Dutch proggers Chinawhite have been around since 2000, flying the flag for a genre that has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years. On Challenges, their latest full length album, they continu to leap with both feet into the mystcal stratosphere of prog. Hammond organ and all.
Second track "Challenges" rather bizarrely jolts from a classic rock pre-verse to frontman Don Feltges displaying his most dulcet of dulcet tones as Chinawhite go all easy listening on us.
The problem with having an album packed full of epic tracks is that each needs to maintain the listener’s attention. "Dreams of a Child" is a prime example of where Chinawhite fail down here, with a seemingly abundant opening section that is more akin to the band having a quick pre-song warm up rather than being a real part of the track. Once they do get into their stride, the boys pull some good stuff out of the bag. "My Venus Rising" is a slice of classic rock gold wrapped in prog clothing, while "Stranger" has a slight Journey vibe while maintaining the Dutch rocker’s distinctive own sound.
"Inside" meanwhile, sees the boys step into boogie territory, while the mark of Rush and Deep Purple become increasingly evident as the album goes on. Which is, of course, no bad thing at all.
Richard Chamberlain, 6 Powerpoints.
Progwereld (NL), february 2010
Classic Rock Society (UK), February 2010, SM
This Dutch band have been around for 20 years, but only released a limited number of recordings, this being I believe only their second full length album. It opens with a very moody and atmospheric track, perhaps lulling you into believing this may be more of a symphonic rock album. However the remaining ten tracks, which are all in the 5 to 8 minute mark, show them to be a very accomplished prog rock band, similar in some ways to Saga or Rush, but they have not reached the heights of these as yet. This was one of those albums where I felt they started strongly and tailed off a bit towards the end, or maybe there just was not enough variety to keep me interested. That being said, there is a very nice mix of heavy guitars and keyboards on many of the tracks, and a lovely use of piano from time to time which I do feel gives a bit of extra light and shade to the sound. One criticism is however that lead singer Don Feltges’s vocals are very much back in the mix and at times seemed drowned out by the band. I liked this album, it had some great moments, but not enough to hold my interest for the full length.
GET READY TO ROCK (UK), February 2010, Nikk Gunns, 3/5
Norwegian band Chinawhite have been together since 1989 and are about to release new album “Challenges”. Part melodic rock, part progressive and even combining symphonic elements to some of the tracks, this album is not bad- although slightly lacking in originality. This may stem from the fact that the band’s live set includes a number of covers, or it may just be that Chinawhite want to pay homage to their influences (Rush, Kansas, Journey etc) – either way, the songs are catchy and the band works well together.
The band make good use of Hammond B3 sound, this gives a good ‘70’s rock feel- the best example of this being “Better Than You”. There are also a number of tracks that come in at over 7 and a half minutes long- the best of these being “My Venus Rising”. Other highlights include “Stranger”, “I Am I” and “Dive With A Dolphin”.
If you like any of the bands mentioned above, then “Challenges” should appeal to you. It would be interesting to see the band play live as these songs will no doubt hold their own against the more well known numbers in the band’s repertoire.
Rock City #107 (D), January 2010, Jens Reimnitz, 10 points
Song and sound wise Chinawhite resemble a mixture of progressive bands like Threshold and Rush, with the added charisma of Van Halen during the Sammy Hagar period! The songs are very varied, maybe a little too much at times, because a red thread is hard to find between the songs. Nevertheless the musicians impress with their enormous skills so a fat 10 points is their reward.
Sea of Tranquility (USA), January 2010, Jon Neudorf, 3,5 stars
Chinawhite are a Dutch band that play melodic heavy progressive rock in the vein of Rush, Saga (especially their heavier material), Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, although it is the latter band that they most closely resemble mostly due to the heavy riffs and loads of Hammond. This is old school 70s style heavy rock that should appeal to fans of the above mentioned bands. Challenges is their fourth full length album.
The band’s line-up includes Peter Cox (guitars), Don Feltges (vocals), Sander Stappers (bass), Rolf "Fuchs" Vossen (keyboards) and Hans in `t Zandt (drums). The music presented on Challenges is a pure hard rock with a few moments of progginess along the way. This album is loaded with Hammond, hence the Deep Purple comparison. Some songs are nicely orchestrated and most contain fine guitar riffs that gives this album that extra sizzle.
In "Challenges/Dreams of a Child" the heavy guitar riffs and raging Hammond morph into a lovely piano melody and vocals. This leads to my only complaint. At times the vocals seem to be buried a little low in the mix and do not come across as forceful as they should which is a shame as I do like Feltges’ voice. That being said this is a minor annoyance which will hopefully improve on their next release.
Other highlights include the emotive guitar solo in "My Venus Rising" and the tight riffs and ripping solos in the rocking "The Storm Rages On". Feltges gives one of his best performances in the melodic "I Am I", a mid-tempo number loaded with excellent Hammond.
This is another one of those albums geared towards fans of 70s hard rock and metal of which I am a fan, so needless to say I liked this record. If that includes you, well, you know what you have to do.
