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Knight Area - D-Day CD (album) cover

D-DAY

Knight Area

Neo-Prog


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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Knight Area is a Dutch Neo-prog band that was founded by Gerben Klazinga in 2004. Gerben put together a line up of musicians to help him bring about his musical vision. In September of 2019, the band released their 7th full-length studio album called "D-Day". This concept, of course, is a rather epic and historical topic to cover. There are 10 tracks total on the album and it has a 54 minute run time, but it is enough to cover this subject very well?

The line up for this album consists of Gerben Klazinga on keyboards, Jan Willem Ketelaers on lead vocals, Mark Bogert on guitar, Pieter van Hoorn on drums and Peter Vink on bass. The album is available on CD and digitally.

The album starts with the introductory track "New Horizon" (6:29) which sees the music beginning a little bit lightly as the main focus here is a spoken word section, a speech meant to rally troops, and then the music builds, interspersing heaviness and drama effectively with guitars and synths, upbeat and powerful. The vocals are perfect for the style of music, and the music is definitely Neo-prog with a bit of heaviness to it. After some vocals, the last part of the track features more spoken word recordings, this time the famous speech by Churchill. "Overlord" (5:10) continues with the heavy/neo prog sound, this time with a section that features the rapid fire drumming style that approaches djent territory, but this is just used to build up tension and to amp the atmosphere, which works quite well.

"Blood on the Risers" (5:07) starts more hesitantly with heavy synth layers and then the heavy/neo prog sound starts again, but with the synths driving more of the sound this time. It also features some counterpunctual vocal layering in the chorus. Even though it is still a moderate tempo, the music still has that heavy underlayer and a dramatic guitar riff and solo in the instrumental break. It all ends with military singing. "The Landing" (4:58) is a slow ballad of someone singing to their child to comfort them in their vacancy because of being called to war. The music intensifies later to a faster tempo and heavier sound. The track is quite powerful with emotional vocals.

"Omaha Beach" (6:01) is also an emotional track, this time remaining slow through the verses. Later in the track there is some great guitar work. "Rememberance" (4:05) picks things up in tempo again, and returns the heavier element to the music with guitar riffs taking charge, embellished by keys. "When I'll Be With You" (3:44) is a piano-drenched ballad with vocals, very emotional again, and quite full of power, but maybe a bit too sentimental. "Wings of Time" (4:35) brings on the dramatic riffs with rapid fire drumming and heavy guitars, with a slower bridge and instrumental break that is shared by both guitars and keys after the prayer of a soldier. It reflects a slow march to victory and approaches a cinematic style.

"March to Victory" (7:45) begins the English broadcast of the German's signing their surrender and the declaration that the attention of the war will now be devoted to winning against the Japanese. Two minutes in, the music finally starts with triumphant synth riffs and a moderate beat and vocal melody. The chorus again features the main melody with another vocal layered in providing counterpoint. A nice interlude with piano and soft guitar comes in during the instrumental break, later, when the drums come back in, there is a great synth solo, then more soft guitar after before returning to the chorus. The last track is "Freedom for Everyone" (6:50) is a more stately style track as it wraps up the feeling of victory and the overall prize that is won.

So, overall, it's a decent album that leans more to the Neo-prog side, but also uses healthy doses of Heavy Prog to help portray the subject. The handling of the subject is more interested in the victorious side of war and not so much the dark side of war which is the reality that surviving veterans have to live with in their memories. In that respect, it is unfortunately too sentimental more than it is realistic. In other words, it takes on the more rhetorical side of war, with freedom for all being the prize, mostly ignoring what the cost it took to gain that prize, that some people have to continue to pay a high price for gaining that prize and ignoring the fact that those people are largely ignored by the public and government because of the false hope that the prize will be enough for those women and men that have to fight with mental illness for the rest of their lives from the experience. But, anyway, for the purposes of the positive side of war, it's a good album and the music is effective in that respect. The message isn't really the right message that I would expect in the realities of war, but for the message the music is trying to convey, it is pretty good, and as for the music alone, it's a 4-star affair. But, war is never the best solution as the cost is much higher than we tend to believe.

Report this review (#2262672)
Posted Saturday, September 21, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dutch prog band Knight Area was founded in 2003 by musical brainchild Gerben Klazinga (keyboards, drums, vocals and co-producer), and included singer Mark Smit (from the Queen cover band Miracle) and bass player Gijs Koopman (ex-Cliffhanger). In December 2004 I witnessed Knigth Area its first gig, supporting the debut CD release entitled The Sun Also Rises, it was an awesome Dutch triple prog concert near Amsterdam, with Plackband and Lady Lake. In my PA review in 2005 I wrote about The Sun Also Rises: 'The 10 melodic, alternating and tasteful progrock compositions feature lots of majestic Mellotron waves and flashing synthesizer runs and sensitive electric guitar soli, along beautiful instrumentation with flute, accordion and acoustic guitar. In my opinion this CD is a splendid 24-carat symphonic rock album that deserves a worldwide recognition.'

Well, as a fan of the first hour I have followed Knight Area during the years and often seen the band. I consider the third CD Realm Of Shadows from 2009 as their best effort. Then gradually Knight Area turned into a more heavy sounding band, with echoes from early Dream Theater. From that moment I lost Knight Area, despite the fact that in 2014 Dutch legend Peter Vink (Q65 and Finch) replaced Gijs Koopman. Recently I got in touch with prime mover Gerben Klazinga who send me the new album D-Day, from 2019. This 7th studio-album fearures new singer Jan Willem Ketelaers, he worked with Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Robby Valentine (who is also a guest musician on this new Knight Area album).

On this new Knight Area album the band delivers very accessible melodic hardrock that borders with prog metal, bands like Queensryche, Savatage, Ayreon and Dream Theater come to my mind. It's far away from the sound on the debut album The Sun Also Rises, but I am impressed the way Knight Area presents the dramatic D-Day concept in the 10 compositions. The approach is very song-oriented with the focus on new singer JW Ketelaers (powerful and a good range) and excellent guitarist Mark Bogert (he easily switches from lots of Satriani/Vai-like blistering and biting runs to moving like Andy Latimer (Omaha Beach) or classical guitar like Steve Howe (March To Victory). Gerben Klazinga his keyboards are often functional (many beautiful orchestral layers) but at some moments he shines with runs on the synthesizer (The Landing and Wings Of Time) or waves of Hammond organ (Overlord). The rhythm-section does a good job, often propelling the heavy sound.

The songs are embellished with some captivating musical ideas, like the voices of Eisenhower and Churchill, the lyrics of a psalm, and the sound of militairy drums, all tributing to an atmosphere that matches with the dramatic subject D-Day. Another strong element is the use of dynamics, lots of heavy parts but also some slowdowns, in order to create tension. The song When I'll Be With You even features only Robby Valentine his tender Grand piano and JW Ketelaers his melancholical vocals, simply wonderful. The final track Freedom for Everyone is dedicated to the victims of the socalled Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, as a psychiatric nurse I have often seen what war does to the mental health of young soldiers, devastating! In this song Knight Area succeeds to create a very compelling atmosphere that matches with the changes of the mental state: first dreamy with warm vocals and twanging guitar, then moving guitar, strong vocals with emotional undertone and lots of fiery guitar runs (like a 'Heavy Howe') in a bombastic climate, what a strong conclusion of an impressive album.

If you are up to this heavy and accessible sounding Knight Area with its song-oriented approach, and a focus on powerful vocals and harder-edged guitar work I am sure this album will delight you, well done Dutchmen!

Report this review (#2417549)
Posted Sunday, July 5, 2020 | Review Permalink

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