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Amon Düül II - Tanz Der Lemminge [Aka: Dance Of The Lemmings] CD (album) cover


Amon Düül II



4.09 | 339 ratings

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3 stars Author's Note: Most of what I've said in this review, I agree with. I would just like to point out that of the four ADII albums I know, (this one, Phallus Dei, Wolf City, and Yeti) this is the weakest. I have revised the rating to 3 stars (read 3.5), but I still recommend it just as highly. I have merely changed my rating system for albums. Thank you. IPOF 05/08/07

It's not delivery, it's Amon Duul II.

CAN have, for quite a while, been my favorite band. Recently, however, two bands, both of whom I have known either longer than or just about as long as CAN have emerged as competitors for this title. These two are Magma and Amon Duul II, and of the two, Amon Duul is the closest to catching up (though Magma certainly isn't far behind). Why is this? Well, first off, there are three albums I find to be the epitome of what music ought to be. The first is Tago Mago by CAN, the second Yeti by Amon Duul II, and the third Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh by Magma. These three albums are amazing beyond belief, perfect down to their very cores, and deserving of just about every bit of praise it's possible to heap upon them. But it's more than that. Each of these bands have displayed remarkable consistency, releasing many great albums in a row. CAN gave us Delay 1968, Monster Movie, Soundtracks, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days, and (this last one is slightly weaker than the others) Soon Over Babaluma before they started fading away (though Landed is a decent release). Magma gave us 1001° Centigrades, Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh, Kohntarkosz, Wurdah Itah (technically a Christian Vander solo album), and Udu Wudu. And Amon Duul II presents us with Phallus Dei, Yeti, Tanz Der Lemminge, and Wolf City (between these last two was released Carnival in Babylon, which I'm not yet familiar with).

Apparently, this album is the most highly regarded Amon Duul II among the average prog rocker, but I think otherwise, mainly because, as I said earlier, Yeti is one of the three greatest albums I have ever heard. That said, this album comes somewhat close to Yeti's heights, and is right up there with Wolf City and Phallus Dei (both of which are also phenomenal releases). It's a bit surprising just how good this album is, given that it was released at a time of mini-crisis for the band, but great it is. Like its predecessor, Yeti, Tanz Der Lemminge is a double album, and, again like Yeti, it is one of the best double albums I know. The first disc is a "regular" (in the sense that anything they did up until Wolf City can be called regular) studio album, composed of two sidelong tracks. The second disc, however, as seems to be a Krautrock tradition, is the experimental of the two, composed entirely of improvisations. I call this a tradition because, if we look at the three Krautrock double albums I know, Tago Mago, Yeti, and Tanz Der Lemminge, we find that each one of them contains a "normal" first disc, pushing the experimentations (whether they be Aumgn and Peking O, Yeti/Yeti Talks to Yogi and Sandoz in the Rain, or The Marylin Monroe Memorial Church, Toxological Whisperings, and co) to disc two. I certainly cannot blame these bands for doing it this way, because it has worked with one hundred percent accuracy so far.

Like with Yeti (and Phallus Dei and Wolf City), every track on Tanz Der Lemminge is a winner, even if it took me longer to come around to it than it did for any other Amon Duul II album. With Yeti, my first Amon Duul II experience, it took about two tries to "get" it. With Wolf City and Phallus Dei, I fell in love on first listen. Tanz Der Lemminge, however, left me feeling rather underwhelmed the first few listens, and it was only after I had let it sit for several months that I came to truly love it. As far as I am concerned, however, it doesn't matter how long it takes me to come around to an album so long as, in the end, the album brings me the kind of joy this one has. This is one of those rare albums (though in Amon Duul II's case, I can hardly call it rare, seeing as how they released at least four of them) that is truly something special, and that undeniably deserves a spot in every music collection, not just progressive rock, but all music.

