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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

In-Tension

Fragments

Review by Gary Hill

Europe really presents its own brand of progressive rock these days, and lots of it. Such is the climate that gave birth to the Dutch band In-Tension. Make no mistakes, this band's form of music is definitely of the neo-prog category. Most of the vocals are female and if you had to pin down their sound instrumentally it would probably be easiest (and quite accurate) to compare them to Dream Theater. The truth is, while their musical creation is rather derivative (and whose isn't on their first couple albums?) they use those influences to create a very solid and powerful form of music that holds up quite well on repeated listenings. This one might be a bit hard to find so you are advised to try the group's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Unbreakable
This one starts off with an extended intricate and pretty piano solo. Heavy metal guitars enter over this to move the track onward. The group work through several incarnations of this general crunchy musical theme. This turns towards fusion for a time before it drops to a keyboard based ballad-like approach that serves as the backdrop for the first verse. As this intensifies waves of other sounds begin to appear to power up the arrangement in terms of evocative oomph and prog tendencies. They move this out into a melodic guitar solo segment then a short Dream Theater-like break pulls it into the second verse. This ballad-like verse and intensified chorus pattern followed by an instrumental segment serves as the basic pattern for the track. This is a very strong one and a good representation of the varying moods of this outfit. That makes it a great disc opener.
Dying In Beauty
An acoustic guitar based ballad style starts this and the cut begins gradually building on this sound with it remaining quite mellow and pretty for quite some time. Even when they start to alter the arrangement it is with the addition of layers of sound to produce more powerful emotional responses. It's not until a minute and a half, and a couple of verses that the ramp it up into arena ballad territory. At about two and a half minutes they make some changes that it feel a bit like Renaissance, but shortly after this a crunch guitar sound comes in and that ends the comparison. They shift this into a staccato jam later with some shredding guitar soloing. Eventually Dream Theater like keys solo over the top of this backdrop and the vocals return. This section finally takes the track to its outro and conclusion.
Too Much of Anything
A total '70's metal sound starts this. As the rest of the instrument join in it feels a bit like Rainbow. When the guitar starts its dramatic soloing over this backdrop and they begin to pull some neo-classical changes into the mix it begins to feel more like Dream Theater. This one is quite a dynamic piece of music and this is just the introduction. They drop it back to more of a staccato crunch pattern to serve as the background for the verse, but at the end of this it's ramped into a frantically fast angular progression that's pretty awesome. It drops later to a more stripped down dramatic bridge for a good segment of vocals and then the voice gets into a duel with a soaring guitar line. They turn the cut even more metallic after this point. The next mode that enters feels to me like the kind of music Devo might play if they were a prog metal band. While this cut has more metal than the songs that preceded it, it also has more prog-like changes.
Mind's Illusion
A dramatic keyboards and vocals segment begins this number and carries it for a time. Then they boost it up simply by intensifying the arrangement to keep moving forward. They pump this up later towards the metallic before moving out into another Dream Theater like segment. This moves them through a series of cool changes until finally resolving back out into the standard verse chorus segment. As this intensifies for the last segments it feels a bit like the music of Lana Lane.
World of Illusions
This one has one of the most incredible textures to it. It is progressive as heck, but also crunchy. There has an epic quality to it. The track is full of intriguing changes. I'd probably say that this cool jam is my favorite track on the disc. This is dramatic and oh so tasty. The only real reason I could see for not picking it as the favorite is that it's an instrumental. As strong as Noortje van de Voort's vocals are it seems a waste. But this one is an incredibly cool piece of music.
I Was Wrong
This one has a more sedate, almost folk rock texture on the early verses. They gradually move it out into a more typical neo-prog sort of jam. They pump this up nicely at points, and it's another solid cut on a disc that seems to have no shortage of them. The instrumental segment that serves to end this seems to have equal parts Rush and Dream Theater.
I Still Remember
A pretty ballad segment starts this in what is probably the most mellow portion of the whole disc. This one turns into a pretty standard prog ballad arrangement as the vocals enter. They move it out into more typical Dream Theater neo-prog sort of territory as it carries on. The cut moves between the two types of sounds to keep it going.
Frozen Memories
This starts very tentatively with spacey keyboards. After running through in atmospheric ways for a time, this jumps into a bouncing jam that reminds me of "Light Fuse and Get Away" from Dream Theater's first release. Then it drops to more sedate and pretty prog ballad like music for the vocals. They turn it heavier later and move into a very powerful sort of jam. This one has some incredibly evocative vocal segments and is certainly another of my favorite cuts on the disc. I could listen to this one over and over again. It moves through a lot of great musical changes, bur really van de Voort's vocals steal the show here. They turn this to a thrashy sort of jam to close it out.
Way
Piano starts this one off and the group quickly use this as a springboard to launch out into a positive sounding melodic journey. They shift it a bit towards harder edged sounds to start off the vocals, then move through a number of differing variants. Later on it drops to a very beautiful keyboard segment and eventually vocals come over the top of this in a great new segment. They eventually power back up out of there into a new excursion that has a bit of a fusion texture to it. This is another strong track.
Empty
"Empty" closes the disc. This one starts off tentatively in mellow ways. This one is the most epic piece on the CD. It is one heck of a thrill ride, packed with emotion. This is another that really steals the show, and is therefore a great choice to end the show on. It is unquestionably the most complex piece of music on show here, but its also incredibly captivating and that combination makes for a very satisfying conclusion. Although, I do think they should have left off the white noise, squeal sort of sound that makes up the last couple minutes of this.
 
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