(All Album Reviews by maribor)
I pity the fool!
Thatís what youíd hear for 60 minutes if Mr. T put out an album. Imagine it with a techno or a rap beat underneath and it becomes quite a fetching prospect. Youíre not sold? Good. Because this isnít an album by Mr. T.
Thomas Thielen, or otherwise known as T, was a member of the German neo band Scythe until they disbanded. He wasnít only a band member, he was the front man, the guitarist and he also played the occasional keyboards. Not another multi-instrumentalist, you might as well be saying to yourself. As if all the Neal Morseís and Roine Stoltís of this world werenít bad enough, thereís this new guy whoís a minor league. Yawn! Nothing good could possibly come out of this, right? Wrong. When I chose this album to review, I was very fortunate. Most of the newer stuff out there just doesnít do it for me. Apart from Marillion, IQ and a few other non-symphonic bands, Iím really not all that keen on newer artists. However, sometimes Lady Luck smiles down on you and you think that maybe thereís still some hope.
Where do I start with this album? The music? The lyrics? Theyíre both so good, itís hard to choose. Usually, people listen to music and pay less attention to the lyrics, so Iíll start with music. I suppose you could describe his style as resembling H-era Marillion. In a way, the album reminds me of Marbles quite a bit, except that Voices is even more emotionally packed. The songs are full of wonderful melodies, catchy hooks (although I wouldnít call it that because it would demean the music) and marvelous execution. Occasionally Thielen ventures into more hard rock waters, which gives a sort of Porcupine Tree feel, alongside the Marillion one. Thereís not much soloing going on but itís not sorely missed. There are plenty of interesting things going on to keep you interested. The melodies exchange rapidly and you almost wish they wouldnít because some of the melodies are quite breathtaking and extremely passionate. It feels as if T is pouring his heart out with every second of the album, not only lyrically but with music as well. When the mood of the lyrics changes, so does the music and vice versa. Itís only logical after all, if the lyrics and music are so heavily connected that when lyrical patterns are repeated, so are the musical ones.
This is a concept album and as is the case with most concept albums, some melodies are used several times. But itís not annoying because Thielen incorporates the polished old recipe of using the same melody and presenting it in a new way. Genesis had done it with The Lamb, IQ had done it with Subterranea, PFM with Storia,ÖI could go on all day. Another amazing thing about this album is that T plays all the instruments himself. I was amazed to find out that the drums on this album arenít real. He programmed them so well, that you wonít notice a difference. Perhaps someone more versed in such matters will hear it but not me. I find this to be the problem with many new artists Iíve reviewed. They do a bad job at drum programming. T did a wonderful job. And the result is visible. Although the music would still be good without it with all the wonderful guitar and keyboard passages, itís still worth to go that extra mile. The sound on the record is close to neo, so fans of the genre donít hesitate. However, there are also plenty of vintage keyboards sampled, such as the Hammond organ, mellotron and piano and all are done very tastefully. The fake strings are also done very well. This guy must be a perfectionist! With so little money, he was able to create authentic drums, strings and vintage keyboards. It pays to put in a bit of extra work. It makes all the difference.
I think that the lyrics are really what separate Thomas Thielen from the rest. One would think that since heís a German writing lyrics in English that these would be awful, as is the case with many bands from countries where the official language isnít English (and unfortunately many bands from English-speaking countries as well). This man writes some of the best lyrics Iíve ever laid eyes on. I know that a lot of people donít care about the words in music, but sometimes they can make or break an album (Love Beach, anybody?). In Voices they add another dimension to the haunting music. Thielen tells a story of voices within us all, but he tells it from the perspective of different people of various backgrounds. Thereís the man, whose love moves out of the street and he hears. He hears the silence within him, the emptiness. Thereís the serial killer, who wants to feel the happiness of a girl but he takes it a bit too literally, he wants to feel her warmth so he kills her to see what she feels like inside.
ďAnd the smile she smiled that night so bright
You had to feel it from inside snowblind
Her summer painted on her thighs
Her hair the sweetness of blue skiesÖĒ
The lyrics can be quite disturbing, as you can see. But sometimes they can be a bit less violent but for the most part, the atmosphere is quite dark. So if youíre a fan of dark albums, this may be for you. Thielen sings his wonderful lyrics with a passionate voice that reminds of Steve Hogarth on occasion (though less nasal), at other times of Steven Wilson or even David Bowie. In any case, very pleasant and versatile.
This is a treasure of an album. I discover new thing about it whenever I listened to it, mostly concerning the lyrics, which are highly metaphoric and quite tricky to decipher. But thatís how I like them. My interpretations of some of the words may be wrong but everyone put his/her own twist on things, right? For me, this is definitely the album of the year 2006. Best tracks? Itís hard to choose them because itís a concept album but the ones I look forward to most when I listen to this are: ďAugust in meĒ, ďStillĒ, ďSepticĒ (the only instrumental), ďAfterĒ, ďForget me nowĒ.
I pity the fool who doesnít get this album!