The world has turned and the skies have darkened.
Men’s hearts have blackened with smudged, dark stains and nothing seems as it was.
A pervasive sickness has spread through the world like a biblical retribution, battling against the damage humans have inflicted on our beautiful planet, in our selfish greed for materialistic wealth. No one is exempt, abstention is no excuse.
Three years ago seems a life away. He ponders on the way things have gone so wrong, lives in Ruins as we battled an unforeseen virus which ripped friends and loved ones from us, crawling beneath the skin and devouring them alive.
An album to mourn, a record of remembrance, but will we learn?
The crushing weight of the guitars felt from the beginning of the album’s first track, an indication of how this has affected the band and a reflection on the millions of survivors and those lost. The tune slips into the familiar sound the band are known for, but unable to escape the chills sent down the spine with every rise and fall of the music.
These are weighty matters, demanding a heavier tone to the usual warm melancholy, Gerrit Koebakker’s lyrics pour out in pain, raw and personal. Have you ever felt so cold?
Any thoughts of warmly lit cosy bars, entertaining those interested, curious and indifferent are expelled. Relationships, happiness and love, all torn from us at times without choice.
The slow melancholy returns, overlaid with emotions stripped bare. He thinks about a Secret that must be kept; something regretted but too late to confess without causing further pain and hate. A façade to deception, the more said the deeper the lie. The slow piano refrain and Floydian guitar work slide towards an inevitable climax. It will out and exposed, leave no corner to hide. The game is up and consequences must be faced.
Emotive piano melody drifts through as Helpless he contemplates what he has done. The carefree man who had it all ahead of him, with someone he loved, has lost his way. The tables turn as the heavier guitar riffs emphasise the damage done and the world turns dark. What can he do?
There was brief light as the virus held the world in a gruesome thrall. Nature began to repair, skies cleared, wildlife roamed freely and the planet was grateful for it. But it could not prevail for long against our destructive compulsion. No sooner had we started to cope with the virus, then the need for destruction returned with added impetuous fuelled by misplaced anger and righteous indignation.
War! We have not learnt and rather than all coming together in peaceful harmony, a despot maniac decides to enforce his will with all the militaristic might he can muster, rolling over innocent bodies, killing openly at will in some misguided, sycophantic driven belief he can create a new Empire and rule the world.
Automatic fire and explosions punctuate the introduction to the next song, as the would-be conqueror ponders using his greatest weapon which could bring us to the brink of extinction. But who draws the Line in the Sand as delicate piano refrains show the fragile balance of life. Gerrit’s vocals echo across the wasted lands as we try to combat this without escalating the situation, whilst watching so many lives torn apart. Streams of guitar streak across the wasteland like trails of deadly missiles and the drums crash like explosions, whilst at its most climactic it fades to a defiant speech stating that right will prevail.
Sinking further into the dark hole, down which humanity slides with our predilection for cruelty, why do we want to hurt and abuse each other, nature, animals and the planet on which we live? Can we not see we are destroying ourselves? What a Cruel World we have created. Delicately, Gerrit laments over gently played chords, which build slowly, intensifying the regret as he mourns the world being brought to her knees. The wall of sound grows and spreads crushing the silence like fragile butterflies until a lone, dying guitar note drags us from this penultimate track, to the last.
Sorrowful piano weaves towards us, walking the cold, empty street of conscience. Eerie notes in the murky distance, as you pass by and try to convincingly smile in support of The Lie you tell yourself and everyone you meet, as you try to show a brave face against adversity. Who are you trying to convince?
Then suddenly it is over and there is a feeling of emptiness and regret from the warnings given.
Gerrit (vocals/guitars) remains the only constant in the band, his riffs and lyrics embellished and filled with ideas from the other current band members, Menno Kolk (bass), Marcel Heijnen (drums), Peter Van Dijk (keyboards) and Michel Varkevisser (guitars), with special contribution from Remco den Hollander (keyboards), who replaced Peter halfway through the recording.
The weight of the subject matter with the honest, personal experiences imbued within the lyrics and music make this the most challenging yet most rewarding listen from them to date. Like watching a harrowing documentary, you struggle to listen but are unable to tear your ears away and once it’s finished you find yourself spinning it again.
This album is another step forward for the band, with quality production from professional engineers, to create a heavier album that still retains the ‘Downriver’ sound and carries some important messages. If you are not a fan of melancholy then I would still urge you to take a listen, I can seriously recommend this album.
01. Ruins (10:09)
02. Secret (5:44)
03. Helpless (5:50)
04. Line in the Sand (7:18)
05. Cruel World (11:39)
06. The Lie (2:22)
Total Time – 43:02
Gerrit Koekebakker – Vocals, Guitars
Michel Varkevisser – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Peter van Dijk – Keyboards
Menno Kolk – Bass Guitar
Marcel Heijnen – Drums
Remco den Hollander – Keyboards
Record Label: Freia Music
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 24th November 2022 (Vinyl: 23rd February 2023)
– Tides (2015)
– Departures (2018)
– Ruins (2022)