Review: Koen Herfst – 'Back To Balance'

To all drum nerds out there, the name Koen Herfst is synonymous with variety. Herfst plays with both I Chaos and the long running thrashers Dew Scented. He also performs with knob twiddling DJ Armin van Buuren, and is known to cross into pop, mainstream rock, hip hop, and funk. Such is his power in his native Netherlands, he has created his own Herfstfest, where he intends to teach and encourage drummers everywhere. That brings us neatly to this recording. Following the old adage that a drummer is someone who hangs around with musicians, Herfst has assembled a number of vocalists and musicians to support his versatility. Herfst sounds like the professional on every track. He is accomplished, confident, and expressive. His playing is flawless, but with such a width of capability, there is no focus that tells you this is Koen Herfst. There is no signature style that identifies this drummer in the crowd. The album covers 14 songs, and as many genres. Each song has multiple variances within it, and more timing changes than the British Rail timetable. Rather than go through the album content in turn and in detail, I’ll give you this quick overview:

There are probably two metal tracks on this entire recording, and maybe two harder rock songs. Plus… and those with medical dispositions may want to stop reading now… one hip hop track and at least one rock infused funk track called ‘Ghetto Cornetto’.

If you enjoy drumming and the art of drumming then you will already know Koen Herfst, and it’s all about the technique, style, and the possibility of learning something from this recording. For the casual listener who is aware that this is the drummer’s ‘band’, you ‘ll spend all the time listening to him play that the tunes and lyrics are irrelevant. Those looking for an album in a particular genre are unlikely to be drawn to this. This recording’s success appears to be the listener’s familiarity with the length and breadth of Herfst’s work and enjoyment of his style. If this album came with a second ‘how-to’ disc, to take drummers through the album, it would probably sell very well. Personally, I’d be flogging it at Herfstfest, because this is not a recording pushing a band, but pushing the entity that is the drummer. It’s a resumé and a CV, not selling the songs, but selling the drumming product, and that product has its roots in existing recordings. There are moments of Bissionette, Haake, Danny Carey, Lombardo, Chris Adler… the list goes on. Given the texture and time changes, overlaid with string, slap bass, and electronic loops, there is not enough to nail an existing drummer to each song. Herfst is a versatile drummer that that can do anything he pleases, but I expect that he is a drummer’s drummer rather than a mainstay in a hard touring band.

The quality of this recording is highly polished and well put together, as are the top notch performances by everyone involved. The motivation to seek out this recording is largely based on your knowledge of Koen Herfst, which likely limits the market to Benelux countries and drummers across the globe. In that regard Herfst has hit his target.

Review Craig Grant

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