The album opens with Syntelman's March of the Roaring Seventies, and roar it does for nearly sixteen mouthwatering minutes. It stands as one of the band's closest links to standard progressive rock a la Genesis and Yes, though it is really nothing much like them. Instead, it forges an identity of its own, distinctly Amon Duul II, but still new, different, and exciting. There's little more I can ask for in a song. It features the band's classic ranting lyrics (dwelling on various social and political issues from a left-wing point of view). I'm not sure why, actually, but I've always loved Amon Duul II's lyrics. They're not particularly poetic, but they are true, and more importantly, they are unique (just like the music). Or maybe it's just the German accent. Behind these lyrics are subtle guitar textures and wonderful drumming, two things you can always count on from Amon Duul II, only done differently than usual here (but done just as well). Again, it almost sounds like Yes here at times, but, and get this, Yes wasn't doing this style music at this time. Perhaps they were influenced by one of Germany's biggest bands (both in importance and size)? This is one of Amon Duul II's very best songs, and a perfect album opener (something Amon Duul II were great at - Soap Shop Rock, Surrounded By the Stars, and, of course, this song standing as three of the greatest album openers I know). It's split up into several sections, as you might expect from a traditional progressive rock epic (something this most definitely is NOT), and each is just as good as the last. It never gets boring, never repetitive, never derivative, and simply never bad. It's just fifteen minutes and fifty-one seconds of sheer perfection.

Restless Skylight - Transistor Child is the second and final song on disc one, and is the second longest Amon Duul II song, if I'm not mistaken (behind only the Phallus Dei improvisation of their debut). It opens with some addictive guitar, before changing (with the help of sound effects) to a section that displays all that Amon Duul II stands for. Great drumming, blistering guitar, psychedelic tinges left and right, and pure Krautrock. These first few minutes set the tone for the song, not in terms of sound, but in terms of composition. What we see for all nineteen and a half minutes is a medley of sorts of a variety of shorter songs brought together through the use of sound effects and studio technology. There's one part in the middle that really strikes me, that I can best describe as "crunchy." Crunchy and quite tasty. A restless song, but not overtly so. Restless Skylight - Transistor Child is a second amazing song, though I slightly prefer (and very slightly at that) Syntelman's March of the Roaring Seventies.

We now come to the highlight of the album, the sidelong improvisation, The Marylin Monroe Memorial Church. Amon Duul II improvisations are always great (Phallus Dei and Yeti in particular), and this one is right up with those two. It is a slow building track, but it is done perfectly. I find it incredible that this group of musicians could, time and time again, jam for twenty or so minutes and come up with a masterpiece, but that's what they do. They seemed to have endless ideas, and even without any communication they were able to perfectly express them. For that reason, I prefer their improvisational tracks above all else. In fact, I'd go so far as to call Amon Duul II the greatest jam band to have ever walked this earth.

After three amazing sidelong pieces, you might reasonably expect that the final three songs, all under ten minutes, might not live up to the expectations the first three songs set, but that is in no way the case. Chewing Gum Telegram showcases some crunchy blues-rock done in the unique Amon Duul II style, and is a classic example of the phrase, "short and sweet." Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight features four and a half minutes more of the same, only slightly different and somehow much better. The closing experimental section is particularly impressive. It is Toxological Whisperings, however, that really shows just how good Amon Duul II was, and is at least as good as the first three tracks on the album, if not better. The dueling lead guitars, the subtle bass, the wonderful drumming, it all comes together to give us almost eight minutes of perfection.

In short, this is an essential album for all fans of music. I can't quite call it a five star masterpiece at the moment, but that may change with future listens. What I can say for sure is that this is one of the greatest albums in my collection, and that no progressive rock lover can truly call his or her collection complete without it. Yes, it's strange. Yes, it can be off-putting. But at the same time, I have to ask, what good music isn't? Music is another form of media, just like books. Why do we read books? For enjoyment, yes, but also to be challenged. Why do we listen to music? For the exact same reasons. It doesn't matter whether the music challenges you or the lyrics challenge you, the point is that the best music challenges you in some way. In the case of Amon Duul II, both the music and the lyrics challenge your pre-established beliefs, both those pertaining to music and to politics. This is an essential album according to every ruler, and there is no excuse for NOT getting it.

Pnoom! | 3/5 |


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