Review Summary: An elite progressive metal release held together by superb songwriting and poignant performances.
Announced back in 2007, Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie has been hard at work, in between his various other commitments, creating his first solo recording. Four years later, For All We Know
has finally been released. Fans expecting something similar to the glossy, dramatically symphonic sounds of his full-time band will be in for a surprise. For All We Know
is a sonically diverse album rich in captivating atmospherics rather than theatrics. It's blend of top-notch progressive rock and metal marks a new addition into the upper echelons of the genre.
While this is Jolie's project, each performer contributes significantly to the overall success of the album. Employing a group of accomplished musicians to carry out his vision has assured that there is no weak link in the foundation. Special attention must be given to the strong rhythm section consisting of former Pain of Salvation member Kristoffer Gildenlow and the versatile skills of their current drummer, Leo Margarit. The impeccable fretless bass performance of Gildenlow perfectly accentuates the more spacious passages in particular. One also can't help but take notice of the exceptional talents of relatively unknown (outside of the Dutch hip-hop scene and an appearance on Ayreon's 01011001
) lead vocalist, Wudstik. Displaying his impressive range right from the beginning on opening track "Blind Me", the singer steals the spotlight on numerous occasions. Perhaps best exemplified on the piano-led "Out of Reach", the soft tone of his voice conveys just enough vulnerability to allow lines such as "I don't know what you have given to me, but I have never felt so out of reach / this is not who I wanted to be" to have their desired effect.
Regarding the album's composition, the ratio of piano and clean guitars to heavy distortion-laden riffs seems somewhat unbalanced for a progressive metal record. In fact, many songs play out as straightforward rock songs for the majority of their duration. Still, there is enough variation and dynamics throughout to keep listeners invested in the experience. This is a testament to Jolie's thorough approach to songwriting. The band stays aways from flashy solos and acts of excess, interjecting twists into the multi-layered arrangements only when deemed necessary to complete the idea.
A guest appearance by none other than Pain of Salvation mastermind Daniel Gildenlow carries the album's centerpiece, "Keep Breathing". Joined by a growing chorus of over a half dozen voices including Jolie's Within Temptation bandmate, Sharon den Adel, the song builds and builds until it reaches an emotional climax. This may all seem a bit much for a track clocking in at under two minutes, but this brief moment of bombast stands out and makes a profound impact in what is otherwise largely a restrained, melancholy affair. From this point, For All We Know
begins to confirm its identity as a progressive metal recording with the ambitous nine minute "Down On My Knees" and the instrumental "Save Us"; both showcasing some of Jolie's most inspired guitarwork along with the latter's utterly sublime wordless vocal melodies courtesy of Wudstik.
Ruud Jolie has crafted a superb body of work with his debut solo project. All who enjoy this wonderful introduction to For All We Know can only hope that he continues to explore this side of his musical capabilities. As affecting of a final impression left by "Nothing More" and its somber harmony between mandolin and violin, it would be a shame for that song's title to foreshadow the band's future.