The Rubicon is a shallow river in the North-eastern part of Italy. It's about eighty kilometres long, running from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea through the southern Emilia-Romagna region, between the cities of Rimini and Cesena. The Latin word 'rubicon' comes from the adjective 'rubeus' meaning 'red'. The river was so named because its waters are coloured red by mud deposits. The expression 'crossing the Rubicon' means to pass a point of no return. It refers to Julius Caesar's armies crossing of the river in 49 BC, which was considered to be an act of insurrection. Because the course of the river has changed much since then, it's impossible to confirm exactly where the Rubicon flowed when Caesar and his legions crossed it.
In a way this river inspired the Dutch prog band Silhouette that named their third studio album Across The Rubicon. It's the follow-up to A Maze (2006) and Moods (2009, see review). A promo of this new album had already been released earlier. This special track called When Snow's Falling Down already attracted my attention. Not only music wise, but also because it featured the children of the band members. They were singing the last part of this special track which was also shot on video.
First some facts before I will focus on the music of Across The Rubicon. The album was recorded and produced between July 2011 and March 2012 at the Brewery in Vleuten, The Netherlands. All tracks were written by the band members. The music was arranged and performed by Brian de Graeve (guitars, vocals), Erik Laan (keyboards, vocals), Jos Uffing (drums, vocals), Gerrit-Jan Bloemink (bass) and guest musicians Aldo Adema (guitar, ex-Egdon Heath) and MaryO (flute, backing vocals). The production was done by Erik Laan and Aldo Adema; the latter was also responsible for the mixing. The mastering was in the capable hands of Han Uil. Finally Ed Unitsky designed the artwork and the layout that looks really stunning.
I once said that the debut album A Maze wasn't bad at all, but music wise the band had still a lot to learn. Three years later Moods was released and much to my surprise, the album showed a band that had grown over the years, but unfortunately they couldn't properly reproduce the album live on stage. Therefore my expectations for this third album didn't ran that high. However, after I had listened to Across The Rubicon once, I was totally flabbergasted, so to speak! I was speechless since I heard music that I hadn't expected at all. This entire album sounds really superb. The eight compositions are very high-levelled both musically and vocally. This wasn't always their strongest point, but it seems that the singers in the band have learned to use their voices in the right way over the years. Music wise the album has a lot to offer as well. The keyboard parts are outstanding and shifts the music in the direction of neo-progressive rock. The guitar solos sound professional, sometimes melodic but above all very moving. In my opinion the three epics Breathe, Grendel Memories and Don't Stop This Movie are the ultimate highlights. These tracks are the most adventurous ones on the album including many synthesizer and guitar solos.
The previous album Moods was a true concept album. This time the eight tracks stand alone, but you could say that they all have a common theme, dealing with dramatic choices from which no return is possible just as the title of the album already indicates! I can only be positive about this record. It's highly recommended to people who like the music of bands like Pendragon, early Marillion, IQ and Pallas. But also devotees of Genesis, Camel, Pink Floyd and Yes I would like to advise to check out this album. You'll probably enjoy it as much as I did. So thumbs up for Silhouette this time!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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