I approached the new Knight Area album expecting to hear lushly atmosphereic, sometimes melodramatic neo prog songs emphasizing vocals and keyboards from a band which, even in their more powerful moments often appropriated a form of metal I’d describe as oddly smooth. Those elements are not bad per se, nor are they gone entirely, but there is something very different happening on their latest album Hyperdrive. I hear a sense of direction and urgency in these compositions that I’ve not often associated with Knight Area previously. The songs, guitar riffs and guitar leads are more inspired. The keyboard solos soar with a new sense of vim and vigor. With this set of songs, the band knows exactly where they want to take us and they waste precious little time getting down to the business at hand. No wonder they named this album Hyperdrive!
The formula seems to be to alternate up-tempo numbers with ballads. But even the ballads are more tightly focused than in previous releases. Sometimes a majestic or anthemic feel permeates slower tunes, propelling them forward. Other times the choruses are very catchy. Almost always, the solos know exactly where they want to go and what they want to do.
This isn’t the most progressive music you’ll ever hear. But stretching these songs out by padding them with 50% more running time wouldn’t have made them more progressive, only more meandering. What then is Hyperactive? It is a set of high quality rock songs featuring quality vocals, tasteful extended solos and emotionally full and satisfying arrangements.
On Hyperactive, Knight Area are onto something very good. Their songs are more succint, more visceral and more captivating. The guitar solos are more purposeful, constantly seeking to push the songs forward musically. And all of this is done without the band losing touch with their neo prog roots. When Knight Area get powerful, I still consider their brand of metal to be a rather mellow and melodious one. Even so, it has acquired just enough crunch to now be the kind of mellow metal I can really enjoy sinking my teeth into.