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Sea of Tranquility : Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001
ProgVision: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001
RockImpressions: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001
Ragazzi: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001
ProgWereld: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

Music in Belgium / CRONIQUES
Musikreviews.de "Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001"
Keep The Faith: "Mirror Site"
John Bollenberg: "Mirror Site"
IO-Pages: "Mirror Site"
IO-Pages: "Progfarm '97"
Background Magazine: "Not to be or not to be"
Keep The Faith: "Not to be or not to be"
Juriaan Hage: "Not to be or not to be"
John Bollenberg: "Enjoy The CLIFFHANGER Hangover"
Background Magazine: "Burning Alive!"
Juriaan Hage: "Burning Alive!"
Arlequins: "Burning Alive!"

 

 

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Sea of Tranquility : Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

 

Somehow this band has slipped under my radar as I have not even heard of Cliffhanger until Dug Out Alive! made its way into my CD Player. I have no excuses for that transgression except for the fact there are so many bands and albums at our fingertips one person just cannot listen to everything. However, it is better late than never and I feel fortunate to have explored the band via this comprehensive collection of demos and concerts lovingly put together by Dick Heijboer.

So just who are Cliffhanger anyway? Band members include Rinie Huigen (vocals, guitar), Gijs Koopman (bass, bass pedals, whistle, keyboard, mouth harp), the aforementioned Dick Heijboer (keyboards) and Hans Boonk (drums). If you are familiar with the band Knight Area you might have recognized Gijs Koopman as he now adds his considerable skill to that band.Cliffhanger definitely have their roots firmly planted in a retro prog rock sound, mostly because of the vintage keys and heavy Rickenbacker bass, recalling bands like Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson. I also here similarities to bands like Arena and Marillion and while the band have been tagged with the neo-prog label, they also have many moments of eclecticism that makes this music all the more interesting. And please, when I use the dreaded neo-prog tag do not take that as a negative; this is finely crafted music produced by excellent musicians who clearly have a lot of passion for what they do.This is a huge collection of music and to describe it all would be a daunting task indeed. I will say the series of concerts are well performed and I enjoyed them immensely. The demo recordings are also enjoyable with my favourite being "Rainforest", a nice slice of moody progressive/art rock. Wild synths and effects followed by distorted guitar chords resonating across the soundscape are what you can expect.The first seven concerts are audio only with the last "1994 Live At Willem II" showing concert footage. The concert film is a bit grainy but the band is in fine form performing six tracks. There are also many different camera angles showing all of the band members. The heavy reliance on bass and keyboards is ever present and none more so than on the first track "Views". While Koopman and Heijboer stand out, Huigen's vocals are also nicely done sounding similar to Paul Wrightson of Arena fame. My only complaint is the guitar is sometimes too low in the mix and has a hard time making its presence felt amidst the keys and bass which is too bad as Huigen is also an excellent player.Aside from these technical difficulties this is about as comprehensive a collection of music that I have ever come across on a single CD or DVD. A fine legacy for what is a vastly underrated and talented band.   Dug Out Alive! an be ordered from the link below. Enjoy…
John Neudorf

 

 

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ProgVision
“Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001 ... a historical document”

 

Writing this review will be a trip on memory lane for me... and what a trip! As a complete surprise I found this “Dug Out Alive” album in my mailbox. Cliffhanger was in the years 1993-2001 the best progressive band in The Netherlands. You have to highlight the word progressive. The band was known for their unique sound and making music without any concessions. In those early days the band completely blown me away with their first two studio albums “Cold Steel” (1995) and “Not to be or Not to be!” (1996). The unique sound of the band was created by the use of vintage keyboard sounds, Moog Taurus II bass pedals and Rickenbacker bass guitar. Writing this review while I'm listening to the live recording “Live at the Boerderij” (1995) I already float away on that memory lane. The driving force behind this album is keyboard player Dick Heijboer. In the booklet Dick wrote these words as an introduction;

“For many years some of the best unreleased Cliffhanger recorded material remained untouched. This was an eyesore to me, so in the summer of 2010 I decided to master the best recordings for release. One multicamera video recording, two studio and six live audio recordings were chosen to be released on one dual-layer DVD. This way Cliffhanger could offer the best deal with the best quality.”

This decision is typical for Cliffhanger ... again without any concessions! We are the lucky ones; 10 hours of the best live material from Cliffhanger. Dick Heijboer did a wonderful job to “Dug Out” this great Cliffhanger live material.

Rinie Huigen - voice and guitar; Gijs Koopman - bass, bass pedals, whistle, keyboard, mouth harp; Dick Heijboer - keyboards; Hans Boonk - drums

The name Cliffhanger stands for; open end before a break ... which leaves you curious for the sequel and is in fact a movie term. Well chosen because this can be heard in the music. Because Cliffhanger made music without any concessions, the music can be at times very complex. But it also has melody ... even if you listen to the bass parts of Gijs Koopman ... that was/is his trademark. When I was watching him last week at the CD presentation of the new album (“Nine Paths”) of his present band Knight Area (and of course Dick Heijboer was also in the audience) and see him play his Moog Taurus bass pedals I had to think several times about Cliffhanger. The melodic bass parts and the frequent use of the bass pedals of Gijs Koopman were very important for Cliffhanger's sound.

Cliffhanger released the following studio albums on the labels of SI-music and Musea. “Cold Steel” (1995), “Not to be or not to be!” (1996), “Mirror Site” (1997) and “Circle” (2000).

For a reviewer it is almost impossible to write a review about 10 hours of Cliffhanger music. So I will give you an impression what you can expect when you buy this wonderful release. You can find the following audio recordings on this DVD; “Cliffhanger Demo” (1993), “Cliffhanger Live” (1994), “Burning Alive!” (1995), “Live at the Boerderij” (1995), “Live at Chateau” (1996), “Mirror Live” (1997), “Burning” (1997) and “Live at De Tavenu” (2001). As a bonus you get the concert film “Live at Willem II” (1994)!

The dual-layer DVD is presented in a normal CD case with an extensive booklet with all the details about the live recordings and the personal stories of all the band members. I think this is also a wise decision because now you can put the case next to the Cliffhanger CD's in your CD cabinet. When you put the DVD in your DVD-player you will get a menu were you can select the recording you would like to hear. The audio recordings all sound great. The editing and mastering of those old tapes and DAT's must have cost a lot of hours. I think Dick Heijboer did a wonderful job. Personally I love the recordings of the early years 1995 and 1996. You can find several versions of the 18 minutes opus magnum “Bad Dreams (Cruel Visions)” or compositions like “Views”, “Kill your darlings”, “4 Vessels” and “Colossus” from their debut-album “Cold Steel”. And what to think of “Sewers” and “Ragnarök” (more than 22 minutes!) from their masterpiece “Not to be or not to be!”. I would describe Cliffhangers music as progressive symphonic rock in the purest form. The music is often dominated by keyboard, bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals ... I just love this! Original compositions of a band which has an unique own sound. But of course also the live versions of some of the tracks of the later albums “Mirror Site” and “Circle” can be found on this DVD. But I think the peak of Cliffhanger was at the years 1995 and 1996 when they had released two great studio albums (“Cold Steel” and “Not to be or not to be!”).

As bonus you can find almost 50 minutes of video footage of a concert the band gave at Willem II in the year 1994. The two-track audio, multicam live recording is recorded by the crew of venue Willem II, Den Bosch. The images of the video are of course not in the high quality standards of today, but it is nice to have a picture next to the music. It has a historical value. This video was recorded a few weeks before the band entered the studio to record their debut album “Cold Steel”.

“Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001” is a historical document of one of the best Dutch progressive symphonic bands ever. For the fans of Dutch progressive music this is an essential release. A must buy for Cliffhanger fans. And for the fans of the Dutch flagship of symphonic rock Knight Area it is very interesting to hear and see where bassplayer Gijs Koopman started his musical career. If you like symphonic rock which is dominated by fat keyboard sounds, melodic bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals, this is a release you have to check out. I'm grateful to Dick Heijboer that he has put all those hours of hard work to give the Cliffhanger fans this historical and essential live document. Cliffhanger ... a Dutch band that was making progressive music ... without any concessions!

note:   the audiosample is taken from the studio-album “Cold Steel”.       Douwe Fledderus - October 2011

 

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RockImpressions: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

 

Nella seconda metà degli anni ’90 in Olanda hanno militato i Cliffhanger, una formazione a cavallo fra il prog più classico e alcune sonorità figlie del New Prog ottantiano, anche se va detto che la prima componente, quella più classica, è sicuramente predominante. Adesso non voglio fare la loro biografia, ma nel 2001 è arrivato lo split definitivo dopo la pubblicazione di quell Circle, che ci aveva interessato per alcune sue peculiarità, un buon disco anche se c’erano momenti non proprio riusciti, i difetti molto probabilmente erano frutto dei dissapori interni, che come leggiamo hanno causato il prematuro scioglimento del gruppo. A dieci anni di distanza il leader del gruppo, Dick Heijboer, ha assemblato questo DVD double layer contenente quasi dieci ore di registrazioni audio (c’è solo un filmato di un concerto del ’94, il resto è tutto audio), che ripercorrono tutta la carriera del gruppo, da un demo del ’93, fino al concerto del 2001. Un’abbondanza incredibile, credo sia la prima band a fare una cosa simile (ma non ne sono sicuro), sta di fatto che con un solo supporto ci si porta a casa un’antologia praticamente completa di questo gruppo, che ad inizio carriera era molto motivato ed ha prodotto dei lavori ricchi di pathos e di enfasi.

Difficile con tanto materiale fare un discorso singolo, bisogna per forza di cose affrontare il titolo nel suo insieme e devo dire che si tratta davvero di un titolo interessante, primo perché offre una visione completa su questa band, poi perché alcuni momenti del gruppo sono davvero sopra le righe, certo non stiamo parlando di un gruppo che è entrato nel giro dei “grandi”, ma ciononostante i Cliffhanger sono riusciti a dare vita ad un prog veramente buono, personale e ricco. Il sound dei Cliffhanger è sempre piuttosto epico, talvolta ai limiti del teatrale, una specie di mix di King Crimson, Genesis e Pallas, senza assomigliare a nessuna delle due band citate. Il dvd contiene quasi tutte registrazioni live di alta qualità, almeno una per ogni anno di vita della band, quindi si può gustare proprio la loro evoluzione artistica, un viaggio che pochi supporti musicali possono garantire.

Al di là di tutte le considerazioni che si possono fare, non posso negare che questo lavoro mi piace, mi piace che un artista faccia un titolo come questo, dove mette tutta la sua arte a disposizione degli appassionati e credetemi ne vale la pena. Il dvd è acquistabile rivolgendosi al sito che trovate in calce alla recensione. Buon ascolto! GB

 

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Ragazzi: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

 

Seit 10 Jahren nun sind Cliffhanger schon im progressiven Nirwana. Vergangen wie viele große bekannte und kleine unbekannte Bands. Hinterlassen haben die Holländer 5 CDs: "Cold Steel" (1995), "Not to be or not to be" (1996), "Mirror Site" (1998), "Hope & Dispair" (1998) und "Circle" (2001). Cliffhanger standen für härteren Progressive Rock, Inspiration fand die Band in den altgroßen Vorbildern UK, King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, ELP, Yes und Genesis, ihr Sound war bestimmt durch den Sound alter Keyboards, Moog Taurus II Bass Pedale, Rickenbacker Bass und akustisches Schlagzeug. Und obschon die Band bekannt wurde und guten Eindruck machte, konnte sie sich doch nicht in die erste Liga der nachgewachsenen NeoProg Bands spielen. 1997 ging die Band das erste Mal auseinander, 2001 endgültig. Viel unveröffentlichtes Material schlummerte seitdem in den Archiven der Band, darunter einiges, von dem die Band meint, es sei das Beste, was sie je gespielt und produziert habe, so dass im Sommer 2010 befunden wurde, die besten archivierten Aufnahmen für die Archiv-Veröffentlichung zu produzieren Gemacht und getan. Cliffhanger legen mit "Dug Out Alive!" die wohl umfassendste und an zeitlicher Länge umfangreichste DVD vor, die je eine progressive Rockband voll gepackt hat.
Enthalten sind annähernd 10 Stunden Musik (!) - auf einer DVD - die 1993 bis 2001 aufgenommen wurden und die vielfachen Entwicklungsstadien der Band präsentiert. 8 Positionen sind Audio-Only-Spuren, in PCM Stereo, 48 kHz 16 Bit, der (eine) Videoteil ist in MPEG2 3,0 MB/s, Audio in Dolby 2.0 448 KB/s aufgezeichnet.
Der Reihe nach: eröffnet wird der überaus umfangreiche Reigen nach dem DVD-Intro mit ‚Cliffhanger Demo 1993-11-27' (23:25 Minuten), gefolgt von ‚Cliffhanger Live 1994-09-02' (73:05 Minuten) und ‚Burning 1995-11-24' (46:22). Weiter geht es mit ‚Live at de Boerderij 1995-12-29' (74:48 Minuten), sodann mit ‚Live at Chateau 1996-11-01' (119:29 Minuten), ‚Mirror Live 1997-03-14' (115:44 Minuten), ‚Burning 1997-11-16' (süße 6:24 Minuten kurz) und als letztem Audio-Only-Konzert ‚Live at de Tavenu 2001-03-24' (88:17 Minuten).
Das als Video aufgezeichnete Konzert ‚Live at Willem II 1994-12-17' (47:59 Minuten) ist als Bonus belistet - und ist so auch richtig verstanden. Die Qualität der Aufzeichnung ist längst nicht das, was DVD gerechtfertigt, dennoch spieltechnisch als Audiobeitrag gut nachzuvollziehen, das, was videotechnisch zu sehen ist, hat den Charme alter Privataufnahmen, wirkt - in allem Respekt - lustig simpel, gibt der Band aber, auch soundtechnisch, eine recht gute Präsenz.
Der symphonische Neoprog Cliffhangers beweist hier vielfältig seine Qualitäten. Allein das über 22 Minuten lange "Ragnarök" ist viermal enthalten, die diversen Longtracks der Band können in mehrfachen Versionen gehört werden, ebenfalls wie die kürzeren Stück. Der Sound ist überwiegend sehr gut, deutlich und weit über Bootleg-Niveau. Was die Band spielt, wie sie ihre Songs interpretiert, nahe an den Originalen, kaum variiert, keine Jams feiernd, selbst in den Solobeiträgen nahe bis ganz genau am Original bleibend, beweist gutes Handwerk und Inspiration, ohne übermäßig Komplexe anzubieten und das Publikum mit steten Brüchen zu verzücken. In ihren Songs liegt der epische Fluss symphonischer Musik, getragen von klassischem elektronischen Keyboardensemble und den Songstrukturen, wie sie vor allem von Genesis und Marillion in deren progressiven Hochphasen zelebriert wurden.
Die DVD ist alleinig über die Band selbst zu beziehen, Samples sind unter den unten angegebenen Weblinks zu finden. Die Vielfalt und der Umfang der Aufnahmen sind beeindruckend, hier gibt es mehr als nur einen bescheidenen Eindruck. Die Band zeigt sich live von der dynamischen Seite, audio- und videotechnisch wird so viel über die gesamte Bandgeschichte abgedeckt, wie sonst nirgends. Und selbst qualitativ eher mäßigere Parts wie der Bonusfilm sind gut hinzunehmen, geben sie doch einen weiteren Einblick in das Bandgeschehen und zeigen die Band persönlich in Aktion.

