Slowly but surely, The Lasers Edge/Sensory record label is moving toward heavier and darker material. Spiritual, a new German project fronted by Darkseed vocalist Stefan Hertrich, picks up where the latest albums by Zero Hour and Death Machine left off by injecting ethno metal with caustic male vocals and warm, ethereal female voices. Think Devin Townsend gone Goth to a world beat.
Lyrically, Pulse is a deeply personal – dare I say, spiritual – record, rife with words of hope, courage and perseverance. That's something you don't hear much of these days in metal that borders on extreme. Hertrich wrote the music and lyrics for all songs except "Khundas" and "Nowhereness," which feature ethnic lyrics penned by Russian vocalist Yana Veva, who also offers respite from Hertrich's harsh delivery by sharing singing duties on those tracks, as well as "Nahash." Hertrich also composes soundtracks for PC games, and that influence can be heard throughout the eight songs on Pulse, where instrumentation, melody and lyrics flit in and out, attention-deficit-disorder arrangements that somehow manage to align themselves in solid sonic pieces. Some of the songs begin to tread the same musical ground, but the atmosphere Hertrich, Veva and company create on Pulse transcends mere structure and creates a magnetic mood in which darkness dominates but doesn't shut out the light.
Pulse is supplemented with a classy multimedia section that includes a video clip for the title track, as well as texts written by Hertrich and noted German author and scientist Christian Rätsch that delve into the effects of Gothic metal on listeners and the good and evil inherent in metal music. The term "thinking-man's metal" is overused, but Pulse — from the mysterious artwork, to the creative use of female vocals, tribal percussion and flutes, to the deep-rooted lyrics, to the bonus multimedia material — defines the essence of "thinking-man's metal." Hertrich isn't exaggerating when, in the liner notes, he humbly refers to this surprisingly appealing album as a "piece of art."
1) This Battle Is Yours
2) Symphony of Life
6) You Believe
7) Save and Heal