Freak Neil Inc CD's and DVD's


Characters (CD)



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Freak Neil Inc is the new project from Sun Caged bassist Rob van der Loo. ‘Characters’ is modern progressive metal with a highly original unique sound performed by a stunning assembly of many of the finest musicians on the modern progressive metal scene



FREAK NEIL INC - "Characters", 2005 (Lion Music)

THIS is the sound of progression.

I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when an album like this comes along. Bassist and chapman sticker Rob van der Loo (SUN CAGED) has put together what just might be the progressive metalhead’s wet dream. If the names of some of his guest musicians such as Steve DiGiorgio (DEATH, SADUS, TESTAMENT, oh, you know him), Sean Malone (CYNIC, GORDIAN KNOT, AGHORA) and James Murphy (DEATH, OBITUARY, CANCER, TESTAMENT, you know him too) mean anything to you, then you have some idea of what to expect, right? Actually, you’d be wrong, because you’re going to wind up getting a hell of a lot more for your dollar here.

What really set this album apart from other so-called progressive projects are two major aspects: one, the foundation of this one is the bass. I’ve always felt that the bass guitar is a highly underrated instrument in rock music, and having it in the forefront while maintaining a coherent musical vibe that even the casual fan can relate to is highly commendable. Second, the execution is superb. Like a lot of these projects, Mr. van der Loo wants to go for the “weird” thing with digital effects and unorthodox song structure, but here “weird” means “something that the listener has never heard before that keeps them interested from beginning to end” as opposed to “overpowering zaniness that alienates the listener”.

Oh, and do you want cohesive music drawing influence from all sorts of genres? Well, you’ve got it! Apart from the standard progressive metal wanking, you’ve got some grinding distorted bass with odd time signatures, similar to MESHUGGAH only more listenable. And yes, there’s plenty of jazz influence here—you know, in the way that CYNIC succeeded in doing it way back when. Hell, you’ll also get a bit of techno percussion (“I Understand”) which manages to sound appropriate. Even the vocals fit well here: you get traditional male metal vocals, growling, and beautiful female vocals…sometimes all three in the same song! Not even the ballad (“Beyond the Garden”) is boring, as the purdy vocals of Irene Jansen and the resonating taps of the chapman stick sound relaxing yet still intriguing. Everything is played masterfully, not just from Mr. van der Loo and his big name guest stars, but from the foundation of all the SUN CAGED and STAR ONE/AYREON members who play everything else.

Now this album actually came out way back in October of ’05 (yeah, I know, we’re only human at PDM), and had I heard this earlier it’s highly possible that this little gem would have wound up in my Top 10 list of the year. It’s that good. So I’m gonna do you a favor and shut the hell up now so you can do yourself a favor and start listening now.

- Grim Analyst


FREAK NEIL INC. - Characters
Lion Music

Release Date: OUT NOW



Lion Music Freak Neil Inc. is the brainchild of Sun Caged bassist Rob van der Loo. This is Rob’s second solo outing; his first being an EP entitled Six Arms. With Characters, Rob has expanded his solo concepts by involving a plethora of musicians and by adding vocals to the disc. Be assured this material is not made of Sun Caged leftovers. The songs are explorative and bold in their expressionism. If you are familiar with Rob’s playing in Sun Caged, you know what an amazing talent he is. Playing bass on his custom Conklin 9 string bass, or using his two-handed fretting instrument, the Chapman Stick, Rob stands apart from most rock bassists.

Each track on the album represents its own character and how they deal with their own frustrations in life, hence the album title. You may have to broaden your horizons to accept this concept. “Jaba” and “Talking Chair” are possible character names, but titles like “Café Supreme” and “I Understand” don’t connect to personality traits. However, each song is definitely its own entity.

To help give the different tracks their own identity, there is a who’s who of guest musicians helping Rob on this release. Steve Digiorgio and Sean Malone lend their bass talents when Rob is busy handling the stick. Ron Baggerman brings his own stick to the mix, and Chris Godin, James Murphy, and Marcel Coenen offer their skills on guitar. Joost van der Broek appears on keys and Roel van Helden handles all of the drums. On vocals, Irene Jensen, Andre Vuurboom, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and Nick Hameury all contribute to give each “character” their own voice.

