Eddie Lascu 25-April-2007 Fraktal + Leaving Lotus

I think we are about to witness the dawn of a new genre in contemporary music. I am talking about the unusual marriage between jazz and power metal. In retrospect, I don't think the idea is new (Chris Poland anybody?), but I haven't seen a band strongly preaching the concept. Not until now, that is, when I discovered a band from Berlin, Germany. Counter-World Experience is the trio of Benjamin Schwenen (guitar, synth-guitar, programming), Thorsten Harnitz (drums, percussion, programming) and H.D. Lorenz (bass guitar), all three music school trained. The band brands itself as a very fine exponent of Jazz-Metal and I think they fully deserve that. They had their debut in 2002 with "Always Home", an album that started to get notice, especially by the music press in Europe. However, the musicians were determined to further develop their creative ideas of fusing elements of jazz and metal, replacing more and more the progressive themes that still can be heard in the follow-up albums.

In September of 2004 the band had released its second album, "Fraktal", a collection of 9 very powerful, mostly-instrumental songs. By now the band is well known in North America, a justification for some of the music distributors to carry the album. The music is very sharp featuring edgy metallic guitar solos over a jazzy rhythmic section. You won’t get bored as the band keeps coming at you with countless musical ideas. It is a journey through progressive rock, funk and fusion but they seem to always come back to the same jazzy metal sound.

The band continues to sharpen its arsenal by participating in major progressive music festivals all across Europe in 2005 and 2006. After that the band was finally ready to take it to the next level and as a result in January 2007 they released their third album, "Leaving Lotus". By now everyone had great expectations and I think the band far exceeds them. This is not a let-down, but rather a move in the right direction - delivering more power and precision. The music is tighter, the sound rounder and fuller and, although released in January of 2007, "Leaving Lotus" will most certainly become a good candidate for the album of the year. Overall "Leaving Lotus" moves deeper into the metal territory while still maintaining all the fusion and jazz-rock elements. Things are started in the best possible way with "Amygdala" (not sure if any relation to the Japanese avant-garde outfit should be drawn here). This song contains a riff that will stay in your head for days. In several occasions throughout the album, the band sets to deliver lyrical passages, but don't get too comfy. In most of the cases they are rapidly developed into strong and powerful tunes. The only track where things stay pretty calm is the beautiful, acoustic "FeMalice - The Lobster under my Skin". In general, Schwenen's guitar soars above vortexes of beats and rhythms that will suck you in from every angle, but the other two guys get plenty of opportunities to shine. There is something special about this band's ability to build their music by constructing catchy themes and merging them into a constant flow. This becomes evident the more you play the album. There is some overlapping, as some of the themes are repeated, but, rest assured, you will be offered a different perspective.

It is crazy & powerful stuff that I cannot recommend enough. Fans of bands like Ohm, any Scott McGill project, Meshuggah, Panzerballett, Gordian Knot, Planet X and 7 for 4 should run to get these. Let CWE muscle its way to your soul. You will be greatly rewarded. If only for the new concept and you still owe it to yourself to give them a chance.

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