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Erlkoenig Erlkoenig  album cover
3.37 | 46 ratings | 6 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Erlkoenig impression (8:30)
2. Tomorrow (6:02)
3. Thoughts (9:31)
4. Castrop-Rauxel (7:13)
5. Blind alley (8:07)
6. Divertimento (8:40)

Bonus tracks on cd release:
7. The lad in the fen (7:28)
8. Love is truth (2:30)
9. Run away (3:10)
10. Monday morning (4:51)

Total Time: 65:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Eckhardt Freynik / keyboards
- Friedrich Krüger / guitar
- Michael Brandes / drums, vocals
- Günter Armbrecht / bass

Releases information

LP Resco TST 77678 (1973)
CD Garden Of Delight GOD 054 (2001)
LP Amber Soundroom AS LP 005 (2004)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to ummagumma08 for the last updates
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ERLKOENIG Erlkoenig ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

ERLKOENIG Erlkoenig reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What can be said about this little gem?

This is one of the rare obscurities that is actually worth tracking down!

It's a hard album to analyse, principally because it is Krautrock at it's most raw; clearly (early) Pink Floyd inspired, but with snippets of other bands, like the Doors, Amon Duul II and Hawkwind thrown in for a heavy keyboard and guitar-driven outing with more evidence of improvisation than composition, yet a strong coherence to the almost random seeming structures that lends a unique vitality to the music that overrides the underlying simplicity.

To that end, I will not attempt any kind of academic analysis, as to do so would be, well, so academic.

"Erlkoenig Impression" begins with a tasty introduction of Mellotron and drums that instantly sparks that Prog Rock feeling. It then dives into one of those riffs that just makes you think "Oh no - what are they thinking!". It kind of reminds me of the Doors in some ways - but in a very naff way. It's worth going through, however, as this album just gets better and better. The next quiet section, which reminds me a little of early Genesis paves the way nicely for a high-intensity section reminding me of early Floyd - with maybe a hint of the James Bond theme tune. then a piano driven section - the ideas come rolling and tumbling, but rarely completely tangentially; always making some sort of bizarre sense. We return to the gentle "Genesis" section and back to the "high intensity Bond" section and onwards and backwards to the initial "Doors" section via some nice improve and well orchestrated changeovers.

"Tomorrow" follows this, and we get some vocals for the first time. These are of a reasonable quality and nicely mournful. The keyboards produce some nice classically inspired melodies, and the arrangements are full of doom-laden drama. I get flavours of the Beatles "Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite", then a wild drum solo is unleashed, seguing gently into a piano driven section with the classically inspired melodies, and some odd but effective chord changes to break it all up. The jump from piano back to organ is a bit startling, but we can make allowances for the cheap production. The return to the vocal section is loose, but inspired.

"Thoughts" is 9 and a half minutes of Krautrock bliss - a nice organ intro feeds into a winding guitar part drenched in wah wah and detuned to perfection. Wonderful Iron Butterfly meets the Doors with an injection of hi engery stuff. Each band member keeps absolutely sensitive to the musical direction, no more and no less. IN other words, no groundbreaking music or virtuosic fireworks - but boy, does it rock!

The structure is a kind of ABC, ABC, ABC, DE, with plenty of organic flow from one section to another and re use of thematic material producing a cohesive whole that feels much shorter than it is.

A wonderful retrospective intro kicks off the next section, which is another piano-driven affair that goes on to work out a Russian-sounding melody fragment, which feeds into a relaxing jazz-influenced section that develops nicely through the pianists' playing around with the original tune and taking it to some wonderfully introspective levels. This segues into a kind of fanfare, which sets up expectations for a more rocking interlude, but Erlkoenig play with this expectation, teasing expertly, building up, dropping down, then eventually settling into a jazz-influenced groove with "Classical" overtones - a kind of flavour of what Renaissance could have been like if they'd only dropped the silly pretentious Bach and Beethoven quotations. The next section begins with a sitar-sound from the guitar, which creates a subtly different mood and texture, but no less dark and moody.

Side 2 begins even more strongly with "Castrop-Rauxel"; a drums and Hammond crash give way to a rippling Hammond lick, joined by the guitars and stretched out before the very Barrett/Floyd vocal entry. Again, the backing has flavours of the Doors and Iron Butterfly, but Erlkoenig develop it their own way, via a nice funky drum beat reminiscent of Can. The atmosphere is sensitively built towards the next vocal entry.

The overall structure is very simple - but very elongated to the point of obscurity, and subsequently it's Erlkoenig's working of the material that grabs the attention rather than the content. And it's all good. Good enough to be far greater than the sum of its parts - in other words, this is not rock music for the over-analytical, but drift-along progressive psychedelia. it's Krautrock in its neat form!