 

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Idioglossia - Musikreviews.de: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

 

Unfassbar: Da schickt eine dem Rezensenten glatt unbekannte Band unaufgefordert satte zehn Stunden Musik zu, die auf Augenhöhe mit alten wie neuen Prog-Helden rangiert.CLIFFHANGER aus den Niederlanden sind ein altgedientes Quartett, das gut zehn Jahre lang nichts Neues mehr hörbar gemacht hat (zuletzt "Circle" zur Jahrtausendwende über Musea Records, nunmehr endgültig aufgelöst) und jetzt in Eigenregie eine Double-Layer-DVD veröffentlicht, die sich hören und auch ein bisschen sehen lassen kann.
"Dug Out Alive!" lässt sich ob der allen Standards gerecht werdenden DVD-Menüführung bestens bedienen; die einzelnen Aufnahmesessions sind mit ihren Stücken gesondert anwähl- und durchschaltbar, dazu gibt es dezente Standbilder und nicht etwa nervige Slideshows. Das Debütdemo von 1993 zeigt eine mit Hinblick auf Dick Hejboers Spiel sehr stark von ELP geprägte Band, während die Rhythmusgruppe mit gehörig Schmackes auftrumpft (das grandios verzahnte "Views"). "Cliffhanger Live" wurde im Studio eingespielt und erinnert bisweilen an MARILLION, weil viele der Stücke, vor allem "Good Things", an deren Frühphase mit Fish erinnern.
Rinie Huigen hat nicht die ausdruckskräftigste Stimme, versteht jedoch etwas von Melodien, und eingedenk seiner intelligenten Arrangements im Gruppenverband entstanden angenehm zeitlose Epen, die auf "Burden" beinahe zur Perfektion ausgearbeitet wurden. Naturgemäß gibt es ob der vielen Live-Beiträge zahlreiche Song-Überschneidungen, die zumindest die Entwicklung der Gruppe treffend nachzeichnen. Man lasse sich aber gerade die Live-Darbietungen auf der Zunge beziehungsweise im Lauschkanal zergehen: Wie viele selbsternannte Innovatoren, die sich heuer im Heimstudio eins zurechtschummeln, sind überhaupt in der Lage, so tight und dennoch befreit aufzuspielen, was sie am PC zusammenschneiden? Die in letzter Zeit schwer blutarme Prog-Posse aus Osteuropa, aber auch weichzeichnende Emporkömmlinge aus Großbritannien dürfen sich von den alten CLIFFHANGER genauso etwas abschneiden wie von ihren Vorbildern aus dem Seventies, die sie nicht verstanden zu haben scheinen.
Sicher, auch die Holländer emulierten letztlich, was damals schon alt war und heute noch älter ist, aber wie gesagt, die Kompositionen sind zeitlos und werden den Säulenheiligen gerecht. Weiterentwickelt hat man seinen Stil über die Jahre hinweg nicht, dafür aber die eigenen Fähigkeiten als Komponisten Außerdem: Der prominente, oft melodieführende Bass von Gijs Koopmans macht Chris Squire keine Schande, und die erwähnten Musiker an den Melodieinstrumenten verstehen immens viel von ihrem Handwerk, weshalb Liebhaber von Virtuosität, die nicht allein dem Selbstzweck dient, bei CLIFFHANGER ebenfalls bestens aufgehoben sind. Zuletzt noch: Der Videomitschnitt kommt im bombigen Sound und professionell mit mehreren Kameras gefilmt. Die Holländer waren augenscheinlich eine starke Live-Band, und für den Genrefan gilt absolute Anhörpflicht. Zeit zum Wiederentdecken der Alben.
FAZIT: Man ist geneigt, keiner (!) Musikgruppe gegenwärtig mehr Gegenwert fürs Geld zu attestieren als CLIFFHANGER. Wer holländischen Prog schätzt (EGDON HEATH, RICOCHER), muss hier definitiv zugreifen und sich ein paar Tage Urlaub nehmen.
Andreas Schiffmann

 

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ProgWereld: Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001

 

We schrijven 1993. Vlak voordat de progressieve rock in de tweede helft van de jaren negentig een wereldwijde wedergeboorte beleeft en de grote namen uit het genre zich stuk voor stuk toeleggen op financieel positief uitpakkende reünies, komen ook in Nederland nieuwe namen aan ‘het front’, vooral dankzij het op dat moment florerende label SI Music. Zo ook Cliffhanger, een band die wordt opgericht door toetsenist Dick Heijboer en een pakkende stijl kent voor kenners die niet vies zijn van zowel King Crimson als Rush en Van der Graaf Generator. Na een demo verschijnt de sterke debuutplaat “Cold Steel” op SI. Net op tijd, voordat SI over de kop gaat, maar Cliffhanger zoekt daarna heil bij het Franse Musea en blijft indrukwekkende albums maken. Als in 2001 voor de tweede keer de stekker uit de groep wordt gehaald, blijft er veel restmateriaal op de plank liggen. Het beste daarvan is nu verzameld op deze speciale en door Heijboer uitgebrachte “Dug Out Alive”, een dvd dus.
Duiken in de archieven lijkt wel een continuing story te worden voor veel Nederlandse progbands. Zo deed Lady Lake het vijf jaar geleden en bracht een cd met restmateriaal uit, terwijl vorig jaar Pythagoras met een prachtige box met zowel vinyl als cd’s op de proppen kwam. Cliffhanger pakt het net zo origineel aan en heeft tien uur aan demo- en live-opnames verzameld op een dvd. Ruim negen uur audio in een prachtige kwaliteit wordt aangevuld met beelden van de groep uit 1994, opgenomen in Willem II in Den Bosch, vlak voordat hun eerste cd uitkwam. Vaste concertgangers van deze zaal weten dat Willem II een vaste filmcrew heeft gehad en zodoende veel video-opnames door de jaren heen heeft gemaakt. Die avond in december 1994 is goed te horen dat een gretig Cliffhanger aan de vooravond staat van hun eerste album. Het geluid is gretig, de motivatie groot en het publiek wordt meegenomen in tijdloze stukken als Six Minutes Closer To Death en afsluiter Hopeless (met heerlijke Mellotron-partijen). Opvallend is het ook hoe goed de groepsleden op elkaar zijn ingespeeld. Bijgesloten als ‘bonus concert’, maar na het beluisteren van de demo’s uit 1993 en 1994 laten deze videobeelden – die wel wat wazig en duidelijk van vhs-kwaliteit zijn – goed de ontwikkeling van Cliffhanger zien. Een schot in de roos. Het livegeluid wordt daarna verder geperfectioneerd op de “Burning Alive!”-opnames, maar eind 1995 wordt in De Boerderij in Zoetermeer ter gelegenheid van “Cold Steel” een vijf kwartier durend optreden gegeven, dat in afsluiter en publieksfavoriet Ragnarök een spannend hoogtepunt kent. Van dit concert bestaan ook videobeelden (opgenomen met één camera vanaf het balkon), maar die zijn afgekeurd, aangezien niet alle bandleden in beeld zijn gebracht. Met dank aan die grote witte ‘bal’ die in de zaal hing!
In het boekje noemt Koopman “Live At Chateau” uit 1996 als zijn favoriet van deze set. Geen verkeerde keuze, want andermaal laat deze opname een groep in ontwikkeling horen, vlak na het verschijnen van hun tweede plaat “Not To Be Or Not To Be”. Leuke aanvulling isBurning, een stuk dat wordt opgenomen voor het derde album “Mirror Site”, maar toch de uiteindelijke keuze haalt. Nadat Cliffhanger in 1997 stopt, komen de bandleden een paar jaar later weer bij elkaar om “Circle” te maken: een ambitieus comebackalbum, dat bol staat van sterke muzikale ideeën. Helaas is de groep hierna opnieuw gestrand, maar niet voordat in de Waalwijkse Tavenu een anderhalf durend optreden is gegeven: de afsluiter van het audiogedeelte van “Dug Out Alive!”. Net als de opnames uit 1995 een uitstekende keuze voor een archiefuitgave als deze.
Wie een beetje gewend is aan ruwe opnames van de mengtafel of demo-opnames (op vakkundige wijze opgepoetst) en het geen bezwaar vindt om naar video-opnames te kijken die gemaakt zijn met een paar camera’s zullen aan deze professioneel verzorgde release geen miskoop hebben. Ook het menu is overzichtelijk en de informatie op de dvd en in het begeleidende boekje is zeer informatief; vol wetenswaardigheden, ook voor degenen die de historie van Cliffhanger niet bewust hebben meegemaakt. Maar wat buiten kijf staat en blijft staan, is de grote waarde van Cliffhanger voor de progressieve scene in Nederland in de laatste paar decennia. Zonder deze groep bijvoorbeeld geen Knight Area (met Koopman en aanvankelijk ook Huigen), om maar even een paradepaardje van stal te halen en de bal in het open doel te koppen! De erfenis van deze waaghalzen wordt met deze dvd dik onderstreept en is derhalve een verplichte aanschaf voor wie tegenwoordig wel wat neo-progressieve adrenaline kan gebruiken. Of natuurlijk voor wie kan zeggen: ‘ja, dat optreden… daar was ik bij!’ Pure klasse van eigen bodem.
Wouter Bessels

