(03 July 2006) Esthetic Pale is a six member progressive rock band from Germany. Fronted by lead vocalists Katrin Litty and Claudia Speicher, the band's lineup also includes Claus Peter Fuhurman (keyboards), Joachim Habernoll (drums), Matthias Ibelshauser (guitars) and Andreas Vohringer (bass). Their latest album Long Forgotten Words is the fourth full length album by the band. The lyrics from the track "Frozen Phoenix" are taken from Hamlet by William Shakespeare; the rest of the lyrics were written by Matthias. The album is stunning and represents significant growth for the band. It will enthusiasts of to Flamborough Head, Renaissance, Yes and Karnataka.
Esthetic Pale's debut release The Art Of Development (1994) drew attention of the progressive rock community. Their second album Tales From An Ancient Realm (1996) was a more complete project and expanded the band's audience outside of Europe. The album Hope (2000) was released outside Europe and drew attention from Renaissance fans in North America. Their long awaited follow-up Long Forgotten Words (2006) is a masterful project balancing gorgeous vocals with in depth progressive rock arrangements and first class production.
Long Forgotten Words is comprised of five long playing progressive pieces and one much shorter interlude. From the first notes of "Phonecall 4AM" it is evident that the band is deeply rooted in progressive music. The new album has a somewhat harder edge than the band's former releases, however richly arranged keyboard textures demonstrate the artists' long dedication to the genre. Katrin's and Claudia's vocals are most often sung together with lush harmonies delivering the lyrical messages.
Lead vocal solos demonstrate each of the vocalist's sensuality. Such is the case in the alternating leads in the 12:03 opening track. One can only imagine to two ladies performing live evocatively the material. Instead of the multi-layering required by other bands, Esthetic Pale's two vocalists produce their harmonies working together rather than alone. A tremendous yet unpretentous instrumental mid-section illustrates the band's extraordinary virtousity.
In "J.C." the band continue to explore the realms of progressive music with the ladies' vocals soaring vocals soaring over orchestral arrangements. In stark contrast to the verses, guitar-laden themes develop in the faster paced chorus. We especially appreciated the mixing on this track with vocals never being outweighed by the instrumentals. Gorgeous guitar solos appear between the vocal parts.
The 5:42 long track "God's Nation" is a lighter folk rock-oriented track. The stunning vocal harmonies are sung over acoustic arrangements. A stunning piano solo echoes the song's theme in the instrumental mid-section of the song. "As Far As I Can Tell" is the shortest track of the album with a running time of under two minutes. It is entirely constructed as an acoustic guitar interlude and is masterfully performed.
Two extended progressive rock tracks conclude the album. "Frozen Phoenix" picks up where the instrumental theme in "Phonecall 4AM" leaves off but with a harder guitar-driven edge. As the track develops thick percussion and bass join the guitar and eery keyboard arrangement. The steady return to the instrumental theme is contrasted with a densely sung vocal duet. We especially enjoyed the sharp contrast between verse and chorus and the instrumental breaks between the sections of the track.
The album concludes with "Ophelia's Last Word." Vast guitar excursions are offset by synthesizer and crisp percussion as the theme develops. The track is certainly the heaviest on the album, guitars working against dueling keyboard washes. The track's vocals are stunningly delivered with Katrin and Claudia's crystalline vocal harmonies working well together continuing to soar above the symphonic instrumentals. The number builds to a tremendous climax with a powerful guitar solo before the final vocal passages are delivered.
This long awaited fourth album from Germany's premier progressive act will draw significant attention from enthusiasts this year. Read further reviews and order this Esthetic Pale album and the band's former release Hope Kinesis CD in the USA. Order the albums from the band's website in Europe.