For many years in a row, I enjoyed the pleasant company of Kurt Stwrtetschka at the annual Progfarm Festival in the northern part of The Netherlands. The lead singer of German prog band Morphelia once gave me their debut album Prognocircus (2003). A fine album I enjoyed a lot. It got a good review in our magazine at the time. In November 2005, Morphelia played at the Progfarm Festival, but unfortunately, I missed that gig due to my illness.
Every time I meet Kurt at the festival, he speaks enthusiastically about Morphelia. And every time he keeps telling me that the new album will come out soon, a concept album about a dream, Kurt had as a seven-year’s old boy. However, until now, they never released a successor for Prognocircus. Then finally, at the end of 2009, I received a copy of the new double album Waking The Nightmare. And yes, indeed, the concept is still about Kurt’s dream, he kept on dreaming repeatedly until the age of fifteen. In the booklet, you can read about the story of a lost soul named Elias Morph, the evil captain Imaginos and a strange old mansion with 365 windows. It took thirteen tracks to describe Kurt’s nightmare.
This ‘soundtrack’ contains almost two hours of the finest progressive rock music. While listening I had to think about the time when I heard Marillion ’s Misplaced Childhood for the first time. This great concept album was very important for the musical style we nowadays define as neo-prog. Morphelia sounds a lot like Marillion in their early days. As a musician, keyboardist Günter Grünebast has the same high quality level as Mark Kelly. His keyboard playing made me float away many times. Just wonderful! Maybe guitarist Guido Fröhlich is no Steve Rothery, but his style of playing gave me a lot of pleasure. In the booklet, he mentions that guitarists Ian Crichton (Saga), John Petrucci (Dream Theater) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) influenced him a lot. I think Kurt doesn’t like it when I say that he doesn’t have the impact of Fish in his Marillion-days. His way of singing reminds me of Clive Nolan on the Shadowland- albums.
The music of Morphelia moves from time to time towards prog metal. The heavy guitar parts on tracks such as Hunt In The Hall and Never Ending Steps are reminiscent of John Petrucci, but also Karl Groom came to mind. It’s obvious; Morphelia has been influenced by the ‘big names’. Almost every prog act in the world honours their heroes from the past. If you play Waken The Nightmare, you immediately hear traces of early Genesis. The intro of the opening tune Walk Through The Park starts with a piano sounding almost similar to the piano parts of the title track on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. We hear echoes of Pink Floyd on 365 Windows (From The Inside Looking Out). I like all these influences as long as the band creates its own musical style with some originality. Apparently, every great album has such influences and most listeners enjoy elements they recognize in the music. For instance, the church organ intro on Imaginos (A Taste Of Evil) might no be very original, but the sound is just incredible. This track probably would have sound less interesting without this instrument. The guitar parts on On The Roof (A Taste Of Freedom) have a lot in common with those of Marillion’s Childhoods End?, but I don’t care at all as long as the music is performed with a lot of passion and emotion.
Morphelia also writes fantastic finales to dream away like in the closing section of the epic piece The End Is The Beginning Of The End. Maybe those finales are a bit of a cliché, but most prog heads like great endings with guitar solos causing goosebumps. Maybe some readers might interpret my remarks as being negative, but that’s certainly not the case. For me Waking The Nightmare is a true masterpiece that made many spins in my CD-player. It was worth waiting six years for this superb album. I can only give the highest rating of five stars. Highly recommended!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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