Felsenreich – Unschuld

15/12/2008 § Leave a comment

Artist: Felsenreich
Title: Unschuld
Label: Danse Macabre
Genre: Gothic Rock / Synthpop

Track Listing:

01 Breathe Again
02 The Seeker
03 Januar
04 Maniac Minds
05 For this Time
06 Lost
07 Veronia
08 Pray to Luna
09 Ende Mensch
10 Faking (Just a Pretence)

It’s surprising that Felsenreich aren’t more well-known since they’ve got four releases under their belt. In fact, looking for any information on them is something of a challenge. But what is clear is that the band have been together since 1999, the scope of their music has hardly changed at all and they like to describe themselves as Mexican Gothic rock. It’s usually problematic when bands start giving genre titles to their own sound because – ironically – they’re generally wrong about it and secondly, they don’t always make sense. I used to think it was only the journalists that were the lazy ones, inventing ludicrous subgenres to pigeonhole bands, but now it won’t be long before we’re hearing artists that play post-post rock, folk mathcore or dragon metal.

In the context of Felsenreich though, Mexican Gothic rock doesn’t really have anything to do with Mexico. The melodies don’t have a particularly Latin theme to them and there don’t seem to be any traditional Mexican instruments or lyrics in the music: the band only use the terminology since they play Gothic rock which incorporates trumpets. This is really the only thing that sets them apart from a lot of other similar bands but the sad thing is that if I hadn’t read it in an interview and on the sleeve of the CD, I don’t think I would have noticed. Still, it’s nice to know it’s there if only for the psychological difference.

The standard of music here isn’t particularly adventurous in spite of the inclusion of non-standard instruments: its all quite dark, mid-paced Gothic rock with bubbly synthpop elements and guitar riffs but without the hooks or differentiation that would prevent the album from appearing homogeneous. Vocals are taken care of by Mathias Sohn and Romy Unger, sometimes intertwining and sometimes singular, but though both of them are quite competent as singers their restrictions become clearer when the songs demand higher notes as they both struggle to reach them.

Unschuld starts well, with Breathe Again and Seeker being quite possibly its two strongest tracks. There are some good choruses and pleasing riffs but by halfway through the album it becomes evident that the chips have been spent too soon. Felsenreich seem to be at their best when indulging in shorter songs that can catch the attention of the listener quickly, but when the songs get longer, the band descend into repeated passages and tedium and it’s not long before it starts to get tiring and even frustrating. Songs like Lost, Pray To Luna and Maniac Minds have none of the solidity that was promised at the start of the album, being little more than milky, patchy murmurs that dribble on for over five minutes.

The main problem that Unschuld has to bear is the lack of variety in the album as a whole. Gothic rock isn’t the most inventive of genres but a lot of bands are able to cast their net over a number of different songwriting formulae on one album, something which Felsenreic aren’t quite able to accomplish. Seeing as the band have been doing this for close to a decade I don’t think we’ll see them departing much from their accepted songwriting template, so you should already have an idea of what the next few albums are going to sound like.

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