 

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MUSIC IN BELGIUM / CRONIQUES

CLIFFHANGER - Dug Out Alive ! (1993-2001) (DVD)
/ paru le 01-09-2011 /


Méga compilation que voilà pour ce groupe hollandais de rock progressif puisque, c'est près de 10 heures d'écoute et d'images auxquelles vous aurez droit ! Notons bien sûr ici que c'est un DVD audio qui nous servira de support musical avec 8 plages exclusivement audio et une plage sous forme de film. Ceci permettant de pouvoir compacter autant d'enregistrements sur un seul support. Nous reviendrons plus tard sur les détails du contenu, mais, avant tout, présentons si vous le voulez bien ce groupe qui fût formé en 1993 par le claviériste Dick Heijboer. Il est bon de noter que le répertoire du groupe a été constitué par les membres du band. C'est tout d'abord Gijs Koopman, le bassiste, qui a rejoint l'aventure de Cliffhanger. Par la suite, c'est en tant que chanteur que Rinie Huigen intègre le groupe. D'ailleurs, celui-ci s'imposera rapidement en tant que frontman avec sa voix distinctive. La venue de Hans Boonk en tant que batteur, cèlera les bases d'un groupe enfin formé. Cliffhanger va distiller un rock progressif influencé par les King Crimson, ELP, Yes et bien sûr Genesis. Le choix des instruments fera partie intégrante de la marque de fabrique avec l'utilisation d'un Hammond et d'un Moog comme claviers vintage, d'une basse Rickenbacker et d'une batterie acoustique. Tout cela était bien sûr prometteur, mais malheureusement les membres du groupe se séparèrent une première fois en 1997 et de manière définitive en 2001. Mais voilà, c'était sans compter sur la détermination de Dick Heijboer le fondateur, qui décida de remasteriser les meilleurs enregistrements du band. De cette initiative sera issu ce DVD qui recouvre l'ensemble de la carrière de ces musiciens. Notons au passage que les albums studio auront été produits et distribués par des majors de renom comme Roadrunner et Musea !

En plaçant ce DVD dans votre lecteur, vous serez immédiatement plongé dans l'ambiance Cliffhanger avec un fond sonore reprenant une composition du groupe et, côté visuel, des icônes représentant les différentes parties de l'objet en question. Avec votre souris ou le pavé digital, vous pourrez facilement choisir l'élément à écouter. Prêt pour le départ avec une démo datant des débuts en 1993 avec plusieurs compositions tirant sur le vintage, mais qui s'apparentent également aux groupes d'aujourd'hui tels que Pendragon, IQ ou Arena. On notera pour le chanteur une voix caractéristique, mais aussi de beaux passages claviers-guitare dignes des premiers Genesis. Une belle démo ou chaque instrument a sa place ! Passons ensuite à plusieurs "Live" enregistrés lors de plusieurs tournées allant de 1994 à 2001. Ici, on reste sur la même qualité sonore avec des compositions qui nous rappellent à de maintes reprises le fabuleux "Seconds Out" de la Genèse. De nombreux extraits nous rapprocheront du travail accompli par IQ et même Marillion. Notons au passage que la voix de Rinie Huigen n'est pas sans rappeler un certain Fish ! Pour ces versions en concerts, le jeu de basse se ressent encore mieux, la Rickenbacker faisant des merveilles. On est proche d'un John Jowitt ou d'un Jonas Reingold. Du côté des claviers Dick nous présente d'excellentes envolées, quant à la batterie Hans Book fait quasi jeu égal avec un certain Phil Collins. Enfin, le jeu à la guitare s'apparente à celui du grand Steve Hackett avec un doigté qui fait la part belle à la mélodie. Cliffhanger nous propose donc ici un rock progressif fort agréable à écouter, un néo-prog de qualité. Tout cela s'étalera sur près de 6 concerts d'une durée totale de huit heures ! Shows enregistrés en Hollande à Tilburg et au Boerderij. "Burning" s'ajoutera au DVD audio avec plusieurs compositions en version studio. Petit bémol, certaines chansons se répéteront plusieurs fois sur l'ensemble des enregistrements en "Live". Venons en maintenant au film qui retrace un concert de nouveau en Hollande, donné lors d'une tournée en 1994. Le contenu musical est du même acabit et de la même qualité que le reste du DVD. Les prises de son et la balance sont tout à fait correctes. Le visuel, quant à lui, est fort agréable à regarder. On ressent bien l'ambiance sur scène, et la présence du public est bien captée. Le présent DVD est accompagné d'un important livret reprenant de nombreuses photos des musiciens, la présentation détaillée de chaque concert et des interviews des membres du groupe.

Hormis le fait que le format sort un peu des sentiers battus, ce DVD nous permet de connaître en profondeur ce groupe attachant et performant dans son domaine. Cliffhanger a su produire un rock progressif de qualité, agréable à écouter et qui constitue en quelque sorte un pont entre les vieux Genesis et les actuels Pendragon, IQ ou Arena. Il est vrai que 10 heures de musique c'est long, mais quand c'est bien foutu cela occupe votre temps ! Il ne tient qu'à vous de consommer cette bible sonore petit à petit. Cliffhanger est un groupe qui aurait largement mérité une plus large attention, un groupe qui ravira tous les amateurs de progressif. N'hésitez pas à compulser You Tube (cliffhangerbandnl ou Kabassplayer), vous pourrez visionner à loisir de nombreuses vidéos de concerts. Sur ce, je vous laisse, j'aimerais bien me remettre quelques heures de prog dans les oreilles !

 

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Review Musikreviews.de  / Andreas Schiffmann
Review of "Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001", August 2011

 

"Dug Out Alive!" lässt sich ob der allen Standards gerecht werdenden DVD-Menüführung bestens bedienen; die einzelnen Aufnahmesessions sind mit ihren Stücken gesondert anwähl- und durchschaltbar, dazu gibt es dezente Standbilder und nicht etwa nervige Slideshows. Das Debütdemo von 1993 zeigt eine mit Hinblick auf Dick Hejboers Spiel sehr stark von ELP geprägte Band, während die Rhythmusgruppe mit gehörig Schmackes auftrumpft (das grandios verzahnte "Views"). "Cliffhanger Live" wurde im Studio eingespielt und erinnert bisweilen an MARILLION, weil viele der Stücke, vor allem "Good Things", an deren Frühphase mit Fish erinnern.

Rinie Huigen hat nicht die ausdruckskräftigste Stimme, versteht jedoch etwas von Melodien, und eingedenk seiner intelligenten Arrangements im Gruppenverband entstanden angenehm zeitlose Epen, die auf "Burden" beinahe zur Perfektion ausgearbeitet wurden. Naturgemäß gibt es ob der vielen Live-Beiträge zahlreiche Song-Überschneidungen, die zumindest die Entwicklung der Gruppe treffend nachzeichnen. Man lasse sich aber gerade die Live-Darbietungen auf der Zunge beziehungsweise im Lauschkanal zergehen: Wie viele selbsternannte Innovatoren, die sich heuer im Heimstudio eins zurechtschummeln, sind überhaupt in der Lage, so tight und dennoch befreit aufzuspielen, was sie am PC zusammenschneiden? Die in letzter Zeit schwer blutarme Prog-Posse aus Osteuropa, aber auch weichzeichnende Emporkömmlinge aus Großbritannien dürfen sich von den alten CLIFFHANGER genauso etwas abschneiden wie von ihren Vorbildern aus dem Seventies, die sie nicht verstanden zu haben scheinen.

