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Image © 2001 Massacre Records 

(13 April 2001) The debut album from German Rock/Metal band Charisma, entitled Karma (Massacre Records (Germany) MAS CD01777, 1999), was sent to Musical Discoveries by the label following our enquiry on Edenbridge's Sunrise in Eden reviewed above. Both caught our editors' attention and went into frequent rotation at our headquarters. Charisma's album--a must listen--has been a dramatic surprise and we're pleased to review it and draw our readers' attention to it here. An interview with the band is also planned.

Charisma features the stunning emtional vocal work of former jazz singer Annette Kienzle. The is also comprised of former Ivanhoe members Achim Welsch (guitars, vocals) and Giovanni Soulas (bass) as well as Richard Siebel (keyboards) and Markus Blind (drums). Three additional guest drummers contribute to the album. Comprised of nine tracks, the recordings' textures vary between agressive, heavy-metal arrangements to heartfelt ballads, progressive rockers and an alternative arrangement of an Abba pop tune.

The album opens with the straight metal track "State Design" which provides an excellent introduction to the band's energy and Annette's vocal prowess. "Open Eye," later in the album is similarly constructed. Technically challenging, the brilliant progressive title track "Karma" balances powerful percussion with delicate keyboard work and driving guitars. Evocatively soaring vocals rise above the rythmic arrangements and demonstrate the power and range of Charisma's lead vocalist. Guitar solos during the instrumental bridges and additional vocal layers during the choruses are wonderful.

"The Prophets" is somewhat reminscent of Ambrosia, especially with Achim's lead vocal part. The track begins as a ballad and develops with Annette's vocal layers into a driving progressive rock tune. "Serpent" is similarly arranged; we especially enjoyed Annette's sweet vocal part. Charisma's stunning cover and alternative metal-edged arrangement of the Abba pop tune "Rich Man's World" ("Money Money Money") follows. Vocal layers and guitar solos contribute to the major improvements made over the original version of the track.

The rocking "Warm My Soul" and "Find Me In Space" are especially illustrative of Charisma's stylistic variation and are tracks where Annette's crystalline vocals--solo and multi-tracked--soar well above the lush and powerful instrumental arrangements. The band must be spectacular on stage. We especially enjoyed ethnic keyboard part, melodic guitar and the brilliantly arranged, yet almost spoken, lead vocal in the verses of "Find Me In Space." Harmony vocals take over as the song develops to its full splendour. The album closes with a new version of the Ivanhoe metal classic "Deeper Ground." Annette's lead and backing vocals soar above the agressive guitar-based arrangements and varying styles--including one like Julee Cruise--carry several of the track's quieter passages.

Clearly Charisma's debut album Karma has captivated the Musical Discoveries review team. While itt is the third of the more metal-edged albums reviewed in our Digest this month, like the other two reviewed above, it offers something for every type of Musical Discoveries visitor. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, and lots of further exploration (samples from each track are in the releases page at the band's website), this album is a must listen!

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