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Grobschnitt - Ballermann CD (album) cover

BALLERMANN

Grobschnitt

 

Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 99 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars A taste of things to come...

Grobschnitt have been of interest to me since hearing segments of the astonishing "Solar Music Live" opus. "Ballerman" certainly was a sought after album due to the large scale project of a double studio album and one album dedicated to the entire Solar Music epic, so I approached this with great enthusiasm. So I put on the record.

"Here I am again with my music, isn't it nice, yes it is, well I want you to listen to my very new song which I have brought along from my trip from Arica, do you like it?"

Side 1 begins with 'Sahara' and an absurd intro narration welcomes the listener to the record and hopes we like it and explains the tune is from Africa. Then it begins, "Lalalalaalaaaaaaaaa etc etc". It is as weird as Zappa, Gong, or Residents. Perhaps weirder. The music is so incredible though it just draws you in to its uncanny atmosphere which has an Arabian flavour. The vocals of Eroc have more rolling 'R's' than a Rammstein anthology. There's no album on the planet like this. The song even speeds up at the end as though someone is moving the record faster by hand, those were the days of vinyl. Awful vocals are overshadowed by technical tight playing, and it works as an absurdist humourous song to kick things off.

Next up on 'Nickel-odeon' we have hammering organ Hammond and a jazzy rhythm. The guitars keep a solid melody and the time sigs are all over the place as the vocals come in and once again the strange effects on the vocals are disconcerting. In a waltz type tempo the verses continue till it breaks into a grinding Hammond and repetitive hypno rhythm on guitar.

'Drummer's Dream' is a drummer's dream. It features the manic percussion of Joachim Ehrig (Eroc). It is a jumpy little tune with some very strong musicianship brimming with creativity. Other members of this zany bunch of geniuses include Stefan Danielak (Wildschwein) on lead vocals, guitar, Volker Kahrs (Mist) on keyboards, Gerd-Otto Kühn (Lupo) on lead guitar, and Bernhard Uhlemann (Bär) on bass. The sound they generate together is incredible, totally original in feel and ultimately satisfying, with huge time changes, dramatic shifts in mood, and a whimsical sense of humour.

Side 2 begins with a pastoral feel with 'Morning song' that I thought was being satirical as it is so different with genuine beauty and lovely vocals. I expected it to explode and laugh manically, which is what Grobschnitt do on "Solar Music Live". However this song keeps a consistent feel, like waking up on an early morning preparing to greet the day.

'Magic Day' is a 13 minute epic and the vocals are marginally better, in high falsetto and the acoustics are superb joined by grinding Hammonds. This one is rather repetitive and could have done with some time changes or some solos in the opening section. Eventually the sig changes and it gets into weird territory with silly "hello"'s then it stops dead and a piano tinkles quietly. A bleating vocal comes in over a thumping drum and washes of synth. It builds to a release of heavy guitar riffs and outstanding marching drumst. A new time change detours temporarily until another verse; "The power of the music is strong, escaping from all this loneliness, get out of this ugly mess." After this more staccato rhythms and the melodic twin guitars intensify towards the outbreak of hammering keys, bass and guitar, all the while drums pounding. A quieter passage of music follows, with a relentless thumping bass. A new song begins within the song, and it is a brighter uptempo feel, the vocals are still similar on this new cadence. Lyrics are rather pretentious but fit well; "It's my magic garden". It builds to a finale higher up the scale until it gets very quiet. Didn't expect that, but this is sounding like early Genesis or Yes. Bass pumps and a pipe organ grinds. There are vocal intonations keeping a rhythm and then the loud wail ushers in the intro melody on guitars to finish it. Okay I am ready for the next album; that was just a taster.

Side 3

This is what we came for. The colossal space suite that turned Grobschnitt into prog legends. 'Solar Music' is the magnum opus that the band lived off in live performaces and it remains their quintessential triumph. "I, 2, 3, 4" and we are away on this 33 minute space odyssey. It begins with a great melodic guitar and pulsating rhythm. The tune is so memorable that it always grabs me immediately and I am hooked. The lead guitar just takes off into the stratosphere. Then the psychedelic vocals come in acapella and they sound spiteful and dangerous. The sig slows and speeds up at random it seems. The loud blasts of guitar and frenetic drumming are astounding. The spacey effects enter soon and are like Hawkwind, very powerful sonics. The echoing flange guitars and galactic synth swirls are wonderful. Alien sounds are heard and a robotic voice fades in. The robotic mantra of "do you.. hear.. solar.. music?" is fantastic fun and even moreso live. It is chanted with hypnotic rhythm like early Kraftwerk over ethereal synthscapes. This is true space rock and it encompasses many moods, even comes with birds twittering and a space ship traveling through the solar system. A dog barks a few times, and I think I hear other animals. A pounding buildup of strong drums and bass become deafening. It is released into glorious Hammond and a blistering lead break. It feels like an improvised break jamming with the rhythms. The sound of swooshing fires up and then breaks to allow the organ and guitars to begin a hypnotic rhythm. At 12 minutes in there is an entrancing rhythm on guitar sounding very similar to a certain band's rhythmic guitar on 'Run Like Hell'. I always feel that at 14:50 the guitars and melody are exactly like the intro to Pink Floyd's 'Empty Spaces' and the 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 1' guitar rhythm is everpresent. Did Waters listen to this album? It is blatant plagiarism! The tempo changes to a different faster feel, and some brilliant percussion accents are added. The guitars become more jaded and aggressive, the drums boom out into a fade. Unbelievable music!

Side 4

The mammoth 'Solar Music' continues. The lead guitar is jamming over a similar motorik beat to the other side. The reverb lead is fantastic and very atmospheric with arpeggios and string bends. It really sounds like early 'Space Ritual' Hawkwind. Spacey chimes blend into the jamming session, with eerie star gazing soundscapes. Solar galactic screaming effects are overpowering. The manic laughter is rather disconcerting and unnecessary but I love how he yells "do you heeeeeeeeaaaar solar music? do you heeeeeeeeaaaar solar music?" The synths become penetrating with a synergy of laser effects, and intergalactic resonances with sunburst power. It really is spaced up to the stratosphere. I love the extended wah-wah solo by Lupo. The band are virtuoso and operate within a vacuum of spacey textures jamming off one groove and then they know how to release the tension so appropriately, breaking from hypnotic rhythms of bass and drums to provide uplifting soaring instrumental solos. The peaceful synth and guitar melody at the end is an excellent way to end after all the chaos and spaciness previously. Though the keyboard sounds like a midi file or an 8bit soundtrack to a Nintendo cartridge game. It would be done better live as they proved, but this is still mesmirising music and absolutely as good as it gets for Grobschnitt in the studio. Everytime I hear this it takes me to another place, and I am completely spellbound by the amazing sounds of Grobschnitt.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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