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(62 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Wrong 0:17 2. Be My Guest 5:29 3. First Bridge of Tears 1:38 4. Looking Up to the Sun 5:52 5. Never Mind 7:02 6. Galactic Storm 6:54 7. Then There Was One 7:05 8. Valentine Fuzztrations 5:39 9. Sunset on a Sad Horizon 5:41 10. Eclipse 5:26 11. Second Bridge of Tears 1:51 12. Emptiness 9:31 13. Nameless 1:33 All tracks: by Koopman & Heijboer. Arranged by Novox. Produced by Heijboer. LINEUP: Dick Heijboer - analog & digital keyboards Gijs Koopman - bass, bass pedals; synthesizer Hans Boonk - drums Rinie Huigen - guitar With: Mark Vermeule - guitar (4, 5, 12) Dave Ingham - voice (1, 13)
Prolusion. There was an excellent progressive outfit in Holland, namely Cliffhanger. I have heard all their albums, and I sincerely regretted about their break-up back in 2001, although it was obvious to me that the men had certain creative problems at that time. However, they didn't sink to oblivion. They are back. I think this new project, NOVOX, can be considered the band's second incarnation, inasmuch as it comprises the four founding members of Cliffhanger, whose lineup was always stable, by the way.
Analysis. Here are some remarks called into being by my associative thinking. Like some of the planet's political subjects, this formation has passed along the silent revolution. In this case however, the event signified the signboard's replacement, yet, didn't entail any changes in the government body. Misters Heijboer and Koopman still realize the leadership in composition and, along with the cabinet's other members, are responsible for the arrangements. "Faster, denser, more virtuosi, more intricate, with no looking back at the past creation!" would be an apt general slogan for the formation's new course. The music is often abundant in sounds of vintage keyboards: Mellotron, Hammond and ARP, and yet, the spirit of the seventies Prog never touched it by its wing. The conception of originality is assigned to primary importance here, and although Novox didn't invent a new style, I wouldn't dare to compare this music with anyone else's. Really, it would be irrelevant even with regard to Cliffhanger's traditional sound. This is a highly enjoyable album, with a broad stylistic spectrum. By constitution, it is destined to satisfy the needs of most sections of the progressive population, and I am certain, it will. While walking through the First and the Second Bridge of Tears and standing on the one pathetically called Then There Was One, you'll hear amazingly beautiful little concertos of Classical music for Mellotron, Church organ and piano, respectively. You will not be frustrated about Valentine Fuzztrations, though without looking into the CD booklet you will hardly believe that this dark, dense, heavy, ever changing composition features only two instruments: bass and drums. This is progressive Doom Metal, whose unique sound is beyond anyone's imaginative possibilities. Galactic Storm is symphonic Space Rock, a very diverse composition, although the band's massive maneuvers cover only one third of it. The remaining five tracks run more than 40 minutes. Each of them will bring the listeners into the endlessly swirling maelstrom of events, whose intensity and unpredictability will keep them disoriented in time and space unless they venture to undertake more diving there. Looking Up to the Sun and Eclipse are symphonic Art-Rock in pure form, while Be My Guest, Never Mind and Sunset on a Sad Horizon display a cross between Art-Rock and Prog-Metal, with plenty of attendant, quasi Jazz-Fusion related elements available, especially on the former. Structurally, and also by dynamics, there is rather much in common between these three and the primary direction of 4/3 De Trio's latest, "Ersatz". If this remark conveys nothing to you, you may read the review of that album. Only the boundary tracks here, made up of sounds, effects and voices, may leave you cold, but they are too short to concentrate attention on them.
Conclusion. Novox's eponymous effort by most characteristics corresponds to my conception of masterwork. I can't say that I liked it better than Cliffhanger's classic "Not to Be Or Not to Be", but it's mainly because I miss Rinie's vocals. Otherwise these are equal, equally strong, albums. Very highly recommended. Meanwhile the number of output entered my preliminary Top-20-2005 is slowly growing...
VM: April 18, 2005
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