If you're anything like me then when you come across a new band that have such a glorious name as The Barstool Philosophers, you're immediately predisposed to like their music, even before the disc has started spinning. And so, already in this buoyant mood, as the first bars of birdsong-accompanied, wistful crescendo lead you into that glorious opening riff, with the washes of synths in the background; and then the excellent vocalist, occasionally reminiscent of Bowie on top form, begins to sing – you know you are in for a real treat. The Barstool Philosophers's Sparrows does not disappoint: melodic progressive metal that is somewhere near a less-heavy cross between Opeth and Dream Theater. The growling has been lost in the mix but no matter, Leon Brouwer's vocal performance is outstanding; commanding the heavier sections and delivering great beauty in some glorious quiet moments.
The instrumentalists comprising the band are probably not going to win any "best of" awards, but they play well enough and compositionally the music suits them, so that the lack of technobratics is not an issue. I love the raw sound of Ivo Poelman's guitars; they come with a very earthy and original rock feel. Poelman plays mainly in a rhythmic mode during the early part of the album, only later opening up to melodic phrasing. The vocal line and René Kroon's keys add much of the melody, either as a symphonic backdrop or in some beautiful piano passages such as on "Lies" and "Fallen Angels". There's a good range of tempi throughout, though they never get too fast: the last track "Away From Here" features a really good "beaty groove" with some treated vocal on top; its different feel brings a good ending to what is a fine album.
Boasting a clean production with some physical synth timbres complementing the guitar, Sparrows is a treat on all levels.
My only concern is over when they will produce a follow-up. After all, this Dutch band has been together since 1997, albeit starting out doing instrumentals until Brouwer came along in 2002, but this is their first album and at this rate of production it must be impossible to build and keep a fan base. True, these guys either play or played for other bands for a long time but perhaps it's time for them to concentrate on this project.
This is self-produced and self-released: you won't find it at your local record store, but it may pay you to spend a couple of minutes checking out the music samples and, if you enjoy them, supporting the band.
Wonderful! Shame it's not a 2010 release, because I'm sure it would make it into my "best of" list.
5) Eyes Show the Heart
6) Descendents of the Fall
7) Fallen Angels
8) Endless Seasons
9) Away From Here