At the tail end of last year I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing one of the most beautifully composed, wonderfully arranged and joyfully constructed albums in all my fifty years of being passionately in love with progressive music. The album in question was ‘Verwundete Stadt’ a 2017 release by ‘Necronomicon’. And so imagine my utter delight, when after a pleasant exchange of emails with the bands guitarist ‘Walter Sturm’, he mentioned the existence of a further vinyl album (and accompanying CD) released by the band in 2012 entitled ‘Halfische’. Subsequently I am truly indebted to ‘Walter’ for sending to me this most desirable ‘Halfische’ package together with a vinyl live recording of their inaugural classic album “Tips Zum Selbsmordt” Live which I shall enjoy reviewing at a later date.
Although, at the time, I could never imagine anything topping ‘Verwundete Stadt’ this magical German band comprising, seasoned progsters from the seventies, had already equaled this feat (un-be-known to me) some five years earlier with their reunion album ‘Halfische’, which in every respect matches and even exceeds the musical quality of ‘Verwunderte Stad’.
Comprising of three tracks over ten minutes long and a fourth extending at over five minutes it is indeed a veritable ‘progressive music lovers dream’ with multitudes of time changes and complex rhythmic drum patterns and other interesting and additional percussive elements integrated within the mix. Track one ‘Wan Kommt Der Tag’ (When the Day Comes) incorporates (9:54) within its precincts an intriguing dual lead guitar kind of descant effect with the two guitars pitched several octaves apart but never-the-less both in perfect synchronicity. Track two ‘Wiegenlied’ (Neuter Lullaby) contains some delightful vocal harmonies over an acoustic accompaniment which drifts over to some quiet beautifully considered electric guitar before cruising away on a sumptuous lead guitar extravaganza a journey so markedly classically influenced that it had me scratching my head as to its possible root derivation. Remarkably then there follows yet another series of direction changes as the lead guitar lets rip with some powerful and quite menacing heavier rock histrionics before once again moving towards a more peaceful footing and an outro repeat of the intro. Track Three ‘Wenn Die Menschen Wie Tiere Waren’ (If humans were like animals) Here there are some pronounced shifts in tempo as the hardworking keyboards lead on the proceedings with flurries of absorbing chord sequences and then wow at (5:40) we take off again as the music engages with some delightful Latin American Samba beat before once more returning to the more guitar driven progressive rock sounds that articulate the very soul of Necronomicon. Track Four ‘Epilog’ is heavily drenched with keyboard fills and delightful runs of church like organ sequences upon which are once again overplayed with stunning guitar. Whilst I have seemingly not mentioned the keyboards with much abundance in this review I must reinforce the fact that the contribution from ‘Hermot Herzog’ is immense. The keyboards provide the glue, in fact, a preverbal platform upon which the lead guitars can sway and resonate with such dynamic effect. Gerd Libber too the unsung hero on bass does a great job working in perfect coordination with sicks man Harald Bernhard.
This band as a collective unit take my breath away for many reasons, their compositional skills are just so impressive with each part following the outline of a mini symphony and which encompass umpteen time changes, deviations in musical style and the clear undertaking to extend the boundaries of this genera of progressive rock to the extreme with harmonic and melodic intentions. Also another factor which is clearly obvious from watching the odd video on youtube is that these guys actually love what they are doing and enjoy every minute of their live performancesand in the bargain winning the German rock and pop award 2017 in Siegen. A wonderful result for a band who first emerged in the early seventies and no doubt were battling against groups of energetic youngsters half their age,
Summary: A truly wonderful album in all respects which is an exciting, interesting, totally amazing and veritable collection of symphonic delights.
Artwork: Truly amazing cover drawings from the pen of their artistic drummer Harald Bernhard.
Walter Sturm : Guitar and Vocals.
Gerd Libber : Bass.
Norbert Breuer: Guitar and Vocals.
Helmut Herzog : Keyboard.
Harald Bernhard : Drums
A final word from Walter Sturm :Hafische was made after more than 30 years of "silence" in 2012. It takes up some themes we already made in 1974 but which were never documented professionally. One song originally was planned to be a musical presentation of a lyric by Bert Brecht "Wenn die Haifische Menschen wären (If sharks were humans)", a rather modern topic reflecting the behavior of financial world. Unfortunately the Bert Brecht society prohibited this project. Thus we had a friend make a new text, being rather close to Brecht's idea but on the other hand far away enough not to touch any copyright. The new title is "Wenn die Menschen wie Tiere wären (if humans were like animals".
Another song "Wiegenlied (Lullaby)" starts sweetly but develops into a very rocky musical nightmare (one of my favorite songs), nevertheless ending up in a very symphonic sequence. The cover, by the way, is the mirrored image of our first LP "Tips zum Selbstmord" with reversed black-white colours.