RPWL – Crime Scene (2023)
Ever since their debut album God has Failed I've been quite charmed by the music of German band RPWL. Of course I also (did?) hear a clear hint to the music of Pink Floyd and that is often the criticism the band gets, it would sound too much like it. They are often frustrated about this themselves, just listen to the song This is not a Prog Song on the album The RPWL Experience. But over the years, despite various line-up changes, this band has increasingly formed its own identity and in my opinion they have long since passed the image of a good cover band. I even dare say, and this will not be to the liking of diehard Floyd fans, they are even better. In fact, the new album Crime Scene is their best album so far and is the provisional climax of the extensive oeuvre of the band around singer / keyboardist Yogi Lang and master guitarist Kalle Walner. In recent years, drummer Marc Turiaux has been a permanent fixture and Markus Grützner is the new bass player on this album and he does that with verve. Keyboardist Markus Jehle is no longer present, but Lang can play keyboards on a very high level too.
For me it was sometimes a problem with their previous albums that great songs were interspersed with much lesser ones. To little consistency. However, this was no longer the case on the penultimate album Tales from Outer Space and fortunately this line has been continued and Crime Scene only contains classy tracks. Another line that, unfortunately, has been continued is the choice of unappealing artwork. All of the previous albums, I own them all, do tend to have unworthy covers. Sorry guys. I really dislike this cover too but hey, it's the music that counts.
For those who already know the advanced clips, it was already clear, this album is about various aspects of human evil and the terrible crimes that are a result of this. Sung from the perspective of perpetrators but also victims and also contemplative. What leads to all our motives for wanting to do evil?
Victim of Desire is the opening track and replaces Light of the World from the previous album as the best RPWL track ever for me. However, this will only be for a short time, but I will come back to that in a moment. Eight minutes of pure enjoyment. The melody, the variety and the majestic guitar work of the omnipresent Walner make this a powerful song. Lang's vocals may not always be accent-free and not super spectacular, but they always sound warm and clean. The keys also sound darkish and provide a nice full sound.
Red Rose and A cold Spring Day in '22 are somewhat shorter songs with more acoustic guitar work, but also nice melodic solos. Despite the somewhat shorter duration, there is a build-up in the songs and they gradually become more progressive. It has to be said, the whole album sounds fabulously good. Modern with room for all details and instruments and yet powerful and bombastic when necessary. Yogi's vocals are also getting better and better.
Life in a Cage (what's in a name?) starts with clear percussive patterns and could indeed have been by Peter Gabriel, but halfway through it changes into a tight 4/4 time over which a glowing guitar solo is played in the style of Pendragon's Nick Barett. Nice.
After this comes the longest song King of the World and yes, that is now my favourite RPWL song ever. Wow, what beautiful melodies and fitting vocal lines and did I mention that Kalle Walner really is a master on guitar? There are such fine tunes in all songs and when it comes to solos he is one of the very best in the genre. But Lang also plays a swirling synth solo and the sometimes rougher guitar parts provide just the right mix and tension.
The rhythm section is just really good. The more driving bass parts stand out here and there and drummer Turiaux usually plays subtly but can also rock if asked.
Closing track Another Life beyond Control had to land with me for a while and that is mainly due to the heavily distorted guitar riff and the somewhat contrary rhythm at the beginning. Yet this song eventually develops into a true party for us prog enthusiasts with of course a jubilant guitar solo and heavy keyboards at the end and Lang sings a wonderful part over this.
It should be clear, I am very impressed with Crime Scene and a place in my year-end list is assured even though there are a few more crackers to come. (Mystery for example)
Ganz Gut Männer!