Tom De Wit may be one of those unique human beings who is a master of all trades and jack of none, being that he writes, produces and distributes all his own music as well as playing a plethora of instruments on each composition. Did I mention he performs the vocals on all these bombastic prog-metal creations too?
While I may delve more into the melodic side of progressive rock nowadays, especially those albums that have a more folk oriented hue, I do love myself a big old slab of powerful, majestic (and sometimes overblown) prog-metal and my old friend Tom certainly goes to 11 on all of those constituents parts!
Tom’s latest opus ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ is an intensely personal concept album that details a dark trip through the human mind and body that he went through 11 years ago fighting a deadly bowel disease. This album details what it is like to be stuck inside your body and what that does to your psyche.
Next toTom writing the music and lyrics and helming the project, Tom was assisted by a host of guest musicians on this record ranging from big names and newcomers alike to bring his vision to life. Most notably, the inclusion of Aeon Zen/Annihilator’s Rich Gray as bass player, coproducer and mastering engineer cannot be understated. As well as the massive drum performance by Fabio Allesandrini (Annihilator) who raised the album’s intensity to the next level.
The album is a seriously intense musical experience and it goes a long way to conveying the pain, confusion and despair that Tom went through while fighting this horrible and invasive disease, never mind the fact that he almost died twice!
Thunderous drums and dynamic bass are at the core of everything and the ever forceful, potent guitar drives the story along, often at a breakneck pace, conveying the confusion and anxiety that he was going through at the time.
Crashscape, Clockstop – Insight X and Code of Conduct open the album with powerful assiduity before the monumental brilliance of Clockstop – Insight 2 threatens to blow you away with its heavy hitting majesty. One of the definitive highlights of the whole album is Tom’s exceptional vocal performance which is defined further by the ever so slightly less frantic (but no less impressive) Sleepless Angels, a lesson in how to write a sympathetic prog-metal track, if ever I heard one.
The bombast and grandiloquence returns in spades on the super-heavy roller coaster ride of The Pulse, one of the best prog-metal tracks you will hear in a long while. Thunderous guitars and drums imbued with a high level of pomposity combine with Rich’s elegant bass (with steel right at its core) and Tom’s sometimes thoughtful, sometimes violent vocal delivery to deliver possibly the finest track on the album.
Things take a more laid back approach on the classy Clockstop – Insight 3 with it’s intelligent orchestral tones before Rich’s bass gives an almost haunting opening to Death and Her Brother Greg before the track opens up into something much more direct and influential.
No Can Do is that thing that can make or break a prog-metal album, an exceedingly long epic and I won’t keep you in suspense, it is superb and the backbone to the story. Eighteen minutes of musical give and take, it has everything that makes such tracks great. A deliberate introduction gives way to suspense and a slow burning build up to the main course. Soaring vocals, interplay with a harmonised choir, intricate guitar playing, double pedal drums, a wonderfully calming piano-led middle section, this track has the lot and is another highlight of this ever more imposing album.
The album comes to a close with the heartfelt, conclusive musings of Clockstop – Insight 4 and its fine synth/guitar combination and then the beautiful closing track, Epilogue – A String of Repeats, an at times calming but ultimately uplifting end to what has been a deeply personal and intensive trip through one of the darkest times of Tom’s life but one that, ultimately had a positive outcome.
I know seventy-five minutes of bombastic, powerful and dynamic progressive-metal interjected with a few fleeting, thoughtful moments may not be everyone’s cup of tea but when it is done with skill and a hell of a lot of personal attachment, like it is here, you get a privileged insight right into the soul of a musician. Tom de Wit and his impressive cast of fellow musicians have given us a wonderful musical highlight in a world of chaos where the light at the end of the tunnel is only just starting to dawn.
Released December 4th 2020
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