I had already read the name a few times: SUN CAGED. Mostly when a collaboration of guitarist Marcel Coenen with a different project or another band had been the topic of the discussion, but I had not heard anything from them, SUN CAGED, so to say, had been a phantom of which many people already had heard something, but which nobody could actually hear yet. Now the wait is over and the self titled debut is rotating in CD players world wide. OK, maybe not world wide, but at least in mine.
Looking at the musical background of Marcel Coenen (among others LEMUR'S VOICE) it was pretty clear to me that SUN CAGED also only could play Prog, either as Rock or as Metal and somewhere between these two sub genres the sound of the Dutch can be placed indeed. That they are pretty serious about it, is shown that a certain Arjen Anthony Lucassen has been responsible for the mix, so sound wise there is absolutely nothing to be criticized, this is top of the crop.
And the opener "Sedation" sets out right away with furious instrumentation on guitars, drums and keyboards to make you dizzy, but as soon as this very note-intense intro is over, SUN CAGED go into the grey zone between Prog Rock and Metal, which very well walks the fine line between complexity and catchiness, because apart from a few instrumental outbursts the Dutch folks never exaggerate, but despite their demand always remain accessible enough to allow part time Proggies in, too. Very good opener! About the following title track I will most probably harvest incredulous looks, but here at singer André Vuurboom at times almost sounds like a Mike Patton (ex FAITH NO MORE, now FANTOMAS)! No kidding, a few parts really could have come from the American, around his "The Real Thing" era. The song also is a bit more progressive, yet the vocals fit and give it an original touch, which always is nice.
Very strong then the calm and very emotional beginning of "Home", borne by atmospheric keyboards, acoustic guitars and vocals, followed by a still rather slow paced song, which forms a very good mix from progressiveness and atmosphere, but without losing sight of the crunchy guitars, sounds really good! Also the following "Soil", 1.5 points higher on the Prog scale, roughly falls into this category. "Hollow" then excels with grandiose melody arcs, great song, catchy Prog at its best! Here and there, though, the musicians still are allowed to discharge their pent up energies in a bit more complex instrumental passages, as on "Secrets Of Flight", which is a good bit more progressive than the rest of the songs.
It's always a bit of a problem with Progressive Metal, the line between "good and evil" often is very, very thin, but SUN CAGED master this high wire artistry between demand and accessibility without falling off to either side. The "phantom" SUN CAGED now has found its musical body and this body is something that every Prog fan should check out, because these Dutch have presented us with a very strong debut! (Online December 27, 2003)