Heavy Hardes (D), January 2010, Holgi, 5/6
So, this disc actually came to me by a mistake. Or perhaps not. In the early days when we met at evening events we disco enemies went "to the music" – that meant watching more or less competent cover bands which played a stew of hits and classics. There were the typical Song and Dance representatives of course, but also quite rockier Combos and during the beloved "metal round" the cow always flew. Long ago, and a name from those days came back me to me with this combo: Chinawhite; some guys who were known for their very rocking (always under the corresponding conditions) appearance. So just caught the CD and was disappointed at first – these guys come from the Netherlands, so hardly identical to the Band, which played at the Untermain. But their history proved exciting: they have been around since 1987 (fits) and used to perform songs a la Whitesnake, Toto and Queen, enriched by capable hits of prog giants such as Rush, Saga and Marillion. With this mixture they visited Holland, Belgium and also Germany in the early 1990s – perhaps they were surely. Who knows! However, the band always explored their own songwriting, already in 1995 a 5 track demo was recorded with originals and after several years the debut A Dragon’s Birth was released on which no cover versions were found. 2000 saw the release of second album Breathe Fire and after some lineup change and a break they started working on the now present long player in 2007. Offered is a mixture of all the names in their history: a massive 70s list towards Deep Purple and Rainbow – and song Number 3, "My Venus Rising" one may think for some time to enjoy a good cover version of the piece with the same title from Black Sabbath. Melodic prog rock is what you get here, addressing names such as Rush and Saga, but also with Dream Theater, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep as hard references. The Hammond squeaks properly, the guitar harmonizes well – only the singing voice of Don Feltges is mixed into the background. Maybe because he is not quite of the same level? This is hard to decide, because he’s often simply too quiet. But that is the only weakness – otherwise a nice sign of life from a time when such Combos were firmly booked for Saturday nights.
The weakest link from Chinawhite is singer Don Feltges. He strains his voice and therefore shouts too much. Musically speaking Chinawhite is an interesting band, at least if you like melodic Prog rock; the organ parts recall good old Deep Purple. Chinawhite are at their best in up tempo songs like “Challenges”, “Inside” and “The Storm Rages On”, where especially the guitar solos from Peter Cox add an extra dimension to the songs. Stinkers are the syrupy “How Many Miles” and the last 4 minutes – containing sea sounds – of the last song “Wings Of The Wind”. I think Chinawhite have a lot more to offer, but it isn’t all coming through. Better luck next time. (Martien Koolen)
Background Magazine (NL), January 2010, Cor Smeets
After recording many EP’s and the album Breathe Fire in 2000, Challenges is the second full-length effort of Dutch hard rockers Chinawhite. Nowadays the band consists of Peter Cox (guitar, vocals), Don Feltges (lead vocals), Sander Stappers (bass guitar) Rolf Vossen (keyboards) and Hans in ‘t Zandt (drums) of which three members playing already more than twenty years together. Thus, you may expect some quality here. The eleven songs on Challenges vary in length from almost four to over eight minutes, all together more than one hour of classic hard rock music. You can describe their musical style as melodic heavy rock influenced by seventies and eighties bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Van Halen and Whitesnake. However, I also noticed influences of AOR-music.
I listened several times to the eleven compositions. On the one hand, all songs are quite catchy but on the other hand, they lack originality. The band plays very tight and there’s nothing wrong with the guitar licks and the Hammond-solos, but sadly, I also have to conclude that the production has not been done properly. Don Feltges screams and shouts a lot, but his voice is hardly audible. It sounds as if the guitar and the Hammond try to drown the singer who’s singing in another room. The instrumental parts are well performed, but that’s not enough to call it a good album after all.
Chinawhite is a very enthusiastic band playing nice songs, but next time they need a producer who’s able to lift the group to a higher sound quality level. Challenges certainly is not an album I’ll play a lot. For the moment, I think Chinawhite is a typical live band playing a nice thirty-minute set just before the headliner…
The Dutch Chinawhite does not bring me a fabulous first-run experience. Interesting, that Chinese influences in the artwork, but also pretty kitsch. That said, the middle of the foldable digipack shows a cool psychedelic image of a pyramid in a purple sea. In any case, I was not very enthusiastic at first sight. Then on to the record. It starts with a moderate fusion of kitschy dreamy vocals and keyboards. When the band starts it much better. Once again, hardly special prog rock with an unsightly keyboard part. A moment later when it is cools down with a piano piece I get a much more positive perception, and the singing is not bad. During the song, my opinion alters, and I am a bit more positive about Challenges. Until they decide to pull an orchestral keyboard part out of the closet. The idea is fun, but it sounds just ineffectual. In addition on all the following numbers a couple of such a keyboard parts pop up, During the rest of the 66 minute album there are no real drop outs, but also no real highlights as well. Practice of singing and instrument handling passes the test, but also nothing jumps out. Variety cannot be denied, but in terms of sound, production, and (memorable) melodies there is room for improvement. To the extent that a band which has been around since the end of the 1980s has reason to care about criticism, of course. (Jacob Jan Kamminga)