When I was asked to write the review of the debut album by Dutch band Perfect Storm, I had to scratch my head: I had never heard of this group before. But the weblink to the collective’s first single quickly put an end to all doubts. It sounded very promising. A completely unknown new band from the northern part of the Netherlands, although almost all members have already gained the necessary experience in local bands. They have been around since 2017 and playing in the current line-up for over a year now.
Perfect Storm’s music is an eclectic mix of influences: alternative rock, prog rock, electro, pop and jazz. It leads to quite a unique sound with melody as its main motif. Founder/composer/guitarist Gert-Jan Schurer names Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, film music composer Hans Zimmer and electro act Aphex Twin among his influences. Three singles have already seen the light of day, and especially the first, the almost ten-minute How It Ends, garnered a lot of attention and applause.
And now there is the debut album with the intriguing title No Air, an hour of high quality Dutch prog/pop. Seven songs with an average length of eight minutes, quite ambitious.
Strength immediately sets the tone; a solid opener with threatening sounds and heavy guitars/drums/bass. There are surprising melodic twists and for the first time the pleasant voice of singer Adel Saflou, somewhat akin to Haken’s Ross Jennings. There are strong vocal duets between Saflou and female singer Hiske Oosterwijk in the swinging The Search, with considerable tempo and mood changes and heavy guitar antics, especially towards the end.
The pace goes down a few notches on Sun For Life, another easy-on-the-ear song, especially the melodic bass and vocals. Keyboardist Ard Offers lets loose halfway through, refreshing as the guitar is clearly the album’s dominant force. Saflou apparently effortlessly switches between his normal singing voice and falsetto in the rocking mid-tempo Hope, while the seven-minute title track is a ballad and a welcome change from Perfect Storm’s sometimes stormy, swelling music. With lead vocals by Hiske Oosterwijk, who is also responsible for the lyrics, it’s a great combination with piano accompaniment and wonderfully sliding fretless bass tones. A strong keyboard solo by Offers at the end is followed by a solitary piano.
Mind’s Eye starts with a swinging rock groove and jazzy undertones, Saflou’s powerful rock voice with occasional rough edge, Oosterwijk’s high-pitched vocals, Offers’ organ and Schurer’s power chords and lead guitar solo doing the rest in this Deep Purple-like piece.
Closing track How It Ends is without a doubt the top notch song on this debut. Clocking in at almost ten minutes, it’s also the longest track on No Air. The song is most worthy of the label ‘prog rock’ with catchy melodies, surprising twists and turns and changes in tempo with plenty of room for the musicians to stand out individually. Singer Saflou and guitarist Schurer in particular make ample use of this opportunity to shine. An excellent song that will almost certainly attract attention during live shows (remember live gigs?).
It’s not all prog, the band operates on the cutting edge of the genre, with AOR, melodic rock and jazzy undertones. In fact, it’s quite a unique sound. You can hear some Steven Wilson influence, especially in the second part of How It Ends. The smooth transition from rock to jazzy sounds with twin guitar, swinging Hammond organ and pumping, melodic bass are characteristic of the sound of the band. Saflou’s smooth rock voice and the jazzy-tinged vocals of Hiske Oosterwijk go well together.
Compositionally, somethings are still left to be desired, with some transitions seeming a bit artificial, but the revelation of Perfect Storm’s debut album is the downright impressive singing of Adel Saflou, reportedly a Syrian refugee who faced death during the dangerous crossing to Europe. In addition, there are leading roles for guitarist Gert-Jan Schurer and bassist David Klompmakers, but all the musicians stand their ground. Compliments also for the cover design, by local artist Vlerk.
The Perfect Storm was an amazing Oscar-nominated movie from 2000, starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, about the dramatic experiences of a group of fishermen, with ultimately fatal consequences. Anyone who has seen the film will no doubt remember the scene with the little fishing boat on top of that huge, towering wave. But whereas Clooney’s boat just didn’t make it, I have better hopes for this talented band. It is certainly not easy in the tsunami of new bands and newly released material to make a difference. The basic ingredients are abundantly available here, it is up to the band to make it happen. An excellent debut by this six-member Dutch collective.
[You can read Alex’s interview with Perfect Storm HERE.]
01. Strength (8:18)
02. The Search (6:55)
03. Sun For Life (8:08)
04. Hope (7:41)
05. No Air (6:55)
06. Mind’s Eye (6:15)
07. How It Ends (9:34)
Total Time – 53:46
Gert-Jan Schurer – Guitars
Adel Saflou – Vocals, Guitars
Jesse Bosman – Drums
Ard Offers – Vocals, Keyboards
David Klompmakers – Bass
Hiske Oosterwijk – Vocals, Lyrics
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 24th December 2020