Sicher, auch die Holländer emulierten letztlich, was damals schon alt war und heute noch älter ist, aber wie gesagt, die Kompositionen sind zeitlos und werden den Säulenheiligen gerecht. Weiterentwickelt hat man seinen Stil über die Jahre hinweg nicht, dafür aber die eigenen Fähigkeiten als Komponisten Außerdem: Der prominente, oft melodieführende Bass von Gijs Koopmans macht Chris Squire keine Schande, und die erwähnten Musiker an den Melodieinstrumenten verstehen immens viel von ihrem Handwerk, weshalb Liebhaber von Virtuosität, die nicht allein dem Selbstzweck dient, bei CLIFFHANGER ebenfalls bestens aufgehoben sind. Zuletzt noch: Der Videomitschnitt kommt im bombigen Sound und professionell mit mehreren Kameras gefilmt. Die Holländer waren augenscheinlich eine starke Live-Band, und für den Genrefan gilt absolute Anhörpflicht. Zeit zum Wiederentdecken der Alben.

FAZIT: Man ist geneigt, keiner (!) Musikgruppe gegenwärtig mehr Gegenwert fürs Geld zu attestieren als CLIFFHANGER. Wer holländischen Prog schätzt (EGDON HEATH, RICOCHER), muss hier definitiv zugreifen und sich ein paar Tage Urlaub nehmen.

Url: Stormbringer: http://www.musikreviews.de/reviews/2011/Cliffhanger/Dug-Out-Alive-1993-2001/

Released by Cliffhanger, Hofstede 180, 8212WN Lelystad, The Netherlands

 

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Review Stormbringer 
review of "Mirror Site", May 1999

 

The opening track is "Rainforest", which start with a softly played keyboard section sounding like a Gaelic theme and then the track changes direction with Rinie coming in with some excellent guitar. The music is quite complex at times, with some nice changes in direction, mood and tempo.
Rinie's vocals on this track are soft and warming. A nice track!!

The next track is 'The Final Frontier', a great track with Rinie's vocals having a soft, warm tone. Dick and Rinie both play some quite intricate guitar and keyboards. There are some nice changes in direction, mood and tempo with some great bass and nice piano. Reminds me a bit of Marillion.

Track three is 'Mirror Site 1', which starts with some nice, but fairly soft keyboards followed by the whole band coming in. There's a good solid drum sound, great bass and the vocals remind me a little of Fish and Peter Gabriel giving the track a Genesis/Marillion feel about it. The guitar and keyboards are complex and intricate. This is followed by some spacey sounding keyboards and guitar and some great bass before the whole band returns with more complex guitar and keyboards. Followed by some nice acoustic guitar and vocals and ending with some more spacey sounds. There are some nice changes in direction, mood and tempo within the track. 
Next is 'Mirror Site II', starts with some spacey keyboard sounds and then goes into some excellent acoustic guitar with a lovely melody. The whole thing then changes direction, more acoustic guitar,but a lot more intricate, Great drums and Rinie's vocals are great. Another change now to electric guitar with lots of intricate sections, complex and constantly changing direction. Finishing with some keyboards. 'Mirror Site III', starts with some great keyboards and guitar. Great bass and drums. The guitar work again is quite intricate.

Track six, 'Sunday Afternoon', is a great track, has some superb guitar and superb keyboards with some nice changes in direction, mood and tempo. Just full of emotion!! The next track is 'Truce', which has a superb rhythm running throughout. The vocals are superb. There's a nice melody with some excellent guitar, Great bass and drums. The final track is 'The Undiscovered Country' which is an excellent instrumental starts with some nice keyboards, with some stunning guitar work with lots of emotion. Cliffhanger are a great band and Mirror Site is a great CD!! and even though there's some early Genesis and Marillion influences there, what the hell, Cliffhanger still have enough of there own music style there too. When a band makes a CD as good as this it doesn't matter what influences are there!!

Highly Recommended!!!     (Url: Stormbringer: http://come.to/Stormbringer )

Released by Musea, 68 La Tinchotte, 57645 Retonfey, France 0)http://www.id-net.fr/musea

 

 

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Review of "Mirror Site" by Ken Brown

 

mirrorsite

 

Mirror Site (Musea FGBG 4242.AR)  is Cliffhanger's third and latest release, from this Dutch Neo-symphonic prog band. In 1996 the band released Not to Be or Not to Be which I considered one of the best CD's of that year and one that should become a classic. The band showed a tremendous growth and maturity from their first CD Cold Steel. So what would the band show on this release, which is keyboardist Dick Heijboer's final with the band. It seems that the band and Mr. Heijboer had a difference of opinion on where the band should go musically. So he decided to leave after he recorded this CD with the band. Many bands seem to be able to release two good CD's, but the third is usually the to one to measure how good a band really is. Considering what a strong record as Not to Be... the band had nearly an impossible task of bettering themselves!

The songs:
Rainforest (7:16)
The Final Frontier (4:57)
Mirror Site 1 (11:35)
Mirror Site II (9:51)
Mirror Site III (5:23) (instrumental)
Sunday Afternoon (4:27) (instrumental)
Truce (4:43)
The Undiscovered Country (8:51) (instrumental)

The band is a standard four piece: Rinie Huigen (guitar & vocals), Gijs Koopman (bass, pedals and keyboards), Hans Boonk (drums) and Mr. Heijboer on keys and piano. Plus Marc Brassé on EWI, which is featured on the opening of the first cut. From the opening tune I can hear a change of direction, the band plays it more subdued right from the start. The EWI and keys give it a beautiful tranquil beginning to this mostly instrumental tune. Mr. Huigen's guitar is also playing a bigger role in the Cliffhanger sound. Mr. Koopman's bass is missing from it customary place of right up in front of the mix. Some complained on the last CD that Mr. Koopman's bass playing was too forward in the mix, I liked it there the man can play. On this CD his playing is still incredible just buried in the mix a little more. But he still carries on theSquire/Entwhislte school of bass playing.

The CD deals with the plight of the humankind, something the band seems serious about since the theme has surfaced on all three of their CDs. Mirror Site deals with Man's growing dependency on computers. And it also serves as a parable to Man's search for meaning of life (and done much better then I could ever explain it). The band shows growth in the complexity of their compositions. Mr. Huigen's voice also continues to get better, no Gabriel/Collins clone here. His command of the English language also is very good (probably better then mine, but that is a different story). The band is pulling out all the stops withMirror Site, from the mellotron playing to a strange Vibratror-sound at the beginning of Part 2. While listening to this CD the first few times, I wasn't sure if the band bested their last CD, but while sitting here reviewing it, I would say they come close. Like Koopman's bass playing on this CD, the brilliance of the music doesn't hit you in the face, but it is there.

Let's get back to this Vibrator-sound at the beginning of Mirror Site Part II , it is creepy no doubt about that.  As it fades outs an acoustic guitar comes in to play the melody with the band following, again showing how far this band has come in just three CD's. After a rather mellow opening the second part gets sinister in its approach, as our hero has finally found a connection, but soon realizes that once again it's a dead end. He must try again! Which leads into the third part which features a Mr. Huigen's guitar solo, something that doesn't happen too much on Cliffhanger CD's, but it is a nice melodic solo. Mr. Koopman also pulls out his fuzz bass for this piece leading the band into a very chaotic ending, that mellows out with lots of found sounds contribute by everyone. The Mirror Site suite is a powerful and beautiful work.

Sunday Afternoon is another instrumental with an opening featuring piano and guitar playing the melody, that reminds one of a Sunday Afternoon, very layback and serene. That is the musical theme of the CD, one that is serene and layback. Mirror Site provides a great counterpoint to Not to Be or Not to BeCliffhanger has  realized that they don't have to bombard their listeners with loud, over the top playing to produce a brilliant CD. It's a lesson many other Neo-prog bands could learn. I am going to miss Mr. Heijboer, I love his playing, whether it is on piano, moog or digital keys. The guy can play and his many colors and tones adds a lot to the band's sound.

Both The Final Frontier and Truce are more standard fare neo-prog numbers. Although Final Frontier uses a piano to as the lead instrument, giving it a more classic prog-sound. Truce is the CD's one real rocker, but even this song isn't as chaotic as anything on the previous CD. But it is a solid piece of music.

