Artist: Into The Open
Album Title: Destination Eternity
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 20 March 2020
I love to unearth a gem and so I am delighted to be able to bring you this review. The focus of this article is Into The Open, a Dutch band that is the creation of a very talented group of musicians, certainly if ‘Destination Eternity’ is any indication; this is a really very good record and the remainder of this review should be read by anyone with a love of progressive rock, neo-prog or even progressive metal.
The origins of Into The Open can be traced to two specific musicians: Jan Willem Ketelaers and Sander Heerings, who got together to bring a story to life via a concept album. The story, in true prog style, is a rather beautiful one, as it tells of the journey of a soul to its final destination. It’s deep, surprisingly emotional and expertly constructed, as evidenced by the flow of ‘Destination Eternity’ from start to finish.
For those in the know, Jan Willem Ketelaers is the lead vocalist for Dutch neo-prog band Knight Area, whilst Sander Heerings is probably better know for his work with The Dust Connection and Wane Of Summer. I’m a big fan of The Dust Connection and so the revelation that Into The Open also features the talents of drummer Robert Spaninks and guitarist Martijn Balsters, is a very welcome one indeed. Into The Open are then completed by guitarist Ronald Martens (Up The Irons) and bassist Frank Strokap (Symphonic Rock Night). However, the name-dropping doesn’t end there as Into The Open have invited a few guest musicians to embellish the record in their own inimitable fashion, including guitarist Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged, Ayreon) and violinist Kim de Beer (Symphonica in Rosso).
With the housekeeping out of the way, I want to quickly begin this review with the negatives. I say ‘quickly’ deliberately because there aren’t any. Ok, so I’d have liked an even richer, fuller production but that’s just personal taste and I’m being ultra-picky. So I return to my original point – there aren’t really any negatives.
On that note, let’s start discussing the positives of ‘Destination Eternity’.
Firstly, the musicianship is of the highest quality. It is immediately obvious that these guys have plenty of talent and experience when it comes creating good music – in the case of Ketelaers in particular, you don’t get asked to be a part of the Ayreon family unless you are a quality musician. Each member of this band brings with them their ‘A’ game and it shines through the eleven compositions on ‘Destination Eternity’.
The opening piece is a two-minute intro and it is here that I knew immediately that I’d enjoy this record. The synths are lush and cinematic, full of mystery, atmosphere and intrigue. Just before the midway point, the keys are joined by a lead guitar solo, the kind of beautiful soulful and melodic affair that screams neo-prog in the best way. It sings and I’m drawn in.
‘Birth’ follows and it encapsulates everything great about this band in a six-minute package. The driving beat from bassist Frank Strokap is like a pulsing heartbeat that works well with Robert Spaninks’s drumming to drive the track on with energy and purpose. The lead guitar melodies over the top are catchy right from the off and the whole thing has a cheeky, irresistible groove. Naturally, Sander Heerings’s synths are all over this song, but they never remain static, changing guise, from sweeping vistas to tinkling piano notes. The verses are a more minimalist affair with just the bass, drums, synths and Ketelaers’ vocals, which suit the soundscape down to the ground, being mellifluous yet strong. The chorus is simply gorgeous, as the guitars re-enter, providing further texture and some welcome power. This is rock after all! Naturally, there’s a lead guitar solo or two, as well as twin guitar harmonies that give me chills.
Being a concept disc, it is important that each song pushes the story on and that’s definitely the case here. Every track has a different tone and feel, as it seeks to explore another facet of the narrative. ‘Once’ therefore, is slightly heavier and darker, featuring heavier riffs and a more oppressive atmosphere. That said, melody is never far away and the song features a real grower of a chorus.
In contrast, ‘Back To The Days’ has a demonstrable classic hard rock sheen, especially in the structure and the choruses. It’s more upbeat, brighter and breezier after its more intense predecessor, and demonstrates the variety that Into The Open seem to find so effortless.
As if to underline this further, we’re hit a little later by ‘Judgement Day’, which forces me to re-evaluate things more. It is a near ten-minute composition that starts off with an intro that is more in keeping with a Gothic black metal band, all dark and foreboding. As it develops, the vocal delivery is more spoken-word than singing per-se. It means that the song is much more theatrical in its delivery; I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a faint ‘Innuendo’-era Queen vibe to it, something that I welcome just to be clear.
The up-tempo, prog metal trappings of ‘Eternity’ are glorious. The riffs make a big statement as do the layers of synths and the acoustic guitars that appear later in the song. It’s just a very strong song that is easily one of my favourites. The keyboard solo happens to be the icing on the cake, especially when the guitars rejoin the fray to see the track out in style.
Then there’s ‘Ride The Wind’ that features the sumptuous voice of Maria Catharina (Robby Valentine, Anyday). It’s a fairly lengthy ballad with an 80s feel, but it builds nicely and keeps my attention. The vocal duet is an intriguing ingredient that’s then mirrored somewhat by an incredibly engaging synth and guitar solo duel – technical and musical, both instruments really enhance the song.
I’ve said it many times before but one of the biggest thrills for me is to discover a new band from out of nowhere that blows me away. Into The Open is one of these discoveries and I have to congratulate all concerned with creating such an incredibly diverse, interesting and beautiful album. ‘Destination Eternity’ comes with my highest recommendation and must be heard by everyone with a love for quality progressive music; it’s masterful.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: