DER HIMMEL ÜBER BERLIN
Two years after its debut album "Memories Never Fade" - still ear-catching in its rounded, old yet new, Post-Punk/Goth Rock/Wave crossover appeal - Italy's Der Himmel über Berlin is back with its second full-length release, entitled "Shadowdancers", which represents a significant change for the band in some ways. This record has been totally self-produced and, in addition, the original trio has become a quartet in recent times, being Teeno Vesper the latest to join the line-up on vocals. Obviously, these factors have had a noticeable impact on the style of Der Himmel über Berlin. In comparison with its predecessor, this material sounds more crystal-clear and uncompressed, and so each instrumental line shines out with its own light. Furthermore, the vocals are more versatile, dynamic and personal, what adds further freshness and spontaneity to the mix. In short, the former traditional, sinister texture has been removed, although their hallmark sound remains recognisable in the core. But this doesn't imply, in any way, that Der Himmel über Berlin has musically worsened, just the contrary. Simply put, both records are different sides of the same coin. It's curious, they could be taken as the alpha and the omega of a long-term music career, whereas in fact only four years have passed since the band's foundation in Trieste. Without doubt, it's a sign of early musical maturity. However, "Shadowdancers" looks like an inventive step forward for Der Himmel über Berlin. Playing...
"Hyde" opens the album with blunt force, driven by a perfectly sync triad of rumbling bass, frantic drum thuds and chugging riffs. An evilly mocking, piercing guitar loop matches the listener's pulse for a dizzying acceleration. Here and there, histrionic vocals invite us to escape the threatening backdrop: "... / Tic Tac, Tic Tac /...". This track reminds me much of their Italian countrymen Artica, particularly in its theatrics and steely sheen. Leaving aside the evident disparities between both bands, I felt that sound reminiscence all the listening, to a greater or lesser extent, what for me is an exciting extra incentive. Being already immersed in the drama play, some hooky rings of guitar - full of nostalgic charm - introduce the advanced video-track, "Alone In My Room". Both chord instruments compete in a groovy duel, drums provide a forceful backbone to the song and gravelly, hissing vocals evoke the heyday of the cross-and-bones era, giving the whole piece an enjoyable throwback finishing. For its part, "Shadowdancer" enters at an impactful and concise Post-Punk pace. Impossible to stay still. Certain anxiety is induced by the chiming guitars while a fateful climate takes root in the ambiance by courtesy of the bassist. Vocals are full of despair and turn melodramatic in the huge choruses. All the lines converge as a unit near the song's outcome, sounding bombastically Muse-like. In contrast, when "Don't Take Me Home Tonight" is launched off, the overall tempo slows down and an eerily romantic atmosphere starts to pervade everything. Within it, the singer snarls and moans like caught up in some sort of full moon madness. Suspenseful twangs, effects-laden wails from the far off, chilling chords, unexpected key changes... the guitar work is amazing. Darkly dreamy and cinematically wide-screened, this song reveals a hitherto unknown sonic facet of Der Himmel über Berlin and, speaking for myself, they've overcome this new challenge with distinction. Not to mention tracks such as "With Some Leeway", a flawless, three-in-one surreal voyage across the wrong side of midnight that lives up to those from the very Christian Death, or "A Ballad", an ingenious, bold crossover of glacial, somber, melodic and progressive music that will blow you away. In my view, these three songs speak well of the band's current improved and ambitious songwriting. The wistful, hauntingly cold pair formed by "Spit It Out" and "Falling Down", with a strong scent of The Cure's adagios; the punchy, morbid punk-rocker "Something In The Dark", and the 80s-flavored, wavey shaker "Black Dress", complete a tracklist that even becomes more compelling with each listen. In a sense, "Shadowdancers" is like a jack-in-the-box: open it up and you're bound to be simultaneously surprised, awed and fascinated by what jumps out.
Review by Billyphobia