(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
This is my first acquaintance with the Netherland's band Knight Area and their new album Realm of Shadows really took me by surprise. It is hard to believe the band has been around for about twenty years and did not release their debut The Sun Also Rises until 2004. This is a fantastic album that every person who enjoys symphonic rock needs to hear.
The band consists of Gerben Klazinga (keyboards), Mark Smit (vocals, backing vocals), Mark Vermeule (guitars), Gijs Koopman (bass, Moog Taurus pedals) and Pieter van Hoorn (drums). For a long period of time Klazinga worked with various musicians until the band finally developed a more permanent line-up. Although I cannot compare Realm of Shadows to their previous two releases it stands on its own as being one of the best symphonic/neo albums of 2009.
If you enjoy keyboards in your prog you have come to the right place as they are an important fixture in Knight Area's sound. Keys and synths wind their way through these nine tunes adding subtle touches here and dramatic flourishes there. Guitars are also used to good effect, whether in melodic leads or crunchy riffs that give some songs a little more bite. Suffice to say, the musicianship is very good which brings me to the bass playing of Gijs Koopman. His playing is exceptional providing many stellar bass lines all over this disc. The vocals of Smit also stand out which is often not the case in progressive rock. He has a nice melodic voice with a good range and great control soaring one minute and demonstrating a fragile beauty the next.
With so many strong songs it is hard to single out highlights but a few come to mind like the instrumentals "Momentum" and "Awakening" with the former taking a cue from Dream Theater with heavier riffs, shred-like solos and fantastic bass that you can actually hear and the latter featuring a somber piano melodic that drips with emotion. The dramatic "Dark Souls" is another winner with its dual attack of pounding bass and drums. The lighter sections make the heavier parts that much more intense. The album ends with the epic "Occlusion" that showcases what symphonic progressive rock is all about with a sweeping keyboard arrangement, standout bass that reminded me of Pink Floyd's The Wall and excellent vocals. I love the heavy processed vocals at the beginning, the tricky tempos half way through and the striking ending.
Knight Area has released one of my favourites of 2009. If you are into bands like IQ do not let this one get away as this is an essential purchase in my book. Realm of Shadows makes a great addition to The Laser's Edge catalogue of fine music.