disc cover was done by our own Erik Van Geel. It's a good feeling to know that there are bands out there like Forever Times that put out great debut discs like this one, and that there is a future for progressive music. Once again, if you're a metal head, you won't take to the laid back feeling of this music, but if you like Sunblaze and other bands like The Gathering ( although FT is much lighter in sound than that band), you should have no problem taking to this band. This could possible be the first disc with female vocals that I hang on to, and that says a lot about this disc.


Tracklisting:
In The Eye Of Compassion (8:10) / System Of The Heart (5:28) / Silence Of The Mind (2:52) / Instrumentally Ill... Or Perhaps Distorted? (5:14) / Flashover (4:45) / Skyang Khang-Ri (19:03)

Musicians:
Robert Spaniks - drums
Laura Van Driel - vocals
Job de Beer - keyboards
Niels van Dongen - bass
Martijn Balsters - guitars & vocals
Maarten Visser - saxophone (2,4)

Discography:
Forever Times (1998)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NL

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Hits: 1073
Language: english

  

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