Founded in 1997, in Papendrecht, Holland Netherlands when members of local bands “Scotty!” and “For Cryin’ Out Loud” decided to work together creating the formation of “Nice Beaver“. I’ll admit I have reservations about their name to which they are going for the obvious reference of the term here but it’s the music I focus on. Band names can often deter one from even bothering to listen to the group’s offerings but I heard them before I heard their name so I was already interested in their sound which is quite prominent and to the forefront. That said, I would have still checked them out if I saw the name first wondering what they were all about but going in with a mediocre sense of expectation because appearances still often throw off your impression of things no matter who you are.
‘The Netherlands‘; One conjures up images of windmills, cheese and fields of flowers when one thinks of Holland not Prog bands or any bands really, especially in the North American markets. However we have all been listening to a couple of bands from Holland for decades now, I speak of “Golden Earring” and “Focus” who have graced North American radio waves since the late 60’s. So this band just south of Rotterdam has three albums since 2001 under their belt but took ten years between their second and third album, the one were on to here. The vocals is what really caught my attention first off because the singer has a very pronounced voice that is beyond clear. Every consonant is accentuated as if he was a military drill instructor. The musical sound and temperance is mid range strength, now that’s not to say they aren’t a weak sounding band, the opposite, the mids in the tone is pushed forwards and they’re well rehearsed and carry themselves with firm potency.
Their current and last lineup;
Hans Gerritse (guitar),Corne van Disseldorp (drums), Peter Stel (bass guitar) and Erik Groeneweg (lead vocals and keyboards) but the band has hit a snag and has lost their drummer due to conflicting schedules so now they are on the hunt for a new one. On their webpage you can get in touch with them should you think you have the chops and talent to play their material.
The album opens up with “River So Wide“, a stout Prog tune that is the standout track of the entire record. Simplified effects tweak in the intro before the drums kick in with the bass and slide guitar to create a rather sleezy and dirty track entrance. It grooves so well like some South Delta Blues band in the depths of night playing to the bayou. They hooked up all their Prog ingredients here as the guitar chips away at the track with sharp tenacity as the rest of the band provides the punch behind it again and again. The harmonies subdued to the background but a key piece to making the song have some passive traits to it. Followed up with the next song, “In Close Proximity” that keeps with that punchy and pull back feel that ‘River’ did then they take a full step back and go bluesy with “The Path To My House“, so unless there’s a huge blues scene in Holland the band has definitely sunk themselves in to Delta Blues of the Southern U.S. and got in touch with old Floyd Council and Sam Lightning and Robert Johnson records which is a staple in a lot of Art Rock, Hard Rock and Prog bands of the 70’s. They’ve done their homework for sure. It’s hard to say who this band is influenced by as they have a very stout and steadfast sound all their own which is always a complete pleasure to discover in Prog bands and their songs generate so much vibrancy and charisma that it really doesn’t matter and you have a bit of a challenge trying to relate to who they remind you of as well.
The middle of the album picks it up a fair bit with, “Timeline” incorporating one of heavy metal’s best drumming traits, double kick bass and guitar solos that doubletrack, soar and float throughout. Bass keeping the trucks rollin’ and vocals that mandate the message as the uncontested halcyon elocutionist. “Rainbow’s End” slows it down and takes it deeper in to the vaults of the Prog world domain as they give a powerful ballad with a keyboard riff that sails between the verses and the classic fuzztone of the guitar that makes its 70’s predecessors smile with joy. The one thing about Nice Beaver’s bass lines in every album is that it does exactly what a a bassist should do and hold guard right in the pocket with the drummer. Peter’s bass playing was an absolute necessity to keep tight and in sync with the drummer because too much in the forefront can often lead to overkill in the mix and live. He keeps his standpoint on guard perfectly throughout, a solid bassist indeed. The band follows the Prog recipe to the envelope and never comes back always pushing that little extra in every song making it their best album to date.
“Sound Behind Sound” sees the band get back in to the faster paced signs of Prog and has the triplets to prove it here, very tight and consistent track that just plows through the winds from start to finish. It begins with that sense of unknown wondering in to the forest feel to it for over a minute which is really nothing when it comes to Prog music and finally kicks in at the two minute mark so what’s a minute right? The tempo and timbre changes makes this like others a classic modus operendi. The keyboards actually have a bit of Doors feel to them as the band shreds through in a jazz-like state swinging up and down all through the song. Erik’s vocals on every song are always very unmistakable as he uses pretty much no effects on them making it a completely distinguishable and enjoyable tone. The last track on the album, “Waiting For The Bell To Toll” opens up with a swing style to it that immediately carries you off as the vocals don’t take long to enter and tell you a story. Coming in at 11:20 minutes they took the classic Prog angle of saving the longest song for the last slot on the album, often a now middle album thing to do or on rare occasions being the first song these days but they went traditional this time and for that we commend them. As with any long song one must keep the listener’s attention and NB does this with great ease as they sail and soar through it like a ship riding the clouds and cutting the air with samurai precision.
I enjoy this band quite a lot and find that they are a little Spinal Tap in the sense that they’ve gone through three drummers now, just that none of them have spontaneously combusted which is a good thing right!? Definitely power Prog as they have described as with subtle elements of blues and jazz in their sound giving them a well roundness to keep you surprised throughout the album. With expectations surmounting to see that they arise with their next album topping this one as they have done so far they are well worth checking out and recommended to add to your Prog Collective.