In 2014 a friend of Jacob Broers thought it was a good idea to give him a music lesson given by Gerben Klazinga. Now seven years later when can say that Jacob Broers' friend was right to give him that lesson, because this one-hour lesson resulted in the album Burdens Of The Mind.
For most readers Gerben Klazinga doesn't need much of an introduction. Let me put it this way, Gerben is the keyboard player and founder of the Dutch progressive rock band Knight Area. With regards to the music scene Jacob Broers is a blank page. But the page is turned at this moment. The first sentences are written in his progressive rock diary.
The two then decided to write an album together. They took their time because they obviously don't like to deliver half work. At the beginning of this review I must confess that Burdens Of The Mind is an incredible album. In an interview with Background Magazine Gerben Klazinga told us that his goal was to write an album which has the atmosphere of Knight Areas' 2004 album The Sun Also Rises.
To create that 2004 sound they approached the legendary ex-Knight Area singer Mark Smit. Personally I think that this was the best that they could do. I think that Mark has one of the most subtle voices in our Dutch progressive rock scene. A couple of years ago Knight Area decided to change course. Symphonic rock was redeemed by more heavy progressive metal. I guess that this wasn't in accordance with his personal opinion how the band should sound. But long story short, at the end of 2018 he left Knight Area. For me it was a real surprise to hear that Mark Smit was the vocalist of this new project Broers + Klazinga.
In November 2020 the first track of the album was release on YouTube. It was titled Now You're Gone. The first time I heard it, I was completely flabbergasted. It sounded like the early Knight Area. It was very symphonic and very melodic. My expectations for the new album were really high. And that was not for nothing! Let's dive deeper into the album.
First I'd like to introduce the line-up of this album. Gerben Klazinga en Jacob Broers are the fixed members of course. Mark Smit is the vocalist on all the tracks on the album. Further on the use of a lot of additional musicians and the line-up of the tracks varies per track. The additional musicians are: Mark Bogert (lead guitar, add. guitars), Slava Syurin (lead guitar), Rata Kloppenburg (cello), Eke Simons (grand piano), Ronald Blok (lead guitar, add. guitar), Jeremy van Haastert (lead guitar, add. guitars, bass), Koen Oostendorp (rhythm guitars), Roel van Moll (drums) and Vincent van den Bosch (lead guitar). When you are looking at all these instruments and you know Gerben Klazinga it's clear from the beginning that the album has symphonic influences. In this case they preferred to use original instruments, such as cello, instead of keyboard samples. I like that a lot. And that all said it is a little step to the tracks on the album.
The album opens with the track Forever Alone. After a punchy keyboard/guitar intro the tracks continues in mid-tempo and when Mark Smit comes in it looks like he never was away. What a great voice. The track continues in a mid-tempo and has a lot of varied bridges and intermezzos. The layer of keyboards are overwhelming. Gerben Klazinga is responsible for all the other instruments. He is a multi-instrumentalist and for that I have great respect. Especially for the fact that you don't hear any difference in quality of playing. The tasteful guitar solo is played by Mark Bogert. The solo is very melodic and fits extremely well in the composition. The lyrics of this track tells a story of a man whose parents try to convince him that his woman is not the right one for him.
Now You're Gone is the second track of the album. It was also the first track of the album that was released. The track is a melodramatic ballad with strong verses. Piano and cello play a prominent role in this track. They create the melancholy character of the song. Personally I think that the vocals of Mark Smit lift this song up to a high level progressive rock ballad.
The guitar solo at the end of the track is of great beauty. It's fast but also very tastefully played. The solo is played by Slava Syurin. I must confess that he was a great unknown to me. His style is similar to Mark Bogert's. The lyrics of this song are written by Jacob Broers and have as a red line the theme of loss and the possibilities to deal with it. When you lose someone you love there are different ways to look at it. There is also the path of trying to stay positive.
Piano and cello are the base of the track Emerald Eyes. This track is a 5 minute love song with a very modest character. Once more I have to conclude that the vocals of Mark Smit are extremely well fitted to these kind of ballad tracks. A couple of short melodic guitar parts are the decoration of this incredible great track.
Who Do We Think We Are is an up-tempo keyboard based track. The layers of keyboards and synthesizers reminding me of Saga. It is all very melodic and it creates some sort of flow. The nice lingering guitar solo in the song is done by Ronald Blok. It gives the track just that little more tension. The lyrics of the song are written by Jacob Broers and are about how mankind handles our fragile planet. Personally I like this theme. I think it's good that musicians stand up as a sort of role model and participate in the environmental discussion.
