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Anton Roolaart - Dreamer CD (album) cover


Anton Roolaart


Symphonic Prog

3.58 | 46 ratings

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4 stars It's always a pleasure to review the debut of a Symphonic artist, but is a double pleasure when it's a very solid album like "Dreamer", because it makes us have hope that our beloved genre will keep evolving in time and it's not doomed to oblivion as many other genres before Prog.

ANTON ROOLAART has carefully worked in the composition performance and production of "Dreamer" which as it's name clearly implies is an oneiric album full of atmospheres and reminiscences of the 70's with a very unique approach that combines not only different influences but also the best sound modern technology can provide.

It's hard to talk about influences because despite it's evident that echoes of YES and PINK FLOYD plus the dark atmospheres of early STEVE HACKETT and a bit of JAN AKKERMAN are present, Anton's guitar sound is so unique (Also combines Flamenco and Flemish style) that sounds like a breeze of fresh air.

The most unusual element of the album are the vocals, Anton sounds almost as a very controlled Heavy Metal vocalist (don't expect screams) with touches of Axl Rose and Bruce Dickinson singing pure Symphonic tracks, not a bad combination "per se" but must admit you have to get used to this collision of styles to really enjoy it (I got used almost instantly).

His band is formed by very talented musicians, Rave Tesar from RENAISSANCE (Keyboards), "Rich Berends" (MASTERMIND) - "Charles DesCarfino", both on drums and "Vincent Puryear" on bass. All of them prove along with the guests to be in the same level, so the professionalism is assured.

The album starts with the pompous opening of "Near or Far" that slowly fades to allow a sweet guitar, piano and mellotron introduce the aggressive vocals that are a bit shocking in the context, but soon the ear gets used to the contrast and with the lead of a heavy and distorted guitar give the wrong impression that we will soon be before a mainstream song....wrong deduction because the constant changes plus excellent arrangements makes us notice we're before a pure Prog track with reminiscences of YES. Excellent keyboard work to complement a very solid starter.

"On to the Afterglow" starts soft and dreamy with a beautiful flute and acoustic guitar that lead to a mysterious sounding vocals that remind of the spirit from "Voyage of the Acolyte", the interplay between guitar and keyboard in the purest style of Steve Hackett is simply delightful and the piano complete the scene. Moments of calm are interrupted by guitar and Moog semi solos with some controlled explosions and female backing vocals that create more mystery, beautiful blend of almost everything Prog has to offer.

The title song "Dreamer" starts reminiscent of Pink Floyd during the "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" era, the guitar solos have passed as magic from being inspired by Hackett to sound absolutely influenced by Dave Gilmour and again the keyboards complete the effect adding some Psyche touches. To be honest I find the vocals too loud and plain for a song like this one, maybe Anton could search for a second vocalist to complements him in some tracks. Except for a couple of guitar flashes disperse along the song, "Dreamer" carries the spirit of Pink Floyd. Not bad at all and again the band shows enormous versatility.

"Scary Monsters" starts as a Power Ballad with some Prog moments, the vocal work is nice but it's only until the middle of the track where it gets really interesting, again Anton proves his versatility playing in a Flemish style (Well, he was born in The Netherlands) which clearly reminds of the delicate Jan Akkerman trademark, it's hard to find a guitar player so efficient in so many different styles. Another good but not superb song.

"Color of your World" is a weird track (Hey....weird is a great adjective in Prog), the vocals have the lead but are very dissonant with the rest of the instruments that enter in a controlled cacophony, this is the only song in which Anton really lets his voice explode without restraining himself..It was about time to try it! Hard to describe because it's very experimental, interesting music, the guitar and keyboard instrumental is amazing, at the end reminds a bit of early Wakeman hard sections when he left the band go beyond his soloing, great material.

"Mid Summer's Day" presents a very unusual blend of styles, as if Focus arrangements met Gentle Giant structures and a touch of Uriah Heep, the guy is hitting us with all he has, the song keeps changing almost chord by chord jumping from one style to the other, didn't expected to find something so complex in a mainly atmospheric album.....For God's sake, he even uses a Heavy Metal distorted guitar and progressions reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN, the greatest achievement is that he never looses the sense of melody and coherence, excellent stuff, IMHO the peak of the album.

"Manon" starts very jazzy with the bass and drums marking the time perfectly, again if something sounds slightly out of place are the vocals but then you notice they are working as a bridge between the "fusionesque" intro and the clearly Symphonic (in the vein of Relayer) change around the third minute of the song, at that point you can expect almost every thing, sound effects, telephone conversations and soft flute passages plus aggressive guitar, that's what Prog is about, experimenting. The song ends brilliantly after a long instrumental passage lead by Anton's guitar.

The album ends with "The Spider" a simpler track (structurally talking) but very strong in melody and instrumentation, tends to be repetitive, but that's the main point of the song IMO, make something basic and leave the he performance and the instruments chosen (Which include a nice cello section) be the central theme, probably not the best choice to close the album because lacks of great energy but there's a special beauty in the na´ve approach.

I won't stop to talk in detail about the lyrics because most are based in daily life instead of fantastic narrations as we are used in Prog, despite this fact are coherent and simple but without falling in cheesiness, I believe this aspect may be better developed but the main interest is in the excellent music and unless the lyrics are specially bad (which is not remotely the case) their role is fulfilled.

Now comes the hard part for me, rating the album, normally I never give a debut the maximum rating because it would mean the artist has reached his peak, and for what I see, ANTON ROOLAART has much more to offer, so I expect "Dreamer" to be the first of several good albums, plus it's evident that not all the tacks are in the same level (Well hardly an album is absolutely perfect and those are the masterpieces), also some rough edges may be polished, so I will go with 4 very solid stars for a very solid excellent addition for any Progressive Rock collection, an amazing album specially if you consider it's a debut.

"Dreamer" has been officially released today, so try to be one of the first persons to get it, it's much more than worth.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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