REVIEW: Kayak – Out of this World

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There’s never been a band embracing eclecticism as much as the Dutch progressive rock act KAYAK. Over the course of a 48-year-long career, the band have truly established themselves as one of the most successful progressive rock acts of Europe. The result is eighteen studio albums, out of which the latest one, “Out of this World,” will be released on May 7th, 2021, via InsideOut Music. Let’s see if these 70 minutes of progressive rock are as out of this world as its album title.

The album kicks off with title track, “Out of this World,” an incredible symphonic progressive rock track combining beautiful and sophisticated melodies. This track has instantly become a favorite progressive rock track of mine and is a killer piece with which to open a new record. The beautiful harmonies between the keyboards and the lead guitar are to die for and vocalist Bart Schwertmann‘s voice adds an extra degree of otherworldly dimension and depth to this track. The lyrics are relevant to this day, considering they’re about escapism and starting over again somewhere new, and even include a nod (the line: “Remember Noah wrought his ship a long, long time ago”) to the in 1972 released “Chance for a Lifetime.”

“Waiting” is a peculiar song, specifically because it is reminiscent of David Bowie. It’s all about the atmosphere in guitarist Marcel Singor‘s vocals and that is precisely what makes KAYAK one of the more interesting progressive rock acts. They can literally do anything, but it still wouldn’t compromise the band’s sound. True, this may not be a typical KAYAK song in the sense of the word, but regardless of that, it’s an amazing track with a laidback vibe. Continuing with the intriguing “Under a Scar,” KAYAK starts off mellow and slow but then they progress with big, up-tempo singalong choruses and an incredible dramatic arch; again this is one of the many highlights on this record.

“Kaja” as an instrumental interlude that offers a nice break early on in the record, but definitely sets a mood and a tone, especially considering the next track is a little bit more intense again. “Mystery” is a bit more motivational, with a somewhat happy undertone. While it’s maybe not as complex as some of the other material, it does have that trademark KAYAK sound and while some fans might enjoy their symphonic work best, this song has the potential to transform a frown to a smile.

The instrumentation is really beautiful in “Critical Mass” – at first soft and a bit minimal, but progressing into a full-blown progressive rock song that doesn’t hold back. The duo “As the Crow Flies” and “The Way She Said Goodbye” set the tempo back quite a notch, the latter being a powerful and emotional love ballad with beautiful guitar melodies. One of the other hard-hitting tracks on this record is the groovy “Traitor’s Gate.” The drum pattern is based on a pattern Hans Eijkenaar apparently plays during soundcheck so that he could use his whole drum set. Songwriter Ton Scherpenzeel recognized the potential and groove in this sequence and wrote a song around it, resulting in “Traitor’s Gate.” It’s one of the more interesting songs, perhaps because it’s really built around the drums, which somehow take the focus in this track too.

The track that contains the most surprises is probably the longest track on the album, “A Writer’s Tale,” which clocks in at over 9 minutes. The song is proof of Scherpenzeel‘s storytelling talent, as both lyrics and musical themes are incredible and even though the structure of the song is really complex, there is never a minute where you lose your focus. The song is an engaging prog journey from end to finish. For the most part, the second half of the album is fairly intense – especially taking a ballad like “One By One” and the epic of the album into consideration – so the bittersweet “Carry” doesn’t come too late. Among the more uplifting songs, this song feels a little bit lighter than the rest of the album and works perfectly as the penultimate track.

The record eventually ends with the much darker track (damn those opening riffs sound evil!), “Ship of Theseus.” In the metaphysics of identity, the Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object, while this song is mostly singing about the actual ship of Theseus, but somehow this more metaphysical aspect gives this song a deeper meaning and makes it even more dramatic. Altogether, it’s an incredible song and a great way to end the album with.

This album has different band members taking over as lead vocalists and sometimes it’s easy to forget. I mean that even though singers may change, this album, in its diversity, sounds incredibly consistent and that’s probably because of Ton Scherpenzeel‘s incredible abilities as a songwriter. Apart from the consistency, there is the element of all of these songs being incredibly diverse within the prog rock spectrum, from rock-oriented tracks and to emotional ballads, to bombastic progressive symphonic, and even at times groovy pieces. That also means that not all songs are maybe your cup of tea, but there should be plenty for everyone to enjoy here. Altogether, “Out of this World” is a progressive extravaganza with intricate melodies, lots of hooks, and twists that truly is out of this world and will probably be one of the progressive rock highlights of the year!

Tracklist

1. Out Of This World
2. Waiting
3. Under A Scar
4. Kaja
5. Mystery
6. Critical Mass
7. As The Crow Flies
8. The Way She Said Goodbye
9. Traitor’s Gate
10. Distance To Your Heart
11. Red Rag To A Bull
12. One By One
13. A Writer’s Tale
14. Cary
15. Ship Of Theseus

Lineup

Ton Scherpenzeel – keyboards, lead & backing vocals
Bart Schwertmann – lead & backing vocals
Marcel Singor – guitar, lead & backing vocals
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – bass, lead & backing vocals
Hans Eijkenaar – drums

Label

InsideOut Music

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