c/o Progwereld, Dick van der Heijde
Norbert Krüler was born in Emsdetten on 6 December 1957. But if you look at Wikipedia, you won’t find him among the famous citizens of Emsdetten and that’s definitely wrong. Krüler is not only a highly talented multi-instrumentalist, with keyboards as his main instrument, he can also compose and produce as well as the best. His career has been going on for almost 50 years now. A flashback:
In the 70s, the young musician uses a few radio sounds, a microphone and his acoustic guitar to create a series of sound fragments, which bring him on stage as a support act for Grobschnitt and Birth Control, among others. Later Krüler started to work as a DJ and fully lives up to his love for electronic music. In 1986 he founded the project Shamall, where he occasionally works together with fellow musicians. Gradually more and more rock influences come into the sound picture, and even before the new millennium begins, the sound of Shamall has changed into a music of a truly progressive sound full of krautrock and psychedelic atmospheres.
In the meantime, the electronics continue to work, and while the drum computer supports one hit after another, there is album number 15: the double album “Schizophrenia”. We are presented with great music for no less than two and a half hours, two times eleven songs full of Pink Floyd and Eloy influences, but also with the work of Tangerine Dream, Enigma and Alan Parsons, among others. So far so good.
First of all Krüler is a keyboarder and an amazingly good one at that. So long, he has received relatively little attention on Progwereld in the past, so I’m tempted to make up for that. Man, he produces a lot of wonderful solos, and his chords are beautiful. He playfully reminds me a lot of Manfred Mann, but also radiates the same melodic enthusiasm as Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area) and Mark Kelly (Marillion on previous albums). His themes are naturally sublime, as are all his other interpretations. It turns out that the Moog is his best friend, but the delicious solo in the almost 19-minute title track deserves a special mention. It is the moment when the sun breaks through into this rather dark album opener.
The atmosphere of this title track is intensified by the great guitar solo in the middle of the song. That Krüler didn’t fall on the back of his head is demonstrated by the fact that he let someone else play the whole lead guitar. Matthias Mehrtens has a melodic style of playing, Krüler has been working with him for years. An enrichment for Shamall. The title theme has a tight, almost industrial rhythm, which is interrupted from time to time by a recurring drum break. Well, this is a crash course in monumentalism.
There’s so much musicality in every song that I had to chain myself, otherwise this would have been a megalong review. I’m quite a storyteller, and then things don’t get easier when themes, melodies and phrases appear in different songs. For example, take the synthesizer theme from Thoughts, an instrumental piece that appears in two parts on the album. This cinematic fragment appears four times in the whole piece, and because all the songs are welded together, the album “Schizophrenia” is as coherent as its individual parts. Those are addictive cds, and once “All the Answers” and “The Inconvenient Truth part I” are playing, there is no holding back. But let’s have a look at them one by one.
“Frightened” has a delicious tension that reminds us of “War of the Worlds”. The intro of “Foolin’ Myself” leads with its acoustic guitar to a fine vocal piece, which once again proves that Krüler with his high, warm voice is the appropriate singer for Shamall. That means the appropriate male singer. What Anke Ullrich does in “Supernatural Dream” is absolutely beautiful. Her voice sounds like a mixture between that of an angel and that of a somewhat childish Maggie Reilly. Anyway, she has a wonderful voice. There is also a passage with piano in this song and such magnificence is always welcome. Finally, the first CD ends with two instrumental pieces, and to stay in the same atmosphere, the second CD also opens instrumentally.
Now we come to the highlight of the album, the epic title “World of Emotions”. This song has an excellent guitar solo. When we continue listening to the second disc, we can hear that the music is a beautiful continuation of the precept on the first disc. You could even say that the second disc is – depending on your taste – even slightly better than the first one. This is due to the somewhat greater role the guitar plays there. Especially the block with “Man in the Mirror”, “The Inconvenient Truth Part 2” and “The Shape of Things to Come” is enriched by Matthias Mehrtens with well-played, extended guitar solos. Especially the rocking part of “The Inconvenient Truth Part 2” is a real treat.
In addition, we hear many well-known elements such as wonderful keyboard solos, floating electronic music as a foundation, overwhelming drum-breaks, tasteful piano playing and heart-warming vocal parts by Krüler as well as Ullrich and both together. In this respect, the tracks “We Are All In The Same Boat” and “Eyes Of A Stranger” sung by Ullrich deserve a special mention. They make the album better. It is a special music. The titles “Voices From Yonder”, “Always Livin’ In A Lie” and “Despair Grows To Anger” form an unrivalled entity, in which Krüler effortlessly attracts attention with beautiful keyboards, despite the fact that we have already listened to his music for more than two hours at this point.
It only remains for me to say that I will appreciate this album with its beautiful artwork to infinity. And oh yes, soon I will surf to Wikipedia to add Norbert Krüler to the list of famous citizens of Emsdetten. You can count on me, hero!