The final song The Undiscovered Country starts with a tron-sounding beginning, very effective, in setting the base for the song. In comes Mr. Huigen to establish the melody with a very regal sounding one. This song sounds  like something Hackett era Genesis might do, and it is as good as anything they did.

So in the final analysis, this is a very strong third release from Cliffhanger. I was quite impressed, the band continues to grow musically, defining their sound with maturity and complexity and not just chops. This seems to be the logical place to go after the second CD. I am glad that these guys found a home after S/Icollapsed. But then I should have realized the good bands would find homes. I would highly recommend this CD to any neo-prog or symphonic prog junkie. These guys are becoming one of the best bands within the genre.

You can reach the band at their Web site (and can read my review of. The CD is available from Musea or your favorite mail order retailer.


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Review John Bollenberg
review of "Mirror Site" by John Bollenberg
bo


With Mirror Site the Dutch symphonic rockband Cliffhanger parts with keyboardplayer Dick HeijboerDickwants to go solo and in friendship some compositions were added to the new CD. The strong Genesis-like sound is why Mirror Site is more accessible than Not To Be Or Not To Be.

In the opening track Rainforest we hear the beautiful electric wind instrument of Marc Brassé while Rinie Huigen makes his guitar wheep in the best Steve Howe-tradition. The interaction between drums and keyboards can be compared with the outstanding Happy the Man. Beautiful melodies in The Final Frontierwith again the typical voice of Rinie Huigen on top of acousic piano and strings. The main track Mirror Site is devided into three pieces, which together offer more than 26 minutes of pleasure. The heavy thematics are followed by the little composition Sunday Afternoon (the time when Cliffhanger rehearses). Old analog synths sound in Truce while Dick Heijboer gives all he has got in The Undiscovered Country, skillfully coloured by the superb guitarist Rinie Huigen. The result is a song that would have sounded perfect on Wind And Wuthering. Even though Mirror Site consists of old and new songs, it is by far the best Cliffhanger-album. Only the strong Bad Dreams (Cruel Visions) goes beyond this. We wish Cliffhanger a bright future with the new keyboardplayer and Dick Heijboer lots of success with his solo-project. Thanks for all the good things this far.


 

Review of IO-Pages

review of "Mirror Site" by Erik Neuteboom

iopages

Recently the Dutch symphonic rockband Cliffhanger announced Dick Heijboer's decision to leave the band and work out his own musical ideas in a solo-project. Musical differences between the members of the band were the reason for his leaving. Ronald van de Weerd, who played in the Pink Floyd cover-band Anderson Council, is now Cliffhanger's new keyboard-player but does not perform on Cliffhanger's newest albumMirror Site. This is the last CD on which Dick Heijboer can be heard (sniff....)

The opening track Rainforest (also released on the cassette Cliffhanger Live) has floating keyboards (including the Electric Wind instrument played by Marc Brassé) and jungle-sounds followed by tight, dry drum rhythms and a growling bass. The leading role is for the guitar with lots of screaming parts, accompanied by percussive keyboards. The repeating keyboards go to a climax together with deep sounds of Moog Taurus Bass-pedals. The next track, The Final Frontier, is a jewel filled with rousing mood-changes: dreamy, with beautiful vocals/piano/guitar with lots of feeling (use of volume-pedal like Hacket) and bombastic Choir-Mellotron. This is true 24-carat sympho like mid-Genesis.

The next song is the title-track Mirror Site consisting of 3 parts. Mirror Site 1 begins with spacey keyboards followed by powerful bass/vocal and bombastic keyboards. This is the basis for a journey through musical inventions: experimental sounds with keyboards/bass/guitar, a smooth solo on Moog-synthesizer, an ocean of Mellotron-chords and sampled church-organ with Hacket-like guitar. Mirror Site 2 opens floating as if mid-Genesis (guitar) meets Pink Floyd (keyboards), followed by an up-tempo piece with sinister vocals and powerful bass-play regularly interrupted by intriguing passages with lots of guitar and beautiful keyboards. Mirror Site 3 has a short intro with sampled church-organ after which an up-tempo rhythm accompanies sharp guitar-play. By the way, Gijs Koopman told me that the strings of his bass are vibrated by a vibrator (at the beginning of Mirror Site 2).

Sunday Afternoon introduces a pleasant harmony of sharp guitar, growling bass and flashy licks on the Moog. For a moment Truce sounds like a potential hit-song but eventually appears to be very pleasant and symphonic, with a deep bass laying a foundation for smooth solos on the keyboards and a beautiful guitar-solo at the end.

The final track of the CD is The Undiscovered Country. The intro contains Mellotron after which, with lots of feeling, the guitar creates a heavy symphonic atmosphere. The end is a magnificent guitar-solo embraced by beautiful Mellotron. With Mirror Site the members of Cliffhanger have produced their most mature and balanced album. As the album "Not To Be Or Not To be" was to freaky for the average prog-fan, Mirror Site will appeal to lots of sympho-lovers.

Erik Neuteboom

 

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Review IO-Pages 
Review of "Progfarm 1997" by Leo Hoekstra

 

iopages

 

After Lyonesse, one of the most renowned progressive bands in the Netherlands ,Cliffhanger, entered the stage. The musicians proved their reputation. Beside old songs, from the CD Cold Steel (Like the classicColossusRemaining Rancour and Kill Your Darlings) and Not To Be Or Not To Be! (The Artist), they also played some new songs from the third (almost completed) album. Songs like TruceBurning and the catchy instrumental Sunday Afternoon give high expectations for this new release.

At the end of the set the vocalist/guitarist Rinie Huigen announced this would be the last performance withDick Heijboer on keyboards. Dick wants to play more progressive music and won't disappear from the progressive scene in The Netherlands.

Completely in style Cliffhanger ended with an instrumental on keyboards, after which the audience showed their appreciation for the leaving musician with a cheering applause.

Leo Hoekstra

 

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Review Background Magazine
review of "Not to be or not to be" by Dirksen de Raker

 

backmag

 

In the past years, Cliffhanger have received very positive reviews in BM. And they deserve it! Cliffhangercreate interesting, fascinating music, performed by four great musicians who have something to offer. Creativity, virtuosity, apt playing in complex Seventies' prog like YesGenesisKing Crimson etc.Cliffhanger will not appeal to everyone.
But those who open up have a lot to enjoy. 
After the demise of SI Music, the band signed a contract with French label Musea. Their future looks a bit brighter now. Their album, Not To Be Or Not To Be is the result of the new contract and it shows a band, eager to play and ready to raise international interest. Like the other Cliffhanger releases, Not To Be Or Not To Be is recorded at The Chateau in Tilburg, The Netherlands, and produced by the band itself. Fortunately, Hans Boonk is a perfect drummer, because a lesser god would have brought the music to shreds. It all sounds so dynamic. The other instruments and vocals as well, sound very good. Cliffhanger can be proud of this product. "Not To Be..." contains only five tracks. It kicks off with the complex Innocent Victim. At the beginning and at the end of this track this great, up-tempo part can be found, following a short piano part and a referee's whistle blow.
In between there is a varied symphony with flashing bass playing. 
After thirteen minutes, the instrumental Sewers follows, divided in the spooky Above and Inside which is very strong. Cliffhanger succeeded in creating visions with their music. The Artist is very emotional, sung perfectly by Rinie Huigen giving all he has got. Many progrock fans will get goosebumps by the loads of Mellotron. At least I did! After this, the twenty-five minute masterpiece of the album, Ragnarök follows. And it does not bore for one second. Bass player Gijs Koopman read a book about the end of this world and the beginning of a new one. This has been translated into music perfectly. After a very chaotic section in the middle, only a Mellotron sound remains, followed by a beautiful part with piano and Mellotron. On top of this, there is some Steve Howe-like guitar play with a lot of menacing notes on violin and guitar.

