Nice Beaver -
The Time It Takes

(CD, 2015, 55:42, Oskar 1062 CD)

The tracks:
  1- River So Wide(6:23)
  2- In Close Proximity(6:27)
  3- The Path To My House(4:33)
  4- Timeline(6:35)
  5- Rainbow's End(6:13)
  6- The Time It Takes(6:34)
  7- Sound Behind Sound(7:37)
  8- Waiting For The Bell To Toll(11:20)

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This Dutch band, with their name taken from a quote from the comedy movie “The Naked Gun”, has been around since 1998. Musically they are often compared to Spock's Beard and I have all of their work, the self-titled mini-CD from 2000, On Dry Land (2001) and Oregon (2004) in my collection. Alas I must confess that these albums barely ever leave the shelf because they all have one major weakness, namely the lead vocals of keyboardist Erik Groeneweg. But Oregon showed promise because on two of the tracks guitar player Hans Gerritse took over the singing and he managed to surprise pleasantly.
It has taken the band a decade to come up with their third full length album (in the meantime Gerritse and bass player Peter Stel were involved in King Eider and Leap Day).

This new album The Time It Takes presents new drummer Corné van Disseldorp, while Stel, Groeneweg and Gerritse are still present. A quick glance shows that lead vocals are again exclusively in Groeneweg's hands. He also wrote all of the lyrics and the concept which deals with “the many ways in which mankind has done itself in”. As the back cover joyfully tells us this is not as a warning for us, since we're screwed anyway, but as a lesson for the “new us, the life that comes after we're gone”. Well, let's hope that the new us like progressive rock ...
Anyway, concept or no concept, let's check the music! Opening track River So Wide starts with electronic sounds through which soon a soaring electric guitar cuts. And then the vocals set in. Erik's voice is better than before (at least better then I remember him), but it's still flat and there is still a hint of him singing with a hot potato in his mouth. At least he sings in a fairly relaxed way that suits his voice best. As it is, so far I'm positively surprised and all of it is dressed up in a very powerful sound that I like a lot.
The second piece In Close Proximity opens with some wonderful waves of Mellotron that give the piece a clear Genesis touch. Cool bass/guitar riffs here and there, a surprising loose jazzy part in the middle that shows Nice Beaver from an entirely new side.
The next track The Path To My House has a relaxed rhythm section and a jazzy flair. I wonder if it's new drummer Van Disseldorp who has brought in the jazzy elements - we will find more of those on the CD later. The follow up Timeline is a rather aggressive piece with vibes-like percussion. It's very energetic and possibly slightly Zappa-inspired with some complex patterns. A couple of vocal sound clips (e.g. by Neil Armstrong) are mixed in from which eventually Erik's vocals emerge. A pity, I think this piece would have served very well as an instrumental and the flat vocals spoil a bit of the energetic music.
Rainbow's End” is again based on a loose jazzy shuffle with playful backing vocals by Hans and Peter. Might be the album's most light-hearted song, although most of the disc is rather upbeat. The title track starts with a nice instrumental part with a lot of keyboards and when the relaxed vocal section arrives it reveals a minor folky twinge until this is suddenly interrupted by a heavy riffy part. The second longest piece, Sound Behind Sound, starts with floating synths and ambient sounds before we hear influences which could have been taken from Dream Theater and Alquin.
Waiting For The Bell To Toll is the 11 minute closer and the CD's longest track: all the other songs are between 6 and 7 minutes. Based on loose drumming there is some fine fluent guitar, but alas the chorus is rather clumsy and doesn't catch on at all which as far as I'm concerned spoils the flow of the song. While the band tries to weave in some varied parts it all sounds a bit fragmentary and cut and pasted together. The groovy ending part is nice, but should have been developed into a piece of its own because it doesn't connect at all to what came before. That is, except for the returning of the chorus that I positively dislike.
Summarizing: the album (which comes in a nice digipack, by the way) is not as dark as one might have expected from the gloomy concept (in fact, it doesn't really feel like a concept). Also I think I must conclude that the band has found more of a style of its own with no more Spock's Beard references. Over all I think that this is Nice Beaver's best album so far.

***+ Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)

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