This is not a word I casually toss about when writing a review. It's one of those platitudes I tend to shy away from for fear of being labeled a myopic fan-boy. But there is no better word in the English vernacular to aptly describe "Beyond Man And Time", the latest album from the popular German progressive rock group RPWL. And the first concept album in their 12 year career.
For a band that owes much to Pink Floyd I'd suggest that with the release of "Beyond Man And Time", they have achieved their very own "Dark Side Of The Moon". I once considered "Trying To Kiss The Sun" the perfect introductory album to RPWL ... now I'm not so sure.
The concept for "Beyond Man And Time" is derived from the Nietzsche's magnum opus "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" (the first line is: "6,000 feet beyond man and time"). And like the character of Nietzsche's tale, the protagonist is on a journey to the world outside of Platon's cave, where he hopes to attain higher knowledge. During this voyage of discovery he is confronted by creatures of higher knowledge such as the keeper of the cave, the willing blind, the scientist, the ugliest human, the creator, the shadow, the wise man in the desert, and the fisherman.
The problem with most prog/rock concept albums is the plot is crystal clear in the mind of the storyteller but as abstract and surreal as a Salvidor Dali painting to the rest of us. So keeping this in mind I suggest purchasing the exclusive bonus edition which includes an audio book, further fleshing out lyricist Yogi Lang's unique vision.
It's a disservice to a band that has recorded 10 albums in 12 years to continually invoke the name Pink Floyd when describing the music of RPWL - but it's an unmistakable fact. Yet RPWL continues to mature putting distance between themselves and Floyd with each new album. And with the release of "Beyond Time And Man" they may well have produced the best new progressive rock song in recent memory with the magnificent 16-minute opus "The Fisherman".
"The Fisherman" is a truly atmospheric prog/rock epic awash with emulated Mellotron-like strings and chorus, oriental percussion, Indian sitar, and colorful Moog solos. The middle eastern motif brings to mind shades of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", while the ethereal string and faux choir crescendos is reminiscent of the Pallas album "The Sentinel" (most notably the final track "Ark Of Infinity").
"Unchain The Earth" is a perfect example of why comparisons to Floyd are often made - it could well have appeared on "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" and no one would have been the wiser. In different times when FM radio was relevant and helped shape the career of promising new artists "Unchain The Earth" would surely have been in contention for chart topping status.
"The Ugliest Man In The World" is a high octane modern rocker with shades of Rush, Marillion, and Porcupine Tree.
I'm reminded of the final Genesis album "Calling all Stations" on the tune "The Shadow". This is the type of straight forward rocker that appeared on the "The RPWL Experience" album.
"The Wise In The Desert" is a beautifully constructed song beginning with moody processed guitar and an eerie theremin-like synth that builds into another RPWL classic ballad. Yogi Lang joins Justin Hayward as one of the most soothing voices in rock.
The current line-up consists of Yogi Lang (vocals, keyboards), Kalle Wallner (guitar), Marc Turiaux (drums), Markus Jehle (piano, keyboards), and Werner Taug (bass).
When you begin a review with the word 'Masterpiece' it makes it difficult to single out a stand-out track because the word implies musical perfection throughout - and that's exactly what you get.
"Beyond Man And Time" is a perfect album 'start-to-finish' and the best album of 2012. And unless some musical miracle occurs between now and the end of December, I expect it to remain the Best Album of 2012.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on April 10th, 2012