Stream Of Passion - 'Darker Days'

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Stream Of Passion - 'Darker Days'

A good album.

Maybe I'm getting old, but it seems incredible to think that Stream Of Passion first burst onto the scene with 'Embrace The Storm' (and with no little help from all-round genius Arjen Lucassen) back in 2005. An almost complete clear-out in the ranks, leaving just vocalist Marcelo Bovio and bass player Johan van Stratum from the original line-up delayed work on the follow-up album and so 'The Flame Within' didn't appear for another four years. Now here we are in 2011 with album number three, and the only change this time around is a new drummer Martijn Peters joining guitarists Stephan Schultz and Eric Hazebroek, keyboard player Jeffrey Revet and the aforementioned singer and bassist.

From the off, 'Darker Days' is a good album – no mistaking that – and if you're a first-time buyer, it's a great introduction to the world of Stream Of Passion. The songs are well-constructed and skilfully executed, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to marvel at the likes of 'The Scarlet Mark' or 'This Moment'. It's an album that's pretty easy listening without being twee – check out the light and shade of opener 'Lost' for example – and brims over with power and passion, driven by Marcelo's seductive and distinctive voice. The production, courtesy of another Dutch genius and colleague of Lucassen's, Joost van den Broek, is bright, strong and punchy, and the material this time around sounds heavier and more confident, with more orchestration to beef up the backing as evidenced by the likes of 'Collide' and 'Our Cause'. As a rough point of reference, instrumentally Stream Of Passion are edging nearer to sounding like van den Broek's previous band After Forever, whose songs always had that edge to them.

The only real problem with 'Darker Days' is that it doesn't really say anything that 'The Flame Within' didn't – and that album in turn was little different from its predecessor. In fact, across all their albums the songs – good as they are individually – are beginning to sound quite samey; played blind I'm guessing that many people would have difficult guessing which song came from which album. (I know the same accusation could be levelled at Iron Maiden and it doesn't do them any harm, but that's a different story.) In one way it's good that the band have developed an easily identifiable sound; but by the time the title track popped up – which is only half-way through the running order – the heavy opening/melodic verse structure and reliance on the beauty and fragility of Bovio's plaintive vocals, made me realise that I'd heard it all by now, and I was mentally begging the band to break out from the songwriting mindset they favour so much and do something just that little bit different. Unfortunately, my pleas went unanswered...

If you're a fan, then you're going to buy it anyway; if you're new to Stream Of Passion, then 'Darker Days' is not a bad place to check them out. Fan or newbie, though, be aware there's a limited edition digipack featuring a bonus track 'The Hunt'.

John Tucker

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