Treehouse is the sixth solo album by Dutch progressive rock band Leap Day. Their first with their new vocalist Hans Kuyper, it delivers some pleasant slabs of ‘old school’ neo-progressive and symphonic rock, with flowing passages of retro keyboards supported by soaring melodic guitar playing.
Formed in 2008, the band is a collaboration between members from a range of prog rock bands, such as Flamborough Head, King Eider, Nice Beaver and Trion. They came to my attention with their impressive debut release, Awaking the Muse in 2009. They have since released Skylge’s Lair (2011), From the Days of Deucalion: Chapter 1 and 2 (2013 & 2015 respectively) – based on Immanuel Velikovsky’s alternative science book, Worlds In Collision – and then Timelapse (2018), primarily a 10th anniversary collection of unreleased tracks and alternate versions. A live album from 2016, Live at the Northern Prog Festival completes the back catalogue. Each of these releases have their undoubted highlights, but maybe never quite recapturing that early promise fully – often held back by the occasional, less convincing vocal style on some songs.
The line-up was surprisingly stable (compared to many prog bands), but bassist Peter Stel left in 2018, followed by original vocalist Jos Harteveld at the start of 2020. However, the musical style remains similar and continues to be defined by the twin keyboard attack of Gert van Engelenburg and Derk Evert Waalkens, with Eddie Mulder providing the guitar flourishes over the solid rhythm section of Harry Scholing (bass) and Koen Roozen (drums).
Opening track Like Icarus starts the album well, with satisfying neo-prog keyboards and vibrant electric guitar runs. Instrumentally, it has touches of IQ at times. The lyric recalls a tragic fire in 2010 that killed eight squatters and the emotive vocals express them well – although the spoken, documentary-style roll call of the victims, whilst a fitting tribute, does abruptly stop the musical flow in its tracks at the end.
Clementine begins atmospherically and has some upbeat guitar-led moments and proggy keyboard noodlings, but the accented, rather theatrical vocals tend to hold it back from developing into something more memorable. It’s a similar story with the slower-paced Raining, where the lyrics continue to be rather clunky and strained, although a mid-way change of pace does enliven the proceedings.
The title track works much better, both instrumentally and vocally, with a refreshing quirkiness at times. ’70s-style keyboards and ’80s-style guitar soloing combine well and make it the most melodic and approachable song on the album.
May 5th begins in true, upbeat, neo-prog style, with some lovely instrumentation. Hans’ vocals have a mix of lighter-style Peter Gabriel and Peter Nicholls and do their best with some shiny pop keyboard stabs and challenging lyrical content. Closing track, Autumn, has a melancholic feel and rather plods along rhythmically, with touches of a Supertramp pop sensibility. Still an interesting track, it picks up the pace nicely later on, although the ending is a touch low-key for me.
Leap Day remain a promising symphonic prog band with bags of melodic potential and truly great musicianship, who are just being held back slightly, both lyrically and compositionally, from making something truly special. I do feel the vocals are an improvement on some earlier albums, but maybe they need the lyrics and choice of tempo and range to support them better. Treehouse is a good album overall, with lots of highlights that will appeal to many neo-prog and symphonic rock fans. There are tantalising glimpses of what these talented musicians can do, with just a touch of fine-tuning here and there, and I look forward to seeing them develop further in the years to come.
01. Like Icarus (10:43)
02. Clementine (8:51)
03. Raining (7:30)
04. Treehouse (9:24)
05. May 5th (7:24)
06. Autumn (11:58)
Total Time – 55:50
Gert van Engelenburg – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Hans Kuypers – Vocals
Eddie Mulder – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Koen Roozen – Drums
Harry Scholing – Bass
Derk Evert Waalkens – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Record Label: OSKAR Records
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 21st November 2021