Keyboard Heavy Prog

After mopping up the tears that had almost shorted out my keyboard when I read that Knight Area had a permanent member on the recorder, I put my stereotypical and cynical attitude to one side and, with a deep breath, entered the world of contemporary prog rock.

'Under A New Sign' is this Dutch rockers second album and from what I can tell this album features more of a stable line up, rather than the 'one man plus guns for hire' scenario of their first album 'The Sun Also Rises'. The main 'Knight' is keyboardist Gerben Klazinga who is also the main composer, and with that in mind I don't really have to tell you that 'Under A New Sign' is a keyboard heavy journey of innovative and varied prog rock.

The main word on the table is 'Rock'. This isn't prog metal chocked out by the likes of Dream Theater or Symphony X, it's roots are firmly in the 70s prog rock movement emulating the styles of Yes, Rush and ELP. However it would be fair to throw in a Spock's Beard at this point to add that modern touch to a classic genre. Because of its influences you can expect long meandering songs without much in the way of killer hooks but instead laden with pleasant, mellow and upbeat music.

For a reviewer who likes to have his ears pinned back through sheer force, I initially found 'Under A New Sign' a little irritating because it lacked the Grrrr factor, which, I happily get from Dream Theater. After repeated listens however the music does slowly grow because it's just so damn listenable. 'Mastermind' offers a bit of balls in the proceedings with both guitarists, 'Mark Vermeule' and 'Rinie Huigen', finally let loose with their distortion pedals.

The title track is a mood swinging instrumental and clearly sounds like Knight Area are having way too much fun. 'Courteous Love' smacks of Marillion, but this is no bad thing but perhaps leaves it a little too late to change from vocal and piano to kicking the rest of the band in. Vocalist Mark Smit does an admirable job but I get the feeling he can do a lot more with his voice as the vocal melodies are bland and uninteresting thus causing the instrumental parts of this long player to be the album's highlights, which, is probably the idea of the whole project. The Cellos, flutes and general orchestration are kept to a tasteful minimum allowing the keyboards to be at the forefront of the music. Instead they provide a solid background to the widdly progginess supplied by the rest of the band.

Take heed when I say this is music for grown ups. It lacks the spark and aggression often required to appeal to the younger audiences but it makes up for it in thought and technical skill. Don't expect a rock-a-thon because the distorted guitars only make seldom appearances. Having said all that, 'Under A New Sign' is a good addition to any prog rock fan's collection. I think the album is only going to appeal to prog rock fans but there are enough of them about to keep Knight Area going for several years to come.