Knight Area | Heaven And Beyond | March 2017
Label: Butler Records
Release Year: 2017
Country: The Netherlands
Genre: Neo Progressive Rock/Metal
Gerben Klazinga – Keyboards
Mark Smit – Vocals
Pieter van Hoorn – Drums
Peter Vink – Bass
Mark Bogert – Guitars
My gateway into neo progressive rock music was Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood in 1985. It was a bit difficult for me due to the fact I was a solid metal purist at the time. However the music never left me and the seed was sown towards future neo progressive music in the future. Throughout the years neo progressive music and bands would come across my path. By 1999 I had discovered California neo progressive rocker’s Enchant when I bought A Blueprint Of The World – 1993 and Wounded – 1996. From that point all my defenses concerning neo progressive rock and metal had been totally removed.
Soon after I had discovered bands such as IQ, Pendragon, Spock’s Beard, Jadis, Pallas and Arena to name a few. These bands all have a common thread that easily allows the neo progressive title to be bestowed upon them. This common thread is experimental symphonic prog. It requires particular programming of synth’s along with guitars and rely more on a heavy lush stringed section. It is a very rare occasion when the neo progressive element meets a heavier almost metal element. It also takes a very talented and exceptional band to be able to blend these elements just right. Fortunately Dutch band Knight Area has been able to manage just that. Their 2017 release Heaven And Beyond displays this at work.
On Knight Area’s Heaven And Beyond there is a sonic buffet of various styles in play. Various styles not only include the obvious neo progressive staple but also go on to include hard rock, heavy metal and even AOR at certain points. This album is easily accessible to those various audio pallets. My appeal to Knight Area really took off after Peter Vinnk – Bass (Star One and Ayreon) alumni joined the band. I had always been a fan of his intricate and expansive bass work. This work is magnified on Knight Area’s Heaven And Beyond. Now I would like to explore some highlights of Knight Area’s Heaven And Beyond track by track.
Unbroken opens up with the keyboard transcribing a horned section almost from the 16 th century. Soon it goes into a pure progressive hard rock slightly metal chord progression with a great isolated guitar solo. The track fades down and soon come out of left field with a really gritty and crunchy rhythm based guitar signature. That is followed by a thunderous another thunderous rhythmic section between the bass, drum and rhythm portion on the guitar. Mark Smit – Vocals then comes in with some powerful, clear and angelic style vocals to carry the atmosphere of the track. This is a very guitar driven track from top to bottom with various breaks and time signatures.
Tree Of Life opens with a beautiful piano passage before being met with a straight away progressive hard rock passage. The rhythmic section really sets the table on this track quite nice. The guitar almost sounds like a 7 string guitar at times allowing more depth within the track. The vocal work is just as much a instrument as it is a narrative piece within the composition. The guitar solo’s really allow for a heavier listening experience. This is easily one of the tracks that can open up a live set list delivering depth to their intended audience. The Hammond Organ style towards the end gives the track a vintage progressive rock presence.
Memories starts out with a lush piano ballad with a deep warmth within the vocals. Although it is very progressive it displays some light AOR elements. The track soon takes off like a hard rock power ballad however without sounding cheesy. The guitars really lend a lot of atmospheric depth and layers to the stringed section. The vocals harmonies are spot on with the instrumental portions to the composition. They are almost like a mini choir in nature. This is definitely one of the more guitar driven tracks on the album.
Dreamworld begins with a beautiful piano intro before taking on a very heavily symphonic rooted chord progression. It is as if the band are taking a symphony orchestra mindset and transcribing it to the available instruments at their disposal. This track as big thunderous rhythm sections matched wonderfully with big stringed sections. The vocals really blend all the sum of the parts of this track beautifully. The band really start to form a very distinct sound on Dreamworld.
The Reaper opens up with a very dark brooding bass passage with some seriously warm yet dark vocals along with a open atmosphere on the keyboards. The vocals are arranged with such thought and care in their isolation. This track takes on a very some very misty eerie instrumental elements allowing the isolated vocals to get a beautiful to be told in its fullness. In its gloomy atmosphere the track still allows a little light in to breathe.
Box Of Toys opens with a powerful guitar solo from the top. Soon it goes into a break with a great rhythm section to allow the vocal to breathe and tell the story. This track reminds me a lot of early GTR or Asia compositions. There is a great violin in this as well. The harmonies are very Yes in nature.
Starlight blasts open into a progressive frenzy with the rhythm section. This is a very straight away progressive hard rock track with intelligent vocal harmonies playing in perfect range with the stringed section of keys and lead guitar. Starlight borders on the fringe of a progressive metal track at times throughout the track.
Heaven And Beyond opens up with a beautiful harmony between the piano, guitar and vocal. This combination allows the listener to settle in the track. The opening is almost ballad like before the drums come in and turn it into more of a power ballad. This is definitely one of those songs I see their fan base singing back to them during live performances on tour. Its very nature is unifying. The guitar solo’s are a complete treat on this one as well. There are some really tight beautiful vocal harmonies towards the end.
Saviour Of Sinners opens up with a straight away prog metal delight with some neo progressive elements sprinkled in. The band really has a great talent in mixing the vocals to be isolated within the instrumental where they can be clearly heard and the story told. The rhythm section is spot on leading both the vocal harmony and the stringed section serving as a anchor for the entire track. Time signatures are definitely present all over this song.
Eternal Light the ethereal opening guitar solo on this track matches the title quite perfectly. It appears this was recorded live as is in studio along with a beautiful and perfectly complimentary keyboard in tandem harmony. The emotion in this track will take the listener for a emotional ride. It is the only instrumental on Heaven And Beyond.
Twins of Sins opens up in a almost unconventional classic rock format. It opens up much like 1980’s progressive rock when bands like Asia, Yes , etc took on more AOR elements. However the further this goes the more the track takes on a more modern neo progressive metal track with catchy time signatures and complex chord progressions to match the intricate bass and vocals. This track also serves as a great uplifting track to close out the album.
To my surprise Knight Area’s Heaven And Beyond was a very unconventionally guitar oriented neo progressive album. Sometimes the term neo progressive means it is more keyboard based however this album was not that. Heaven And Beyond is going to surprise some people in the progressive rock and metal communities since there is a little bit of everything for the progressive pallet. I would not be surprised to find this album in the Top 5 or even #1 of the Album Of 2017 lists when they come out at the end of the year. This is a very good album and gets a 5/5 for the variety of many progressive elements.