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US - The Road Less Travelled CD (album) cover

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

US

 

Neo-Prog

2.82 | 11 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A labor of love

Jos Wernars has been creating music alone and with others since the 1970s, and "The Road Less Traveled" is his most recent under the project named US. This album is a one-man project, the only assistance coming in the form of harmony vocals from his wife Marijke Wernars. He had been working with his brother Ernest who had to stop around 2008 after some health issues. Rather than quit Wernars decided to soldier on alone in pursuit of his musical passion. To me US sounds somewhere between neo-prog and classic 70s symphonic on the "sweeter" side, ala bands like Surprise, Rousseau, and Druid. There is also an undeniable Genesis influence here, Banks and Hackett mostly. A modern reference would be the neo-prog band Yleclipse. Let me get my criticism out of the way first. This is a release with a less than first tier production. It has the sound of a hobbyist musician recording in his home studio, with a drum machine, and occasionally some thin-sounding parts. It does not sound like your next Porcupine Tree or Opeth album in terms of fullness and fidelity. If those kinds of recordings bother you then approach with some caution. It really doesn't bother me, I can enjoy an album with less-than-perfect production if I like the music. In fact there are times when such productions are refreshing as you can enjoy the music without the overwhelming volume/density of some recordings. I see both sides on that one.

With that out of the way on to the important part...the music! The album's 57 minutes span across only four songs, the twenty minute title track and three others in the twelve minute range, so each piece has that prog-epic feel. Wernars is a talented man despite being short changed in personnel and perhaps equipment. The songs are wonderfully rich (if a bit sweet) and each with many different moods and mystical feeling passages. Melodic keyboard work is everywhere with solid Howe/Hackett inspired (I would guess) lead guitar frequently soaring over the hills. The bass playing reminded me of Squire sometimes the way he was drubbing it in an often forceful, jubilant manner. Acoustic guitars also play a large role in setting up some songs and creating some nice strummed sections with the harmony vocals over them. The beginning of "The Sign of our Times" is very impressive with a monster acoustic solo backed by gorgeous synth play, soon followed by some aggressive lead guitar lines and uplifting vocals-my favorite track. Neither Jos or Marijke are hugely exceptional vocalists but they work very well together and their harmonies were nice. It is the lack of solid drummer on real drums that holds the project back unfortunately, I can tolerate the production fine, but the drum machine hampers my enjoyment. Still, despite the problems with the sound/drum machine here I enjoy this very personal "labor of love" as Wernars describes it. It's an intimate recording with some very lovely and majestic moments.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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