(All Album Reviews by Ivan_Melgar_M)
2009 wasn't a particularly prolific year for Symphonic Prog, and when I was ready to give up, I found this excellent band from Holland called 5Bridges, and a surprisingly good debut that very few people noticed, so I believe it's necessary to talk about their first and (until now) only release, The Thomas Tracks.
5Bridges was form4ed in Haarlem and as their official site says, each one of the five members is a bridge between the '70s and the 21st Century, playing pristine Symphonic as only the pioneers could, but without copying anybody. It's true that Piet Roelofsen's voice is extremely similar to Peter Gabriel's in range, intonation and style, but I don't feel anything forced, by the contrary, everything is absolutely natural.
Even when the Genesis influence can't be denied, there are radical differences. For starters the keyboardist Luke d'Araceno has more similarities with Rob Reed from Magenta, rather than Tony Banks, similarities that are enhanced by the excellent guitarist Enzo Gallo, who has a lot in common with Chris Fry from the above mentioned band. So unless they are some sort of evil geniuses who copy bands from the ‘70s and also their coetaneous from 30 years later, we are talking about an original sound with respect for Symphonic Prog in the style of the classics.
The Thomas Tracks is based in the novel De Handelingen Van Thomas by Rob Van Der Linden (yes, the drummer of the band), and as any respectable conceptual album done by a talented band flows with perfect coherence from start to end. Effort in the whole project is placed on individual tracks, something that is evident when discovering that despite the different moods and radical changes, the basic atmosphere is respected all along the album.
The Thomas Tracks begins with "Didymus" and it's beautiful but dramatic introduction based in vocals and keyboards. This section is at the same time nostalgic and powerful because while the vocals keep the soft atmosphere, the organ goes "in crescendo" with a constant repetition of chords that keep the suspense.
The choirs are absolutely tasteful and when the band starts to join, you know something radical is going to happen...............and it happens, when guitar and keys join in the music increases in intensity and strength, but the explosion is not abrupt, by the contrary, it's coherent and by stages, as if they tried to never lose control over the music, it’s just wonderful.
Even when most of the tracks are linked one to other, for purpose of review I will try to describe them as individual songs instead of an integral entity as The Thomas Tracks is. "Babylon curse reversed" starts with a beautiful keyboard melody that gives pass to a strong guitar, when the vocals take the lead, a stubborn organ keeps hammering in the background as a constant and the excellent drumming of Van Der Linden keeps the song in perfect time.
"On Calpe's rock" starts with a beautiful piano soon followed by the drums and bass, a Moog solo breaks the soft rhythmic entrance with brilliance and the distorted guitar returns us to the rock universe, all vibrant, but suddenly the vocals break this wonderful chaos and even when they enter into ballad territory, the radical changes and breathtaking synths don't let us forget we are before a prog band.
"The spell of eternity" has a strong connection with "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", the same desperate and claustrophobic atmosphere is present, and of course the massive Mellotron is the delight of the '70s fan. The fun part is in the vocals, because just as Gabriel, Roelofsen does an outstanding job playing with different voices and adds narrative passages.
"Tricks & treason" is much more romantic and soft, now they seem closer to Glass Hammer with fantastic interplay between Luke d' Araceno and Enzo Gallo in the keys and guitar, but the vocals always bring us back to Genesis because of the range so similar to Peter's. This time the organ is fast and frenetic and everything is just perfect.
"Lovernius song" is a total change, while the other tracks had a bright yet mysterious atmosphere, "Lovernius Song" starts obscure and a bit haunting, mostly based in organ and acoustic guitar keeps the listener at the edge of their seat.
"Batavian revolt" starts acoustic, as does the previous song ,but soon they move from this adding all that they have. Enzo Gallo makes the guitar cry and the organ maintains the suspense but Roelofsen keeps the sanity with his voice that seems to control everything. The changes are multiple but the atmosphere remains intact from beginning to end; somehow this song reminds me of "Trespass".
The only thing I will say about "Amazons & haven" is that we are before a spectacular song. From the beginning to where the keyboards start are out of this world, a fantastic 11 minutes epic with everything a classic Prog fan needs to listen.
The album ends with the soft "Signs on the wall", a softer but dramatic song that gives a correct closure to the album. Again, the organ is amazing and absolutely unique, something that is a constant with The Thomas Tracks, a '70s band but with a uniquely distinctive sound that takes the best of the glorious decade but adds the modern sound of this new century.
Two years later and with the perspective that only time provides, I can say with confidence that I consider The Thomas Tracks the best release of the first decade of the new millennium. I hope you like it.