What do you get when you cross Rush with Saga (with a little spice of Magellan)? You get Ken’s Novel.
Chapter 1: “The Guide”
A nine-minute opening epic, it starts like a movie overture with crashing waves, cathedral bells and a symphony warming up (not to mention the backward words). The first 2 minutes of intro would be very corny if it wasn’t being used to introduce a whole concept CD and not just the first song.
But “The Guide” is a classic SAGA type epic that weaves strong vocals with driving keyboard progressive rock. By the way, “The Guide” is Ken. Listed as the fool he seems to be the only one to stand up when chaos breaks loose.
The lyrics and story are there to follow, but they are just an afterthought when I listen to Ken’s Novel. “The Guide” is a good melodic opener to the CD.
Chapter 2: “Guilty Witnesses”
Track two brings the rock to the CD. A Magellan-type (every space filled) song starts at note one and continues through over 5 minutes of fun. The interaction between keyboards and guitars is excellent. The layered vocals make the song very enjoyable. This song has one of the weaker (not bad, but not as strong) lead vocal lines. But when Patrick Muermans is singing along with the backing vocals, the song really shines.
The song ends with a machine-gun bass line that reminds me of some of Dream Theater’s better songs.
Chapter 3: “Homeland”
We then get back to the theatrics with a slow, folksy opening. A solid keyboard and percussion interaction takes us 2 minutes into this 8-minute song. A story-telling song about the “groups” travel following Ken, the song is a classic Saga vehicle.
But luckily, no Ken’s Novel song stays the same for long. The song kicks into a Stadium Rock chorus that would of fit perfectly in the 80s. By 3 minutes into the song, we have a metal rocker going. But just as soon as it starts, we revert back to the folksy story telling. But yep, just like a roller coaster we go back to full speed. This goes on through out the song with interesting guitar and bass work through out the song.
There are many bands that play one type of music on one song and then completely change the formula on the next. But Ken’s Novel does it throughout the song. The only reason it works is because the vocal tracks tie the whole thing together. Eric Vanderbemdon is not a speed guitarist, but he fills the space nicely and varies the lines enough to keep songs flowing.
Chapter 4: “Power and Dignity”
Another 7+ minute song. Most of the songs are much shorter than that, but they all have 1-3 minute introductions. “Power and Dignity’s” intro goes a little overboard and actually acts to blur an otherwise powerful song. Introductions work for me if they actually are thematically used or referred to in the song it’s self. When it’s simply a minute of a half of fill, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why not just make a separate track.
Okay, that aside, “Power and Dignity” could fit on any Rush CD. I am not a huge Rush fan. They seem to “verse, verse, chorus” oriented. This is one of the few songs where you get that feel.
Not a bad song at all. This will greatly appeal to all Rush fans. It actually is a good fit after the roller coaster of the previous track.
Chapter 5: “Be Yourself Again”
I know, this is a concept CD, about a journey, so I guess the frog and wolf noises are necessary, but the introduction to each song reminds me of Loud Family’s “Day for Days”.
“Be Yourself Again” is the story of Ken meeting a wizard to get extra power and the people he leads telling him to ignore the power. A nice story, but the song lives and dies with the guitar work. This song reminds me of GTR. It could have fitted next to “The Hunter” with no problem.
Chapter 6: “Thorny Present”
This is a minute-long acoustic song that is just filler. It doesn’t contain anything awesome or unique. It really doesn’t even lead into the next track.
Chapter 7: “Rumour of War”
By this time I have lost track of the story and we are once again in a kind of Rush / Saga blender. The song six minutes of Stadium verses and choruses filled with straightforward solos. Enough background instrumentation is used to keep the song interesting.
Chapter 8: “Shielded?”
I am not a Ken’s Novel expert (since I only have 2 of their CDs) but each one contains a song title with a question mark. Haven’t yet decided if that is a trend.
This song has a jazzier feel than most of the songs on the CD. The rhythm section, with the aid of guest Stephene Fortemps on bass, are the secret to this song. The percussion on this song tends to interfere with the vocals at places. Overall though, this is one of the better songs on the CD. The jazzy feel of the song aids the guitar solos on “Shielded?”
Chapter 9: “In Disgrace”
Magellan once again rears its head. In Disgrace kind of reminds me of “Waterfront Weirdos” at first. The keyboards are the most prominent part of this one and a half minute fill.
Chapter 10: “A Matter of Pride”
Hoping for some conclusion? Sorry. I have no idea whether Ken was successful or not. A “Matter of Pride” seems to not solve anything. But oh well, what about the tune?
“A Matter of Pride” is an acoustic song that has the least instrumentation of any of the other full-length songs. I would think a song ending this epic would really soar, but unfortunately, this is another GTR / Saga piece that would fit nicely into the middle of most CDs, but seems anti-climatic as the closer.
Overall Ken’s Novel is made up of great musicians, strong vocalists, but average songwriters. As far as concept CDs go, it doesn’t have enough recurring themes to really be called a classic.
This is a melodic prog-CD that will keep you entertained. It probably would never be ranked as a classic.