Island — Pictures
(Laser's Edge LE 1024, 1977/1996, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1996-03-01
This is extremely powerful music, hard driving, jagged, complex and unusual, and the overall feeling is very dark. Nothing really compares, although something like Il Baletto di Bronzo's Ys is comparable in intensity, while the instrumentation might be closer to the likes of Univers Zero meets Van der Graaf Generator, with hints of Gentle Giant and a stronger keyboard presence. Frontman and exceptionally powerful vocalist Benjamin Jäger co-writes most of the tracks with keyboardist Peter Scherer. The band is rounded out by René Fisch on sax, flute, clarinet, and voices, and Güje Jürg Meier on drums and gongs. That's right, no guitars, no basses, although pedal bass is used throughout. The strong presence of the woodwinds and keys in the lead role makes the absence of guitar go unnoticed, and the keys and drums provide the powerful ever-changing rhythm dynamo that keeps this album interesting from beginning to end. The original album consists of essentially four long tracks. "Introduction" and "Zero" comprise the eight-minute instrumental album opener, followed by the stunning 17 minute title opus – this dark masterpiece alone is worth the price of the disc. The twelve minute "Herold and King (Dloreh)" may be the album's most sinister moment, complete with some distorted unintelligible vocal passages, dark instrumental stretches, and twisted arrangements. "Here and Now" rounds the original album out, again building in intensity over its 12 minute duration as it wanders through myriad of dark cavernous changes. Unlike the singers in most Swiss bands, Jäger does an excellent job with the English lyrics. For the CD release, a 24 minute bonus track "Empty Bottles" has been added, a welcome addition which stylistically fits right in with the rest of the album, though it does suffer from an occasional dropout. Incidentally, the album was produced by Claudio Fabi who also worked with PFM, and features cover art by H.R.Giger. Overall, Pictures is a unique and compelling album that I'm sure most will enjoy.
Related artist(s): Island
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