70s Krautrock and German 90s progressive, influenced, by the most important bands in Anglo-Saxon neoprog, are, in my view, the most rigid styles in the progressive genre, with a tendency to musical advance in single large steps, few concessions to melody, and an abundant use of synthetic or electronic sounds. That makes this prog-rock a somewhat cold experience. And when I say "cold" I do not want you to read something negative, but something different, full of importance, but which maybe requires from us a subtle shift in our hearing sense from what the intense melodies we are used to. Maybe it is our Latino-Mediterranean character who knows!!.
So it seems to me that you already guess the origin of the group of which I would like to speak now. Let me present, which I find, an excellent example of the German progressive genre, a band with a number of positive elements that shows the quality level of one of the countries (Germany) that is more in love with the progressive, Inquire. They present us their second work, arranged and produced by themselves. A second album that merges in a masterful way the best and darkest moments of key neoprog bands such as IQ, Pallas or Marillion, with a completely unmistakable and immaculate sound in monumental developments, where the memories of Eloy are constant. A band that experiences a quite significant change from their first CD, Within, released in 1999. A very well arranged album more directed toward "old" Neoprogressive structures. "The Neck Pillow" is a more elaborated and compact album, with ingredients that give them one of the biggest virtues in progressive, an own personality.
"The Neck Pillow tells the strange love story of two unusual individuals that fall inside society and search for an escape from the destruction of ordinary life".
A sentence that inspires the album, developed from an idea extracted of the movie Die Bettwurst (The neck pillow in German) and that gives sobriety to the CD. A concept that transforms into dark musical developments, with a suspense touch and darkness of very attractive progressive "thriller". A band that advances in a very leisurely way, maybe slow, that shows a surprising precision and lets us appreciate clearly each musician's work. With Dieter Cromen (guitar, voices, bass), Robert Köhler (keyboards), Thomas Kohls (battery, percussion) and Uli Mückenheim (bass).
A good example is their first track "Die Bettwurst" (20:44) where the sound of gulls recreates a port where the two main characters meet, starting from then the great progressive machine. The guitar of Dieter Cromen dominates a great puzzle where pieces are added with a crushing forcefulness, great intensity, with dark voices that make us shiver, and moments of more dynamism where they give more speed creating developments closer to conventional neoprog The work of Thomas Kohls to the drums is excellent, marking the time of a song that touches in many times silence and in others delirium in intensity. A piece that in spite of its length, doesn't become long. Keyboards help from a decisive way to the creation of atmospheres, and never sound in excess. I already tell you, it seems an album thought and created by architects, where nothing lacks and everything fits to perfection. "Circles" (17:39) follows the same pattern, although in this case guitars prevail with more intensity, being only beaten by a drummer that doubles with fierceness leaving moments of metallic fervor. The introduction of sample elements, in the form of a ghastly voice in some moments contributes to maintain our tension. This puzzle doesn't have as many pieces as the previous one, it is more lineal although not less interesting. "The death of ase" (2:28) opens a more lyrical parenthesis, with an intense melody by MrCromen riffing with intensity developing a beautiful song that abandons the darkness and adds some more melody. With "Swidwin" (7:09) we follow the trail of the previous song and we enjoy the richest melodies in the whole CD, with a melancholic flavor, and where the links of the music of Inquire with the bands that we mentioned in the beginning, as IQ, are shown. With a guitar sound a la Mike Holmes. By the way, the voice, always an important issue in the neo prog seas, is completely correct, potent but with control, without falling into dangerous strident moments. "Die Bettwurst's second part" (16:22) almost closes the album, and it is certainly the continuation of the song that opens up the CD. The resemblance is evident, although in this part rhythms are quicker and somewhat fresher. From the start, guitars are indefatigable, with more optimistic rhythms. The voice covers many passages with sobriety. A voice that is to highlight in relation to the first album Within, much more mature and even. The history doesn't finish badly at all, not leaving us a rough mouth flavor. "Die Berliner Bettwurst" (1:57) closes the album in a funny way with the voice singing a German traditional song, accompanied by the accordion and followed by the guitar.
Once finished, I wonder it is really worthwhile to follow the big neoprog bands as Arena or Pallas that in their last albums have only repeated the same "cliché". In my opinion what is needed is a good mace blow, so that, without letting neoprog disappear, the structures are shackled and rebuilt in a different way, to reinvent again the genre. And that is how Inquire has made this album. It is not risky, but it is completely different. A good album that requires patience, because with time it becomes more interesting.