Progressive rock with German vocals and lyrics is not something which every lover of this genre might enjoy. Strangely enough it seems that here in the Netherlands, even more close to the German border, the people were always into the music of Novalis, Hoelderlin, Traumhaus or Grobschnitt. All acts that used to release albums with vocal parts in their native language. Maybe that was the reason that the German musician Thomas Glönkler sent his album Tiefenland to the Background Magazine office. Because it's another progressive rock related album with German lyrics. Well I guess it does not really matter to me in which language the vocals are done. Just as long as the music is good enough for me I just don't care!
Thomas Glönkler is a musician and teacher who lives in Freiburg in Germany. He has already been active in the music business for a long time. Releasing three album with the band ICU in the 90s. His solo outputs Auszeit and Goldstadt were released in 2005 and 2010. And now finally, after 13 years of working in his own recording studio, his third solo project Tiefenland sees the light of day. An album which he mainly made on his own. Playing on most of the instruments such as guitars, bass and keyboards himself. The most important person on the album next to Glönkler is lead singer Alex Hanafi. But also drummer Butzi Hofmann has to be mentioned. Together with Thomas he provided the necessary strong rhythms.
The first recordings of the album began in 2010, soon after Glönkler's last studio album Goldstadt. You might ask yourself why it took so long to finish the album. Because 13 years, that's a very long time. It was probably difficult to combine his daytime job and personal life with recording a new studio album. But what does it matter if the result is impressive! And that is this concept album. Impressive!
Tiefenland leaves a deep impression when you listen to it. It is a concept album that deals in a very lyrical way with the big existential questions of our existence: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? The music (Thomas Glönkler) reflects the lyrics (Detlef Schwieger and Thomas Glönkler) congenially. It is diverse and complex. The music and lyrics make you think, spread a slightly melancholic mood in the spirit of romanticism, the confidence that you can restore what was lost in freedom. But also a feeling of longing comes to the surface while listening to this one hour long album.
What is also striking is the instrumental variety, which, in addition to the usual rock instruments, includes contributions from piano, glockenspiel, saxophone, horn, trumpet and even a children's choir. Variety is the spice after all! The beautiful, easy-to-the-ear melodies, which Alex Hanafi performs with his slightly roughened voice, both sensitively and forcefully, also play a significant role in the success of this excellent album. Those songs with the saxophone (Jörg Wunderlich on Tiefenland and Zwischenland) and children's choir (Schulchor der Schlehengäuschule Gechingen on Leben In Dir) certainly belong to the highlights of the album. Although it is difficult to mention any musical highlights because everything is just of a rather high level. Maybe it is the opening piece Nichts Ist vorbei with the beautiful vocal performances of Juri Nothacker. Or the song that follows that track. Namely Bis Zum Himmel. The combination of the wonderful vocals and guitar parts work perfectly on this composition. Or the earlier mentioned title track with the excellent sax parts or one of the longest pieces of music on the album. The three-part Die Stille Nach Dem Schrei is progressive rock in many ways with excellent guitar, horn, trumpet and keyboard parts. But the song also points to the dramatic nature of the whole experience, with the lyrics, which are lyrical in the best sense of the word, indicating that a relationship has burned out and then cooled down beyond repair. But it's just one of examples that deals about the problems in life.
Comparing the music to other acts isn't easy I can tell you. Maybe there is a little bit of Pink Floyd or RPWL because of the guitar parts. Or even Supertramp because of the saxophone parts. And even Big Big Train comes to mind because of the use of horns and trumpets. However Glönkler is never copying anybody and always stays true to his own musical identity.
And then there is the second CD with demos and outtakes with an additional extra time of almost 54 minutes of extra music. Which also includes the beautiful instrumental Iceland Suite , which was recorded Summer 2014, with the subtitle “musical miniatures of Icelandic landscapes”. The oldest demos for Tiefenland go back to 2007. Don't think the demo tracks are simple recordings made in a bedroom. They all sound very professional and could easily be on the main disc.
The beautiful artwork, which uses photos from Berchtesgadener Land, complements the atmospheric overall impression of this album. You can see a young boy near the river and mountains arise behind him. Becoming one with nature that's for sure!
All together Thomas Glönkler can be very proud of this very strong emotional album. An album that will touch many lovers of progressive rock without any doubt, even if the vocals are done in the German language. All I can say is step into the world of Tiefenland if you don't have any problems with songs sung in the German language and enjoy all of the beautiful compositions Thomas Glönkler wrote for all of us!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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