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Knight Area - Realm Of Shadows CD (album) cover

REALM OF SHADOWS

Knight Area

Neo-Prog


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Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It seems to me that Knight Area gets a little better with each release. That was the case between their first and second CDs and this the same thing with Realm Of Shadows. Even if they had lost two membres along the way (including one of the Klavinga brothers), the new release shows the band still growing strong and the songwriting maturing even more. While I can´t really say it is a masterpiece, there is little doubt that those guys from Holland are on the right path to deliver something like that anytime soon.

The band is much tighter, the arrangements are more concise and they are now sounding very much like their own. It is always good to see a good group finding their way of delivering good, melodic prog with passion and conviction. I specially liked how the members are sounding better and still they are team players: every instrument comes and goes at the right time, with ho unnecessary display of virtuosity. I specilly liked Gijs Koopman´s bass lines, very precise and reminding me of the great Chris Squire. The keyboards are very well the lead instrument (echoes of Genesis around the time of Wind & Wuthering are quite recurring here), while the guitar is a little subtle, but very well played. Mark Smit´s singing is getting better with each release. The production is quite good too.

All in all I found Realm Of Shadows to be a fine CD with some great moments and no fillers to be find. Nothing new or groundbreaking here, but still excellent, beautiful music. If you´re into neo prog, or melodic music in general, this is a must have. 4 stars.

Report this review (#243051)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#247650)
Posted Sunday, November 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Realm of shadows from 2009, their newest work to date is another worthy Knight Area album. It goes very well with the previous one, same aproach, same great pieces, same fat soud, all is here to make another excellent addition is everyone's collection. I don't think is their best album from all 3, I realy am on the second album to be their most mature and mostt chalenging one, but this one is close. Knight Area grow a lot from the first album who was a good one but less captivating then these two, and they manage to bring in neo prog world another great relase full of catchy pieces and great arrangements. While the music is very ok , they bring nothing new in this genre , but they play so good and has a very solid sound that easy can forget about the missing pieces of this lated album. All tracks are good, nothing realy unintristing, as I said on previous review maybe the voice is usual but ok , he did a good job and is just great for this kind of music. Best pieces are to me the instrumental Momentum and a couple two more, the rest are again good. So, this album with strong musicianship, manage to climb very high in neo prog scene, one of the front bands of this genre I ight say. Realm of shadows desearve again 4 stars, maybe 3.5 rounded up to 4, because of the excellent sound and profesionalism of this band.
Report this review (#252096)
Posted Saturday, November 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Earlier Knight Area albums featured lighter sounds. With an ominous title like Realm of Shadows, you might infer that this will be much darker. Actually, the flip side is true. While the lyrics are categorically foreboding, copious amounts of keyboards and undulating rhythms hearten cheery feelings.

The opener, "Ethereal", is surprisingly happy. Then, "Anthology" is astoundingly vivacious. It's as if they took their discography, intoxicated it, and now it's tipsy. The only indication that there's something perilous on the horizon is a smidgeon of thunderous sound effects, but even those are muted; as not to spoil any pride or joy.

Both "Two of a Kind" and "Momentum" are trippy. While neither is the king of the hill, their rolling acclivities are catchy. Still, there's one that's fairer than them all later on.

There are some instances where their ill-omened storyline is foretold by instruments. Specifically, "Awakening" is slow and daunting like a murderous death scene, but an argument could also be made that its creepy intentions are sweet. Subsequently, "Dark Souls" is belligerent and feisty; maybe even embittered to a degree. Then again, one should let it go about its business, as its beats are neither bothersome to the brain nor a nuisance to the ears. While a bit passionate, it's not disorderly or discordant, and once contentious tempers calm; it's conscientiously clear-headed.

