Knight Area - 'Hyperdrive'

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Knight Area - 'Hyperdrive'

Yet another quality release in 2014 that is deserving of consideration in any end of year poll.

This is Knight Area's fifth studio album and over the course of those releases I have detected a shift in their sound, moving from the classic Prog style (think Camel, Genesis etc.) and incrementally introducing a harder, heavier and Metal-ish edge. That's not to say that they have eschewed all those classic traits, far from it, but they have introduced additional elements to the palette to great effect.

As if to prove the point, 'Afraid Of The Dark' opens in a manner not unlike Dream Theater with great riffs, fast-finger keyboards, equally rapid guitar shredding (only tuneful) and lovely driving bass lines and drums from Peter Vink and Pieter van Hoorn respectively. When Mark Smit's vocals arrive my mind sways towards Vanden Plas; the chorus is wonderfully memorable, a recurring factor across the entire album where melody is very much to the fore.

'The Lost World' is rather more relaxed and is Pompy in approach, the verse putting me in mind of Kansas while the bridge, chorus and instrumental sections have a Pallas feel to them. 'Bubbles' ebbs and flows (floats?) as well as featuring a trademark keyboard solo flurry by Gerben Klazinga, while guitarist Mark Bogert delivers one of many delicious solos on the sweeping, mid-paced 'This Day'. While all the players are excellent both Bogert and Klazinga are exceptional throughout the album.

'Crimson Skies' gets back to that Prog Metal vibe in a Threshold style on the verses and a chorus that has a Balance Of Power feel. Instrumentally this album is pretty stunning with plenty of terrific soloing which fortunately always stays the right side of both tuneful and relevant rather than gratuitous and deadly boring. 'Avenue Of Broken Dreams' features another fine riff and more splendid keyboards. 'Living In Confusion' starts deceptively quietly before it bursts into life, again reminding me of Pallas.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen guests on the instrumental 'Stepping Out' and his flowing performance is a delight to behold, as with any good instrumental the guitar (in this case) takes on the role of the vocals and creates the track's momentum and lyrical flow.

The guitar and piano interplay on 'Running Away' is splendid while 'Songs From The Past' is the album's ballad which relies primarily on piano and voice; it seems strategically placed as the calm before the storm that is 'Hypnotized', the big finish in more ways than one; it's the longest track and the most ambitious. The lengthy, pacey opening instrumental section is fabulous and the mix of the up-tempo and slow mid-section is inspired.

Yet another quality release in 2014 that is deserving of consideration in any end of year poll.

Gary Marshall

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