4.5 out of 5 Stars!
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Leap Day, a band from the Netherlands that consistently delivers above-average material in the Neo-Prog genre. To me, Leap Day falls into the “Genesis-inspired” category of bands, although it isn’t in any way a direct copy, but has its own sound, creating a nice mixture between bands such as Genesis, Spock’s Beard, Arena, and IQ, wonderfully symphonic with generally attractive melodies and varied, often-moving instrumentation.
Yet, when I realized their entertaining third album, From the Days of Deucalion, was also labeled as “Chapter 1,” I sort of cringed inside. I’m always a bit skeptical when bands plan multi-part collections, since a band can only occasionally pull it off successfully—Big Big Train succeeded with both parts of the recent English Electric albums being equally enjoyable—whereas other times the dual-album release is a huge flop—Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime II came nowhere near the greatness of the original masterpiece.
Therefore, could Leap Day create an absorbing, melodic, and engaging album to equal its 2013 predecessor? It wouldn’t be easy to do, especially when, from the “Chapter 1” collection, I came to believe the melodies and instrumentation on the track “Haemus” were pure excellence, with Leap Day firing perfectly on all cylinders. So on its newest release, could the band offer more tracks like “Haemus” where everything gelled in a similar fashion?
The answer, thankfully, is a resounding “Yes.” And indeed, I feel the band even surpassed all expectations.
The album opens with the instrumental “Pseudo Science,” a grand, three-minute affair where both guitar and keyboard leads and dramatic orchestrations rule the day. This somewhat spacey/somewhat pomp track might seem right at home on an album by groups such as Spock’s Beard or Transatlantic. This intro leads into “Amathia (Homo Ignoramus),” a vocal track that begins with beautiful piano and vocals, along with a gentle organ in the background, quite reminiscent of Procol Harem. And as always, Jos Harteveld’s tone and often-fun delivery, thanks to the quirky hook in his voice ala Frances Dunnery (It Bites)—which seems a bit more pronounced than usual, adding more of a recognizable flair to Jos’s voice—croons a melody that is both dramatic and memorable. I especially enjoyed the lyrics of this song, with lines such as “All we’ve ever taught, all we’ve ever written down, is nothing but a fart in the windstorm reeling…” Wonderfully droll.
The seven-and-a-half minute “Taurus Appearance” starts off as a bouncy Spock’s Beard-inspired instrumental with some great bass riffs and solid drums, some organ and synth fills, and a terrific chord pattern that soon adds a touch of Yes to the overall feel. About halfway through the track, a more laid-back section pops in to take the song into a different direction, with more leads, by both synth and guitar, until yet another passage, this one wonderfully gentle, brings the track to a close. The whole arrangement is Neo-Prog at its finest, a delightful merging of various styles that Leap Day always delivers with gusto. But the experience is not over yet, since this track basically acts as an intro to another seven-and-a-half minute tune, “Phaeton,” this one a vocal song, and a foray into Neo-Prog magic, both memorable and wickedly diverse when it comes to moods and instrumentation. The inspirations here are numerous and again varied, with IQ, Citizen Cain, and early-Marillion styles seemingly the most predominant. In general, these two connected tracks are fifteen minutes of greatness, and a definite highlight of the collection.
“Ya Who” begins with a momentary dip into strangeness, with Asian instruments popping into the spacey intro behind a female speaking in Chinese, I’m assuming, based on the lyrics that follow once the intro morphs into an actual song. The 3/4 waltz time signature proves an interesting change of pace, with the light instrumentation and keyboard washes, and extra instruments (including what sounds like an accordion) in the outro, being particularly unique to the band’s overall arsenal of musical tools.
The next track, “God Of Wars,” seems to be a mixture of IQ and It Bites, thanks again to Jos Harteveld’s vocal quirks, some of the zany synth patches going on during the verses, as well as the general musical arrangement by the band as a whole. This is another track I find myself repeating quite often; definitely another highlight for me.
At nearly eleven minutes, “Deucalion” is the longest individual track, and is once again a musical adventure into all the best traits of Neo-Prog. Along with Leap Day’s brand of offbeat instrumentation, the band also incorporates a bit of Gentle Giant/Spock’s Beard here, along with perhaps some touches from The Flower Kings. And along with all this, the song has one of the catchiest melody lines the band has ever recorded. Most fans of the genre will likely fall in love with this track, which is also favorite of mine.
“In the Shadow of Death” is another lengthy number, and is more of the same from this talented band…a song rich in synth and guitar interplay, some lively soloing, with countless changes in rhythms and atmospheres, and yet another great melody to go along with it.
Finally, the album closes with “Ancient Times,” actually a reprise of the short acoustic-guitar instrumental intro from the “Chapter 1” album. This time, however, the band gives the memorable melody line the full treatment it so richly deserves, with lyrics this time, and the entire band creating a rather mellow, somewhat spacey arrangement to the haunting melody. The perfect bookend to this two-part album collection.
So yes, with From the Days of Deucalion Chapter 2, Leap Day has not only pulled off its two-album collection in spades, but has gone above and beyond all expectations by creating, what I wholeheartedly believe, is a near masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what this band does next!