In spite of what you'd think, the title track is not the standout. Rather than a putdown, it's really that kudos should be given elsewhere and to the whole. With that said, "A Million Lives" grabs hold of the top prize. The reason to put this great nation at the apex is that it's so exultant. Alternatively, the introduction to "Occlusion" is the exception to the rule, as its opaque isolate is unequivocally evil. Once this harbinger of hate is banished?which occurs in less than sixty seconds?there's an epic's worth of glee material to bring the party to a close.

In retrospect, it only takes a few notes of name that tune to recognize this band; however, there are occasions where they could be easily mistaken for Marillion or A.C.T. Since they've toyed with the controls as much as possible, it may hinder one's ability to identify them in a line-up. Be that as it may, Gerben Klazinga's keyboards give their secret alias away every time it's twiddled.

When listening to this music, it's hard to keep from smiling. Due to gorgeous melodies and increased tempos, this is their best album to date; especially since its ordained morbidity borders on a funfest. And, for those who don't speak English, it's likely they'll assume this fare was done in high spirits.

Report this review (#381822)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#552747)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was very favourably impressed by Knight Area's debut album, and whilst I didn't think their followup quite matched up to it, it came very, very close. On Realm of Shadows, however, the band's musical development seems to stall. The production sounds a bit flatter and less spacious than the previous two albums, and the band's Arena-inspired sound seems to lack inspiration and spark this time around. It's a good enough listen, but when set next to the band's previous efforts it feels as though they're going through the motions and not really evolving their sound very much. Still, if you're a fan it'll be a fun enough listen.
Report this review (#742927)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always found it somewhat stretchy that Knight Area, with their penchant for AOR and old-school arena rock, insisted on being dark, singing about Dark Souls and Antagonies with the devil in disguise. Well, they manage here to be dark, but not in a heavy or depressing way. Songs like Realm of Shadows or Occlusion have more of a sing-along and melancholic tone instead of menacing, with their "shadow world" being more of a fading copy of our reality rather that its dark alternative. If that makes sense. On the other hand, Antagony and A Million Lives (first one rockier, second - slower) have an anthemic arena attribute to them. All in all, while being sure-fire neo-prog, Knight Area still manage to sound like Knight Area, instead of a mere clone of earlier bands.
Report this review (#1321996)
Posted Tuesday, December 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dutch progrock band Knight Area their debut CD The Sun Also Rises from 2004 sold more than 8000 copies, an incredible amount for a Dutch progressive rock band. And on stage the band impressed me very much, especially by their frontman Mark Smit (ex Queen cover band Miracle) and bass player Gijs Koopman (ex-Cliffhanger) on his mighty Rickenbacker bass. Last year Knight Area released their fifth studio effort entitled Heaven And Beyond, this album has more heavy prog and prog metal overtones than their previous four releases. I would like to go back to 2009, when Knight Area presented their third album, my favourite one.

The nine alternating and pleasant compositions (between 2 and 12 minutes) again sound very accessible and melodic. And again we can enjoy a blend of 24-carat symphonic rock (in the vein of 76-77 Genesis), neo-prog (like early IQ and Pallas) and more song oriented progrock. The climates shift from dreamy (with tender piano and passionate vocals) to powerful mid-tempo rhythms (with fiery guitar runs and fat synthesizer flights) and bombastic (with lush keyboards and Moog Taurus bass pedals). In many songs the focus is on excellent guitar work (from sensitive to biting), often supported by the distinctive sound of the Hammond organ and the unsurpassed Mellotron. Knight Area is at their artistic pinnacle in the track Momentum: from a swinging bass with violin-Mellotron to a Vinage Keyboard Heaven, featuring swirling Moog and impressive choir-Mellotron, goose bumps! Also the long final composition Occlusion showcases the huge potential of Knight Area, what a cascade of shifting moods, breaks and exciting solos. And what a breathtaking grand finale, including Moog Taurus bass pedals and choir-Mellotron, I am in Vintage Progheaven! Knight Area their progrock is a fine balance between showing skills and melody, this third album is a very strong example.

Report this review (#1915662)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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