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Novalis - Brandung CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.29 | 91 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars The fourth studio album by Hamburg's premier 'Romantic Rock' group (their own tag, and basically synonymous with Symphonic Prog) sadly compromised the band's original vision by taking the low road to mainstream success. Gone were the classical music touchstones, and the lyrics borrowed from the late 18th century philosopher/poet of the same name, all replaced by simpler, crowd-pleasing pop conventions: a familiar story in the waning years of the 1970s.

The group also hired a honey-throated crooner (Austrian Fred Mühlböck) as their lead singer, and abdicated much of the songwriting duties to him, sacrificing some of their instrumental integrity in the process. Note the bland Euro-disco rhythms in the nine-minute "Astralis", or the absurdly catchy Top-40 chorus of "Irgendwo, Irgendwahn", a song expressly designed for pop radio consumption. And is it only a coincidence that the lovely acoustic ballad with the unwieldy title "Wenn Nicht Mehr Zahlen und Figuren" recalls a mellow German re-make of The Eagles hit "Hotel California", released earlier the same year?

Musically the group could still be effective, thanks in part to the stronger compositional hand of keyboardist Lutz Rahn. The side-long "Sonnenwende" suite almost redeems the album, despite resembling a lumpy update of their earlier epic "Sommerabend" (even the titles are similar: Summer Solstice vs. Summer Evening). But the newer music is unforgivably episodic, at one point actually fading to silence between movements. As a result there isn't any architectural stability to the whole piece, and all the massed choirs and histrionic "Great Gig in the Sky" wailing at its climax can't hide the cracks.

And yet, harsh words aside, the album can't really be considered a sell-out (the lyrics would have all been in English otherwise). Novalis wasn't the only band shifting ballast in the contrary musical winds of the time, but unlike other Proggers they didn't completely jettison their identity as well. The Romantic Rockers may have outgrown their youthful romanticism, but the lighter, leaner style at least kept the band afloat a few years longer.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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