The CD ends with the quiet Moon, a composition by keyboard player Dick HeijboerNot to be... is a wonderful CD which could bring Cliffhanger closer to their international breakthrough.
I hope it will!
Dirksen de Raker

Artist: Cliffhanger(NL)
Title: Not To Be Or Not To Be

Playing Time: 73.08 minutes
Medium: CD, Musea Productions FGBG 4213.AR

 

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Review Keep the Faith
Review of "Not to be or not to be" by Ken Brown

 

nottobeornottobe

 

This is Cliffhanger's second release, their first on Musea. Their first CD 'Cold Steel' was on S/I label. It amazes me how these two CDs are different, is it the label or the growth of the band. Probably a little of both, Cold Steel was a lot more neo-proggish then the new CD. I am writing this to give a different opinion then Henry Schneider did in V7 #2 of this CD. While Henry did seem to like the CD, I think he was incorrect on several points. Of course he is entitled to his opinion and I mine, I just want to give a different perspective on the CD.

When I first heard Cold Steel I thought neo-prog, then I thought Genesis. But upon listening to new title, I think Cliffhanger's main influence might be YesGijs Koopman's bass is always up front in the mix, reminding me of Chris Squire. I think this bands other influences are Genesis and KC, but I feel they have developed those influences into a unique blend that is Cliffhanger. I don't feel Rinie is trying to sound likePeter Gabriel at all. In fact upon repeated listening I think he has a decent voice, it isn't the greatest in the world , but he seems to understand how best to use his voice. He sings in English and he does so well. Unlike some other neo-prog bands the vocalist does not take centre stage.  The Artist is the only song I would say that was more vocals than instrumental. Innocent Victim points in the Genesis vein with some KC/Anekdoten references thrown in to.  The song is about some one who if wrongly accused of some horrendous act, the song is metaphor, I believe, about how man is treating the planet. But I could be totally off base, figuring out meanings of lyrics is not my strong point. The music is very good, even when there is singing there is stuff going on instrumentally and not just a simple patter. Did I mention that there is ton of mellotron on this CD, actually I would guess it was sampled tron. (Which in itself is ironic, since the 'tron was really the first sampler per say and now they sample it ) Sewers is next and its an instrumental that goes to many places, starting slowly with a piano/tron melody and then bursting into a free from section, finishing with some bass/guitar counter point. Did I mention that there is fuzz bass all over this CD, Koopman wrote most of the music and his bass is right up in front of the mix. The Artist is next and it is the most vocally heavy number on the CD, and I feel that Rinie does a nice job of singing it. Again the playing below the vocals is great, this song is very neo-proggish, very bombastic at times. Towards the end there is a lovely moog/tron (choir setting) solo, followed by a soaring guitar solo. Then comes the epic Ragnarök, 25 minutes and a modern classical . That is what this band is about, they blend the old with the modern, like Ritual. The track starts with the tron/synth part, that changes into t-dreamish type melody, finally getting into the song proper, This is mostly an instrumental piece and shines in that respect, lots of themes get stated and explored. the lyric seems to involve a conflict between the living and the dead (based on an old Norse tale). The song builds to an apocalyptic section, that then rolls into a nice tron piece (flute setting), they go back into the main theme and finishes with a bass solo. The final track Moon is tone poem bring up imagines of the Moon, it's all keys, it fades out after 3:30 and for another 14 minutes there is silence until there is the final bit. Complaints about the CD, a few; at times the bass is too much up in the mix, also the drummer seems to ride his hi-hat too much . Of course the 14 minutes of silence is a big sore point, makes it a pain to play in the changer with a bunch of CDs on random.

Would I recommend this CD, highly. I would recommend both of their CDs. This one gets the nod over the first though. I feel it is more accomplished then the first,
but isn't that what we want to see, growth and maturity in a band. Anyone wishing Yes was doing new music instead of rehashing the hits would do well to pick up this CD.
There are lots of time changes and meter shifts to keep most prog fans happy.
They seem to have a good grasp of how to use light/heavy dynamics also. Cliffhanger is a band to watch out for.

 

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Review Juriaan Hage
Review of "Not to be or not to be" by Jurriaan Hage

 

Summary of history:
Their first CD was a bit naive in my opinion. The following tape containing in addition to track 2, 3 and 4 of this CD the track Gratwanderung, was a great improvement.
Hopefully this extrapolates. 
The album: The least interesting track of the tape Gratwanderung had already been deleted from the numbers for the CD when I reviewed it so that is nothing new. Comparing the songlengths on the tape with the ones on this CD we find that Sewers and Ragnarök are a bit longer and The artist has exactly the same length as the version on tape. Likened as they have been to Van Der Graaf Generator (one of my favourite bands), this band certainly has some going for them, so lets go over the tracks one by one.

Innocent Victim is a new track that opens with quick piano, after which frantic drumming and hurried singing take over. After a while the song goes to mid-tempo and becomes more melodic and more accessible. The third part contains layers of keyboard with a very audible base and a nice guitarmelody at the end, all very much in the seventies vein. Then the pace picks up again and there's that strikingly present bass sound. After some more meanderings we come to an up-beat almost frolic part on keyboards, a little dissonant, but that's what keeps it interesting. Then the song builds up by becoming quicker and quicker until the tension is released a little by a guitarsolo. The nervousness and a-melodicity (aside a few parts to breathe) that pervades this song makes it hard to get into. Sewers is divided into two parts: Above and Inside written by Koopman and Heijboer respectively. The focus of the first part is on the piano and is at once both very quietly ominous and frantically a-melodious. The tension is then build up by introducing drums and guitar and the song continues in this way to evolve

The Artist opens more bombastic in the new version and the vocals are somewhat masked by the keyboards. The tempo in the first vocal part seems to be a little lower, but that might be me just the same. This song is more melodic and also more friendly in a way than the previous two and can function as a breather. However as explained in my previous review of this song the subject of the track is serious enough. A very good track (but I said that before); especially the Anger, Anger part and the following very melodic peaceful part.
 At the end the beginning comes back. 
Ragnarök is by far the longest track on the album and usually this track is the best on a progressive album. The first minute or so is devoted to a quiet layer of keyboard, but then the pace picks up and we encounter our first melody. Again, the song is quite a threatening one with quirky melodies, estranging keyboardriffs and aggressive singing. As we might expect there are many changes and some of them are quite abrupt. At times I get a little lost in the tracks when the playing becomes too capricious, but that doesn't mean that this song is any worse or better than the others. In fact it is better by means of the good melodies that are present, the structure imposed by introducing a more thematic approach with variations and of course the overall energy present in the music. References that can be made in this song are mostly to Genesis with much mellotron but also a Hackettish guitarsound and overall the mood of many of the Cliffhanger songs can be likened to that frantic first side of Hackett's Voyage of the Acolyte, but probably Cliffhanger is even more extreme in this. Moon is very soft and relaxed track without vocals and just layers of keyboards and piano. A good way to end this hectic album. Oh yes, there's an afterbirth present on this album at the end of Moon. After a large number of quiet minutes some music can be heard. Some freaky stuff has been put starting at 14 minutes or so containing parts of for instance Ragnarök.

Conclusion:
To be honest the VDGG comparisons are a bit of, because the mellotron sounds on this album remind me more of Genesis then anything else. It is true however that Huigen has a voice that is rather biting and thus he might be likened to Hammill (who has a way of singing harshly). This band certainly has something going for them, being first one of the most inaccessible bands to hail from neo-prog loving Holland and secondly by being able to construct long yet intriguing songs that might be hard to get into at first but can bring us with some patience many joys, prerequisite being that the mood (in this case claustrophobic and aggressive) is sometime put before melody and structure. Still, the band isn't a-melodic (see earlier) and certainly not unstructured, there's just a little less of it. The Magnum Opus of the album is indeed the best and most captivating song available although I have to admit liking The Artist also very much. The new track Innocent Victim is IMO the least interesting of the tracks having too little breathing space. Still this can still come later, after many more listen.

Everything is well played (prominent bass) and recorded, the singing is rather biting and possibly not to everyone's liking, but fits the music. A good album, but certainly not for everyone, for that it is too inaccessible.

