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Novalis - Brandung CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.29 | 91 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars In the early to mid-Seventies, symphonic prog band Novalis released a decent debut, a far superior self-titled follow-up and an absolute classic of German symphonic prog with the dreamy and wasted `Sommerabend' on their third attempt, in addition to a great live album `Konzerte' in 1977. Moving quite a trip away from the hazy and unhurried drifting moods of that above mentioned third studio album, `Brandung', also from 1977, adopted a more streamlined approach of predominantly vocal-based melodic compositions, with great emphasis placed on the lead vocals of newly instated frontman Fred Mühlböck (who debuted on the live `Konzerte' release), who carries a large chunk of the more accessible approachable melodies and focused tunes of the album with strength and dignity. Most of the pieces were still fairly lengthy, with the second side of the LP culminating yet again with an extended side-long suite like the previous album, but the group were moving towards a strong balance of interesting instrumental qualities with a mainstream rock/pop crossover appeal without sacrificing musical intelligence.

Some will likely be instantly (and unwisely!) put off by the up-tempo poppy opening seconds of lead track `Irgendwo, Irgendwahn', which actually became something of a surprise minor radio hit in Germany for the band at the time. Although it has a rather delirious and energetic repeated synth/guitar theme leaping in here and there, the bulk of the tune settles into a decent rock tune with slight hints of a darker symphonic theme in a few spots that hold a little more weight than the perkier moments. A beautiful short ballad interlude with the first little traces of melancholy seeping in that will show up further on the latter parts of the album, `Wenn Nicht Mehr Zahlen und Figuren', follows, and Fred and the group deliver sublime and exquisite sighing harmonies over gentle acoustic guitars and Lutz Rahn's shimmering subdued synths. The first side closes with a grooving and energetic nine minute rocker `Astralis' that houses Detlef Job's jangling guitars, trickles of Hammond organ and a welcome longer instrumental run in the middle with Heino Schünzel's slowly funky bass and a stomping beat from drummer Hartwig Biereichel, and the frequently reprising soaring theme and boisterous chorus vocal calls to mind the debut 1975 album from Swedish band Kaipa.

The entire second side of the album is comprised of a varied four part suite `Sonnenwende', opening with a cool instrumental introduction driven by thick silken bass gliding behind careful Mellotron veils and chilled-out guitar licks, with a touch of classical piano bombast in the final moments. The piece moves into a slinking dark groover with an intensely maddening repeated chorus and electric guitar bite, followed by a short melancholic piano ballad with restrained power that holds reaching falsetto vocal moments and a stirring and regal extended instrumental outro with gorgeous humming Hammond organ and scratchy Mellotron. The final section and album finale holds a creeping gothic atmosphere, home to gloomy piano and eerie wavering synths, a plodding moribund drum beat, Fred's voice moving between a sorrowful croon and soaring with wounded controlled power, the piece finally culminating in a grandiose storm of organ. Perhaps this `suite' is more a collection of four separate pieces than a genuine extended epic, but it maintains a good flow throughout and doesn't hold a single wasted second of music.

This barely 33 minute album isn't long enough for any filler to creep in, and repeated listens reveal a very addictive and mature collection. Novalis delivered a compact and purposeful rock album brimming with energy and sophistication with `Brandung', and while it's not their best progressive music statement or quite on the same level as the two albums prior for prog rock fans, it still remains a fine adventurous rock album all the same.

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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