Definitely this is the most difficult review I´ve written to date. This happens because I´ve never have in my hands anything like this.. an artifact that blends music and art, and it´s impossible to separate one thing from another.
The postman brings me a really heavy package. When I open the envelope I find a hard box with a sticker with the name of the album, the name of the artist and the logo. Once I open the box the surprises come: sixteen postcards carefully wrapped in rice paper, fourteen bookmarks – seem to be numbered by hand – wrapped in the same way, a sort of brochure with information about “Der Narrentum” Museum, something like a little hospital of pathologic-anatomic horrors, and another booklet with the translations of lyrics (that contains great illustrations).
Ah, sorry.. it also contains THE BOOK.. with 128 shiny pages, hard cover, numbered, signed by producer and artist and inside a envelope with a wax seal with Sopor´s logo (a hard moment when I had to open it). The book has dozens of photos, collages, etc of Anna-Sopor in a sort of voyage through madness inside the aforementioned Hospital-Museum. In the backcover we can find the CD and the name of the collaborators. There are cellos, violins, clarinets, oboe, bassoon, flute, trumpet, trombone, tuba and drums. Sorry.. I use to write the names of the collaborators in every review but this time I´m afraid the review will be very long. Anyway the genius behind this work are producer John A. Rivers, artist Joachim Luetke, label Apocalyptic Visions and, of course, Sopor Aternus/Anna-Varney Cantodea.
John A. Rivers has created the perfect sound. Everything sound in its place, with high quality and sharpness; Joachim Luetke (also known for his works for Dimmu Borgir and Marilyn Manson, but working for Sopor his art expresses with a higher intensity) has created the definitive concept between music and art. This album not only could be enjoyed by Sopor´s fans but also by any design or illustration fan or student; Apocalyptic Visions has released with a lot of courage a product downloading-proof; and, of course..Anna-Varney, the artist behind the music.
There are lots of rumors regarding Anna-Sopor´s identity.. in fact now there are people who think that it´s Luetke´s alter ego. I don´t care (in fact I´m sure they´re wrong). In any case I prefer that he/she goes on under that mysterious halo.. as well as other artists like Mr Doctor (Devil Doll). Shortly you´ll read a new interview with Anna and I hope he/she could give me further information about this new album-concept.
Now let´s go to the music.. although I´m still under shock after watching the package.
As you can read in old reviews I consider that Sopor Aeternus has material 100% advisable for progressive people (from “The Inexperienced Spiral Traveller” (97) and mainly the two parts of “Dead Lovers Sarabande”, two of the best albums released last decade) and early works only for fans, (very) open minded people, and completists.
With “The Vampire Sucking at his own Vein” (2003) the music became a little bit electronic but it kept the elements of mystery and madness of previous albums. Those elements misled all and sundry, mainly those who started to listen his/her music from “Dead Lovers”. I finished the review of “The Vampire..” wondering which would be Sopor´s musical direction in the future. The answer is very clear in “La Chambre d´Echo” because the electronic elements are patently clear, although the “spirit” of previous Sopor still lives on.
Of course we won´t find clear references to bands like De/Vision (although I´ll talk about them later) or electro-experimental bands like Front 242. But you´ll find references to “gothic-electo” bands such as Samsas Traum or Die Form, as the music moves away of classic courses. In short, Sopor Aeternus music has become more “modern” and “happy”, but with a lot of quality as well.
The album has fourteen tracks with a length from twenty one seconds until almost ten minutes. The first track “The Encoded Cloister” (4:44) shows a music between classic and modern that surprises the listener. Anna´s voice has a lot of shapes, but this time it reminds me of Marc Almond´s voice, very elegant. Ritual sounds and strings and winds sections remain but the drums give that “modern” touch we can perceive in the following songs “Backbone Practise” (6:00) and “Iddleness & Consequence” (5:08), with some synths. The fourth track “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” (3:31) is wonderful.. with electronic arrangements and nice percussions that prove that the spirit remains.
“Imhotep” (4:48) is EBM at its best and, yes, there is when I notice some references to bands like De/Vision and… why not? the most introspective Marc Almond. The track also has some string arrangements that prove that there are new ways of composition. In the same way there are strings and winds arrangements in the intro of “Hearse-Shaped Basins of Darkest Matter” (3:57). “Interlude – The Quiet Earth” (8:34) takes us to the times of “The Inexperienced” and it´s one of the most intense moments of the album. Ritual sounds, vocal intensity, strange percussions and light electronic sounds. “We have a Dog to exercise” (5:50) is an interesting track with a funny chorus that could remind of Erasure. But the church organ and the bells in the beginning of “The Lion´s Promise” (4:52) take us back to pre “Dead Lovers” sounds.
The final part of the album starts with the longest track “Leeches & Deception” (9:11), a great track that combines “classic” and “electronic” Sopor. Finally we find a moment of concern with a tearful voice and the sound of a door (or is it a coffin?) opening (or is it closing?) in the middle of the track. Marc Almond´s name returns to my brain with “The Skeletal Garden” (4:05) where Anna changes his/her voice as he/she pleases in a mysterious yet beautiful track. “Feed the Birds” is a short (less than half a minute) narration that fades into “Consolatrix has left the building” (4:34), another piece with lots of intensity. The album ends with “Day of the Dead” (6:23), with a wonderful classic intro, nice vocal melodies and instrumental moments that leave a pleasant taste in our mouth.
Now I have to write the final conclusions and now it´s when I must be extremely cautious, so I´ll write them separately:
- This album is a must for those who love illustration and photography. If you like the work of artists like Dave McKean (cover artist of Sandman) you´ll get an idea of Joachim Luetke´s style (in any case www.luetke.com)
- This album is a must for Sopor Aeternus fans who have already listened to pre “Dead Lovers Sarabande” albums and who like “The Vampire sucking at his own vein”.
- The music inside “La Chambre D´Echo” differs of what fans who get into Sopor´s music thank to both “Dead Lovers” could expect from the music. Here there is an electronic element that could mislead the listener. Anyway if you love German electro-gothic of bands like Samsas Traum, early Lacrimosa, Mantus, or Marc Almond´s electronic-decadent music, you´ll definitely love this work. I emphasize again that classic Sopor´s spirit still lives in this work, but more hidden.
- As you could have noticed, I´ve used the word “work” instead of “CD”. And that´s why I think this must be considered as a whole, and mustn´t be considered as “music” + “illustration” + “photography”. In short this work is a must for those who want to have a artpiece in the hands regardless of whether if they like or don´t like Sopor Aeternus´ music. Owning this work is owning a piece of Art.