Gazpacho - Demon

(CD 2014, 45:39, Kscope)

The tracks:
  1- I've Been Walking, part 1(9:47)
  2- The Wizard of Altai Mountains(4:52)
  3- I've Been Walking, part 2(12:30)
  4- Death Room(18:30)

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Gazpacho were formed in Oslo in 1996 by school friends Jon-Arne Vilbo (guitars) and Thomas Andersen (keyboards, programming) along with Jan Henrik Ohme (vocals). Later on Mikael KrÝmer (violin, mandolin), Lars Erik Asp (drums) and Kristian Torp (bass) joined the band and they are still members of the present line-up. Their debut album Bravo was released in 2003. The sixth album Missa Atropos (2010, see review) was a concept album dealing with death, fear and loneliness, while the seventh and latest CD March Of Ghosts (2012) contained a collection of short stories about a variety of characters from the grave. This album was critically acclaimed in the international prog scene. On the new record Demon, the band returned again to the format of a concept.

The new album has been inspired by a conversation Thomas Andersen had with his father a few years ago. They talked about a possible dark force that moves through the history of mankind. His father told him a true story about a manuscript that was finally donated to the Strahov Library in Prague, where it was thought to be of interest for students of psychiatry. This manuscript deals with a mysterious figure, a demon. It has no mercy with anyone or anything whatsoever, and with a strong desire to let bad things occur. Andersen presented the idea of the script and the story to the band and Jan Henrik Ohme immediately started to write the lyrics.

The story is told in four parts ending with the words 'death room'. These are the last words of the unfinished manuscript which was written just before the unknown writer disappeared. It took the band two years to write the lyrics and the music of this interesting theme. The dark spoken words of Ohme in the first song I've Been Walking, part 1 brings you at once in the gloomy atmosphere of this album. The slow tempo dominated by the piano and the acoustic guitar is slowly changing into a heavy piece with an excellent playing band; after eight minutes the mellow passages return: the only things that can be heard are the rustle of the wind and an isolated violin.

The second song The Wizard Of Altai Mountain sounds more optimistic. The accordion and the drums are responsible for this almost cheerful song, although the gloomy words of the magician are just the opposite. Then, during the last part of this strange but fascinating song it, changes into a Hungarian gypsy melody. I've Been Walking, part 2 starts with the sound of a church choir, a slowly played piano, angelic voices and passionate, emotional singing by Ohme. After about three minutes there's a remarkable mood change with radio voices of the twenties with powerful drumming contrasted with a mysterious violin solo and accompanied by desperate lyrics like 'there is no Eldorado, there is no reward'.

Death Room, the last epic of Demon, starts with heavy emotionally charged words and in the background the ticking of a Chinese harp. After five minutes you can feel the emptiness of the narrator; around the ninth minute the pace is increased from a very slow fox to a waltz played by the accordion and a mandolin. All of the musicians work painfully and slowly to a musical climax. The final notes are reserved for the two stars on Demon: lead vocalist Jan Henrik Ohme and violinist Michel KrÝmer. In my opinion Demon is the best album Gazpacho recorded to date. These musicians are real masters in performing modern prog rock with emotion. For the time being this is the best CD I've been listening to in 2014!

***** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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