As you may have imagined, there is a lot of bass on this record, and Rob certainly doesn’t disappoint; every song features either a catchy bass rhythm, or a bass solo, or both. The way it is presented may catch many by surprise, for instance, in the midst of the thrashing beats of “Jaba,” the whole song takes an unexpected turn, going into a big-band swing rhythm. On “Downtown,” the feel is more of a modern Jazz disc than Prog-Rock. Van der Loo certainly uses his solo outing to explore many genres.

With each song being its own personality, the album never develops any pinpointed cohesiveness, resulting in an album that could have been a collection of various artists. Perhaps there should have been a few less characters and a few more chapters, and then the story would have better taken shape. Ultimately, it is a collection of songs which seem to be vehicles for the artist to test the waters of possibility; in the case of van der Loo, it is exciting to hear his talents displayed. This is not going to be the kind of disc that winds up in your CD player for a couple of weeks; it is more of the occasional listen. In the end, it is an amazing display of talent, which is unique enough to keep even a casual listener entertained.



Freak Neil Inc – Charactors

2005 Lion Music

Uh Oh, here comes another project that is hard to categorize, but it’s a good thing, seeing how these guys are doing their own thing and not trying to be a carbon copy of sorts. Lets begin by saying that Freak Neal Inc is a project of Sun Caged bassist Rob Van Der Loo, where friends such as Arjen Anthony Lucassen, James Murphy, Sean Malone, and Irene Jansen among many others are brought along for this ride, so there is no telling what might go on in this recording. Regardless, it is not this massive sub symphonic concept album, it is a record that Van Der Loo has made with the intention of creating his own symphony, with whatever means of melodic endeavors that might come into mind. Sure they meld math metal, avant-garde, and experimental fusion that incorporate everything from hardcore to industrial to Goth, with no need for any individual labeling. Freak Neil Inc are sort of this hyperactive moniker of alchemic insanity where they instigate hard driving metal guitars with electronic blips and samples here and there to literarily push the boundaries of art metal to limits.

Minded with psuedo-techno textures (‘I Understand’), dark grooves (‘I’m the Hero’), aggression (‘Jaba’), jam sessions (‘Café Supreme’ and ‘Downtown’), and even ethereal balladry (‘Beyond the Garden’), the record goes all over the place. It is almost like the title of the record denotes what each song is, a ‘Character’ itself, although the album should not be conceived as a record in that faction. Highly recommended for fans of Devin Townsend, Steve Vai’s ‘out there’ material, Mars Volta, Event, and Spiral Architect, Rob Van Der Loo has created a new breed of experimental chaos to the table that ponders upon the ultimate aural aggravation; much welcome.

Added: November 21st 2005
Reviewer: Tommy Hash
Related Link:
Rob Van Der Loo Link


Rob Van Der Loo's Freak Neil Inc.

© 2005 Lion Music
Reviewed by Dave Palmer
Some of you may say Rob Van Der who? For those who don't know who Rob is, he is better known as the bass player for Sun Caged which also features Marcel Coenen. This is Rob's solo stuff if you like or maybe his project away from Sun Caged. This is a very interesting release. There's absolutely nothing straight forward about this album. I found it very experimental, and actually... quite enjoyable too. There is obviously alot of great bass on this album. As a matter of fact, you may say that it really drives it. There is much more to this album though. In alot of ways I hear an almost Zappa like quality to it. It's fun and a bit strange in it's approach. I was really surprised at some of the stuff I heard such as the bass on the track 'I'm the Hero'. I have never heard anyone else sound like Les Claypool and Primus. This track nails it almost perfectly. It's all pretty creative from there as well. You have some fusion based stuff such as 'Downtown' or 'Cafe Supreme'. There is some good rock based stuff including 'Bulldozer Blues' or the opening track 'Talking Chair' which is actually preceded by the intro 'Characters'. I think the finale of the album is quite good as well. 'Absence' may be the moodiest track on the album and the best put together of all of the songs although I think the album is a good listen all of the way through. This track is probably the most progressive in nature in my opinion. I think Rob has put together a good effort here. I believe the critics will like this as well as the fans. There are some amazing guest musicians on this release to help out including some members from Testament.

