Album of the Week 04-2014: Navarone – A Darker Shade Of White

Earlier this week, I already professed my love for Navarone. In fact, while today is a fantastic time to keep an eye out for good Dutch Rock bands, I still think Navarone towers above many of them. Hailing from a town that has spawned many amazing Dutch bands in recent years – Nijmegen, to be exact – Navarone plays a fantastic brand of Led Zeppelin-inspired Hardrock with a distinct contemporary twist that makes them just a tad more interesting than the average retro Rock band these days. Still, it contains every element that made many of the classic Rock records; huge riffs, hooky songwriting and fantastic, soaring vocals.

My interest in Navarone was awakened by a piece of Dutch music journalist Jan Vollaard. The man is a huge fan of The Black Crowes – as any music fan should be – who compared the band to the Crowes, claiming ‘A Darker Shade Of White’ to be the best Dutch Rock album he had heard in a long time. I’ve heard that before, but these guys really live up to that label. Merijn van Haaren has the best throat I had heard in a long time and his high voice with a slight rough edge is an important part of what makes this album fantastic instead of just good.

Then there’s the guitar work. Kees Lewiszong and Roman Huijbreghs have perfectly mastered the monolithic riffing of a Led Zeppelin, but their leads are nothing short of impressive either. In the instrumental track that has a quarter rest symbol as a title and the extended psychedelic jamming of ‘Sage’, they have proven themselves more than proficient in soundscaping as well and Robin Assen has the best drum sound I have heard in a long time. Also, the band really knows how to work the dynamics in their songs, giving every section exactly the right amount of power.

Given the material at hand, ‘The Red Queen Effect’ is the perfect opener for this album. With its swinging rhythms and amazing chorus, it gives out a good impression for the album. The horns give the song a subtle soul edge not unlike the first two albums of The Black Crowes. ‘On My Knees’ is a similar kind of Rock song with a fantastic chorus. But this album’s true diamond in the rough is the perfect build-up of the moving power ballad ‘December’. That song provided one of the two goosebumps moments at Eurosonic Noorderslag last week. How this song builds from small and insecure to the heartfelt, passionate cry it become in the end is nearly unbelievable.

As I’ve said before: today is a great time to pay attention to Dutch Rock bands, but Navarone is without a doubt one of the best of them. Currently, the band is in the studio recording their second album and judging from the material heard so far, it’s going to be of similar class as ‘A Darker Shade Of White’. Until then, help yourself through this album. It’s a promising debut from a band hopefully capable of much, much more.

Recommended tracks: ‘December’, ‘The Red Queen Effect’, ‘On My Knees’

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