Artist: A Challenge of Honour
Title: No way Out
Label: Vrihaspati Recordings
Genre: Pop Neofolk / Modern Classical / New Wave
01 No Way Out
02 Slavery Called Democracy
03 Walls of Jericho
04 Fall from Grace
06 Thinking About Ernesto
07 We will Reach that Certain Point
08 A Last Goodbye
09 No way Out (Reprise)
10 City of Decay
People are not perfect. Journalists especially will listen to this album once and put it away, claiming a sound too far departed from martial elements. Less neofolk than even Spiritual Front's poppiest moments. Less martial than the hundreds of netlabel artists trying to be something they're so obviously not. This is no doubt a release that takes a few listens to understand, and for sure you'll have to leave your prejudices behind to get anything out of 'No way Out'. Let's start by saying that we, perhaps, should leave elitism to the black metal crowd and realize that this is more than just musical rules. This is a culture, and we're all comrades in this one together. No way Out has surely far departed A Challenge of Honour, musically, from what you may be used to, but personally, its still a part of this community. Beyond that, this is GOOD music, just maybe not what you're expecting. For your first listen to this record, prepare yourself for some new wave with modern classical textures. The sound on this record has the 80's written all over it and you're likely to find yourself in love with this one if you enjoyed the latest Rise and Fall of a Decade release on Black Rain / Ars Musica Differundere.
The rhythmic drum loops are the beginning part of the uphill battle for No Way Out. Often times they're too repetitive which just add to the synthetic sound that music this open and acoustic really can't afford to have. Adding a bass kick after a few measures isn't going to help that, the rhythm needs fills, a little drum play. That would be the permanent downfall of this release, is the lack of attention to the rhythmic side. On the other end, the melodic edge of the music is excellent. There's no mediocrity here. Its certainly not Rose Rovine e Amanti or the previously mentioned Spiritual Front instrumentally, but its a great start. Compositions weave melodies between instruments, always holding back just enough to retain somewhat of a melancholic edge. On that same page though, much of the guitar work suffers from the same issues that the drum programming does – lack of attention, especially on the production side. The distorted guitar sounds messy at best and the clean, when played as a melodic instrument such as in Nakba, doesn't flow well enough with the music. Its choppy and jagged, noticeably late in moments, almost sounding improvised in one take.
The vocals are one of the high points of No way Out, at least on the male side. I think Ian Curtis' influence on Peter Savelkoul really showed prominently throughout the album. The female vocals are challenged at best, sounding confused in Thinking about Ernesto, which ironically is a track where the clean guitar worked out well.
You have to take this one for what it is. To me, its more or less an experiment for Peter. Peter learned to play some instruments in the past few years, and he's utilizing them here for perhaps the first time. Releases after this one should become progressively better and perhaps even more neoclassically oriented. We'll just have to wait and see. But I would view this not as the middle of the band's discography, but as a new start for ACOH. Perhaps even a demo as that's the quality some of the music on here matches up with. For old fans, give it time. So far both Steinklang Industries and Old Europa Cafe have put out new releases from the band this year after No Way Out, so perhaps he's already fixed a few errors there were found here in the musicianship.