Pretty solid stuff here. Rob Van Der Loo really showcases his talents not only as a bass player but as a songwriter. The tunes are not straight forward in nature, but for those who enjoy Zappa like stuff (maybe a bit more Dweezil than Frank), you are probably gonna like this alot. I found it to be not only interesting, but entertaining as well. Very good effort!

Freak Neil Inc. - Characters (Lion Music) By: Joe Florez
Sun Caged bassist Rob van der Loo has created one bizarre concept album that has to be heard. I have never encountered progressive metal taken to this level. The story revolves around several people who have to deal with their own frustrations in life. As with a project of this magnitude, there are guest musicians, including Irene Jansen, Arjen Lucassen, Steve Di’Girogio, Sean Malone, James Murphy and more. I believe more than anything that this CD will cause controversy to a degree. The hardcore math metal fans may dismiss this as being to “out there,” while the more open minded like myself will welcome it. First off, just listening to the bass work, Rob is very talented and complicated. He pics those thick 
strings with ease. Now, I am not sure who sings during the opener for the title track, but he has a Cybil complex going from singing cleanly to barking all evil at the flip of a switch. The music is also upped a notch, mixing smooth progressive jazz, with funk, atmospheric vibes with a spacey feel and whacked out aggressiveness. Think of something composed by Devin Townsend while smoking a crack pipe in the darkest of black alleys. Damn, things just get wackier and wackier. “I’m The Hero” adds a lot of low tuned bass pluckings that go out of control. It’s a head scratcher for sure and the song comes off like carnival music going to hell in a hand basket. What’s even more odd is if you listen to this with your headphones on you will hear some very strange noises being panned from left to right of your ear pieces. It’s an experience to say the least. After half a disc of mass hysteria, things mellow out dramatically, which is quite well needed, and Irene leads the way with her soft and angelic voice that balances everything out. She is accompanied by one guitar and nothing else. Ahhhh, peace at last. I am not quite sure what Rob was on when he made this, but I think the music community will be talking about it for quite a while, be it good or bad. Everyone that participated should be commended for their efforts, as nothing less than 150 percent was given, and it shows. One thing is for sure, after digesting this you will need a breather because it’s so exhausting. I really appreciate the creativity that went into the album and dig it for it’s unique take on prog, jazz, nu-metal, metal, rock and melodic rock. Dive in if you have the guts.

Freak Neil Inc. : Characters

Phew, this is yet another project from those ever-enterprising and gifted Dutch Sun Caged dudes Rob Van der Loo and Roel Van Helden. Gathering together an impressive and lengthy list of guest musicians (see details below) the boys slash through a stunning cornucopia of “characters” as each song is in fact a character sketch. Consummate musicianship and unique modern prog metal sound graces these grooves which range from funky jazz riffing thru full blown metal extravaganzas.

Van der Loo was in fact looking to record a concept piece with the bass guitar as the focal instrument. Once the guest performances were developed, the project blossomed into the full blown concept album it is. This one is a must for fans of quirky avant garde prog metal.

Rob van der Loo: Basses, Chapman Stick
Roel van Helden: Drums
Vocals:Irene Jansen (Star One/Ayreon) | André Vuurboom (Sphere of Souls, ex-Sun Caged) | Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Star One/Ayreon) | Nick Hameury (Engine of Pain)
Guest Musicians:Bass: Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament, Iced Earth, Artension), Sean Malone (Cynic, Gordian Knot)Chapman Stick: Ron Baggerman (Galaxy Gypsy)Guitar: Chris Godin (Gnö) | James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Testament) | Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged, Lemur Voice)Keys: Joost van den Broek (After Forever, Star One/Ayreon, ex-Sun Caged)

Track Listing

  1. Characters
  2. Talking Chair
  3. I’m The Hero
  4. I Understand
  5. Downtown
  6. Beyond The Garden
  7. Bulldozer Blues
  8. Café Supreme
  9. Jaba
  10. Absence

Added: October 6th 2005
Reviewer: Mike Blackburn
Related Link: Lion Music