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Alarion - Waves Of Destruction - 81%

Silicon Messiah, July 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Freia Music (Digipak)

Waves of Destruction is the debut album by Dutch guitarist and songwriter Bas Williamsen, released under the name Alarion, handled in large by Williamsen himself. It’s a large scale, ambitious work, due to a dramatic sense of song writing and a few grand elements thrown in. Willemsen has also been clear headed enough to realise when he needs outside help, making the list of guests on this album extensive. The world is no stranger to qualitative progressive metal hailing from the Netherlands, and it’s obvious on Waves of Destruction, how much Willemsen has been influenced by Arjen Lucassen and Ayreon. Willemsen still manages to stand firmly on his own feet however, and create something of his own. Two of the tracks on here are intros to longer tracks, and while these might actually break the flow of the album slightly - being built around narration and a few sound effects as opposed to musical build up - they are not antithetical to the whole of the album; Willemsen has created something that works.

Of course, the most ambitious pieces on the album are those longer tracks which carry their own intros. They’re both impressive pieces of progressive metal which blend calm parts with rougher ones, along with some truly interesting chord progressions and cool leads by Willemsen. There are also well utilised keyboards across the album, and truly effective solos that bring about just that right feel to let you sink into the feel of the music. The riffs however, don’t stand out as much; sometimes being somewhat bland and other times just chugging along. When great riffs show up though, they tend to be very powerful. The exception, where riffs and harmonic leads are next to perfection from start to finish, comes in the crunchy ‘A Life Less Ordinary’. It’s clear however, that Willemsen would rather build his music around intricate leads, exciting orchestration through guests playing piano and violin, as well as guest vocalists to compliment the music in the best manner possible.

First and foremost, there is Damian Wilson (Threshold, Star One), who sings on most tracks, and does so charismatically and very much in tune with the music; it feels as if he is very intimate with it. He’s at his best during the faster parts, highlighted in the cool ‘Colourblind’ and the epic twelve minute ‘The Whistleblower’ suite. Irene Jansen (Ayreon) is also worthy of mention, having been brought in for a single track; ‘Turn Of Fate’. An emotional yet hard edged tune which blends Willemsens winding leads with a subtle and efficient piano track by Tom Gorissen (Hymir). It might not reach the full of its potential musically, but Jansen delivers emphatically and with power. The album is closed with an acoustic rendition of the song, showing a lighter side to Jansen’s vocals. Ballads aren’t the albums strong side however, as both the aforementioned acoustic track as well as ‘Clash With Eternity’ are somewhat forgettable, the latter clearly the worst track on the album.

The majority of the songs here are good tracks - if not great - that should sit well with any fan of Ayreon or that particular style of progressive metal. Waves of Destruction would have been better off with a slight trim however, as a few of the tracks certainly aren’t necessary. The ambition behind the album is admirable though. No small part of what makes this album a good listen lies in Willemsens competent song writing and slightly subtle sense of dramatics. When Alarion takes off, it takes flight and there is no stopping. When ‘The Whistleblower’ suite ends (the album should end here, but it’s followed by the acoustic song) and the album peaks, goosebumps ensue. Those kinds of magic moments cannot come too often.

Standout tracks: Colourblind, A Life Less Ordinary, The Whistleblower suite