Artist: Rendezvous Point
Album Title: Solar Storm
Label: Karisma Records
Year Of Release: 2015
The album that I’ve reviewing today has been released for a little while, so I’m late to the party. However, I’m late to the party for good reason. I had heard great things from those I’m friendly with in progressive music circles, suggesting that ‘Solar Storm’ by Rendezvous Point was a ‘must-hear’ record. Knee-deep in other reviews, I was unable to drop everything and listen immediately. And then, when I did find the time to investigate, I wasn’t immediately bowled over, I must admit. Nevertheless, here we are and, having given this debut record plenty of time, what follows is a considered review of the album.
Formed in 2010 in Kristiansand, southern Norway and comprised of vocalist Geirmund Hansen, keyboardist Nicolay Tangen Svennæs, guitarist Petter Hallaråker, bassist Gunn-Hilde Erstad and drummer Baard Kolstad (Leprous), Rendezvous Point refer to themselves as a melodic progressive metal band. Given that loose genre pigeon-holing, I was personally expecting the music to be slightly more melodic, more in a Threshold or Dream Theater vein perhaps. In actuality, what the band produces is an intense slab of heavy progressive music that’s all about riffs, rhythms and textures.
What is particularly impressive for a debut album is that ‘Solar Storm’ very much has its own identity. The quintet has clearly taken inspiration from the likes of Leprous, Tool and Opeth to a lesser extent and echoes of these bands can be heard within the seven compositions that comprise the album. However, these influences never threaten to overshadow what Rendezvous Point are clearly trying to do, and that’s to create music that is different and unique to them.
The album opens in strong, commanding fashion in the shape of ‘Through The Solar Storm’. The title of the track is well-named because the central riff is a powerful, swirling maelstrom of sound that bombards the ears from the outset but is then tempered by some subtle melodic interplay between the keys and Hansen’s vocals which display a wonderful resonance and feeling. The timing signature certainly sounds, to a layman’s ears, like it is complex but I love the fact that it is hypnotic and also thoroughly headbang-worthy, something that is occasionally overlooked within the prog genre.
‘Wasteland’ follows and is a genuinely anthemic track that benefits from a stark juxtaposition between quieter passages and the expansiveness of the central chorus. ‘Para’ by contrast is a much more brooding and menacing beast where the drums really catch my ear. The composition threatens an explosion and it is duly delivered towards the end in the form of a massively heavy, stomping riff that somehow shows restraint, tempered to some extent by light and airy keyboard notes that float above the tumult below.
Arguably the most ‘progressive’ track on ‘Solar Storm’ is ‘The Hunger’, which manages to cram a plethora of different ideas into the one composition. To kick off, the vocals flit from whispered to all-out spiky and aggressive thrash-like attack whilst keyboardist Nicolay Tangen Svennæs goes on the offensive, exploring a multitude of different synth sounds to interesting effect. Sampled voiceovers, frequent tempo changes, blistering guitar solos and shifts in rhythms combine to create a piece of music that’s equally challenging as it is enjoyable.
However, for all its technical dexterity and brazen experimentation, it is trumped in my opinion by ‘Mirrors’, a ten minute composition that’s a joy from beginning to end. The bass, synth and drum opening is sublime, particularly when joined by a moody and poignant lead guitar solo that stops me in my tracks upon each listen. I love the contrast between a verse that has a demonstrably modern alternative rock sheen and the chorus which is so melodic that it’d not be out of place on an AOR ballad. But with Rendezvous Point, a challenging rhythm or riff is never far away and ‘Mirrors’ is no different, albeit a little more restrained and subtle this time around.
The album as a whole does not outstay its welcome and so is closed out before you know it by the double act of ‘The Conclusion Part 1’ and ‘The Conclusion Part 2’. The former begins with an intricate classical-esque piano melody before being dominated by a seriously cool syncopated beat matched by more chunky headbanging fodder. The vocals, in keeping with the entire record, are excellently delivered, full of passion and energy. The latter then sees things out with the introduction of a lone violin atop the classical piano to introduce yet more invention and another intriguing texture to the already multi-layered soundscapes before it.
In short, whilst it was not love at first listen, Rendezvous Point have created a real grower of an album in ‘Solar Storm’ that should, without doubt, find favour amongst fans of progressive music. If you love powerful riffs, off-kilter rhythms and dense atmospheres, allow Norway’s latest impressive export to into your life; you’ll not be disappointed.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld