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Neuschwanstein - Battlement CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.91 | 198 ratings

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5 stars Battlement (1978) by German band Neuschwanstein has drawn many comparisons with Genesis. I personally think such comparisons are a little unfair, although there can be little argument that main singer Frederic Joos sounds like Peter Gabriel. Uncannily so. Whether or not the Genesis comparisons are justified, the music here is of such quality that I'll happily overlook any similarities. Neuschwanstein includes twin keyboard players and guitarists, which ensures the sound is richly endowed with more tones, textures and timbres than I can do justice to in my descriptions. Throw in a whopping great dollop of woodwinds and an imaginative rhythm section and you've got all the ingredients for a classic '70s Prog album. Plus, of course, some great songs. There are seven in total here and all but one are in the 6- to 7-minute category.

The album opens with the rather jaunty Loafer Jack, a very commercial sounding little song with sing-along melody and catchy woodwind flourishes. As with much of the material here the synthesizer features prominently, although we also hear tasteful electric guitar and organ that seem to have Genesis written all over them. Now here's an example of where I'm often guilty of something. In my introduction I question whether so-and-so sounds like someone else, then I immediately go on to compare them to that very artist! However, I don't believe Neuschwanstein are clones of Genesis (or Marillion for that matter, who they pre-date in any case!). Anyway, it's another 'don't do' for my future reviews. Ice With Dwale begins in pastoral manner, again with flute and acoustic guitar. Fizzing electric guitar and rippling piano then pick up the baton to introduce the main part of the song. This is another very accessible tune, with vocalist Joos sounding so much like Gabriel it's kinda freaky. Mellotron and drums erupt at the start of Intruders And The Punishment, soon joined by berserk synthesizers (with Klaus Mayer playing like the man possessed!). Thanks to the presence of the two keyboard players the overall sound is very lush, with Mellotron and synthesizer pouring out of every orifice. Beyond The Bulge has a brooding intro that once again showcases Mayer's wonderful flute playing. This song is heavily laden with Mellotron- strings, but it's the all-too brief Mellotron-choir around midway that has me hitting the repeat button every time I listen. What an incredible sound, both scary and beautiful at the same time.

Bass player Rainer Zimmer does the singing on the title track, which is also the only song on the original disc not to feature Mellotron. Zimmer wrote the lyrics for this one, which is the reason he gets to sing them I guess. For the record, Weiler wrote the words on all other songs. Zimmer's voice is pleasant enough, subdued and certainly lacking the drama of Frederic Joos. However given the subject matter of the song it's entirely appropriate: 'The Duchesse of Kirkcaldy sings a song for the Scottish Queen, Who is dying on the scaffold, dying on the scaffold, Bagpipes singing a dead song over the battlement'. These lyrics refer to a fictional character taken from a song on The White Album. This song includes lashings more synthesizer, but it's the Thomas Neuroth electric piano and Roger Weiler electric guitar duet that dominate the track. The next song, Midsummer Day, is an example of that most uncommon of beasts, the worthwhile bonus track. I'll go as far as to say this is the best track on the album, so 'thank you' to whoever was responsible for the song's inclusion. Anyway, Midsummer Day is colossal. Guitar and synthesizer take the melody in turns and it claws at your guts, but in a beautiful way!! After a few minutes the song speeds up, with flute and bass exchanging phrases, before it fades out. After the briefest silence we hear something resembling a child's musical box, then the song reprises with some gusto! Frederic Joos spits in Paddy's eye with an aggressive vocal and the synth/guitar melody repeats to a finish. Awwwsumm! The final track could have been an anti-climax after this song, but it successfully manages to avoid falling into that trap. Zartlicher Abschied is an instrumental constructed around different tempos and moods and seems to feature every instrument in the Neuschwanstein armoury. You won't hear any complaints from me though. Sometimes more is more!

This is my favourite album to come out of Germany and it's also my favourite from the year 1978. The songs are all very approachable, carefully crafted and wonderfully orchestrated with a lush sound that contains lots of what my wife calls 'twiddly bits'. 5 stars.

seventhsojourn | 5/5 |


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