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Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella: Through The Decades

With their fourteen track covers album, there’s a good chance that semi-acoustic folk band Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella could reach a far greater audience than their chosen musical style could normally expect. For if cleverly arranged reworking of tracks from artists as diverse as Genesis, Bind Guardian, Queen, In Flames, Peter Gabriel, Metallica and more, all done in a Celtic folk style, sounds intriguing, then this is the place to be.

First up it’s worth mentioning the talent and skill on show, Simon Schröder (percussion) and Lars Lehmann (bass) augmented quite magnificently by guests Jens Kommnick (uilleann pipes, low whistle and cello) and Marek Arnold (saxophone and clarinet) to help forge what is a thoroughly believable but still remarkably easy to engage with set of covers. Most of the tracks are completely stripped down and represented in such a way that you do have to listen in carefully to make sure that these recognisable tunes weren’t intended to sound this way in the first place. Although their names form the band, in fairness to Mau and Schnella, the pair - also joined by Mathias Ruck and guest Jelena Dobric - are more than happy for their voices to share top billing with the music and make for a tremendously cohesive journey in the process.

The most important thing, however, is that the whole album is just a great deal of fun. The introducing couplet of “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” (Genesis) and “Running Up That Hill” (Kate Bush) make for the perfect welcome. Two tracks which retain the spirit of their sources allowed to grow and evolve into a more ‘traditional’ setting with ease and grace. The vocal arrangements on the latter especially, being a true reason to allow this outfit to catch your attention. Some of the braver choices also make for rewarding sojourns, “Harvest Of Sorrows” (Blind Guardian) given a completely fresh approach, although I must admit that “Creeping Death” (Metallica) does lose its potency in this far more restrained setting. “I Am Above” (In Flames) overcomes this issue through a busier guitar approach, where the acoustic strums are pinpricked with some dextrous percussion and impressive fret forays.

In places it can be a little bumpy to follow the jaunt Through The Decades, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” a little obvious and show-tune like, whereas “Kayla” (Flying Colors) thrives from the sparse setting its afforded here. But add in a completely convincing “And You And I” (Yes) and tenderly engaging “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel) and the thoroughly convincing outweighs the less so by some distance.

Not an album for every occasion, Through The Decades is however, the sort of collection made for spending time with on a cosy evening with a glass of mead as some unfamiliarly familiar songs bring you a smile. There’s no doubt that’s something we could all benefit from at least every now and again.

Track Listing
1. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (Genesis)
2. Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
3. Poetry in the sand / Ljóð í sand (Árstíðir)
4. Harvest Of Sorrow (Blind Guardian)
5. Miracles Out Of Nowhere - 2020 (Kansas)
6. Don't Stop Me Now (Queen)
7. Kayla (Flying Colors)
8. In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel)
9. And You And I (Yes)
10. Dark Water (Agent Fresco)
11. Reasons (Pain Of Salvation)
12. Creeping Death (Metallica)
13. I Am Above (In Flames)
14. When I went away (Carousel)

Added: February 14th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Through The Decades on bandcamp
Hits: 1084
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella: Through The Decades
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-02-15 02:10:45
My Score:

German duo Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella have been releasing music for around a decade, both as solo artists and their project Flaming Row. Their new album titled Through The Decades, continues their cover album tradition beginning with Gray Matter (2015) and Pieces To Remember (2018), which was my first exploration of their music.

Of course, cover albums tend to be slightly controversial in that many music fans tend to jump ship at the mere mention of the word ‘cover’. And yes, if the music hardly changes from the original, one must ask the question the point of such an offering. However, if said artist makes it their own then the value of such a project takes on much more meaning, at least to these ears. Such is the case with Through The Decades.

The reworkings presented here are acoustic based, and of the original versions that I am familiar with, these new retakes are very well done indeed. The disc begins with a reimagining of the Genesis classic “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight”, a fabulous listen featuring Schnella’s intricate acoustic guitar and Mau’s lovely vocal arrangement. Similarly, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” sounds fresh and exciting, utilizing the band’s creative talent, including some nicely fleshed out Uilleann pipes, courtesy of Jens Kommnick. More creative renditions include the prog rock Kansas classic “Miracles Out Of Nowhere”, which lends itself nicely to acoustic guitar, even in the more intense sections, and their exquisite male/female vocals, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” featuring another excellent vocal performance and Yes’ “And You And I”, still retaining it’s angelic nature. Marek Arnold’s soprano saxophone in Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is another highlight.

Are these better than the original versions? Of course not, but that’s not the point. It is an entertaining listen in its own right, and really, that is what counts the most. Recommended.

The musicians are:
Melanie Mau (vocals)
Martin Schnella (acoustic guitars, vocals, baritone and electric guitar on 4, bass on 4)
Mathias Ruck (vocals on 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
Lars Lehmann (bass guitar and fretless bass)
Simon Schröder (percussion, djembe, cajon)
Guests include:
Jens Kommnick (Uilleann pipes on 2, 3, 9, 10, low whistle on 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, cello on 1 and 4)
Marek Arnold (soprano sax on 8 and 9, alto and tenor sax on 9, clarinet on 9)
Jelena Dobric (vocals on 11)

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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