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progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members.

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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

album reviews

album review

Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows
- Es Reiten die toten so Schell
(or The Vampire Sucking at his own vein) - 2003

New? album by our favorite martian that is released under three different formats: normal Cd with 16 pages booklet, Cd with 40 pages book (only 1999 copies), and a vinyl version (666 copies), numbered and autographed with two posters, a t-shirt and postcards. I can only talk about the book-Cd edition and it´s a great work: hard cover with silver characters, great printing quality, and really amazing photographs of Sopor. I don´t know how vinyl edition is, but this one is a masterpiece of art, not only for music lovers but also for photograph lovers.

You can see at the top of the review the word “new” between questions marks… that´s because this album is a rerecording of Sopor´s first demo released as cassette (K7) in 1989 and, obviously, impossible to find. Supposedly that demo was the first part of a trilogy ("The Undead Trilogy") with a second ("Rufus") and a third ("Till time and times are done") still unreleased parts. I don´t know if Sopor wants to release those two parts soon but I suppose so; anyway next month I hope I´ll have the answer because I´ll interview Sopor for progVisions.

The album consists of 15 tracks and has a length of one hour. It contains all the seven tracks already released in the demo plus other re-recorded tracks taken from the second album of 1994 "Ich töte mich jedesmal aufs Neue, doch ich bin unsterblich, und ich erstehe wieder auf; in einer Vision des Untergangs" (yeah, this is the title), and fragments I´ve listened to in other albums.

One of these days I´ll write about Sopor´s albums before "Dead Lovers Sarabande" but as an advance I can say that they haven´t anything to do with those already reviewed at progVisions. The sound quality was poor, the vocals were badly produced and the music is mainly electric with influences of post-punk and gothic sounds with some martial and ritual music. Anyway the listener could guess how Sopor´s music was going to be developed in the future. In this new(?) album you won´t find at 100% the sound of "Dead Lovers" or "Songs from the inverted womb", or Nenia C´alladhan. And I stated 100% because this album has a great sound plenty of brilliant details and lots of very interesting classical arrangements have been added, so the electric instruments are in a second or third place. The classic instruments (violin, cello, double bass, bassoon, clarinet, cor anglais, oboe, trumpet, trombone, tuba) are blended with electric bass and drums and the songs sound in a very interesting way… let´s call it “progressive”.

The album starts with “Omen Sinistrum”, a short intro with doomy bells, thunders and the gloomy melody of a musical box. Then Sopor´s voice enters with a soft declamation with the orchestra playing a melody that sounds like a requiem or miserere. Then “Dead souls” begins with a sweet orchestral sound and a church organ. Later on we can hear the first drum beat that serves as a rhythm for the orchestra and bells. The arrangements are really brilliant and Sopor´s voice is the perfect company for the music´s tempo. I´d dare to say that progressive listeners will enjoy with the rhythm section because they make the overall atmosphere brighter than Sopor´s early albums. “Stake of my soul” is a short instrumental track and the melody reminds me to “Funeral March” from the second part of "Dead Lovers..." after that the track develops with a beautiful vocal line and a wind section. Sopor´s voice reminds me in this song to Marc Almond. The third song “Beautiful Thorn” has ethnic aromas and it is followed by “Baptisma”, seven minutes with the most intimate Sopor and amazing and varied orchestral arrangements. The beat of the drum doesn´t matter here. “The feast of blood” is another short track with eastern influences.. a sort of macabre medieval fair that ends in a very intense way. This song is the most “mainstream” you can fin here. Everything stop with the ceremony of “Sopor frater mortis est” a delicious song with the classical cold beauty of Sopor´s songs when he sings about death, solitude, and emptiness. It´s amazing how this artist writes delicate melodies and arrangements when he sings about darkness. “The dreadful mirror”, “Reprise” and “Birth-fiendish transfiguration” (especially the last two were already released in the album "The Inexperienced Spiral Traveller" with the title “Memories are haunted places”) have melodies taken from Sopor´s latest albums. Let´s go on with “Penance and Pain”, another “mainstream” gothic oriented. Fortunately “Holy water moonlight” brings us back the classic arrangements. I love the percussions and the bass with all kind of winds and string sounds. “Infant” and “Über den Fluss” are two short interludes, one with only vocals and acoustic guitars and the other one with an energetic tempo. Finally the best track of the whole album: “Dark delight”, a dark song, very obscure. Sopor´s beautiful voice is wrapped by a background of church organ and strange orchestrations, ending with a nice interplay with wind section.

I hope Sopor will tell me how his career will be in the future and if he will choose the absolutely classic sound of "Dead Lovers..." or maybe he´ll experiment with slight electric sounds as happens with some tracks of Es reiten..., or maybe he´ll offer us another album plenty of positive beauty with Nenia C´alladhan project, or maybe he´ll rebirth the mini project named White Onyx Elephants that only was used for a compilation album about the Amazonian forest. I don´t know, but whatever he´ll do I´m sure it´ll be interesting. If you´re already into Sopor´s music, this album is highly recommendable… and if you don´t know his music yet, forget if you want the visual concept but please listen to the musical beauty and the classicism of the notes and it´ll transport you to a world where death is beautiful. If you want some references (Sopor´s music is difficult to define) imagine the most classic Lacrimosa and the less progressive Devil Doll. That´s more or less Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows. Please read the reviews of other Sopor albums and run to your local shop for both "Dead Lovers" and Nenia C´alladhan... and don´t forget this one.

Alfonso Algora - January 2003
rating - Apocalyptic Visions

 

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