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(45 min, Sensory)
TRACK LIST: 1. This Battle is Yours 5:38 2. Symphony of Life 7:37 3. Nahash 5:48 4. Pulse 8:32 5. Khundas 4:58 6. You Believe 5:13 7. Save & Heal 4:36 8. Nowhereness 2:36 PERSONNEL: Stefan Hertrich - lead vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards Kajuyali Tsamani - flutes, percussion Maurizio Guolo - drums Yana Veva - lead vocals Gaby Koss - vocals
Prolusion. SPI-RITUAL is the moniker for a new studio project of singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Stefan Hertrich, whom a press kit presents as the primary mastermind behind the German Gothic Metal band Darkseed, occasionally writing sound tracks for computer games. Apart from the other four musicians mentioned in the lineup above (Yana Veva hailing from Russia, and Kajuyali Tsamani being an Indian shaman from Columbia), three guest guitarists took part in the recording of the outfit's debut album, "Pulse", having contributed their solos to some compositions.
Analysis. While in the NY downtown avant-garde still grows stronger, the hard-ethno-jazz movement (led by the charismatic John Zorn whose 'extreme' projects, such as Naked City, had already found a cult status many years ago), Germany can from now on be considered the homeland of Ethno-Metal of the first water. Previously some bands were making attempts to combine the energy of Metal with the piquancy of one or another kind of ethnic music, but SpiRitual's "Pulse" is thus far the only album that really unites both idioms into one cohesive whole, even though not on each of the eight songs present. These are the first four numbers, This Battle is Yours, Symphony of Life, Nahash and the title track, on which the musicians are especially successful in blending together Techno Metal and (lacking for a better definition) Ethnic Rock whose essence I see as a cross between Middle Asian, Hindu and aboriginal American Indian music, though pagan-like tunes can in places be found as well. This is incredibly unique stuff where only the instrumental canvases within those sections with hard structures bring to mind some other creations - Therion's "Lepaca Kliffoth" and "The Astral Sleep" by Tiamat in particular. Okay, the 'male part' of the overall vocal palette is somewhat reminiscent of Iced Earth's "Burnt Offerings", but it's exclusively due to Stefan Hertrich's solid 'chameleonic' possibilities, since his vocal style ranges from an aggressive black-metal screaming (which is however not the same as a Death Metal growl) to traditional dramatic singing. The main providers of ethnic elements are flautist / percussionist Kajuyali Tsamani and the female musicians - above all Yana Veva though, as Gaby Koss is lead vocalist only on one track, besides which much of her singing here is in a typically European operatic fashion. Each of the mentioned songs is remarkable, but Nahash and the title track suit my personal taste better than the first two, both of which, although being instrumentally saturated throughout, contain few expressive guitar solos. You Believe and Save & Heal are similar in construction, but are less determinative regarding the birth of the new style. On each, the music is rarely as wonderfully frenetic and impulsive as that on any of those described previously, at its most intense moments much more often referring to Doom- rather than what can technically be described as Ethnic Metal. The remaining two tunes, Khundas and Nowhereness, feature only female vocals and are generally free of any harshness (thus falling outside the album's primary style), but it doesn't much matter. There is plenty here to enjoy on each, the fast percussion and the swirling flutes weaving exotic patterns almost throughout, and these now remind me of Arabic, now of Jewish folk music, though of course, I do remember that Hebrew people were living in the Middle East from times immemorial, too.
Conclusion. "Pulse" is a very impressive debut release, the recording's first half being worthy of the epithet "a new word in the Prog-Metal genre". In other words, not everything went off swimmingly with the last four tracks, some of them lacking in purely instrumental arrangements in addition. Hopefully SpiRitual's next offering will be a completely coherent album. Back to the hero of this occasion: "Pulse" comes highly recommended to those always eager for something new in heavy progressive music, regardless of whether it is sophisticated or mostly accessible - as is in this particular case.
VM: December 11, 2006
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