Artist: TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc.
Album Title: The Antithetic Affiliation
Label: Layered Reality Productions
Date Of Release: 22 May 2017
I want to start this review by saying that I owe ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’ a huge debt of thanks. And the reason for this is quite simple: it has reminded me that there is huge talent in the underground, away from the gaze of the masses. When I started writing about music, I was eager to shine the spotlight on those bands or artists that deserved the exposure, whether they were signed to a larger label or were ploughing a lone furrow with little or no support. Over the past few months however, little in the underground had fired my enthusiasm to the point where I found it was worth writing about. But now I have TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. to rectify what was becoming a slightly depressing situation of late.
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Tom De Wit and largely, ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’ is the product of hard work, oodles of talent, self-belief, guts, determination and sheer bloody mindedness. Released on his own ‘label’, Layered Reality Productions, this double disc release is essentially an independent release where just about everything has been handled by the man himself as a true bona-fide labour of love. In fact, the only aspect of this release that vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Tom De Wit has not personally attended to are the parts performed by a cast of guest musicians. Otherwise the songwriting, concept, lyrics and production are all a solo effort.
Speaking of the guests, it’s only fair to give these musicians due credit. And so alongside Tom De Wit, we have Lennert Kemper (Guitars, Vocals), Norbert Veenbrink (Guitars), Joey Klerkx (Guitars), Hanna van Gorcum (Violin), Vincent Reuling (Synths), Peter den Bakker (Bass) and Kenneth Martens (Drums).
Together this cast creates a rather splendid and very commendable symphonic progressive rock album with strong metal overtones. These heavier overtones come to the fore more on the second disc, which is entitled ‘The Cynic’, whereas disc one, entitled ‘The Idealist’, is lighter in tone, yet equally as involved and ambitious. Alongside the titles of each disc, the album artwork gives a clue regarding the overarching album concept. This is a musical journey that explores the fact that human emotions will forever flit between positivity and negativity, a never ending, eternal cycle. Pretty deep eh?
Well I have to say that the music itself is largely as deep as the concept. When I say this is symphonic progressive music, I really mean it. This is a multi-layered, multi-faceted affair in every sense of the word. Don’t believe me? Just take one listen to the opening track on disc one, entitled ‘The More We Remember’. It is bravery in extremis to begin a record with a 22-minute epic, but that’s exactly what Tom De Wit has done here, apparently unafraid to follow his own path and not be swayed by convention.
‘The More We Remember’ is an ambitious composition but it has been created with care and attention to detail. It has also been constructed deftly, showcasing a strong compositional nous. The ebb and flow that you’d expect from such a long track is present, as it an overt sense of drama and bombastic theatrics. It starts quietly but with rich melodic sensibility, the kind that grows with repeated listens, and then moves back and forth between all-out grandiose prog stylings and more reserved, introspective contemplation. There are some nice riffs, lush synth sounds and plenty of complex instrumental passages where we’re treated to expressive leads or more flamboyant dexterity, be it via the guitar work, the rhythm section or keys. And the introduction of the violin after the mid-way point is inspired, injecting a vague folk vibe to add yet more depth to an already absorbing listening experience.
For the most part, I find Tom De Wit’s voice to be of a high quality, delivering the story with the help of others with passion, belief and skill. Occasionally though, I detect a flat note or a moment of weakness. It’s not a deal-breaker, but is meant as constructive criticism and is something to focus on for future releases perhaps.
There are very few negatives on ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’ if I’m honest but I may as well get them out of the way in one go. My other slight note of caution surrounds the production. Bearing in mind this record has almost certainly been created on a shoestring budget that pales into insignificance compared to that of some of the larger prog-focused labels, De Wit has done a remarkable job. However, as someone who loves a crisp, rich and powerful production, I do wish that this record had the benefit of a bigger production budget. Don’t misunderstand me, ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’ does not sound bad per se. It is just a little thin and weak in places and I occasionally wish for a more vibrant, more muscular production that would do the music maximum justice.
But enough of my misgivings, I want to return to the positives. On that score, there is much more to say. The quality across the two discs is very consistent, so much so that there’s something in just about every track to catch my attention and admiration. In fact, I move to and fro each time I listen when trying to decide on my favourite track.
Sometimes it is ‘Anthem’ which, as the title suggests features a great opening riff and an anthemic chorus complete with choir-like vocals for extra effect. Coming in at under seven minutes, it’s positively brief but it packs a punch throughout, continuing the symphonic theme albeit with a more muscular edge.
At other times, I’m drawn to ‘Aphrodisia’ thanks to yet more striking melodic intent and an intensity that is impossible to ignore, bordering on thrash metal at its height. And then, in stark contrast, the heaviness completely falls away to reveal a gorgeous and delicate closing melody. ‘Dirge’ stands out insofar as it is very different in tone to everything else. As the title suggests, this has a much darker vibe and slower tempo but is still imbued with a strong sense of melody.
And then there’s the closing epic ‘Lest We Forget’ that breaks the 23-minute barrier. The opening is quite harsh and unforgiving, with vocals that convey frustration and anger, whilst the riffing is bold and compelling, underlining the emotions that are flowing through this behemoth. Melody is clearly very important to Tom De Wit and so, as the track develops through familiar dramatic cinematic soundscapes and even moments where sinister growls are introduced in black metal fashion, we are treated to yet more strong melodic sections. If I’m not mistaken, some of these are reprised from elsewhere on the record, only serving to strengthen their overall impact and power.
I can only conclude that I am very impressed with ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’. Tom de Wit has single-handedly composed and produced a symphonic progressive rock/metal album that has the potential to haul him several rungs up the prog ladder. Yes there are a couple of wrinkles that require ironing out but if we keep in perspective the fact that this is the result of one man’s labour of love on a miniscule budget, the end result is nothing short of astonishing. If you’re a fan of symphonic progressive music with guts, I urge you to check out ‘The Antithetic Affiliation’ and support an artist who, with our help, might just be a big name in the future.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day