KNIGHT AREA – Hyperdrive (2014)
Dutch quintet KNIGHT AREA have been around for a while (their last was featured here on the blog) releasing some truly compelling Neo-prog albums in the vein of IQ. Their new, fifth CD “Hyperdrive” would only loosely fit that description, if at all.
Every band linked to progressive music at some point of their career flirts with streamlining their sound, and this is what happened with Knight Area here: an exciting Neo-prog, hard rock and AOR crossover.
While still retaining some of Neo-prog stylings like melody and lots of keyboards, “Hyperdrive” adds more punch to their sound through hard rocking crunchy guitars riffs plus a powerful rhythm section, and the choruses have more in common with modern AOR than anything else.
Additionally, most of the material here is in ‘song format’, weighing in at the three-to-four-minute mark but there’s an impressive amount of music packed into the 11 tracks, plenty enough to keep fans entertained and fully sated.
The AOR feel is accentuated by singer Mark Smits’ pipes evoking the huskiness seen in the likes of John Wetton. To sum up, at many places “Hyperdrive” sounds like the good old Asia but with more crunchy, sharp guitar work.
Just take opener “Afraid Of The Dark”; the song immediately hits you with a stratospheric, big guitar riff, ultramelodic singing and muscular rhythm section, while the chorus is a belter. There are lashings of keyboards layered throughout as well as an engaging guitar solo.
In fact this CD could be called a hard-rocking version of Asia or Journey, with passages comparable to recent offers by Arena and Threshold. A hard rock that, in line with its adultness, is pompous, slow and stately.
But the record is varied, and always interesting.
“The Lost World” has the feel of a power ballad about it but it is also very moody. The pace of the opener may be reduced, but the conviction certainly isn’t. It’s a bold track that features more sumptuous melodies that sit around a stomping tempo. It includes a great synth solo but it is Smit’s stellar vocal performance which sets this track apart, full of passion and honesty.
On the other hand, “Bubble” is pure Neo-prog, heavily influenced from the UK prog rock scene. It constantly reminds me of early Marillion with a catchy chorus full of layered vocals.
I could mention something positive and worthwhile about every single track.
To make it short, there’s a rocking vibe on “Crimson Skies”, modern AOR in “Avenue Of Broken Dreams”, ’80s melodic rock leanings in “Running Away”, while hte beautiful ballad “Songs From The Past” offers overtones of Journey / Queen.
This impressive album closes with “Hypnotised”, a longer more sprawling composition that closes in epic fashion thanks to an uplifting yet bitter-sweet melody overlaid by a genuinely spine-tingling guitar solo courtesy of talented Arjen Lucassen. It’s the fitting and dramatic way to end such a great record.
“Hyperdrive” is a killer album. You are treated to excellent musicianship, great melodies, sing-along choruses and above all, a collection of songs that are a joy to listen to time and again.
Knight Area exude professionalism. What you get form this quintet each and every time, is a quality product where every small detail has been considered. The whole album is wrapped up in a fantastic production that offers the clarity required from this type of music but doesn’t rob any of the power from the compositions. Each instrument is given the room it needs to shine, nothing is lost in the mix and yet there’s a lushness about the whole thing that shines through and enhances the entire listening experience.
With very few exceptions, on “Hyperdrive” we are presented with ‘hit’ songs destined for the hard rock fans, with influences from ’80s prog to modern AOR.
Why Knight Area are still so relatively unknown is beyond me; these guys are awesome. “Hyperdrive” is in my ‘Best Of The Year’ list for sure.
01 – Afraid Of The Dark
02 – The Lost World
03 – Bubble
04 – This Day
05 – Crimson Skies
06 – Avenue Of Broken Dreams
07 – Living In Confusion
08 – Stepping Out
09 – Running Away
10 – Songs From The Past
11 – Hypnotised
Mark Smit – vocals
Gerben Klazinga – keyboards
Pieter van Hoorn – drums
Peter Vink – bass and taurus pedals
Mark Bogert – guitars
Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Stream of Passion, Star One) – guitars
BUY IT !