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Lacrimosa - Echos CD (album) cover

ECHOS

Lacrimosa

 

Progressive Metal

3.69 | 30 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Brief: Echo-cellent.

After that incredibly lame start to my review, let's get into business by giving an overall description of this band's sound: I think it would fit in a genre that would contain a little bit of classic rock, a little bit of metal (and heavy metal at that, almost death), lots of gothic-rock with some electronica bits here and there, and big amounts of classical. In fact, this album could easily fit into a new category called "classical-music/metal". But, in this case, "classical" with a capital C.

What I mean by this is that, unlike other bands that use "classical" interludes in between songs, or write "classical" introductions to their albums (like many power-prog-metal bands tend to do, with little or no taste), Lacrimosa's classical bits are actually written and composed as stand-alone pieces, with classical structures and theme treatments, with a knowledge of orchestration skills far superior and truly professional: this is not a case of keyboards made to sound like an orchestra, this is not a case of a harpsichord thrown in the background to make the music sound "baroque", this is not a case of copying a classical theme or melody and playing it in a toned-down version for a few string instruments or just for the synthesizers, no. Here we have a musician that clearly has studied the art and knows it well (and loves it I guess), a musician that composes classical pieces as integral parts of for his unique approach to music, a musician that clearly has been trained in classical music a lot (which is no wonder: what better place to grow up surrounded by classical music everywhere than Germany?) so it's obvious he's not trying to impress incautious listeners with "classical prologues" that so much abound in the metal catalogue.

But, at the same time, we can be sure the musician (Tilo Wolff) has a deep love for rock, gothic rock and metal, for it shows: the album is full of gothic-sounding parts, eerie, cold landscapes of musical desolation, freezing waters in white, and also heavy- hitting riffs of a pure metallic nature. We could even detect a little punk (?) influence in some of the songs, with guitar patterns and harmonies very reminiscent of that most attitude-driven of genres. The fact that Wolff's voice sounds a little "punk-ish" helps matters. His vocals are mostly flat, in that crude, linear singing style that many punk artists were known for, but in GERMAN, a language that really doesn't sound too romantic and even adds to that feeling of rawness. Don't get me wrong, though: Wolff sings like that in a few songs, but in others he shows, again, that he's been classically- trained, for he's capable of delivering very pure tones and capable of singing melodies starting in the lower side of the scale and ending more than an octave higher without ever going off-key, sounding like a tenor momentarily. One can say that there are moments when Wolff's voice also reminds us of R. Waters' vocals in THE WALL, not for the tone itself but for the theatricality, the attitude, the arrogance, the "prick-ness" of the tone.

Joining the vocal department is Anne Nurmi, whose voice sounds very much like Marcela Bovio from Elfonia and Stream of Passion (the girl that sings with Arjen), but with less quality. Anne is not a fantastic singer like Wolff, but she conveys a lot of emotion and it's a shame that she's not allowed to prove herself more throughout the record (it's mainly Wolff who sings in more than 80% of ECHOS). Anyway, Nurmi is a perfect counterpart for Wolff's overly masculine, inflexible tone. Her voice has that distinctive "lewd" factor that gothic singers have to have in order to sound, well, gothic.

Not everything's smooth and good in Lacrimosa's land so let's take an overview of the songs:

Kyrie (--) I cannot rate this "song". First, it's not a song, but a choral piece in total classical music style (if we agree to call that Greatest of genres "classical"). I won't rate it because, as this is a ROCK website, rating classical music is not part of our duties nor is it what I probably do best. Suffice to say, Wolff calls it Overture, which is the name reserved for pieces that serve as prologues, introductions to larger works as Operas, Suites, Cantatas, etc. usually, an overture contains a brief reference of the themes the following music will be based upon. Here that's not the case. I just would say two things about the overture: 1) while it's obvious the knowledge and skills of Mr. Wolff in classical music, at times this piece sounds a little bit erratic, fluctuating between a lot of different styles but never quite managing to portray an identity of its own: at the beginning it sounds like baroque mixed with classical period, yet the orchestration is more romantic, the use of woodwinds a clear example of that; at times we have Wagnerian-like orchestration, with heavy brasses and walls of sound, and suddenly we are travelling in 18th century's seas again; sometimes it sounds like pure hollywood-like movie-music, full of effects and without letting themes develop; there's even a hint of Grieg and Mahler(!?) here and there. But the main problem is, 2) the KYRIE factor. This is so out of place. I don't know why Wolff had to use the words "Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison" (Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy) in a work that has nothing to do with Christ, God or any ritual. That's a common error among power- metalers: they put "cool sounding latin words" into songs where they have no use being in the first place, and sadly Wolff also falls for this trick. Leave KYRIE for the Mass Liturgy or for the Mass of The Dead (Requiem), it has no place in a gothic-rock work that's mostly about LOVE and PASSION between a man and a woman. The overture is OK, but there's countless better. But a good effort anyway. It sets out the mood of the record in a fine way. We're ready for what follows.

