We’re in the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland this month, to meet a band 25 years into their prog rock adventure. Elements have been through many names and many line-ups in that time, and they’ve known both triumph and tragedy, but their current album, Monument, sees the four-piece finally evolve into the band they always wanted to be. “The album’s name is very important to us,” says drummer Sander de Jong. “It’s a monument to our past and a signpost in the road as we go forward. It’s a real turning point for us.”
A powerful, song-focused record two years in the making, Monument draws on IQ, early Marillion and more of neo-prog’s finest, up to Spock’s Beard. There’s an 80s feel to the yearning Intimacy, and a philosophical heft to The Ongoing Circle Of Life, right up to its last sound effect – a heart monitor flat-lining. “I was listening to it while I was jogging the other day,” says de Jong, “and suddenly I realised what a deep record it is. Imprisoned Angel is about Alzheimer’s Disease – these lyrics are about real life.”
The album is also a monument of sorts to de Jong’s predecessor – former drummer Govert Jan Repelaer van Driel succumbed to cancer, aged just 35. He wrote many of the weighty words here. “When he died the band was very shaken,” says de Jong, “but they kept practising and developing. Govert’s progressive spirit was always very much there.”
The band are fronted by singer/bassist Joost Donkersloot (de Jong reckons they have to hold back from being “too Roger Waters-y!” at times). Guitarist René Alblas is an acolyte of Steve Hackett’s solo work, while keyboardist Kees van Oosten has just been replaced by new recruit Vincent Kuijvenhoven. Back in the day they were called Royalty Of Mayhem (lifted from Fish’s View From The Hill) and purveyed longer pieces in the Floyd/Camel vein at clubs in the Hague and Rotterdam. Now, Elements have a new name, sound, album and outlook, and want to play Monument far and wide.
“There are a few clubs in Holland,” says the drummer, “but it’s a small country, just an hour and a half’s drive from left to right! We’re looking at putting on our own festival here and to play abroad in Germany and beyond.”
Monument is available from Elements’ website. To order, visit www.elementsmusic.nl.