Timelock... that is a blast from the past. I remember back in the 1990s when their first album, Louise Brooks, appeared. Time for a little trip into history...
The band was the successor to Dutch melodic progressive rock band The Last Detail that split up due to musical differences. This group's vocalist Ruud Stoker and keyboardist Julian Driessen decided to continue and asked guitarist/producer Rinus Hollenberg (ex-Ywis) with whom Driessen had played before in Ywis, to join. Also added were drummer Rob Laurens and bass player Bert de Bruijne who had guested on The Last Detail's At Last... The Tale EP and had played with Ruud in a band called Harvest. Musically, Timelock was even more mainstream and more rocky than The Last Detail. Their first CD was dedicated to silent movie actress Louise Brooks (1906-1985). The CD was praised a lot in SI Magazine, so my expectations were pretty high at the time. When I then finally bought the CD there was a certain feeling of disappointment. The music was located somewhere between prog-light and AOR. Overall, this disc presents kind of nice but rather non-memorable music. The follow-up, Dawn, that was released two years later had artwork by former illustrator for SI Magazine, Mario Baert. The songs on this disc followed the same musical line, but appeared to have gained in power and hook-i-ness. As a whole I thought it was a more memorable and promising album.
The future looked bright but suddenly everything changed, when their record company went bankrupt and could not promote the band's second album. No record company, no Timelock seemed to be the only solution... Rinus and drummer Rob Louwers couldn't find the motivation to go on and decided to stop with the band. Ruud, Bert and Julian, however, kept on writing new material.
Then, after a long hiatus, the band surfaced again in 2001, working on a new CD which also featured FAF-drummer (and in the meantime Julian Driessen's colleague in that band) Ed Wernke. A couple of record companies were interested, and Xymphonia Records gave them the best deal and released their third album with new guitarist Martin Hendriks (who had worked with Julian on his Dreamcarnation project before) and guest singer Hans van Lint (FAF) after eight years of silence. After the completion of the album, Rob Boshuijzen came to fill the place behind the drumkit permanently. Circle Of Deception brought quite okay guitar oriented melodic prog (in contrary to what I expected). There were some strong songs, like Man In The Mirror (not a Michael Jackson cover, in case you wonder), but also some very average ones. It was not enough to make me go and look for their 2008 album Buildings, and so I forgot them until I received this new EP.
The latest reincarnation of the band brings together Stoker, Driessen, Hendriks and Boshuijzen with bass player David Guurink, Arjen van den Bosch (orchestral keyboards) and two backing singers, Coby van Oorschot and Laura Eradus, and Nick van Oorschot contributing some grunts and screams.
From the above, you may have sensed that I was no fan of the band to begin with and Stay Awake won't turn me into one overnight. However, several spins of the new disc make me warm to the music a bit. The title track opens with slight touch of IQ, then adopts a bit atmosphere from a Bond title track and the female backing vocals add a poppy touch (perhaps not entirely in a positive way). Wonderful keyboard solo halfway through. Much too short if you ask me. Reminds again of IQ and some other progressive rock bands. After the bridge there is a good guitar solo and a really catchy section where the lead vocals are backed by the ladies.
Chasing Echoes takes on a harder edge. The song doesn't catch on with me. It feels a bit clumsy in a way. The drums are too monotonous, the chorus doesn't flow (it feels as if they are trying to do a take on Saga, but they don't have the elegance of the Canadian masters to pull this off). At least the guitar and keyboard solos are quite good.
Crazy Life starts calm and acoustic. The lead vocals are a bit thin here, but good enough. Here Ruud Stoker is joined by Laura Eradus who takes over part of the lead vocals in this duet. Nice, but not super memorable.
The last song is the longest. It starts with ominous sounding orchestral keys, then a guitar riff that reminds of Queensr˙che's classic Operation: Mindcrime joins in. The band has a slow pace, based on a low guitar riff and there is another chorus that doesn't fully work. There is a dramatic middle part with screaming which reminds me a bit of Faith No More's Midlife Crisis, but not quite as fun. I wonder whether this is the direction that Timelock should pursue. Well, the organ part after this is quite fun. Then it's back to the lame “Forgotten words, forgotten words” chorus.
All and all a bit uneven. Framed positively, one could say that Timelock is showing variation in their sound, and trying out different approaches. However, I would advise them to find a style and then mature in it. But hey, that's just me and taste differs between people.
***- Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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