With two excellent albums under the belt; Elinoire (2011, see review) and Mirage - A Portrayal Of Figures (2014, see review), German band Flaming Row, led by Martin Schnella, a third album was released in 2019. The Pure Shine sees a small, but for me significant change in the band, besides Schnella, Marek Arnold remains on keyboards and sax and also drummer Niklas Kahl returned to record his powerful parts. The major female vocal parts are the change for Flaming Row. Kiri Geile left to be replaced by Martin Schnella's life partner Melanie Mau. Under their own name, the duo also released several semi acoustic albums with special covers and their own acoustic compositions.
The Pure Shine is an album that took six years to finally be released and parts were even recorded before the release of Flaming Row's previous album. The concept of the album is the story of Stephen King's novel The Dark Tower. I guess that is a tough story to tell in the seventy-three minutes this album clocks. Like on the previous albums, Flaming Row invited a number of high-class vocalist and instrumentalists to represent the characters of the story. Just a few names presented on The Pure Shine are, vocalists Glynn Morgan of Threshold, Johann Hallgren and Leo Margarit of Pain Of Salvation, Gary Wehrkamp of Shadow Gallery. Among the instrumentalists, we find Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan of Spock's Beard fame.
The album starts with A Tower In The Clouds, a close to five minutes folky, spherically, soundcape style opening that leads to an Ayreon referring orchestrated part. Then introducing several vocalists in canon style. When the story continues with a reasonably smooth The Last Living Member, it becomes clear that Martin Schnella and friends really did need a whole lot of lyrics to tell the story. Although there are several very fine instrumental parts, including the addition of an Orchestra Ensemble, there are many lyrics. Nevertheless, the song remains interesting and with the accompaning booklet, it's nice to keep track with the story. With Jake's Destiny the elements of folk and rock dominate. Besides the instrumental part of the track, Jake's Destiny remains acoustic most of the time. The instrumental parts with violin and flute is a brilliant part by the way. The Sorcerer takes us further in the story, but besides some furious dark parts, the music remains as if it was during the previous parts of the album. Honestly, I am waiting for something to make me jump out of my chair with excitement. Although The Final Attempt nicely combines the tougher guitar driven parts with more emotional vocal driven parts, except for some minor Tooleske parts, the story keeps on meandering through the living room. The final episode of the story; The Gunslinger's Creed takes over fifteen minutes, but does not really show any new or interesting twists in music. At the end of the album, I do feel a bit empty, as I expected or was hoping for a special album again.
I know, after two highly regarded albums, which I really loved (four and a half and the maximum of five stars) The Pure Shine turns out the lesser of the three. Musically Flaming Row took the safe road, great compositions, well played and good vocalists. But still, I couldn't keep focussed for the whole journey. I hope for the following album to have some more experiments and a shorter story to follow. Besides this, although the vocal parts of Melanie Mau are quite OK, I do miss the vocal imput of Kiri Geile in the songs.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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