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(48:33, Hands of Blue Records)
TRACK LIST: 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 LINEUP: 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
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