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(73:58; Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (Genesis) 7:50 2. Running up That Hill (Kate Bush) 4:52 3. Poesie Im Sand / Ljod i Sand (Arstidir) 4:21 4. Harvest of Sorrow (Blind Guardian) 4:53 5. Miracles Out of Nowhere - 2020 (Kansas) 6:16 6. Don't Stop Me Now (Queen) 4:40 7. Kayla (Flying Colors) 4:56 8. In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel) 6:00 9. And You and I (Yes) 8:03 10. Dark Water (Agent Fresco) 4:40 11. Reasons (Pain Of Salvation) 3:58 12. Creeping Death (Metallica) 6:05 13. I Am Above (In Flames) 4:15 14. Als Ich Fortging (Karussell) 3:09 LINEUP: Melanie Mau - vocals Martin Schnella - guitars, vocals, bass Mathias Ruck - vocals Simon Schroder - percussion, djembe, cajon Lars Lehmann - bass with: Jens Kommnick - Uilleann pipes, low whistle, cello Marek Arnold - saxophones, clarinet Jelena Dobric - vocals
Prolusion. Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella have been a recording unit for the past 5 years or thereabouts, beginning their recording partnership with the cover album "Gray Matters" back in 2015 and subsequently releasing both original and cover albums on a regular basis. "Through the Decades" is their fourth studio album, and was self released by the band in the summer of 2020.
Analysis. The specialty of the Mau and Schnella partnership is to record and release cover songs. What is striking about their covers is that they transform the material they record, rearranging the songs in style as well as instrumentation. The end result are songs that reside within the acoustic music sphere - or unplugged if you prefer the description MTV popularized back in the day. On their latest album they have chosen a wide array of songs from multiple decades by artists that range from art rock and pop via progressive rock and to metal as far as the songs original styles are concerned, and transforming them into acoustic and more sparse compositions altogether. The album is pretty much divided between songs given a Celtic makeover and material that have more of an acoustic rock feel with a lesser or greater touch of more generic folk music, such as their take on Kansas and at least to some extent Metallica that both have a wee bit of an Americana feel to them in my opinion. Personally I find the songs that are more oriented towards the Celtic moods and atmospheres to be the most striking. The pipes and percussion used on those excursions fits very well with Melanie Mau's vocals and the vocal harmonies the duo are fond of using, and while perhaps not managing to surpass the originals in quality I'd say that all of those songs are solid throughout. That being said, the most brilliant and striking song on this album is the more acoustic rock oriented take on Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', a masterclass in acoustic rock, lead vocals and vocal harmonies. This is one of the rare instances where I'd say that I will prefer the cover version over the original. Perhaps because the acoustic take has a more timeless spirit to it while the original to my ears may well be more a product of its particular era for better as well as for worse. Still, it is a brilliant take on one of the many classic songs of good, old Queen, and I hope Mau and Schnella will consider exploring that band's legacy further on future albums. Some of the later songs on this album are a tad weaker than the rest in my opinion, first and foremost the trio of songs where Pain of Salvation, In Flames and Metallica are explored. This is due to some of the busier instrument parts on those songs feeling a bit out of place to my mind. While these sections presumably replicate striking or dramatic sections of the originals, personally I would have preferred a less busy take on these. As with most else in life this will obviously be a matter of subjective opinion. Overall the vocals are perhaps what makes this album, the most vital ingredient if you like. Melanie has total control over her voice and know how to use all of her range perfectly, and with vocal harmonies thrown in and high quality vocals from Martin Schnella and Mathias Ruck to supplement and alternate with her voice, the vocal part of this album is just about as perfect as you can get it.
Conclusion. Those who are fond of Celtic folk music, acoustic rock and the landscapes you will find in music between these two points will find a lot to enjoy on Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella's latest album "Through the Decades". The vocals are faultless and brilliant, and the songs themselves and the performances by the instrumentalists are often on par as well. How much you enjoy hearing material written by others performed in an acoustic and folk music guise may well decide whether or not you want to explore this album, but if acoustic music, folk music and the word unplugged generally tends to tickle your fancy, this is an album made for you.
Progmessor: September 2020
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