Founded way back in 1969, German progressive rock band Eloy have had a long and storied career that perhaps hasn't hit the heights of contemporaries like Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Camel, but still remains rich with a discography that's as good as any in the genre. 2017 saw the release of The Vision, the Sword and the Pyre (Part 1), the first of a two-part concept piece dedicated to the life of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), and turns her story into a sprawling rock opera. The album contains a wealth of guest vocalists and choirs, but most notable is Canadian singer Alice Merton, who handles the spoken word vocals of the title character, and does a fantastic job. The Eloy line-up for this album includes:
Fank Bornemann / vocals, guitar
Hannes Folberth / keyboards
Michael Gerlach / keyboards
Klaus-Peter Matziol / bass
Bodo Schopf / drums
Since Eloy's last album was 2009's Visionary, leader Bornemann has obviously had plenty of time to put this epic together and do all the research on the title character. It really shows, as this is a full-scale, complex work, but at the same time, it's probably not going to appeal to the casual prog listener. There are numerous instances where female & male spoken word narration are dropped in to help explain and further along the storytelling, which, for some, might be a bit of a distraction and momentum killer, but thankfully it's somewhat kept to a minimum, leaving plenty of space for the typical Eloy instrumentation, which is fantastic as always. Fans of lush, '70s styled prog keyboards will find much to love here, Gerlach & Folberth layering in plenty of rich synth tones and colors throughout the album, with Bornemann injecting some tasty guitar solos in spots for maximum effect. His metallic riffing cuts like a knife on the engaging "The Prophecy", and while he's never been the most talented singer in prog, he does have a unique style that fits the music well, and his voice is still holding up well here as he hits his 72nd year. One of the strongest tracks has to be "Les Tourelles" a dramatic slice of symphonic prog with some cool synth tones and layers of lead & choral vocals.
Although it's overall a rewarding listen, The Vision, the Sword and the Pyre (Part 1) is prone to a little bloat, and it's more of a vocal heavy album that forces extended musical passages to take a back seat. Those who are expecting the majestic Eloy excursions of their '70s material might lose a little patience with some of the arrangements, but you have to give Bornemann & Co. credit for sticking to their guns and seeing this concept through. Epic it certainly is, and I'm looking forward to part two.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. The Age of the Hundred Years' War
2. Domremy on the 6th of January 1412
3. Early Signs ... from a Longed for Miracle
4. Autumn 1428 at Home
5. The Call
7. The Ride by Night... Towards the Predestined Fate
9. The Prophecy
10. The Sword
12. Les Tourelles