What do you get when an experienced prog musician meets a one-off piano student? Five years later: an excellent prog album that can easily withstand the test of criticism.
OK, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but these are actually the starting points of the album Burdens of the Mind by duo Broers + Klazinga (B+K). The experienced musician from the initial sentence is Gerben Klazinga, the well-known founder/keyboardist/composer of one of Holland’s best prog(metal) bands, Knight Area. The other is hitherto completely unknown pianist Jacob Broers. His girlfriend offered him a piano lesson with Klazinga as a birthday present, but he indicated that he would rather play sympho and, even better, produce it. There was a connection, one thing led to another and they ended up putting together a song. This meeting that got out of hand developed into a serious collaboration that resulted in a real CD. And I couldn’t believe my ears when I listened to Burdens of the Mind for the first time. Or the second time, or the umpteenth time. What B+K have written in terms of music is symphonic rock pur sang. Rarely have I heard a CD that was so symphonic in nature and where melody is so prominent. OK, it took them about five years to get to this result, but the result is rock solid, maybe even beyond that.
The music is somewhat in line with that of Klazinga’s Knight Area, but more like the band’s first albums, The Sun Also Rises (2004), Under A New Sign (2007) and Realm of Shadows (2009). In the meantime, Knight Area has started to sail more of a prog metal course. Nice for fans of the genre, but the symphonic rock fan in me simply prefers the older type of music. Melody with a capital ‘M’ is probably the best description that comes to mind. And variety, and balance and… a lot more. At first glance one might say, “Two keyboard players; isn’t that a bit too much of a good thing? And isn’t that leaning too much in the direction of the ivory?” I can confidently answer with a resounding “NO” to both questions.
Because, although Gerben Klazinga in particular is a talented multi-instrumentalist, he also plays bass guitar, drums and guitars in addition to a whole arsenal of keyboard instruments. Both musicians were well aware that a good balance in the instrumentation would be essential for a good end result, so they opened up a can of guitarists (six!), of whom Knight Area guitar virtuoso Mark Bogert is the most famous. In addition, a singer had to be recruited. Both pianists did not consider their own voices adequate for the music that is, for the most part, vocal. And, not entirely coincidentally, they ended up with the man with whom Klazinga already shared quite a past: Mark Smit, former singer of the very same Knight Area. A trio of Knight Area (ex-)members was present and the step to success is only a small one. One would think, but nothing can be farther from the truth.
Back to the music. The influences of Knight Area, as mentioned, are of course present. Especially opening track Forever Alone is steeped in the genes of the neo-proggers, but I also hear Camel, Genesis, Kayak and ELP on Burdens of the Mind. Camel especially because of the long guitar lines and the beautiful interplay with the vintage keys, where those typical Peter Bardens solos stand out. Like on Who Do We Think We Are, and especially Angels’ Share, both of which have a strong coda. Genesis and Tony Banks can be heard in Fly into the Night, one of my favourites, with a lovely theme, whereas Hold On contains up-tempo old-skool Kayak. Title track Burdens of the Mind is the longest, with almost eleven-minutes of top notch symphonic, ethereal and slow. Karakas, on the other hand, is a strong instrumental; Keith Emerson meets Steve Hackett playing Bach, something along those lines. But don’t think for a second that these musicians are just good epigones of the heroes from the ’70s, I’m merely trying to find some reference.
Especially striking is the nice balance between keyboards, guitars and vocals, which must have been quite an effort. It has certainly not become a typical keyboard album, rather a mature group effort in which the instruments and vocals complement each other perfectly. Quite an accomplishment. Besides kudos for the guitarists, I also have to pay tribute to singer Mark Smit. I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of his voice, but on the last couple of Knight Area albums with him singing lead, I have to admit that this man has made tremendous progress. And how ironic; he is now delivering his best performance, having been out of the band for four years. His emotive voice fits perfectly with the symphonic, somewhat ethereal and extremely melodic music that B+K have conceived. For my taste, he may even put some more power in his voice – who would have thought? Just listen to his vocals on the melancholy Emerald Eyes, accompanied by just piano and cello.
Some minor points of criticism concerning the lyrics – always a struggle for non-native speakers – that sometimes feel a bit clumsy, causing the vocals to get stuck. In addition, some songs end a bit abruptly. However, the final verdict remains, if you still have doubts after my enthusiastic words: Jacob Broers and Gerben Klazinga have made one of the best prog albums of recent years with Burdens of the Mind. And I say this not without some pride, as a Dutchman. Let’s hope they don’t need another five years for the sequel and are able to match – or even surpass – this excellent album. An absolute must for fans of classic symphonic rock music.
01. Forever Alone (5:06)
02. Now That You’re Gone (4:49)
03. Emerald Eyes (5:02)
04. Who Do We Think We Are (5:02)
05. Angels’ Share (6:26)
06. Year Without A Summer (5:39)
07. Back to the Wall (4:16)
08. Fly into the Night (4:27)
09. Hold On (5:11)
10. Burdens of the Mind (10:49)
11. Karakas (5:57)
12. The End of the Beginning (1:39)
Total Time – 64:23
Jacob Broers – Keyboards
Gerben Klazinga – Bass, Drums, Guitars, Keyboards
Ronald Blok – Guitars
Mark Bogert – Guitars
Vincent van den Bosch – Guitars
Jeremy van Haastert – Guitars
Rata Kloppenburg – Cello
Roel van Moll – Drums
Koen Oostendorp – Guitars
Eke Simons – Grand Piano
Mark Smit – Vocals
Slava Syurin – Guitars
Record Label: Red Icon Recordings
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 26th March 2021