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Sparklands - 'Tomocyclus'

posted 12 Nov 2013, 08:22 by Paul Woodward
(Avenue Of Allies)

Review by Woody

Sparklands hail from Holland and are fronted by brothers Thomas (Vocals) and Robert Riekerk (Guitar) and although they are a new band to the AOR scene they sure know how to write a killer AOR tune and in ‘Tomocyclus’ have produced one of the strongest albums in the genre this year. I think their experiences in other bands and genres has helped develop their song writing skills and their obvious love for the genre has meant not only do they know all the right elements needed to make it work but also how to make their own mark and modernize their sound, making for very impressive song’s with a high calibre of song writing.

‘Tomocyclus’ does have a strong eighties AOR inspiration with many songs making me think they could have been used in movies back in that decade, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘State Of Mind’ are obvious examples. That said they do have a few modern twists in their song writing that makes them stand out in the crowd and make songs like ‘The Game’, ‘Skyline’ and ‘Joanne’ so fresh and exciting. Again I think their experiences elsewhere have made them approach their lyrics with more thought, so avoiding clichés and blandness, this has given the songs more credibility and makes the album as a whole a breath of fresh air.

Thomas has a great smooth vocal perfect for this style but he also has a bit of grit to his voice which he brings out on certain vocal lines to give it a stronger impact. The top notch production also helps propel the band forward as a serious and professional act, which is important for a new act trying to break through. This album was a real revelation for me it’s beautiful and wonderful, everything you want AOR to be, packed with instantly catchy choruses, delicious melodies, and a feel good ambience.

A friend stated to me recently that they have become disenchanted with the current melodic rock scene as they feel there is too much manufactured ‘Scandi’ sounding stuff with the same songwriters used by many artists and they have become bored of the scene. I understood where he was coming from although I don’t feel the same, there is still plenty of stuff out there that excites me and if you look for it you can find absolute gems like Sparklands. These guys definitely aren’t manufactured and while they wear their Eighties inspirations with pride they have a fresh touch and I think these guys could appeal too many of those who think the melodic rock scene has become too formulaic. So I highly recommend this for those that have lost their faith in AOR, check out Sparklands and believe again! For the rest of you AOR fanatics, you’re going to love this album, trust me!

Track Listing: The Game / Skyline / Joanne / Oasis / Shattered Dream / Afterlife / State Of Mind / The Feeling Is Gone / Sparklands / Let Sparks Fly / Lost In Space and Time / Let It Out / Open Your Eyes / Tomocyclus

Album Rating: 9/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Joanne

Track by Track:

‘The Game’ is a hook laden rocker with super smooth vocals. The killer guitar hook and the modern Keyboard riff make this an instant hit. ‘Skyline’ is a huge song of Stadium rock audience pleasing proportions. Tinkling keyboards, soothing vocal melodies and an infectious chorus evoke memories of a sound of days gone by. ‘Joanne’ is probably the one song here that shows its inspiration’s most obviously, this unforgettable track screams Toto. It will get stuck in your head instantly and will mercilessly have you singing along!

The driven guitar riff gives ‘Oasis’ a strong tempo. Not as instant as others here, but this track does get under your skin eventually and I love the big synths and unrelenting chorus. Ballad ‘Shattered Dream’ has a lighter waving chorus. It’s a simple but very effective song with cool atmospherics and a strong vocal performance from Thomas. A soaring guitar riff kick-starts ‘Afterlife’ and eighties inspired rocker. They really don’t make them like this anymore and I could imagine this been used on a movie soundtrack!

‘State Of Mind’ is a smooth mid-tempo rocker with a beautifully delicious chorus. It’s a real stand out track, with hooks all over it, a heart warming song that gives you a genuine feel good feeling! Sparklands goes all moody on ‘The Feeling Is Gone’, a smooth rocker with a dark tone. ‘Sparklands’ is an atmospheric guitar lead instrumental with a melancholic feel. It’s a quite enjoyable musical piece and the guitar is never overly widdly, in fact it’s the sort of beautiful guitar playing that makes you wish you could play it!

‘Let Sparks Fly’ has a killer chorus which showcases Thomas’s voice. These guys seem to be able to write a killer vocal melody with ease, beautiful! ‘Lost In Space and Time’ is a reflective mid pace tune with the obligatory big and wondrous chorus. Quirky rocker ‘Let It Out’ is a bit of an odd ball track, but it does give the album some nice shade though.

‘Open Your Eyes’ is a moody ballad which echoes Toto, especially in its atmospherics. ‘Tomocyclus’ is a beautiful acoustic guitar ballad, warm and heartfelt. It’s a classy track which has a big emotional impact!