It’s rather nice to welcome Flamborough Head back with this new album, Jumping The Milestone. The last album, Lost In Time was released nine years ago. In the intervening years, the band have undergone line-up changes, and were of course interrupted in their activities by a certain pandemic, but they’ve used that time to write and record this new album, and it’s an impressive collection of songs, and very much in the readily recognisable style of Flamborough Head.
So, the line-up changes? Well, long standing bassist Marcel Derix left some years ago now, and his replacement is Eddie Mulder, the original guitarist who had left the band in 2009, so no stranger! The other change is on guitar, where Hans Spitzen, an old friend of the band, replaces Gert Polkerman. Whilst these changes aren’t recent, this is the first album from this line-up, and it seems obvious that they gel naturally together, and the trademark Flamborough Head vibe is intact. In fact, Spitzen in particular seems to have made quite an impact. Aside from his lead guitar playing which is outstanding, his sole writing contribution, the title track, is simply the best song on the album. It is the closing track, the longest piece, and epic in its drama, although at 12-minutes, it isn’t over-long. It contains great pacing, plenty of light and shade, gorgeous minor chord progressions, and some wonderful lead guitar solos. It is a piece which leaves you wanting more, which is not always the case with traditional prog epics! Aside from Spitzen’s heroics, the rest of the band support him with some lovely understated keyboards from Edo Spanninga and a great vocal performance from Margriet Boomsma, with lyrics which explore the human aging process. This track alone bodes well for the future of Flamborough Head.
The other songs are not too shabby either. The Garden Shed might not sound very rock ‘n’ roll, but Margriet channels her inner Monty Don, extolling the benefits of gardening on inner wellbeing, and as a gardener myself, she’s absolutely spot on. The music is perfect, with a bucolic feel, like a gentle summer breeze blowing away the stresses of everyday life. Gently strummed guitar, piano and flute all combine to create the underlying mood which is then elevated by Mellotron and electric guitar soaring elegantly into the blue sky. The band don’t stray far from their trad prog roots, but it’s what they’re good at, so nothing too dark or edgy here.
Having said there is nothing too dark, there are a couple of songs which deal with darker subject matter, but with a musical lightness of touch that works quite well set against the words. Walls of Words, for example, looks at a suicide victim, and the lack of dramatics in the music somehow increases the shock of loss. It’s an ambitious track, but one that shows that they can tackle almost any subject without fear. Occasionally the lyrics can sound a little stilted, certain phrases not quite working as intended, but overall the band’s songwriting has matured, and certainly musically they have been around long enough to know exactly what they are doing, and they play to their strengths. Fear of Failure similarly has a slightly more sombre mood, and contrasts well with the lighter moments. Tomorrow is Another Day is another highlight, this time looking at depression. Although the track ends on an optimistic note, the subject isn’t trivialised, and the oppressive feeling of looming clouds is reflected in the flow of the music.
About the burden on your shoulder,
So you lie and say you’re fine, but die a little more inside.”
Koen Roozen is the sort of drummer you tend not to notice, as he quietly just does what is required without showy fills, but he’s the backbone of operations, along with Eddie Mulder, who sounds as though he’s always played bass. It’s left to Edo Spanninga to provide the colour in the Flamborough Head landscape, with his expressive keyboards, and Spitzen’s guitar enhances the picture. That leaves Margriet Boomsma, the other essential ingredient; it’s hard to imagine the band without her voice, flute and recorder playing, all integral to the band’s success. The folky elements, the grand prog symphonic sweep, together with the occasional jazzy flourish combine to make this album a very enjoyable listen. Those familiar with their earlier work will know what to expect, and they will not be disappointed. If you’ve not heard them before, then Jumping the Milestone would be a good place to start.
01. The Garden Shed (10:30)
02. Tomorrow is Another Day (7:42)
03. Start of A Nightmare (8:15)
04. Fear of Failure (8:57)
05. Walls of Words / Signs Misread (8:00)
06. Jumping the Milestone (12:18)
Total Time – 55:42
Margriet Boomsma – Lead Vocals, Flute, Recorders
Eddie Mulder – Bass, Backing Vocals
Koen Roozen – Drums
Edo Spanninga – Keyboards
Hans Spitzen – Guitars, Backing Vocals, Piano (track 6)
Record Label: Oskar
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Date of Release: 3rd November 2022