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Roel Van Helden - 2012 - "RvH"

(48:33, Hands of Blue Records)



1.  130 Thousand Miles 4:16
2.  The Long Road Ahead 4:35
3.  No More Silence 7:04
4.  Out of Time 5:08
5.  Twenty One 3:52
6.  Break the Glass 4:35
7.  I Wonder Why 5:44
8.  No Sense of Ease 4:33
9.  Come Undone 4:49
10. The 4th Dimension 3:42


Roel Van Helden – drums, xylophone; keyboards; vocals
Arno Menses (ex-Sieges Even) – vocals
David Bertok – keyboards 
Marcel Coenen – guitars 
Daniel Kohn – bass 
15 more musicians (singers and players)

Prolusion. The ten-track “RvH” is the first solo album by drummer and songwriter ROEL VAN HELDEN, from Holland. The man has been active since 2000 and has previously played with Subsignal and Sun Caged (the first of which involves two ex-members of Sieges Even).

Analysis. The CD press kit presents the creation in a quite amusing way: “Don't worry: it's not just a forty-minute drum solo! Van Helden is joined by eight vocalists, five bass players, four guitarists and three keyboardists.” As if the presence of numerous guest musicians – and especially singers – on a recording unconditionally indicates its high quality, to put it succinctly. In reality, however, it most often occurs just the other way round. Either way, “RvH” sounds more like a collection of songs by different performers than a single man’s compositional output, albeit that matter is the only major problem I have with it. The music is overall of the same complexity (or simplicity, if you will) as, just for instance, late-‘80s Barclay James Harvest or mid-‘90s Alice Cooper. However, most of the arrangements on the album are well thought-out, and the musicianship is flawless throughout, with the instruments that are handled by Roel himself, namely drums, mallets and keyboards, playing an important-to-crucial role nearly everywhere. The guitar playing is also significant and has the right amount of crunch and leads. However, not everything went of smoothly in terms of composition. There are two songs the band could have easily done without: No Sense of Ease and Come Undone. Both of them are kind of ‘80s commercial heavy metal throw-back (think Bon Jovi, only with a more aggressive riff attack), the latter at times revealing rap-style recitatives instead of full-fledged singing. Both of them are additionally lacking in the tasteful and effective arrangements handling of the better heavy metal songs, The Long Road Ahead and Break the Glass, the first of which features a massive choir besides traditional lead and backing vocals. The remaining three songs, No More Silence, Out of Time and I Wonder Why, are all also good in their own way and are complicated symphonic hard rock ballads with many inventive keyboard arrangements courtesy of Roel. The last two of them are sung by female vocalists, the former the second best track here, to my way of thinking. The girl who sings it has a nice voice and a solid voice range, carrying the delicious melodies well. There are also three instrumentals on the disc. A Doom Metal-inspired piece, Twenty One, reminds me of Tiamat’s “Wildhoney” in places. The 4th Dimension is Roel’s solo performance, a peaceful ambient landscape which, yet, is often crossed by faster mallets leads. Finally, 130 Thousand Miles is my favorite tune on the album. Focused on ensemble playing, it’s reminiscent of The Alan Parsons Project (only using a xylophone instead of saxophone). On the other hand, while also showcasing strong melodies, it conveys more individuality for the project than any of the other items of the disc.

Conclusion. As a debut “RvH” is a very decent effort overall. On the other hand, it appears as a patchwork quilt in a way, indicating that its main man is much stronger as a performer as well as songwriter than as an arranger and producer alike. I fear only omnivorous music lovers will be totally happy with it.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 7, 2012
The Rating Room

Roel Van Helden - 2012 - "RvH"


Analysis. The Dutch composer and musician Roel van HELDEN is a name many might recognize if not for his name alone then at least due to his background as the drummer of Delphian, Sun Caged and most recently Subsignal. Still in his early thirties he has an impressive resume due to that part of his musical history alone. "RvH" is his first solo album, and was released by the fledgling German label Hands of Blue Records in November 2012. Solo albums by drummers aren't an everyday feature in the world of rock music, although it can't really be described as something extraordinary either. But they are certainly more rare than solo albums by just about any other kind of instrumentalists, except possibly from bassists. One would expect that a drummer would focus on his instrument when producing a solo album, but in this case that isn't exactly the case. We're treated to many fine and magnificent drum patterns true enough, and rhythms in general are key elements throughout, but the focus is on the compositions themselves rather than the singular instrument features. Utilizing the instrument strengths within a well defined context appears to be the focus throughout in this case. The album is book-ended by some nice creations that have more of a relation with new age oriented music than anything else, the opening piece 130 Thousand Miles in particular, with loud drums and a percussion instrument backed by smooth synth textures quite nicely. A song revisited on final piece The 4th Dimension, but now sporting a somewhat different instrumentation and arrangement. The key features are still so similar that they need to be regarded as closely related items. In between these we're presented with eight additional compositions, all of them fairly different in scope and expression, as might be indicated by the extensive list of guest musicians I suppose. From the tantalizing melodic hard rock of The Long Road Ahead and the close to rap metal antics of No Sense of Ease to the piano ballad developing towards progressive metal on No More Silence to the light toned and gentle guitar driven landscapes alternating with harder edged and riff dominated themes featured in instrumental effort Twenty One. The symphonic metal inspired I Wonder Why also merits mentioning, especially due to the general lack of guitars in the first half of this composition that makes this a slightly eerie experience, especially as we're treated to a somewhat more ordinary creation of a similar character earlier on in the shape of Out of Time. Creative choices in the structure and arrangements department are something that does set this debut solo album from Roel van Helden apart from many others, and most brilliantly so to my ears on Break the Glass, a stunning piece sporting sophisticated rhythms, a nice and organic synth-based lead motif with dramatic massive guitar riffs coming and going.

Conclusion. Roel van Helden's first solo album is a varied affair that touches base with quite a few different stylistic expressions and does manage to do so in a rather creative manner too. Well developed drum patterns and clever use of percussion are a given for such an album, and those with a particular taste for those aspects and a wide and liberal taste within the rock and metal realms are perhaps a defined key audience for this production. As well as curious fans of the bands he has been or still is a member of, obviously.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 7, 2013
The Rating Room

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