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Knight Area - Realm of Shadows CD (album) cover

REALM OF SHADOWS

Knight Area

 

Neo-Prog

3.84 | 100 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Listening to the stream on the site of the sample of Knight Area's impending new release drove me to, not before time, write a few words about this superb release from 2009.

Realm of Shadows has just about everything the more discerning neo-prog fan could wish for in an album. It's fresh, it's brilliantly performed, with flashes of symphonic genius, combined with marvellous melodic moments that raise the hairs on the back of the neck. In addition, in Mark Smit, they have one of the best prog vocalists in the business at the moment.

The album opens with Ethereal, a track that provides the listener, on a decent set of speakers, with a wall of sound, very reminiscent of mid period Genesis. It's bright and breezy and enjoyable throughout.

Antagony is a strange track, and I do not mean this to be a derogatory statement. At the outset, it moves into heavier territory than the opener, but also contains flashes of the type of melodic rock that would have graced many an American stadium. Very tightly performed, with a cracking rhythm section, this is commercial pop/prog/anthem rock at its very best. Mark Vermuele's guitar solo is excellent here.

Two Of A Kind changes the mood completely, a synth led track which is a love song with an eye on the type of audience and radio stations that brought commercial success to both the "traditional" symphonic bands in the 1980's and the singles led success of Marillion a little bit later.

Momentum features some brilliant bass pedal work by Gijs Koopman, and he leads this instrumental track with aplomb. A creepy guitar solo accompanies. This is an altogether darker affair that is comparable to similar work IQ have released at the top of their game.

Awakening is another short instrumental, and could have been longer in my opinion. It features some sweet piano and synth work by Gerben Klazinga, is very melancholic, and very good. It would, I think, been a credit to the album if this theme had been developed a tad more.

This leads to Dark Souls, another rather dark track, and more "traditional" neo. It heralds a return to a truer band composition and performance, and, once again, the sound that is created fairly booms out of the speakers. Whereas Black Sabbath always had a tongue firmly in cheek when writing and performing about the "dark side", this is altogether far more convincing.

The title track itself sends me back to Duke, one of my favourite albums of all time. The pianos, crashing drums, and general feel of the track is very close to the quality exhibited on that classic. For those who aren't particularly keen on that gem, they might be reassured by the fact that Smit's exceptional vocal performance is closer to, say, Peter Nicholls than Mr Collins, and I defy any fan of quality bass playing to be anything less than stunned by Koopman's performance here. On the album as a whole, he is brilliant. On this track especially, he is as close to bass perfection as it is possible to get. Indeed, I would venture to suggest that it is not since the halcyon days of Yes that I have listened to a bass player so dominate and lead the music in a track.

A Million Lives is a slightly longer track, and is, certainly in intent, a similar track to Dark Souls, excepting that it is nowhere near as moody. I think perhaps that the band have listened to Asia more than once, because I find its tone, beat, and general expansive sound to be very similar to a track such as Wildest Dreams. Passages mid way through are also very clearly influenced by Fish era Marillion, in that we have a contemplative, narrative, passage interrupted by a massive explosion of sound to lead us to the end.

The album closes with Occlusion, its longest at over eleven minutes long. This is a track that is epic in intent and execution, and contains many changes of both signatures and moods. The initial phase continues the bombastic phase we had previously before, just prior to midway through, the return of the dark keyboard led mood returns. Some of the guitar work, and general dark romantic state, takes me back to Fugazi. The band's underlying symphonic tendencies then take full rein and control, with some wonderful synths creating true bombast. A quieter interlude then leads the track into a more experimental end phase, possibly, to me, a little too much out of character with the rest of the album to be wholly effective.

Although this is, to me, a true "classic" neo prog band and album, I must say that it is never, at any stage, derivative. The influences that the band clearly take their lead from; bands such as Genesis, IQ, Marillion, and more commercial acts such as Asia can be heard in the music throughout. However, Knight Area manage that extremely difficult feat of managing to combine all of those influences and mould them into something special and unique.

This is a fine album, and I believe that the new one is released at the end of this month. It is most definitely on my "to buy" list. In the interim, you could do a lot worse than purchase this gem. Highly recommended for those of you who love the classic symphonic acts, the exceptional neo acts that burst onto the scene in the mid 1980's, and also enjoy some commercial sensibilities in your prog.

Four stars. An excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

lazland | 4/5 |

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