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Flaming Bess - Der Gefallene Stern CD (album) cover


Flaming Bess


Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 54 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Flaming Bess' music has always struck me as charmingly at odds with its lyrical contents. Simply put, the somewhat self-aware nature and epic cheesiness of their B-movie Sci-Fi/Fantasy plots about the eponymous star-goddess and queen of light tends to clash with their music. The latter, by 2013, has gone through a vast range of mutations from mid-tempo Camel-esque romanticism with symphonic elements (Tanz der Götter, Verlorene Welt), to world music (Fata Morgana), to smooth jazz/ambient electronic trip-rock à la Massive Attack (Finstere Sonne). Flaming Bess have consistently strived to incorporate modern elements and thus been, quite literally, progressive. None of this screams "tales of sorcery and high adventure," and it may equally be questioned whether the band's insistence on having their stories told separately from their songs, rather than incorporating them musically, is a wise artistic choice. After all, the narrative bits by their very nature constitute a break within the musical flow that arguably is the strongest feature of the band's compositions. On the other hand, it is perhaps precisely this idiosyncratic mixture that has provided the band with a unique identity of its own.

That being said, the mesh of narrative and music has never been more accomplished than on the bands' newest effort, "Der Gefallene Stern" (The Fallen Star). The album continues the story of 2008s "Wächter des Lichts" (Guardians of the Light), and is apparently the second part in a trilogy entitled "Music of the Spheres." As always, the story is a journey narrative which in this case takes the shape of a descensus ad inferos, much in the vain of Dante's Divine Comedy. Its narrator and protagonist (spoken by Markus Wierschem, who also penned the story) is a nameless soul cast into a doomed world of darkness. Led by a shining star (Mirjam Wiesemann), he and and other lost souls go on a pilgrimage to evade their annihilation and uncover their identities. Thus unfolds a mysterious quest, that, at its best moments, is utterly beautiful, endowed with a lyricism that will unfortunately be lost to those not familiar with the German language.

The music on the other hand combines all of the various musical influences and experience the band has acquired throughout the four decades of its existence. And it is here that the true magic of this record is to be found. This is all too fitting, given that, as far as I can tell, the story is at some level about the nature of music itself. The mixture of ambient rock and modern electronica within the band's tried and true symphonic approach works to perfection here. It pleasantly reminds me of "Tanz der Götter" and "Verlorene Welt," without denying that the band has moved on.

The reunion with former member Hans Schweiss (drums) is truly beneficial, as the electronic drums of the past have never quite worked for me, as is the addition of Mike Hartmann, who joins FB veteran Jenny K. on vocals. Of all the various singers that have appeared on FB's albums in the past, he is the best by far, blending sensitivity and melody with rawness and power. This is best witnessed in "Die Kyberniten" - probably the most rock-driven song the band has ever put out and a welcome change of pace from the predominant mid-tempo. But the album's highlight is the twelve minute epic "Haravienna" which seamlessly blends all the band's talents and features some stunning experiments, unexpected twists and turns, and great guest performances. This may be the most complex piece of music the band has written. Certainly, it is one of their best.

Peter Figge's keyboards have never sounded better, Achim Wierschem's guitars are at their most melodious, and Hans Wende's laid-back bass lines provide a fitting foundation for the songs. The compositional material is consistently good, avoiding the painful experiments of the past (like the children's rap in Aklabeth on "Wächter des Lichts"). The music flows seamlessly, evoking its story's mystery and (mild) suspense without any particular urgency, and thus reflects the nature of the journey that its characters take. Variations of some central, symphonic leitmotifs punctuate the album to give the whole a very complete, well-rounded quality.

All in all, this is a very fine, atmospheric concept album, perhaps the band's best so far. Musically at least, if not commercially, the band's star is hardly falling, but ascends and shines on ever brightly. I can only hope we won't have to wait another five years for the conclusion of the trilogy. "Der Gefallene Stern" comes highly recommended: 8.5 out of 10.

PleasantShadeofGray | 5/5 |


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