The tone is heavy and pounding, foreshadowing something doomful: it’s the monsters lurking under our bed, and they’re coming for us. Blank Manuskript, Austria’s most promising art rockers (gig reviews here and here), have released their new concept album Krásná Hora on September 19th. Its name refers to a small Czech town and is best translated as »beautiful mountain«.
Krásná Hora tells the one story that unites us all: the rise and demise of human life. Underlying the work there is an inescapable sense of tragedy. Within the music, the fears each of us share are confronted. The world is coming to an end – and we are going down with it. Yet there is a faint hope left still, coursing throughout the album.
»Is it just on my own / I can fully unfold / And evolve my hidden inner me?« This is one of the key questions the protagonist poses in the opening track »Ouverture.« The following piece »Foetus« is a prime example of the band‘s skill to convey imagination through music: muffled, partly muted lyrics and »liquid« sound effects take the listener back into her mother’s womb.
It is »Achluphobia« (i.e. the fear of night and darkness – and consequently of the lurking monsters) which serves as the centrepiece of the album, claiming the podium with a proud length of 15:36. The track takes us back to the time in our lives we spent as shy and insecure children, unable to fully grasp what’s going on around us. A collage of musical and non-musical sounds imbues this slow and powerful song with a sense of mystery. Its minimalist yet soulful electric guitar adds feeling, often through damped accentuations. Chimes and percussion accompany this acoustic experience to create a rhumba.
Growing up, we are inevitably faced with the pressure to prove ourselves as valid individuals within society. Blank Manuskript choose to make this struggle audible in »Pressure of Pride« with heavy jazz infusions. Along with staccato vocals and an incredibly smooth saxophone theme, the piece blends a variety of demanding elements.
In »Shared Isolation« we hear a Spanish style guitar playing, accompanied by flute, which, along with its paced rhythm, gives the piece a Renaissance feel at first. Then, the electric guitar breaks in and enhances the dynamic of the piece considerably, yet to be elevated by the saxophone. An assemblage of sampled sounds paves the way to the core of the song. Its main musical theme, the leitmotif of the album – with an inherent epic feel – is already presented in »Ouverture.«
»Avoidance mellows sentiments / As blossoms wilt with time / Embraced in insignificance / Our world has lost its prime:« The ideas of a doomed fate, isolation and loneliness are deepened with the final tracks »Alone at the Institution,« »Silent Departure,« and ultimately »The Last Journey.« With this album, Blank Manuskript have managed to successfully fuse and even extend their variety of musical elements. These include collages of sound effects, jazz, rash prog aesthetics, and sweet melodies, to name but a few. It lives up to what is expected of a concept album: the music, the lyrics, the artwork, and, most importantly, the story – it’s all there, and beautifully makes up the so-called Gesamtkunstwerk [»total work of art«].
Krásná Hora captures the contemporary world’s dire atmosphere, while yet giving the listener a tiny spark of hope that there is, in the end, some beauty left to be found. Music is always a good place to start searching for it.
Author: Robin Frank
More information/photo credits:
© Blank Manuskript