FREAK NEIL INC. – Characters


Lion Music
Release date: October 21, 2005

User Review
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Freak Neil Inc. is the brainchild of Sun Caged bassist Rob van der Loo. This is Rob’s second solo outing; his first being an EP entitled Six Arms. With Characters, Rob has expanded his solo concepts by involving a plethora of musicians and by adding vocals to the disc. Be assured this material is not made of Sun Caged leftovers. The songs are explorative and bold in their expressionism. If you are familiar with Rob’s playing in Sun Caged, you know what an amazing talent he is. Playing bass on his custom Conklin 9 string bass, or using his two-handed fretting instrument, the Chapman Stick, Rob stands apart from most rock bassists.

Each track on the album represents its own character and how they deal with their own frustrations in life, hence the album title. You may have to broaden your horizons to accept this concept. “Jaba” and “Talking Chair” are possible character names, but titles like “Café Supreme” and “I Understand” don’t connect to personality traits. However, each song is definitely its own entity.

To help give the different tracks their own identity, there is a who’s who of guest musicians helping Rob on this release. Steve Digiorgio and Sean Malone lend their bass talents when Rob is busy handling the stick. Ron Baggerman brings his own stick to the mix, and Chris Godin, James Murphy, and Marcel Coenen offer their skills on guitar. Joost van der Broek appears on keys and Roel van Helden handles all of the drums. On vocals, Irene Jensen, Andre Vuurboom, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and Nick Hameury all contribute to give each “character” their own voice.

As you may have imagined, there is a lot of bass on this record, and Rob certainly doesn’t disappoint; every song features either a catchy bass rhythm, or a bass solo, or both. The way it is presented may catch many by surprise, for instance, in the midst of the thrashing beats of “Jaba,” the whole song takes an unexpected turn, going into a big-band swing rhythm. On “Downtown,” the feel is more of a modern Jazz disc than Prog-Rock. Van der Loo certainly uses his solo outing to explore many genres.

With each song being its own personality, the album never develops any pinpointed cohesiveness, resulting in an album that could have been a collection of various artists. Perhaps there should have been a few less characters and a few more chapters, and then the story would have better taken shape. Ultimately, it is a collection of songs which seem to be vehicles for the artist to test the waters of possibility; in the case of van der Loo, it is exciting to hear his talents displayed. This is not going to be the kind of disc that winds up in your CD player for a couple of weeks; it is more of the occasional listen. In the end, it is an amazing display of talent, which is unique enough to keep even a casual listener entertained.


  • Jeremy Juliano

    Jeremy was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He's been involved with and has been following the Metal scene since the early 1980’s. He started out his Metal journey with heavy doses of Maiden, Accept, and Saxon. And in recent years, he has enjoyed the new age of Metal with bands like Hammerfall, Edguy, and Nightwish, to name a few.

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