Monday 8 January 2024

L'Âme Immortelle - Ungelebte Leben (2024)

Country: Austria
Style: Darkwave/NDH
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Jan 2024
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Wikipedia | YouTube

Here's another band new to me who may not be to you, given that they've been around since 1996 and this is their fifteenth studio album. L'Âme Immortelle, which translates to Immortal Soul, are an electro-rock band from Vienna whose sound has apparently changed over time and back again. Initially, it seems, they played darkwave, but gradually got heavier and moved into NDH, a genre I still know far too little about, even though I do know Rammstein and have now heard Oomph! and an array of others. However, later on in their career, they apparently started moving back again.

All I know is what I hear on this album, which feels less like what I know as darkwave and more like NDH lite. All the elements I expect from NDH are here, except the crunch doesn't have the impact that I'm used to. They have all the setup that Rammstein have, and some of it has edges, but every time Rammstein would kick in hard with a huge back end, L'Âme Immortelle don't. Part of that has to do with them fundamentally being only two people, Thomas Rainer and Sonja Kraushofer, both of them vocalists with the latter the lead singer and the former also playing keyboards, which I'm presuming are the only backdrop to the voices. The beats are presumably programmed on a drum machine.

Its absence of that crunch means that this often reminds me more of eighties new wave, especially as Kraushofer sings with a pop voice. Rainer provides some darkness when he opens his mouth on the opener, Was Wäre, Wenn, because he has a harsh edge to it. However, he shifts to new wave as well on War of Silence, which is lighter again. It might be NDH without the oomph, if you'll excuse that pun, but it's also darkwave without the dark. It wouldn't have surprised me to discover that I heard this track a few decades ago and simply forgot. The heavier songs here are the ones where Rainer sings more, such as the title track, which he kicks off and which plays out as a duet.

The only song where both Kraushofer and Rainer sound dark is Nie genug, even though it picks up quite a jaunty pop beat. He's certainly darker than she is on this one but she plays along more and the result is irresistible. The fact that it also features plenty of dynamic play too is just a bonus. It probably helps as well that it's bookended by two of the poppier songs in Push and Nur für euch. I should add that I like both of them, even though it's mostly the heavier songs that stood out to me on a first listen and even more so on repeats, with one notable exception in the closer that I'll talk about next.

Kraushofer moves into more of a musical theatre style for Regret, initially a ballad but one that's built a lot further than ballads tend to go. There's musical theatre throughout the album, but it's most overt in the final track, Widerhall, which means Echo and is as creepily atmospheric as what we heard from Till Lindemann in the piano version of Mein Herz Brennt and for many of the same reasons. She simply commands our attention, even though the musical backdrop unfolding behind her is notably subdued except for one brief section two thirds of the way in. It's easily my favourite piece here, all the way to its delightfully underplayed finalé.

If that suggests that there's a heck of a range here, then I'm doing my job right. Initially, I wanted to figure out if this was rock or pop, which seemed like it would depend on which mode the band is going here, heavier NDH or lighter darkwave. What I found was that there are songs that have to be called pop, whether War of Silence, which is old school new wave, or Own Ways, which feels like something off a David Lynch album. However, there are songs that are clearly rock and they're not just the heavier ones. And, of course, there's the musical theatre aspect, which isn't usually what I tend to appreciate but which is right up my alley here. This is dark and expressive musical theatre.

That genre-spanning depth kept me listening to this for a few days to try to figure out its secrets. I know I like it but I think I have to be German or Austrian to grok how appropriate this combination of genres feels and I'm not. However, I'm finding it fascinating so I'll continue to dive into NDH and electro-rock when I can.

No comments:

Post a Comment