Neuschwanstein - Battlement (1979)
It would be unfortunate to dismiss Neuschwanstein as simply another Genesis rip-off, considering that aside from the uncanny vocal similarity to Peter Gabriel, there is just so much more to this music. I know everyone says that about their favorite clone, including the dreaded Starcastle, but this obscurity really deserves the attention of any late-70s symphonic progressive fan. The main thing about the album is that though they sound a hell of a lot like Genesis, it's by no means a "second-tier" imitation. The musical vibe here is very similar to Wind & Wuthering, or perhaps even vintage Camel, with its warm romanticism and grandiose textures. The band does feature an uncanny Peter Gabriel soundalike on vocals, albeit with a slight German accent, which illustrates the greatest, and most immediate, similarity to classic Genesis. However, the lyrics lack the kind of humorous, wry narrative that Gabriel is known for, instead locking in with the musical palette for a somber, darkly romantic vibe. In fact, the lyrics are usually delivered in an incomprehensible warble, and what does usually pop up doesn't sound particularly important anyway. Instrumentally, acoustic guitar, flute, harpsichord and a variety of keyboards lock together to make an extremely rich and beautiful musical backdrop, with some absolutely gorgeous themes. In fact, the vocals are probably the most negligible part of this album, and most of the weight is definitely carried by the instrumental side.
The first two tracks are probably the weakest, and it seems initially easy to dismiss the group off the bat, but once one gets into the meat of the album, starting with the magnificent "Intruders and the Punishment", it becomes clear that Neuschwanstein is much more than your average clone. The first two songs are structured more around the vocals than the rest of the album, but later songs illustrate a dazzling instrumental repertoire. The third song is a serious highlight, with stunning keyboard lines and much more complex instrumentation, and the vocals that do pop up are extremely dramatic. The title track also allows for plenty of instrumental breathing room, featuring some truly melancholy guitar solos and, after the obligatory vocal part, features some fantastic keyboard and piano work. "Midsummer Day" features the strongest vocal segment, sounding more like a less-accented version of Eloy's Frank Bornemann than Gabriel. The middle portion of the track even rocks out (briefly) in a style similar to early Eloy. "Zärtlicher Abschied" is a bonus track for the CD reissue, and flute and acoustic guitar drive this excellent instrumental to a Moog induced climax. A very exciting and impeccably preformed album if you can get past the vocals (or if a Gabriel clone doesn't bother you).
Greg Northrup [April 2001]
Neuschwanstein was a German band whose sole surviving artifact is their incredibly powerful album Battlement, originally released on the Racket label. The sound on the LP could be described as Planets period Eloy meets Moonmadness period Camel, with a touch of Machiavel (circa Mechanical Moonbeams) thrown in too. Lots of mellotrons, acoustic and electric guitars, unique keyboard work, and plenty of interesting and colorful melodies, with a big pedal-bass sound. The vocalist sounds remarkably like Peter Gabriel; lyrics are all in English (and they definitely should have stuck with their native German, as some of these lyrics make absolutely no sense). The album has six long tracks, although Musea has added one extra track for the CD reissue. The original mix was a little on the bassy side, so with good intentions, Musea brought the band's guitar player in to remix the album. Unfortunately, most of the bass has now been mixed out, and the vocals have been brought further to the forefront, giving the album a whole new character sounding more like Genesis than any of the aforementioned bands. This is one reissue I've been waiting for; I thought it would never happen given how obscure this album was, but I must admit I'm somewhat disappointed with the remix. Still, anyone not already familiar with the LP won't know what they're missing, for them this CD reissue should be acceptable.
(Originally published in Exposé #1, p. 10, Edited for Gnosis 1/21/01)
|Links for further information|