2023 (Gentle Art Of Music)
“Crime Scene” is the eighth studio album with new material from the German progressive band RPWL and their 19th release within their discography. From this, you can infer that the group, founded in 1997, is doing well in terms of creativity and inspiration. What’s more, “Crime Scene” is, in that regard, their most prominent album of the 19. The concept they work within is a search for the dark, morbid side of the human soul, which is reflected in the six songs. Singer Yogi Lang poetically takes you into the minds of various creeps, and you’ll be captivated if you’re a fan of the band.
I personally find the contrast between Lang’s gentle voice and the gruesome characters he sings about fantastic. Lang draws inspiration from stories like Karl Denke, the serial killer and cannibal from Münsterberg who killed many people, ate them, or sold their meat on the market as pork. There’s also the beautiful ballad Red Rose, which sings of the twisted love of the infatuated Florida doctor, Carl Tanzler, who stole the corpse of his beautiful patient, embalmed it, and kept it in his bed for seven years.
It’s hard to believe that such monsters exist, one might say. However, Lang illuminates all these horrors in his lyrics from the broadest possible perspective. The singer also touches on more general issues, as in the intriguing Life Is A Cage, which addresses domestic violence today. But I’m not really one for lyrics; I’d rather talk about the music, so hang up your coat – I’m not done talking yet.
Every note of “Crime Scene” is truly sublime, and these notes shine brightly due to the brilliant production by Lang and Kalle Wallner. It’s Yogi Lang again and his mastery of the keys. It’s a delight to hear his Manfred Mann-inspired Moog playing in the last few songs on the album. However, the most awe-inspiring is guitarist Kalle Wallner. This might be stating the obvious, as Wallner is typically the band’s main attraction. But this time, his string playing is “larger than life.”
He lets the intro of the opening track, Victim Of Desire, explode into ecstasy, and the guitar tones that follow are perfectly timed. The rhythmic riffs further on are equally delightful. The song also features beautiful dynamic shifts, which he supports with sparkling play. There’s even a fiery short solo, pure indulgence.
In essence, “Crime Scene” is a sequence of strong segments. Melody lines, solos, transitions, themes, changes in tempo and mood, you name it – everything keeps you on the edge of your seat. A Cold Spring Day In ’22 is particularly captivating, describing the Gruber family’s tragedy, a farm raid that turned into a gruesome slaughter where six people were beheaded. This intense track, of course, includes a melancholic guitar solo. I can totally immerse myself in it, as well as in Life In A Cage, where the choruses are beautifully supported by vocoder-like sounds. Lang sings so movingly here that even the iciest hearts will melt, especially when that fantastic climax with a driving bass and an enthralling solo by Kalle Wallner comes in. With the epic King Of The World, RPWL takes it to another level, showcasing immense musical talent. King Of The World carries a hopeful message about a world without fears and tears. A groovy bassline introduces the song, highlighting the talent of newcomer bassist Markus Grützner. The beauty of this riff is that it appears multiple times in the song in different arrangements. It’s an emotionally charged piece of music, intense and passionate, with a highlight being the solo section where Lang and Wallner truly shine. The fact that this solo spot is filled with mellotron sounds is a stroke of compositional genius, especially when the previously mentioned riff, played on the electric guitar this time, revs up the piece again. In the finale, Lang bursts at the seams, much like the band itself, with bombast to the max. The closing track, Another Life Beyond Control, kicks off with a gritty guitar riff reminiscent of Hendrix. The song develops in two directions. On one hand, it tells the story of Karl Denke, the owner of the axe on the album cover, and on the other hand, it serves as the conclusion of the concept. Musically, it’s a delightful blend of Lenny Kravitz and Pink Floyd. I can live with that just fine.
This incredible album has an abrupt ending, which, in my opinion, symbolizes the many lives that have come to a sudden stop.
© Dick van der Heijde 2023