 

 

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Review John Bollenberg
"Enjoy The CLIFFHANGER Hangover" by John Bollenberg

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The Dutch band CLIFFHANGER was formed in March '93 with the sole intention of creating unique material. Although one can hear the obvious influences from the likes of Genesis, Yes, UK and Van der Graaf Generator, the arrangements are done in such a way that you hear a unique Cliffhanger sound. The symphonic sound of the band is mainly drawn on analogue equipment such as synths, Hammond organ, Moog Taurus II bass pedals plus the deep sound of the Rickenbacker bass. The name of the band is to be found in the world of movies with 'cliffhanger' being the name for a thrilling shot from which the end result is not yet known in the plot. The same applies clearly to the music of Cliffhanger with loads of rhythm changes and tons of different styles finding their way into the music. Based upon the rich amount of keyboards from founder member Dick Heijboer, the band has found an ideal counterpart in the form of guitarist/vocalist Rinie Huigen. Ad to this the Squire-like bass from Gijs Koopman and the inventive Bruford-like drumming from Hans Boonk and it becomes clear that you're in for a technical treat here !

Up until now the band have brought out three tapes and two CD's. In 1993 they released the demoCliffhanger containing five songs of which Views finally made it, albeit in a different form, to their first CD. September '94 saw the release of the Live tape. Containing no less than ten tracks Kill Your Darlings,Colossus and 4 Vessels made it onto the debut CD three months later. Released on the now defunct SI labelCold Steel saw the light of day in 1995 to critical acclaim. However, due to the financial problems withSI leading to the inevitable bankruptcy, the band found out they no longer owned the mastertape to their 'Cold Steel' album. What was even more nerve-wracking was (is) the fact that all of the album's copies are held under wraps until a financial settlement is found. Up until then it looks like it will be a very difficult thing indeed to get hold of this technical brilliant album. To soften the rough spots, the band released a very limited run of yet another live tape. Entitled Burning alive it contains four brand-new tracks of whichRagnarök takes up an entire side with it's 22 minutes 10 seconds! One of the songs, Gratwanderung is already no longer on the cards. The Artist and Sewers are proof that Cliffhanger has come to terms with a little more accessible sound, a little more polished in the Genesis kind of way. Meanwhile Cliffhanger have signed a deal with French based proglabel Musea who released their second album Not To Be Or Not To Be(FGBG 4213.AR) at the end of last year. The album contains an even longer version of Ragnarök, the already mentioned Sewers and The Artist plus yet another two new songs Innocent Victim and Moon.

Cliffhanger also invites their fans to join them during rehearsals, a treat not many bands offer their fanbase. Why can't Yes come up with such ideas?

 

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Review Background Magazine
Review of "Burning Alive!" by Erik Neuteboom

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Without any doubt, Cliffhanger are one of the most interesting Dutch progrock bands at the moment. Their debut CD Cold Steel is selling very well, and the criticism in both Dutch an foreign progrock magazines are very positive. But there has always been one big problem for this kind of bands; very small audiences attending concerts. Within a few months, I visited three Cliffhanger gigs. I think the average attendance was around thirty paying visitors, although one of the gigs started with just five spectators! Although Cliffhanger are not extremely happy with this situation, it doesn't affect their stage performance. There is always enthusiasm, concentration, skills and humour.

This review includes the four songs from their latest demo tape, Burning Alive (Recorded live November 24, 1995 at Chateau Studio, Tilburg, The Netherlands). It opens with The Artist. A strong and ten-minute proof of their attempt to create their own sound. The intro is rather dreamy with soft keyboards and vocals. Gradually the climate becomes heavier, with emotional vocals and strong organ play. Half-way through, there are lush keyboards and slow bass runs, followed by a beautiful climax with Mellotron and a moving guitar solo.
The next track is Gratwanderung (German for walking at a mountain ridge). An intro with distorted bass guitar is followed by an up-tempo rhythm with a lot of synthesizer runs and strong bass playing (accompanied by adventurous drumming). Rinie creates an omious atmosphere with theatrical vocals and a silly walk at the edge of the drum stage.
The third song is Sewers. This seven minute piece contains a lot of solos on piano (a bit freaky), guitar (volume pedal), distorted bass guitar, and different, spectacular keyboard sounds.
After Hopeless (from their demo tape Cliffhanger Live) and Bad Dreams (from their CD Cold Steel), the final track Ragnarök is another magnum opus, clocking in at about twenty minutes. It opens with Mellotron and synthesizers. Then a lot of different climates caress our ears; a fluent and playful rhythm, with guitar and keyboard play, evoking Hacket and U.K. Then follows a quiet passage with flute and Mellotron chorus, a beautiful volume-pedal guitar, and an extended distorted bass guitar solo. The grand final has splendid interplay between guitar, bass guitar and keyboards.

Just another gig in the middle of nowhere (De Toonzaal, Oosterhout, The Netherlands).
When will Cliffhanger play for the same crowd as IQPendragon or Jadis?

Hey Holland, are you sitting comfortably numb?!

Erik Neuteboom

Artist: Cliffhanger(NL)
Title: Burning Alive
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Medium: MC, 1995


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Review Juriaan Hage
Review of "Burning Alive!" by Jurriaan Hage

 

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History:
Well they released their first album rather quickly on the now defunct SI, but they haven't sit still. I got, after a discussion about my review of their CD, a live tape from Rinie Huigen and the good news that they have signed with Musea for a next album. Hopefully I'll be able to review it as well, because... This is actually quite good. It is hard to tell that the songs are live because the sound differs quite little from the CD. All tracks are new and except for one track quite good or even better. The one ugly little duckling (well, it's not really bad, but it's just not really going anywhere), is also the shortest track and has already been deleted by the band from a coming CD. So, if you really want to be complete you should get hold of this tape.

Now, let's start up front with The Artist. At first I didn't really think very much of it, but after listened to it a few times and heard what it was about (trying to get to grips with the death of your father), it managed to touch me. The sound is typically Cliffhanger with some dark, brooding parts, some hectic and frantic, even angry parts and some melodic parts as well, making for an interesting soup of differing attitudes. The song is very pretentious (nothing wrong with that) and tries to lift problems to an almost cosmic scale. Some of the lyrics are a bit far fetched and not always very natural, but the meaning is conveyed. It might be interesting to them to experiment a little more with this song especially at the end, because it is a hard copy of the beginning. The duckling track Gratwanderung is a rather dark and dissonant track (well not as dissonant as Chuck USAthat I'm playing while I'm writing this review), but it lacks what the former track had: melody. Sewers is an instrumental in two parts about, well, sewers. I like this track very much, although you can't really remember anything about it (absence of lyrics make it hard). A reference to be made here is toTangerine Dream. Very moody and menacing and once a while quite frenetic.

The side long epic Ragnarök isn't the best track of the album, I reserve that honour for The Artist but still it's a good one. Like everything else they do definitely not neo, with some weirder, inaccessible parts, switching in a moment to the melodic side and back again, a bit like Yes in that way. A very demanding track with a slow build-up and involving everything progressive rock has to offer with a layer of Mellotron, dark guitar work, a friendly piano and a host of other things.

Although this work is certainly promising I do hope they will keep in mind that a CD full with menacing stuff like found here also needs some breathing space to make the whole listenable. For now, thumbs up.


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Review Arlequins
Review of "Burning Alive!" by Alberto Nucci

 

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Again a demo-tape recorded live for this profilic Dutch band that just last year published the debut CD forSI Music. Those who already know the music of Cliffhanger won't have troubles to recognize its peculiar characteristics in the first of the 4 new tunes here included, entitled The Artist: Very symphonic rock, both inspired by GenesisVan Der Graaf and King Crimson. Large atmospheres, big use of synth and Mellotron. All changes in the two following tracks Gratwanderung and Sewers : The first is formed by a frenetic (and unusual) crescendo of 6 minutes, with a sung that finishes the song much over the lines. The second is an instrumental with a slightly psychedelic tone. The side B of the tape is entirely covered by Ragnarök, 22 minutes of Cliffhanger-ish summa. It's difficult to depict it adequately in the details, as it includes a serie of long situations musically independent and tied to each other (sometimes in an artificial way, it seems) with quiet and semi-silent detach; very beautiful, in definitive, but many can find troubles make out in it. In definitive, a demo-tape that's worth an album; very beautiful compositions, excellent recording and still once rather original.

Alberto Nucci, August 12, 1996


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