And now for something you don't see too often: female-fronted Progressive Metal in the vein of DREAM THEATER. "Upstream" is the sophomore effort of the Dutch quintet FEEDFORWARD, and their first with a new singer (known only as "Patrice") since their original singer and co-founder Biejanka left the band in 2009. The album itself is an interesting and varied beast, and although it has a definite overall Prog feel, no two songs really follow in the same vein.
Like many '90s Melodic Progressive Metal albums, "Upstream" is very synth- and piano-heavy. On some tracks, like "Deepest Thoughts," the keys are merely used to complement the vocals, which are arguably the focus of that particular track. On other songs, like the album closer "For Now," the keyboards take centre stage and drive the song. They're never overbearing, and they add a bit of colour to what would have been a drab Prog album in their absence, what with the guitarwork being somewhat less active than what one would customarily expect from a Prog Metal album.
The majority of the tracks are good, solid Melodic Prog, but there are a few that overstay their welcome. Aside from one pretty cool riff, "Relevant" is a little messy. "Thin Ice," one of four longer, seven-minute-plus tracks, is boring nearly all the way through. On the flip side, "As One" is a shining example of a longer epic that does everything right. "As One" slowly builds up from a quiet intro to a series of verses that sound almost playful in their catchiness. The track easily stands out among the album's best.
Patrice is certainly a very talented singer, but if there's one criticism that can be made about her voice, it's that it often sounds emotionless. She never misses a note, and yet her vocals could use an extra injection of spirit. Her airy vocal style does actually work well on some of the more atmospheric tracks, but on more guitar-oriented tracks like "Relevant," it falls a little short.
"Upstream" is a decent Prog album, if a flawed one. Still, those who enjoy Prog Metal with plenty of melody and softer passages will find much to enjoy in FEEDFORWARD's sophomore effort. With female vocalists being somewhat uncommon in Prog Metal, it could broaden the horizons of many a fan of the genre.
(Online June 17, 2012)