Peter Swanson (DPRP.net)
The Barstool Philosophers (TBP) are a band that was founded in 1997 in the town of Almelo, in the eastern part of the Netherlands. You might expect a band with such a name playing blues instead of prog but that isn’t the case. Crossing Over is their second album, and the follow up to debut Sparrows (2009). The reason it took six years was that vocalist Leon Brouwer decided to quit the band at the end of 2011. This was a big shock for the remaining members because the album was ready with only the vocals to be recorded.
The band were left with no singer and an album they couldn’t release. After a lot of deliberating, the members decided to continue. They came up with the idea to use different singers for each track on the album. It eventually resulted in inviting six singers who were already known to the band. Fortunately, they were all very excited to work on the album. So the search for “The Voice of Barstool” began! Peter Van Asselt (tracks 1, 6, 9), Paul Adrian Villarreal (track 2), Maikel Hergers (track 7), Erik Masselink (tracks 4, 8), Michel Legrand (track 3) and the only female vocalist Marleen ten Hove (track 5) battled it out. The band decided that Van Asselt should become the new lead vocalist of TBP.
For me, it’s not the obvious choice because almost all vocalists proved to have a fine voice that might suit the band. Van Asselt and Masselink have a more bluesy, soulful voice, whereas Villarreal and Hergers sound more proggy/AOR. Legrand’s voice leans more towards metal and female vocalist Ten Hove has a beautiful voice just like Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, The Gentle Storm). It cannot have been an easy choice for the other band members Ivo Poelman (guitars), René Kroon (keys), Bas Hoebink (bass) and Jan Martin Kuipers (drums).
So the album is a mixture of different voices and not all tracks have the same quality, which sometimes has to do with the vocals that don’t really blend well with the music. Tedious, in my opinion, is one of the weaker tracks. Fine Lines/My End of the Island and Beyond The Stars, the longest and shortest tracks of the album are lifted to a higher level due to the vocal performances by Villarreal and Ten Hove respectively. The newly chosen vocalist Van Asselt shows his vocal abilities on the opening track Freeway, On My Way to You and the closer, Till We Meet Again. He has a special voice, gritty but also full of soul. I think he sounds better in a quiet piece as On My Way to You than the heavy metal Freeway.
The conclusion at the end is that TBP have released a fine album that sometimes reminds me of Queensryche in the heavier tracks but I really think they have their own unique sound! Great musicians that sound great together as band but no individual musicians that dominate the music like a guitarist or keyboard player. With the new singer joining the ranks of the band, the future looks bright and I feel confident this band will treat us to more good prog in the coming years.
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