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Knight Area - Realm Of Shadows CD (album) cover

REALM OF SHADOWS

Knight Area

 

Neo-Prog

3.82 | 129 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Netherlands' Knight Area is rapidly becoming the new darling of the Neo prog world, a genre that certainly has its detractors (there are a few terrible Neo recordings but also some exceptional ones), a style that can be a favorite whipping boy for various hard line musical elitists. Together with Poland's Satellite, Knight Area can boast of a fine series of discs that constantly evolve into a sharper, more honed ambiance that captures the imagination and provides great audio entertainment. Their third album "Realm of Shadows" is a consecration of sorts, with vocalist Mark Smit further fine-tuning his craft, a fantastic singer that is only too rare while guitarist Mark Vermeule is now the only axe slinger (they used to have 2 fretmen) and does an admirable job. Keyboardist Gerben Klazinga continues his tremendous work on the ivories and the rhythm section is first rate with the amazing Giijs Koopman on Rickenbacker bass leading the charge. We open with "Ethereal", a gentler piece that reaches out for the more symphonic elements that this quality group easily masters, ringing guitars and sweeping keys adorn the arrangement that keeps growing in poise and passion, a harrowing guitar solo seals this one nicely echoes of Mike Holmes are evident. On "Antygony", the feel is darker ("devil in disguise"), a welcome edge remaining still very powerful and interesting, perhaps even closer to recent IQ than ever before which is the ultimate compliment. Vermeule in particular displays some nimble finger picking that is quite resounding. The accessible "Two of A Kind" proposes a breezier affair that targets affairs of the heart rather than some Tolkienesque storyline. Some blazing mellotron really give this a magic patina that is very alluring aided by some fab backing vocals and while not complex or demanding, has a superb guitar solo full of engaging feeling and heartfelt emotion. The brief instrumentals "Momentum" and "Awakening" do precisely that, altering the atmosphere in preparation of an onslaught of tighter tracks, a serene memory of Hackett/Holmes flights that exude a forlorn sense of melancholia on the first and synths, piano and 'trons ablaze on the follower. Yes, this is distinguished, quixotic, charismatic and poetic but things get quickly furious with the raging "Dark Souls", a rampaging slab of symphonic exaltation, rampant synthesizer contrails twirling within vast howls of grandiose mellotron and Smit recalling the somber stories of a world gone insane. Engaging material, really! The title track is another highlight, initially sedate in a Genesis mold before exploding into a gushing fountain of symphonic eruptions (check out Koopman's agile bass!) and a magnificent vocal that bellows conviction and a sense of razor desperation. "A Million Lives" is a more driven exercise, guitars and bass thumping with authority giving the piece some expansive qualities, a series of butterfly synth solos and great drumming throughout. The finale is the 11 minute+ "Occlusion", at first we are plunged in definitely gloomier territory (a devilish voice intoning that the end is near) before veering into sweet veneers that soothe and mystify. A brutish guitar/synth riff pummels this into a clearer world of colossal emotions and authoritative chords, again the bass shining the way towards some apocalyptic resolution. Lots of contrasts here, the composition is unhurried and evolves organically until a huge bluesy guitar solo emerges from the mist and encourages Smit to express his sorrowful demise ("I will fight my way").

I wholly agree with Tarcisio that this is not a masterpiece but stays well within the high quality parameters this group has erected for itself and I am sure they will continue on their highway to excellence. I still consider their second album to be their finest effort yet; perhaps when I leave my shadows, things may brighten up. 4 sheltered kingdoms

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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