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Flaming Bess - Finstere Sonne / Black Sun CD (album) cover


Flaming Bess

Symphonic Prog

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Prog-Folk Team
1 stars With 9 years separating "Finisterre Sonne" from the prior "Fata Morgana", FLAMING BESS survived a second lengthy sabbatical to record again. Sadly, I don't have much else positive to say about this effort. The near incessant electronic keyboards and percussion rarely yield more than a moment or two of interest. The symphonic and acoustic dimensions are largely abandoned in favour of funky electronica, "lite jazz" and gimmickry. Composition was never the group's forte but it was always detectable. Still BESS were primarily notable for their arrangements, atmospheres and instrumental powers, all of which failed to make it to the station/studio on time.

The narrative breaks conveying further installments to the story of Bess continue but whereas before they upset the musical flow, here they are almost welcome in relation to their surroundings. Elsewhere, although more or less sung vocals are occasionally present, the songs are sheer drudgery. Only "Ruhe vor dem Sturm" is remotely worthy of the FLAMING BESS name, with a fine build up on vocals by Lucy Wende, acoustic guitar and dreamy keys. Still it's far too little and you'd be quite excused if you didn't make it that far. There are so many low lights that I don't know where to begin, but let's say "Kampf um Dig Dagg" would have been rejected as theme music for a C grade low budget Cold War spy flick even if offered gratis.

I don't know the history behind the near decade absence and the making of "Finisterre Sonne", but it sounds as though they felt that they had to record something yesterday or the window of opportunity might never return. Whatever the reason, this black sun is the bete noire of the FLAMING BESS discography. Avoid at any cost.

Report this review (#924768)
Posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Finstere Sonne / Black Sun" represents something of a transitional piece in Flaming Bess' slow-motion "one album a decade" evolution. While keeping true to the band's roots in the 70s and 80s, and with that the predominantly instrumental, mid-temo ambience of the bands' debut "Tanz der Götter" and its follow-up "Verlorene Welt," which resonate strongly in this album's more accoustically driven arrangements, the ethno/world music flair of "Fata Morgana" is still somewhat of an influence, though much subdued. Instead, the album is primarily driven by a lot of electronica and synth-sounds, giving the whole thing a more contemporary flair that in its best moments is reminiscent of groups like Massive Attack. This is no doubt due to the addition of Claas Reimer to the band, who is not an unknown in the DJ-scene of Düsseldorf.

Mel Halbauer is perhaps the best female singer the band has ever had, displaying both variety and a style that, in some stand-out moments, is decidedly her own, and Achim Wierschem's guitar playing has perhaps never been more daringly adventurous than here. The band's approach is progressive in the literal sense of the word: if you're adverse to modern beats, the heavy use of electronic sounds and samples, as well as the occasional gimmick, and the trip-rock of bands like Massive Attack or the newer The Gathering does nothing for you, this may simply not be your cup of prog.

That being said, composition or songwriting are decidedly scenic on this one, neither presenting much in the way of highs or lows, but instead going for cinemascopic routes that are well-suited to the band's storylines, which have always been journey narratives. On the other hand, there is a whole lot to discover on this one: slow and smooth jazz and grooves (Endloses Nichts) , accousticly driven rock-numbers, electronic extravaganzas of wildly shuffled beats, orientalisms and even some brief flirtations with heavy metal (Die Prüfung), all of which flow quite seamlessly into one another, making for three long track-like chapters.

The journey of Finstere Sonne, then, is not just that of Prince Arkana looking for a way to resurrect the eponymous princess. It is, in fact, the journey of a band firmly arriving in the new millenium - another kind of resurrection.

Report this review (#1030273)
Posted Saturday, September 7, 2013 | Review Permalink

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