The fifth track Angels' Share is a mid-tempo lingering track. I like the melodies of this track. Gerben Klazinga originally wrote this track for Knight Area. When you try to feel the atmosphere of the track, you will feel that Knight Area blanket that lies over this incredible track. The blanket of the medieval darkness. The lyrics are about Scottish whiskey. And that is always a great theme. Long story short: Angels' Share is the whiskey that evaporates through the sides of the oak barrels in which whiskey is matured. The evaporated whiskey is levitating to heaven and give the angels a good time.
Year Without A Summer is introduced as a track which contains an arrangement of Bach's toccata and fugue in D minor for organ (BWV 565 for insiders). Probably the most well-known organ part Bach ever wrote. When you are familiar with Bach, you can hear that this wonderful Bach theme is woven through the entire track. The track is up-tempo and has a ballad style intermezzo. The guitar solo in this track contains a lot of shredding parts, so it's obvious that Mark Bogert does the job. Mark Bogert is without doubt one of the best shredders in our country. The lyrics are about an Indonesian volcano that erupted in 1815. The effects on nature were so enormous that 1816 was called “Year Without A Summer”. You can easily guess why it was called that.
Back To The Wall is another track that touches my soul deeply. The lyrics of the track are inspired by the book “Red Platoon” of Clinton Romesha. The book tells the story of 50 US soldiers in Afghanistan who are attacked by 300 Taliban warriors. It's a story of fear and surviving hell on earth. I myself have a very strong bond with Dutch Special Forces, so this song takes hold of me.
The track is a rather heavy progrock ballad which contains a lot of tension. The vocals of Mark Smit are phenomenal. The guitar solo in this track is done by Vincent van den Bosch, best known as guitarist of the band Moonstruck.
Whilst listening to this album I asked myself a couple of times, what would be a song that easily could have a place on a Knight Area album? Fly Into The Night in my opinion is one of them. This track breathes Knight Area, has Knight Area in his veins, or whatever you call it. The track is very melodic and lingers on from the beginning to the end. Modest parts are embedded in more down-tempo heavier parts. And of course the track has a melodic guitar solo that is dragging in the track. As in all the tracks the keyboard is leading and prominent. And when I say prominent, I mean it in a positive way of speaking. The balance of the keyboard sound is in all the tracks as it should be. So they are not on top of all the other instruments but between. I like that a lot.
The lyrics of the track is about a person who looks back on the days he was with his family and is now in a position that he's dreaming of going back to them. This is once more a lyrics that touches me. I also was once in that position. And with me there are a lot of people who are and who were.
Hold On is a great up-tempo track with a lot of staccato parts, great keyboard intermezzo's and a killing guitar solo by Mark Bogert, who else. I really like this song, it has such a positive vibe that my mind automatically is reset from down to up. Of course only when I am in a down modus.
The song is about never giving up and is strongly influenced by a speech Winston Churchill once gave during World War II. Personally this song, and especially the lyric, appeals to me. Never giving up is my credo. Those who know me personally know why.
The title track Burdens Of The Mind is the flagship of this album. This almost 11 minute track moves from atmosphere to atmosphere, from light to dark and it was the first track that Gerben Klazinga and Jacob Broers wrote together. If this would be my first song, I would celebrate until midnight. The authentic keyboard/synthesizer intermezzo's, the lingering heavy guitar sound and the intense vocals by Mark Smit are the ingredients for this fabulous track. The tasteful guitar solo in the track is done by Jeremy van Haastert. I think that most of the listeners will name this track as their favorite. The lyrics are based on the wisdom of the Roman philosopher Seneca. Seneca told us that you can't run away from your problems. I think that a lot of us also know that this is so true. The intro and outro are ingenious. You have to listen to understand what I mean.
The instrumental track Karakas is a track where a trip which Jacob Broers made to Caracas (Venezuela) and the love for Bach and Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Tarkus are coming together. Once more the reference to a part of Bach (from BWV 528). The track is up-tempo and shows the diversity and skills of the two keyboard players.
The End Of The Beginning is the last part of the album. The almost 2 minute track has a great dark atmosphere. Guitarist Ronald Blok plays tastefully between the keyboard lines. And Winston Churchill reminds us that this isn't the end.
And we now know that this isn't the end of this project. In an interview (click here to read) we held with the two “founding fathers” of this project, they tell us that the writing of album number two has started. So you might think that these phrases are rather consciously placed on this album.
Broers + Klazinga have delivered a high end album. For all who love symphonic rock, this album is a must have. All songs are incredibly well composed and have the tension we all love. Personally I am delighted with the fact that Mark Smit is back in the progressive rock business. His voice was missed by me. Further on I really give this project kudos for the fact that it sound like a band. Although they “use” a lot of session players, the album is consistent.
There is just one rating that is possible and that is 5 out of 5. What a great album.
***** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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