We could go on picking and picking at the music, and observe the same kind of constructions at work, the same influences throughout - but that would be to miss out on the overall beauty of the work and the ultimate success of four musicians in bringing their musical minds together and creating something unique and progressive that just gets better and better as it progresses.

The music is badly (cheaply) produced, and the musicians very loose - and right at the very edge of their abilities, but the charm remains throughout, and the ideas flow thick and fast. This is a great addition to any collection of prog rock, and a perfect door into Krautrock that is highly recommended especially to fans of Pink Floyd's early material, Hawkwind, the Doors, Iron Butterfly and Amon Duul II. There are even moments of Shocking Blue in here among other tasty treats!

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sadly this album was a small disappointment to me, but I think I had too big early expectations of it, as I have often before been awestruck by some works of the German underground groups of the 1970's. I believe this record has quite different musical qualities than for example Ash Ra Tempel or Rufus Zuphall classics, which I liked very much. What I appreciate here on the ideal level is the uncompromised musical creation process done according the restrictions of the available resources (mostly instruments). Sadly I'm just not extremely fond with the aesthetic pleasantness of the received end result. The album opens with "Erlkoenig impression" (The band name meaning "The Fairy King"), presenting the musical style palette of the group quite powerfully. Their music is quite structured, and the sounds appear slightly thin at the beginning of the album. Luckily these characteristics changes later during the album. The sounds of the organ are very weird, and not very pleasant to my ears. I'm not sure what kind of machines they used, but there isn't probably any kind of effects used on it. The composition paints strong impressionistic visions, but the sounds don't sadly support the ideas in all parts. Surely both uniqueness and feeling of enthusiasm is strongly transmitted. "Tomorrow" is the first song with lyrics, and the pronouncing of English is the usual quite poor standard, like on many other underground continental European releases. Also the feeling of the composition's verse supports my impressions which I get from this music, this being a very strong presence of lunacy. When listening to this music and simultaneously looking at the album cover picture presenting some kind of hollow tree, lost its' leafs, staring at the listener without thought? I get a very oppressing feeling from this combination, and I would not recommend it to the repertoire of albums for psychiatric music therapists. Composition "Thoughts" has quite beautiful melody on it, and there is also positively space for free playing among the arranged themes. The faster part of this tune with funky guitar resembles a bit the sound of Belgian group Dragon. On this song the keyboard sound also much nicer and rawer, and the quality of the album starts to move to a better direction after clumsier start in my opinion. There are also some nice acoustic guitars here, and fun solos to please my improvisational oriented tastes. "Castrop-Rauxel" opens with a mysterious theme, which leads to another poorly sung verse. This song sounds highly stoned and chaotic though it's still structured, so this can be seen as a very unique accomplishment. "Blind alley" continues dwelling within the feelings of anxiety, starting up dynamically with organ chords and wild guitar soloing. There is also some piano used here, an instrument which has scarcely used on the record, but could have been used more than these occasions and the original last composition "Divertimento".

The bonus tracks on CD release bring over fifteen minutes of more material to this album. The bonus tracks are actually quite good, "The Lad in The Fen" starts with both church organs sounding keyboards and also some very high pitched painful keyboards. The overall feeling is again neurotic and very full of pain and madness. The singing is bit better here than on the original LP tracks, and there are some good melodies here plus some Bossa Nova rhythms. "Love is Truth" is then quite relaxed tune resembling the pop classics of 60's. There are some fabulous flute Mellotrons here too, making this a very good track. "Run Away" is also quite common 1960's oriented faster song with good melodies, decent singing and lots of vintage keyboards. The last song "Monday Morning" starts with clock sound effects, and otherwise the composition is near carbon copy of the previous track.

So this is quite unique record, praised by others, but not my most preferred cup of tea. I would characterize this album as some kind of psychedelic symphonic rock. There are also some very beautiful jazz passages here, so the players were surely very musical. I would have appreciated if they would have used more of the piano instead of the poor sounding keyboards, and few singing parts could have been cut out, as they just lowered the overall quality of this album. Check this out if European underground acts interest you, but don't listen to this if you are in a depressed psychosis.

Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ultimate space rock attacks meets 60's pop songs for an original & bizarre cocktail. All compositions are dominated by omnipresent vintage keyboards, surfing on the psychedelic waves, sometimes delivering a symphonic, epic approach. Primitive bluesy rock guitars & fuzzy psych rhythms also contribute to create a special atmosphere. This is largely instrumental with a few vocals including beat pop accents. Each track is very catchy and contains long improvised sessions. "Erlkoenig impression" is a powerful, dynamic epic, almost exclusively based on furious keyboards lines and melodic, symphonic piano parts and rocking' guitars. "Tomorrow" sounds like early Pink Floyd, a psych pop ballad with current ingredients. "Thoughts" starts as a moody kraut-stoner rock composition, then goes into a fast heavy symph keyboard "trip". "Castrop Rauxel" is a rocking epic song with obvious Pink Floyd-ish flaming psych pop. "Blind Alley" is a possessed jamming rock session with lot of crying guitars, a nice groove and usual epic keyboards. Definitely recommended for those who are into the good old spych scene!
Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
2 stars A congenital psychedelic progressive album for younger projects?

Basically organ / keyboard-based heavy psychedelic project, not so weird nor so experimental as Krautrock. With reminding me something flavorful like a prototype of psychedelic progressive scene Vanilla Fudge or Doors, they launch late-60s pink-coloured sound ribbon eddies all around. The third track "Thoughts", one of their highlights, can show a sticky strict keyboard-based psychedelic texture with perverse guitar phrases and meditative oxygen around this. In other songs they scattered some toxic essence seen in some older psychedelic carpets, not simple rhythmic psych nor uptempo heavy syrup of electric riffs.

Their melody line is simple and straight enough for us to understand and digest easily, so that we cannot feel these tunes not so innovative indeed, but we can find they should have struggled to break the common sense around them upon the rock scene in those days. But sadly, not so progressive as Moolah or Damenbart existing in the same period, and we cannot help setting lower valuation for this stuff "as a progressive rock creation".

Anyway let me say it's true that I could get immersed in a lovely and simultaneously plaintive stream like in the last track "Divertimento". I'm not able to recommend this album as a Krautrock masterpiece really, but personally said, I love this one.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Another one of the near forgotten gems of the early Krautrock era comes from the Helmstedt based ERLKOENIG which took its name from the Goethe poem and was one of the few bands in the Krautrock scene to marry the psychedelic nature of the genre to the likes of the symphonic prog playing out in England. The band was formed by classically trained keyboardist Eckhardt Freynik in 1972 and although the band stuck it out until 1977 only managed to release this sole eponymously titled album which emerged in 1973.

The banded started out as a trio with Freynik on keys, Michael Brandes on drums and Günter Ambrecht on bass but guitarist Friedrich Krüger was added just before the recording of this album. The Goethe poem from which the band took its name is about the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking (the English translation of ERLKOENIG), a king of the fairies. The poem has been a favorite of many classical composers especially Franz Schubert and a clue as to what kind of music you can expect with this one which is dark and moody and delivered with a fiery passion.

First and foremost, ERKOENIG was a symphonic prog band dominated by incessant classically infused organ runs and dark atmospheric ambience. The intensity is further amplified with tight-knit instrumental interplay with lengthy complex compositions that ran the gamut of slow plodding moody sequences to heavier bombastic outbursts. Freynik is the closest thing to a Kraut version of a Keith Emerson i've so far encountered although much more restrained. This album features a keen emphasis on virtuosic workouts rather than hypnotic detachment however the psychedelic accentuations clearly place this in the realms of the tripped out German scene.

While mostly instrumental, a few vocal performances in English can be heard courtesy of drummer Michael Brandes. With an original pressing of only 1000 copies which were only sold at live events, this collector's obscurity was released in 2001 on the Garden of Delights label with four unreleased bonus tracks. The album's original six tracks all exceed six minutes with four over eight. The dominating organ keeps this one sounding dark and creepy with an overall epic sound worthy of a Goethe poetic soundtrack. Occasional emphasis on guitar allows this one to reach the realms of harder rock with a better than average percussion delivery.

Much Krautrock of the early 70s focused on hypnotic and psychedelic features to offer pure escapism without the need to exhibit unabashed virtuosity but ERLKOENIG managed to straddle the fence with hypnotic grooves, dark forbidding organs and powerful epic compositions but also excelled in offering ample doses of stellar keyboard wizardry and guitar gymnastics. The only flaw of this one is in the rather poor production which may have been corrected on newer releases but not so great on original pressings. From a musical standpoint however, ERLKOENIG was one of the best Germany had to offer in the world of Krautrock and for those who love dark creepy symphonic prog, this will not disappoint one bit.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The music of this record is described (completely untechnically) in the bio, (submitted by myself), since they unfortunately only released one record. Though I'm very tempted to assign a master-piece rating to this record, I'll go with 4 stars (4.5 to be exact). It's a perfect unison of sympho ... (read more)

Report this review (#53305) | Posted by ummagumma08 | Tuesday, October 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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