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Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella - 2017 - "The Oblivion Tales"

(67:20; Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. The Spire and the Old Bridge 5:19
2. Treasured Memories 6:09
3. Words Become a Song 4:35
4. Close to the Heart 5:04
5. The Horseshoe 7:54
6. Wild West 5:43
7. My Dear Children 6:57
8. Die Zwerge Vom Iberg 8:16
9. The Dwarfs King 6:04
10. Erinnerungen 5:40
11. Melanie's Theme 5:39


Melanie Mau - vocals
Martin Schnella - vocals, guitars, mandolin, percussion
Niklas Kahl - percussion, drums
Fabian Godecke - drums
Lars Lehmann - bass, vocals
Jens Kommnick - whistles, pipes, cello
Stephan Wegner - vocals
Jimmy Keegan - drums
Dave Meros - bass
Eric Brenton - violin, viola
Nathan Brenton - cello
Rachel Hall - violin
Tobias Reiss - piano
Martin Huch - dobro
Jan Reinartz - voice

Prolusion. German duo Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella have had a creative partnership going for around a decade by now, initially exploring material written by other artists in more of a folk and acoustic manner, but after a while they also started to record and release their own original material. They have released 5 studio and two live productions so far, of which the most recent album appeared in 2022. Their second studio album "The Oblivion Tales" dates back to 2017, is their first album with original compositions, and is a self-released production.

Analysis. The type of music explored on this production comes in two different forms. Some of the compositions are straight up folk music, while others incorporate a folk rock orientation in part or in full. While the latter obviously will be most interesting for those with a more dedicated taste for material with a progressive orientation, there really isn't much difference between these types of songs here other than the arrangements obviously being different. This is due to the vocals, as they to my ears at least are the bread and butter of this album. Mau and Schnella are both excellent singers, and both when they have a clear lead singer role and when they combine their talents into vocal harmonies, those are the most memorable aspects of this album. The singing is often delivered with a haunting, emotional and melancholic touch to it, emphasizing that aspect of the compositions quite nicely when the song explores this particular mood and adding an additional layer to the landscapes explored when the mood of the compositions is geared towards a different direction. In terms of more specific orientation, the majority of the songs here explore a more western and presumably Celtic folk music tradition. The acoustic guitar is a vital instrument throughout, with whistles and violin emphasizing the folk and Celtic atmosphere in an appropriate and recognizable manner. We do get an example of a song with a bit more of an acoustic rock orientation though, and the twosome and their musical friends also trek over the Atlantic to head into a vibrant variety of roots/country music as well as a bit of a flirt with blues and blues rock. The blues rock exception aside, the folk rock contents of this album is otherwise geared towards the aforementioned celtic tradition. As with every other album I have come across from this twosome the songs are well developed and well performed. The musicianship holds a quality just as high as the vocals, and the only thing that one might find lacking is those killer songs that will lift this duo into a higher and commercially more profitable echelon. The type of material often described as a hit song, or a composition that has the properties to potentially gain a similar kind of stature. But until that happens, we are treated to solid, high quality productions from this creative partnership, with albums that have a rock solid quality to them on all measurable levels. With this first album of originals being of equal strength and quality as the albums that have followed since.

Conclusion. An affection for folk music in a few different guises will be a requirement to be able to enjoy this album, and then in particular a soft spot for artists in this field to use vocal melodies for lead vocals as well as vocal harmonies as a distinct and dominating presence. In addition to that, a taste and affection for Celtic inspired and oriented folk music and folk rock will probably be helpful too. Those who can check those particular boxes can just about be guaranteed to find this album to be an utterly rewarding experience.

Progmessor: February 2023
The Rating Room

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Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella


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