Cliffhanger - Not To Be or Not To Be

Year of Release: 1996
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4213.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 60:14:00

Dutch-based quartet Cliffhanger saw the possibility to win many fans for their complex music due to their debut album Cold Steel. Whilst waiting for their new album, they released the tape Burning Alive from which three of the four songs made it onto their Not To Be Or Not To Be album, albeit in slightly re-arranged form.

Whilst fellow-writers often use Genesis to compare Cliffhanger's music with, I keep on swearing by the names of Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant, for those bands were not that popular in the seventies due to the fact that they mainly did very complicated things within their compositions. This is something which Genesis, Yes, Supertramp, Camel, Jethro Tull and even Pink Floyd weren't able to do. On top of that complexity one should note the chilling bass sounds from Gijs Koopman which often comes close to that of Chris Squire.

The uptempo intro of "Innocent Victim" takes you in a spiral to the bottom of the ocean when soaring strings introduce the calm in the song. But it's calm before the storm as the tempo is tuned up once again before it slows down yet again. It's almost like a musical heartbeat ... Whilst the voice of Rinie Huigen surely isn't one of the best in the domain of prog rock, the band has found a solution by introducing two instrumentals on this album. As is often the case with Cliffhanger music it is as if one song consists of various elements brought together by each of the musicians and glued together during the rehearsals. What I like about "Sewers" is the fact that it builds up and sort of stops, then rebuilds until the song finally kicks off. The result is very dark, almost getting in the neighborhood of Anekdoten, with a dash of Big Elf thrown in for good measure.

The sound of seventies period Genesis is embedded in "The Artist" which sounds like an outtake from Foxtrot spiced up with some fierce bass and drum work.

So all of the ingredients out of the golden book of the genre are available allowing us to hear their "in house" recipe during the 24 minute 'Ragnarok'. It is THE song to demonstrate the many talents of keyboard player Dick Heijboer, alternating with the limited supplies of guitar interventions from Rinie Huigen.

The album ends with another dark, almost classical, instrumental - "Moon" - written by Dick Heijboer where strings are the canvas and piano the brushes that paint yet another surrealistic masterpiece. Although the sleeve notes say this song lasts 4 minutes 16, the counter on my CD player went as far as 16 minutes 26! What happens is that the song finishes after about 3:30 followed by absolute silence. The martyrs amongst us are rewarded after 14:12 when a cuckoo clock followed by weird laughter introduces some avant-garde-like band improvisation. A very dotty way to end a record if you ask me!

During the vocal passages one can hear some neo-progressive influences, but 'round the corner awaits sufficient complex arrangements to keep you on your toes for the entire duration of the album. This is music whereby you put your unpared fingernails in the loving flesh: hate and love in a perfect musical marriage, a journey you won't easily forget!

Innocent Victim (13:06) / Sewers (7:58) / The Artist (10:40) / Ragnar?k (24:54) / Moon (4:16)

Dick Heijboer - piano, keyboards, Moog synthesizer
Gijs Koopman - bass, Moog Taurus, whistle
Rinie Huigen - vocals, guitars
Hans Boonk - drums, percussion

Cold Steel (1995)
Burning Alive (cass) (?)
Not To Be Or Not To Be (1996)
Mirror Site (1998)
Hope And Despair (1998) Circle (2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NL

Added: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1025
Language: english


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