Durch Nacht und Flut (Suche Pt. 1) (9/10), after another classical-styled introduction, drums and keys finally announce the arrival of the ROCK God. Wolff's crude voice makes its appearance in this energetic song, a medium tempo hard-rocker with straight forward riffs and melodies. The chorus is melodic and catchy. Near the end we get another very short classical interlude, and the chorus strikes again. That's what I like about ECHOS: classical-styled music and pure rock/metal are mixed and intertwined perfectly, smoothly. Sacrifice (Hingabe Pt. 1) (8.5/10), a very ambiguous start, very retro, with a xylophone playing over short keyboard chords that sound like if they come from 1960, soft, quiet brushed-played drums, and a mellow voice, everything at a slow tempo. In the chorus the guitars rise up and deliver Floydian solos while the keys give the music a dark-purple atmosphere. Very classy, elegant song. Apart (Bittruf Pt. 1) (8/10) Anne Nurmi's first entrance into ECHOS really strikes as a surprise. This track sounds a lot like Ayreon, with slow, pounding Ed-Warby- like drums included. Nurmi sings over just a bass line and a few ethereal key-and-guitar chords. Her voice is doubled so it adds to the grey color this track conveys... A good song, not great. By the way, this song, weirdly enough, is sung in english. Ein Hauch von Menschlichkeit (Suche Pt. 2) (5:07), another slow-tempo piece that starts in a romantic-creepy fashion, like a song coming from an insane man completely obsessed with his beloved, to the point of madness. The music is soft, but the vocals come from a twisted, not-trustworthy mind. As always, there's a mix of modern instruments (some electronic percussion and effects) with strings and winds. Cold song, the chorus sounds a little, little bit like The Moody Blues, with that far-away echo that almost smells like the 60's. Eine Nacht in Ewigkeit (Hingabe Pt. 2) (9.5/10), this one starts on piano in pure romantic fashion. Wolff delivers quite a vocal performance here, with emotion, pain, LIFE, a breathing soul. Again, his is the voice of a madman, a infatuated madman who cries and worries about his woman. This song is excellent, mixing low and high strings with piano in a manner that shows the skills of the composer. It has some Chopin, some Liszt overtones that make it incredible romantic.

Malina (Bittruf Pt. 2) (8.5/10), a cheesy harpsichord starts this song. I say cheesy because it's so obvious it is not a true clavicembalo but a keyboard-simulated intrument that we're hearing, it sounds ridicule. But soon enough the song gets back on track, the strings appear playing some pretty romantic figures (it sounds odd) when suddenly electronic-percussion blasts off, the "harpsichord" plays a twirling ostinato figure that doesn't sound suited for such an instrument at all...yet it WORKS! the rest of the song goes in pure gothic rock fashion, think of Tiamat but with an unusual intrument in the mix. Another success, if a little weird-sounding at times. Die Schreie sind verstummt (Reqiuem für drei Gamben und Klavier) (12:42), that translates as Requiem for Three Viola Da Gamba and Piano, but the song is anything but. Soon after it begins we have the full metal outfit behind us with all the power of the drums, heavy-sounding metal riffs and imposing keys. The singing, on the other side, is spectacular, if a little dry. This is the heaviest song in the record and also the second where we get to listen to Anne (just shortly). This track goes through a lot of different moods and styles, but it's a good closing number for an album that truly represents a classical-gothic-rock genre. The piece is a little bit slower and longer than needed and for these reasons is the only one that overstays its welcome a bit.

In the end, I can say this is a remarkable album with a few flaws here and there. It's original music, it's well-done music, it's melodic music, but I reckon it may not be for everybody. People that want to venture into this territory must have some experience with classical music, not because ECHOS demands the listener to know about it, but because it has so much of it, if you're not into classical at all, you may perfectly be utterly bored with Lacrimosa's opus.

And at moments, a TRUE OPUS this is.

Recommended for: Fans of classical music AND hard, heavy music,; fans of gothic rock that can take classical music; well, I think my point is clear: if you want to listen to this, have in mind that you have to like classical music. If not...

Not recommended for: ... the "if not" in the last paragraph was meant for you. If you don't like classical, chances are you won't like ECHOS. And even if you LIKE classical: if you don't like also gothic-rock, stay away from this.

Let's make it into a formula: Do you like classical AND gothic? get ECHOS.

You don't? Get... something else.

The T | 4/5 |

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