The name Labyrinth is for me synonymous with the 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson. The film revolves around 15-year-old Sarah's (Jennifer Connelly) quest to reach the centre of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant brother Toby, whom Sarah wished away to Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie). But at the same time it is the name of a concept album of a rather new name in the progressive rock scene. Namely Thomas Konder. For three long years this German multi instrumentalist has worked on his debut album.
Labyrinth is an album on which he played the keyboards, drums, percussion and did lead vocals That he spent the three long years can be heard throughout the entire album. Together with several guest musicians he managed to keep me focused and entertained one complete hour. Which is sometimes not the case at all with a concept album.
Konder garnishes his first solo trip with a concept work about the self-discovery process of a human being. Trapped in the labyrinth of ordinary life, everyone tries to find the most suitable way out. The normal madness of the everyday struggle for the all too ordinary life, connected with memories and dreams, but also wishes and hopes. Through different sound fragments the listener gets into this very interesting story. But also the lyrics written by himself and Peter Crussell tells you how the protagonist makes his journey through his difficult life.
That Thomas was influenced by the big names in the progressive rock scene is very obvious when you hear his self written compositions. Mainly three acts can be named. For myself I heard that he got inspired by bands such as Supertramp, The Alan Parsons Project and Pink Floyd. The first act mainly by the use of the electric piano throughout the entire album. A good example is most of all the title track. But also instruments such as a saxophone (Mike Kempf on 2) and a clarinet (Markus Jutz on 3) are to blame for this comparison. The comparison of the second act is mainly because of the way the songs are built up. Most of all the ballads and mellow pieces refer to TAP. Good examples are the relatively simple ballad-like numbers like the cheerful Only The Wind Knows or the piano-heavy Morning Sun, which wear out relatively quickly, but can score with melodies and very playful musical interjections. The last act can most of all be heard on tracks such as Solitary Road, Captured, Firedance and A Step A Day. Of course the David Gilmour kind of electric guitar parts are to blame.
The musical vehicle with which Konder embarks on this journey, of course, turned out quite keyboard-heavy according to the instruments used, and very often the foundation of the music consists of parts performed on the keyboards. But it certainly doesn't mean the album is too much keyboard orientated. No way. Sometimes I had wished he had used more synthesizer solos like you can hear on a track like On A Day Like This. Other times I had wished the solo parts would have lasted a little bit longer so that the song becomes even more adventuress than it already is. A good example is the too short synthesizer solo on the title track.
Thomas probably wrote his compositions on his keyboards. While doing this he never forgot the very important guitar parts. So occasionally the guest guitar players throw some edgy riffs into the balance, as in Labyrinth, Puzzle or A Step A Day, and thus give the music a lot of weight at a suitable time. Therefore the parts done on the guitars by Frank Rohles (2, 4, 5, 12) and Jan Malburg (6, 8, 11) are very enjoyable to listen to. The more keyboard oriented pieces and most of all symphonic sounding parts are the two short interludes Captured or Road To Nowhere.
Of course a conceptual album such as Labyrinth has for everybody certain favourite tracks. This also occurs for myself. Even though the level of all compositions is very high I must confess that the last piece on the album is without doubt my favourite. The concluding A Step A Day summarizes the album once more - and here we would be in the conceptual context as well. Namely, after Captured and Morning Sun had already worked on the theme from The First Step, the musical themes return here once again. The ten-minute Step A Day ends the journey through reality. Memories cite previous compositions and thus set a fixed point at the destination. You should live before you life is ended. Take a step a day is the message we get here.
Hopefully this review opens the door for other lovers of progressive rock to have a listen to this exceptional strong concept album and will enjoy it as much as I did. Thomas Konder is a very strong new talent in the progressive rock scene and deserves a chance to be heard.. Hopefully his musical talents will explore on his next releases. For now with Labyrinth, he's made a strong debut album, which most of all is recommended to fans of Supertramp, The Alan Parsons Project and Pink Floyd!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2018