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Flaming Row: The Pure Shine

Just prior to the movie release of The Dark Tower I went back and read the original novel by Stephen King, the veteran author honest enough in the introduction of this reprinted version to discuss the flaws of his early work. Still, I quickly ploughed my way through the book, which I’d first read many moons ago, before deciding to give the movie a miss. However, through the band Flaming Row (which is an undeniably uninspiring name) I’m back in the world of The Gunslinger and his Dark Tower as this German band base their third album, The Pure Shine, on King’s sci-fi/fantasy/western. For those interested, while the lyrics take a more artistic journey through the story and characters, for the most part you can recognise the tale being told. Although I’m not sure how it would all convey to anyone not aware of the books in the series.

Sadly, the main comparison I’d make between book and album is nearly but not quite, with the intention clearly admirable but the musical journey just a little too calculated. The guest list augmenting singer Melanie Mau, multi-instrumentalist, lead vocalist and chief songwriter Martin Schnella, keyboard player Marek Arnold and drummer Niklas Kahl is undoubtedly impressive; the likes of Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard), Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), Johan Hallgren and Leo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation) and Glyn Morgan (Threshold) among a cast that’s long enough to fill this review in its entirety. However, with the mix of symphonic prog, prog metal, folk infused rock and classic rock all just a little too organised for its own good, much of it quickly fades out of memory. Mau is a talented singer, if something of an acquired taste, as she adds an almost too perfect approach to the ordered music she fronts, meaning in places it’s quite difficult to shake off the feel that it’s a stage-play-musical that’s being performed in front of you. For me this leave the elements too neatly stacked-up in order to ensure that it’s the story that shines, with the music feeling like it’s employed as a vehicle to take us from scene to scene. Something that is maybe even more apparent as the fully instrumental version that can be found on disc two fails to capture the imagination.

For me, The Pure Shine is a rather odd experience where I understand that the performances are to a truly high standard and that the song construction has been lovingly crafted and curated. Yet, while there’s not a moment on this album that I actually dislike, neither are there many sections that compel me back for more.

Track Listing
1. A Tower In The Clouds
2. The Last Living Member
I. A Mystical Structure
II. Roland Of Gilead
III. Maerlyn's Rainbow
3. Jake's Destiny
I. The Painted Pictures
II. Relentless Pursuit
III. 1919 Midworld
4. The Sorcerer
I. Evil Forces Of The Dark Side
II. Distracting Illusions
III. Arra
5. The Final Attempt
6. The Gunslinger's Creed
I. Roland's Revenge
II. The Sorcerer - Reign Of Darkness
III. The Secret Place Of No Return
IV. Our Savior

Added: April 19th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Flaming Row @ bandcamp
Hits: 1371
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Flaming Row: The Pure Shine
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-04-19 07:00:10
My Score:

I first became familiar with German musicians Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella with their 2018 release titled Pieces To Remember (reviewed on this site). Well, going back a few years before that, more precisely 2008, the duo formed the project Flaming Row which was unbeknownst to me. Their debut titled Elinoire was released in 2011, followed by A Portrayal Of Figures (2014) and their latest The Pure Shine (2019). With the new album the duo has enlisted some great players like Glynn Morgan (Threshold), Alexander Weyland (Traumhaus), Dave Meros and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), to name but a few. The core of the band is Mau (lead and harmony vocals), Schnella (lead and harmony vocals, various guitars), Marek Arnold (piano, organ, Mellotron, synth, soprano, alto and tenor sax) and Niklas Kahl (drums).

This is a sprawling work at over seventy minutes. Most of the tunes are multipart suites and tell the story of Steven King’s The Dark Tower series. Schnella and Mau are obviously big fans of King’s work and the duo have created an impressive rock opera, almost in the vein of the Ayreon project. There is a second disc as well containing instrumental versions of all the tracks.

The disc begins with “A Tower In The Clouds”, the shortest track at just under five minutes. Softly played piano and orchestrations followed by a short narration that leads to dramatic symphonics and an awesome in the round vocal featuring several different singers. This is a stunning vocal arrangement and speaks to the talent of all involved. Next is the three part suite “The Last Living Member” featuring calming interludes including some folk elements and heavier symphonic prog. Tasty builds, excellent lead vocals from Schnella and Mau and strong guitar work, both acoustic and electric. With “Jake’s Destiny” an exquisite acoustic guitar melody and lovely male and female vocals gives way to a classic buildup of instruments, including tin whistle and Uilleann pipes and has the band forgoing into heavy prog territory. More great playing by this veteran cast of musicians and vocalists.

The other three tracks yield more tasty surprises, in true rock opera fashion. So much so I can say this without hesitation, you really need to hear this album, especially if symphonic rock is in your wheel house. Highly recommended.

A Progressive Promotion Records release.

» Reader Comments:

Flaming Row: The Pure Shine
Posted by Jeff G. on 2020-02-04 00:42:11
My Score:

"The Dark Tower" is a series of books, not just one book. Reading only the first novel would not convey the depth or plot of the series. Also, the title of this album is "The Pure Shine", not "The Pure Show".

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