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Review of The Infinite Road by progwereld.org  

Toyz – The Infinite Road

Whenever we’re talking about the average Dutch male’s ‘toys’, we are of course referring to cans on wheels, our sacred cow: the automobile (sorry ladies). If I were to make a guess as to what the number two on this list would be, I’d say the (electric) guitar (sorry again, ladies). This noble many-stringed instrument almost has to be the favourite toy of Peter van Heijningen, the guitarist of Toyz. But first let me take you back in time.

Toys was formed in 1996 by Peter van Heijningen and keyboard player Mark Smit (who is currently the lead singer and a keyboard player for Knight Area). Shortly thereafter they were joined by drummer Robert van Kooij and bass player Ron van den Bas. Together, they started playing melodic (progressive) metal. After the release of their EP “Remember” in 1998, the group disbanded, but made a shortlived and rather less successful new start with a female singer a few years later. I first heard about the band in an interview with Knight Area in 2008. I found out that part of the (former) lineup of Toyz had contributed to “The Sun Also Rises”. In 2010, the ‘toys’ were dusted off once again, and with Jeroen van Boldrik on bass and Arjan van Gog on keyboards the band started working on a new album that was conjured from the toy chest in 2012. We are talking about “The Infinite Road”, which is in fact the first album by Toyz, sixteen years after the band was founded.

On a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 2012 I got to taste the pleasure of seeing the group perform in ’t Blok in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel. It’s a good thing ’t Blok has a well-constructed roof, or the band would positively have raised it. I was particularly impressed by Van Heijningen’s guitar play, though I don’t want to downplay the contribution of the other band members. Consequently, my grin was very wide indeed when a few months later, after some email exchanges, a copy of “The Infinite Road” found its way to my letter box.

Not much is left of the progressive metal Toyz once used to make. Instead, the band now play melodic guitar rock with (neo-)prog influences. The influence of Joe Satriani is still clearly present in Van Heijningen’s playing, which still plays a central role on this disc. When the band reduce the throttle, the music heads towards Odyssice and Trion. In these tracks in particular it becomes clear how important Arjan van Gog’s contribution on keyboards actually is. In the animated opening track Departure, his contribution can even be considered very big indeed because of the orchestral keyboards and a number of fast solos. As mentioned before, the influence of string artist Satriani is a regular feature. The up-tempo tracks Face The Mirror and Rock On Wood are the only tracks on this album which could carry the label ‘(prog)metal’ à la Satriani. This is an album on which Boldrik and Van Kooij seem to be playing a minor part. In my opinion, both bass and drums should have been more lush and prominent in terms of production.

In places, the music takes a cinematographic turn. By this, I mean that the music might serve as background for a film or documentary. The varied and majestic-sounding Far Away (with a spoken intro by Ian Parry) is a good example of this. On Tears Of Joy and Dream On, which are both reminiscent of Odyssice, the band go down not one but two gears. In Thermal Winds, Van Heijningen and Van Gog once again pull out all the stops. An atmospheric opening, changes of tempo, and guitar solos together form a seven-minute synopsis of this album, and can pass as a blueprint of what Toyz have to offer.

The pitfall of instrumental music is that it runs the risk of becoming boring, and monotony is always waiting just around the corner. I don’t think this is the case with “The Infinite Road”. The men of Toyz have managed to deliver an album that remains captivating for its full duration and which you will happily play several times in a row. As such, I will give them the benefit of the doubt with regard to their Brazilian carnivalesque rendition of Intersecção, the bonus track which concludes the album.

As far back as 2010 Casper Middelkamp already stated prophetically that the future looked rosy for Toyz. Not only children derive pleasure from toys, as with “The Infinite Road” the average music lover and non-car owner is also waited on hand an foot. Sorry ladies...

Hans Ravensbergen

Official translation, provided by progwereld.org