The strangely named Knight Area (makes me think of a seedy Chess Piece only Night Club, with designated regions – Bishops huddled together in one corner, Rooks in another plotting their downfall, and in a dimly lit area that’s just for Knights, there they sit under a big TV screen showing Pawn films…or maybe that’s just in my head then…) are a Netherlands based Progressive Melodic Rock/Metal band unleashing their fifth full-length studio album in 10 years.
I’ve heard a couple of their previous releases – the band’s polished delivery was always apparent immediately and Hyperdrive continues that feel. A really complimentary production that lets each song shine and brings forward each essential component. Most Progressive Metal bands I listen to lean either towards the Power or Symphonic, but Knight Area base themselves much more towards the Melodic, Hard Rock side. It makes a pleasant enough change (for me at least) and at their most melodic (‘This Day’ for instance) they are very reminiscent of Asia (elements of whom crop up on a few tracks), but they can also heavy it up to a Shadow Gallery or Dream Theater standard too. On the whole their sound on “Hyperdrive” makes me think of the keyboard-laden delivery of Royal Hunt, especially their earlier material, but with a vocal style more in line with maybe John Wetton, Steve Hogarth or Brad Delp and songs that take more influence from 70’s and 80’s Prog rather than Neo-classical or Symphonic.
There are other slight comparisons I picked up on of course – ‘Living In Confusion’ reminds me of British progsters IQ, whereas the ultra-catchy ‘Running Away’ has a classic 80’s hard rock feel of so many bands of the time (Heartland or Magnum for example), the guitar-driven opener ‘Afraid Of The Dark’ has me thinking of Threshold from a few years back, and yet the rather gorgeous piano led ‘Songs From The Past’ has a (ironically, and I’m sure intentional) 70’s Genesis or Camel vibe to it. So all in all “Hyperdrive” is quite varied within it’s progressive melodic confines. It has some excellent guitar-work (including some truly heartfelt solos) and attention-grabbing keyboards. It’s well executed and has just about everything a fan of this style should want. And on a personal note, it’s nice to hear something a bit more on the lighter side of what I would normally choose.
(7/10 Andy Barker)