When I received the new album of the German band Schizofrantik, I doubted whether I should be happy about it or not, for their previous album Oddities (2011, see review) didn't shake my world at the time. Though open-minded as usual, I put my previous opinions and prejudice aside and I energetically approached the new album The Knight On The Shark . The line-up of the band is still the same including founder and former Panzerballett member Martin Mayrhofer (vocals, guitar, keyboards), while the rhythm-section consists of Peter Brauer (bass) and Andy Lind (drums). On Oddities the major parts of the keyboards were played by Markus Jehle (RPWL), but on this album Mayrhofer played all the keyboard parts.
So, what does this new album bring? Well, you can still hear that Mayrhofer was a member of Panzerballett. There are numerous parts that ring a bell when you're familiar with Panzerballett's music. He superbly plays the guitar during the opener which has a rather weird title reminiscent of Frank Zappa: The Knight On The Shark Beside The Ship Which Is Not Sunken Yet. However, not only the title reminded me of this great musician; sometimes the vocal melody lines sound like Zappa too. Therefore a compliment is in place here, although singing is still Mayrhofer's weakest point, but when he does it in a kind of reciting Zappa style, it isn't that bad at all.
Mayrhofer's strongest point, however, is the way he plays the guitar: versatile, innovative and virtuoso. The compositions are strong and adventurous and I noticed that the individual musicians have grown music wise. While listening to Marching Through The Meadow , I perceived a different approach concerning the vocals, which actually isn't bad at all. The outcome is a song with some oriental roots drenched in modern rock with progressive elements. The Human Slaughter Tango starts with heavy riffs over a soft acoustic guitar and vocal wise Mayrhofer returns to the first song. The alternation of electric and acoustic elements perfectly suits this song and gradually the tango emerges by means of an accordion part, which brings back memories of the music my parents used to play. So, well done, but luckily the heavy guitar fiercely takes over at the end of the composition.
Nazis On LSD is a sublime, heavy, freaky and impressive song. I guess if Frank Zappa were still alive he would have approved of this Zappa-goes-metal composition. As far as I'm concerned this is the best piece of The Knight On The Shark and by accident it happens to be an instrumental! Next is Psychic Scars with an acoustic part that gradually grows to a vocal part with a distorted bass in the background. During this song the acoustic guitar is challenged by Panzerballett kind of riffs; here Mayrhofer lifts the music of his former band to another dimension. Liquid Light is a heavy metal piece with adventurous riffs that sometimes reminded me of bands like Primus and Mr. Bungle. Albeit the screaming vocals do fit the song it's not quite my cup of tea. The final composition Thanx Dog is only performed by Mayrhofer. His fine guitar parts are technical as well as emotional. Halfway through electronics are added softly increasing the intensity of the song. I think all fans of strong traditional guitar playing will appreciate this one.
I think The Knight On The Shark shows a lot of progression compared to Oddities. The compositions are less chaotic and have become milder structured in a way I really appreciate. At some points I still wished that Mayrhofer would have invited a real vocalist to help him out. Not only have the musicians shown progression, but also the number of stars...
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?