MANGROVE – Coming Back To Live

MANGROVE - Coming Back To Live
  • 8.5/10
    MANGROVE - Coming Back To Live - 8.5/10


Mangrovian Music
Release date: November 1, 2006

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0/10 (0 votes)

Having three official studio releases under their belt (Massive Hollowness (2001), Touch Wood (2004), Facing The Sunset (2005)), there cannot be any excuses for not having enough material to sift through in finally putting together Mangrove’s first live album, and in this case, a double no less. In all reality, one can question the band’s thinking in what took them so long for the live recording. After all, this is what Mangrove does best.

The band is very well known for their extremely powerful, dynamic, and intense live performances. To say they are in their element when onstage is an understatement. Listening to Coming Back To Live will give anyone who takes the time to listen to it a good sense of what to expect at a Mangrove concert.

For those unfamiliar with this band from Holland, here is the current line-up (each band member a talented musician in his own right) … the lead vocalist and guitarist is Roland van der Horst, back-up vocalist and drummer is Joost Hagemeijer, bassist is Pieter Drost, and the keyboard player is Chris Jonker.

Mangrove’s last release, Facing The Sunset, was recently awarded with the “ProgAward” for best Prog album in 2005. That is probably the reasoning behind selecting three out of four songs from Facing The Sunset to be included on Coming Back To Live, and taking up the entire second side of this album in the process.

In listening to this band, it is quite evident that they are strongly influenced by the sounds of the 70’s and early 80’s. You can hear early Genesis, Kansas, Marillion, King Crimson, and Yes in their music. Nuances of Rush shine through on occasion. Mr. Jonker does an excellent job incorporating the Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, ARP, Rhodes, etc. sounds into their melodic and symphonic style of play, to the point where they can almost be called Symphonic Rock instead of Progressive Rock. The keyboard is the major underlying component in their musical composition. Holding everything else together is the intricate rhythm section coupled with the singing voice of Mr. Van der Horst (not to mention his excellent style of guitar playing).

“Zone I” opens this double live recording with “Zone III” following. Both songs are from their first release Massive Hollowness (2001). Why these two songs were chosen over many other much stronger songs to set the tone for the remainder of the album is a wonder. Excluding even “Zone II” from the list, there are still five remaining songs to choose from if Mangrove was intent on using something from their first LP in this spot. In listening to the entire two-disc release, these first two songs are probably the weak links of the bunch, if there are any faults to begin with.

The next five songs are from their second release, Touch Wood (2004). “Cold World” opens with trance-like guitar and bass that gets inside your head before the keyboards spring to life. Before long, you believe Geddy Lee is onstage performing one of his many noticeable bass runs. Very nice. Roland has some eerieness in his voice. Pieter even sneaks in some subtle, deep bass harmonics. Mr. Drost is an excellent bass player, which can be determined by the third song.

“Wizard Of Tunes,” while more melodic than the previous tune, offers more in terms of keyboards. Roland’s voice holds strong and sure while offering some beautiful guitar work. Mr. Jonker is busy on this one, incorporating many different sounds to the keyboards. It has him playing a beautiful-sounding organ in the beginning and end that adds a wonderful sound to this track. Joost and Pieter make sure everything is tight and don’t overdo it in their playing to ensure they follow the flow of the song.

“Back Again” has Mr. van der Horst playing some harmonics right at the very beginning, and again when closing the song. This is very rare and different at the same time. It has to be done just right or it sounds like you’re dabbling with your guitar for the first time. To have the spotlight on you makes it more of a challenge. Mr. Jonker has new sounds coming out of the amps once again, some with an eerie tone.

“Fatal Sign” has a melodic opening with heavenly vocals by Mr. van der Horst, and really comes to life after a little over three minutes. The drumming produces some strong cymbal work — basically heard for the first time on this recording. This adds a nice touch to the flow mixed in with the strong bass. Pieter’s playing is very pronounced in this track. It sounds like he is using a solid wooden body construction (like Warwick) to get the deep bass he makes. Even Roland’s voice kicks it up a notch in this tune. This might be the best song up to this point.

“City Of Darkness” opens with a beautiful Jazzy/Bluesy guitar lick, even though short-lived. Nicely paced drumming mixed in with the bass sounds just right. About three minutes in, the song takes off with several guitar and bass attacks that go back and forth and play off each other. Almost reminds of Iron Maiden with two less guitars. The vocals are superbly done to this powerful song. Roland’s beautiful guitar work is heard in many places where it just seems to belong. Very strong and unbelievably gorgeous guitar work that closes the song.

The second side of Coming Back To Live is taken up in it’s entirety by three songs from their award winning album Facing The Sunset (2005). “Facing The Sunset” is the heaviest of the three tracks on this side. This tune is definitely opener material and could have easily replaced “Zone I” without any doubt. It shows that these guys can rock if they really want to, and can kick it up a notch if needed. At around the eight-minute mark, there is some beautiful keyboard work by Jonker that is reminiscent of Elton John. Then at around 9:15, a harmonic rings out of nowhere that catches you off guard. A nice surprise that adds so much to the strength and overall arrangement of the song. Jaco used to add harmonics to his playing, but with him it was much more profound and almost expected.

“I Fear The Day” is more melodic and mellow in opening than the other two songs on this side. The piano works well with Roland’s singing, and there is a touch of Marillion in the air. The lyrics to the song are very deep and strong. Take for example, “I fear the day will soon arrive, exposing weakness in my life, I fear the day, I fear the day.” Very powerful and emotional stuff captured by exceptional lyrics in this song. Strong guitar work played with such feeling and presence. The song turns Symphonic almost.

The last track of this side and the album is “Hidden Dreams,” a 20-minute epic interchangeably quiet and bombastic. Nice guitar intro, interesting keyboard sound going on, nothing out of the ordinary until about two and a half minutes into it, then all of a sudden Mangrove turns into Yes. Yes, it’s Yes appearing live at a theater near you. How funny would that sound? Yes’ signature is definitely noticeable in both instrumental and vocal arrangements of the song. The song is full of instrumental changes all over the place. This is the first song on this double live recording where harmonies and duets are noticeable. Typical guitar work by Roland has the song closing in style.

There are some things that are quite evident now after listening to this brilliant Mangrove live recording. For starters, Roland van der Horst is a much better guitarist (if that is believable) than he lets fans believe he is. There are certain instances during this live recording where you can hear that he wants to let it all out during one of his many solos, but remains reserved for whatever reason. Also, it would be interesting to hear what this band would sound like with another lead guitarist in the place of keyboards. Anyway you look at it, the recording of Coming Back To Live is brilliant and should be in every fan of music’s collection — not just Prog Rockers. It was recorded live at the Gigant in Apeldorn, Netherlands.


  • George Fustos

    George was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He has engineering degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering. He favors Metal, Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Blues, and even some Jazz and Motown (depending on the tune). He used to dabble with the bass quite some time ago. His most influential bassists are Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Geddy Lee, and John Entwistle (RIP Ox). Band-wise he's really into Rush, Tool, early Metallica, Pink Floyd (including Waters and Gilmour as solo artists), The Who, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Halford, Joe Satriani, certain Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins (Blues guitarist), Motörhead, and a German band called Skew Siskin that Lemmy says in an interview as being "the best band out there today."

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