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Helden; Roel Van: RvH

Solo albums by drummers are seldom a reason to celebrate (just think Peter Criss (Kiss), Cozy Powell, Herman (Ze German) Rarebell (Scorpions) or Carmine Appice...) and while not all bad, RvH from Sun Caged drummer Roel Van Helden seldom matches the promise that it does undoubtedly show. Thankfully Roel avoids the obvious pitfall of making his first solo foray an excuse to percussivise us all to death; instead the problem here is too much variety and too many contributors behind the microphone. Don't get me wrong, solo albums should be just that, a departure from the "day-job", a chance to try something a little different. Roel certainly does that, but in the end the sheer diversity of styles makes RvH an album to be appreciated in parts every time you listen to it, just not as a whole. Indeed with subsequent listens I found myself getting on famously with different tracks from my last visit, but also depending on my mood, some of the more effective selections from that previous listen seemed strangely ineffective.

Some twenty one different musicians and singers contribute to this album, musically creating a surprisingly cohesive entity in terms of execution, as at no point does RvH feel like a patchwork of instrumental performances. However when the odd mix of prog, AOR, faux-extreme metal, percussion workouts and straight up rock is fronted by an ever changing cast of voices, the fusion feels less convincing. "130 Thousand Miles" kicks things off with thumping tom beats punctuating some lively, wonderfully melodic xylophone work, giving the feeling of an AOR Evelyn Glennie. It is a nice introduction, although at just over four minutes, a mite long, before "The Long Road Ahead" utilises layered vocals and chunky power chords to provide a thoroughly charismatic progressively tinged slice of AOR. So far so good - if already a little off kilter, although the over long piano led "No More Silence" hints that eclectic for the sake of it, might well be the order of the day. Something confirmed by the Asia like "Out Of Time" and the hand percussion and grittily riffed encounter with "Twenty One".

What started out as an interesting diversion of styles is already veering into something that disgruntles as much as it satisfies. "Break The Glass" confirming that feeling with a mix of prog metal rifferama and a Jean Michel Jarre like breakout where synths argue loudly with a drum solo and flashy guitar squeal. From there "I Wonder Why" feels almost like female sung lounge lizard fare, "No Sense Of Ease" decides we need more prog metal riffage, this time alongside an oddly staccato almost rap vocal, which really isn't very good at all, while "Come Undone" (the last few song titles actually describe this album really well!) attempts something akin to power metal, shouty vocals failing to lift a flat guitar attack. Before "The 4th Dimension" slams on the handbreak for a screeching 180 turn back to the plonky, boinging xylophone percussion that began this haphazard jaunt.

In isolation most of these songs make some semblance of sense. However played back to back the whole RvH experience is a dizzying, dissatisfying mish-mash. Some great ideas, a few great songs and a thoroughly blurred vision. In truth it is a shame, as there truly are some great moments here, especially the xylophone showcasing album bookends. However there's no denying that numerous run throughs of this album raise more questions than it ever provides answers.

Track Listing
01. 130 Thousand Miles
02. The Long Road Ahead
03. No More Silence
04. Out Of Time
05. Twenty One
06. Break The Glass
07. I Wonder Why
08. No Sense Of Ease
09. Come Undone
10. The 4th Dimension

Added: February 17th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Roel Van Helden Online
Hits: 1570
Language: english

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