The change which began with "Where Sun and Moon Unite" (review here) is fulfilled amazingly and I'm on board with it, although some fans may not be. Like it or not, Antje Schulz is now a permanent fixture and she's sounding better than ever; main vocalist Dennis Ostermann isn't slouching either. Observe his work on the song "Forbidden Fruit", or for that matter just observe how ISC's evolution has enabled them to create such a track. Drifting along with minimal programming for the first third, gradually all the elements connect to form an awe-inspiring crescendo replete with heavy atmospheres and a viciously jagged guitar riff half-submerged behind layer upon layer of unrelenting, unrepentant synthetic deviance. A.N.G.O. of Dance or Die, are you listening?
"Exile Paradise" punches it up with the next one, "Fading Light", a high-tempo number which Antje smolders on vocally. The musical backdrop is just stupefying in its complexity, deliriously screaming along without ever letting up. To cram so many kick ass sounds into one song should be fundamentally impossible. "Wintermoon" features more acoustic elements, along with some of those trademark basslines which few bands seem to bother trying to create nowadays. A sparkling piano is also incorporated, which lends a melancholic shading. Delicious.
The production, packaging (who else bothers with art cards anymore?) and fluid transitions of this album cannot be mentioned enough. ISC have never sounded so polished. They have never before been this refined. I don't know what new technology they have managed to acquire since "Holy" but they're bloody proficient with it. Be warned.
The first bonus disc contains three extra tracks, of which "A Single Touch" is certainly the most unusual and definitely the best. It lopes along on a "get this" trip hop beat. I have not heard them do this before but it works marvelously. Dennis and Antje duet once again during the chorus, (there's quite a bit of that on "Exile Paradise") while the album version of "Samael" just crushes.
The second bonus disc features the video clip for "Forbidden Fruit", which I must say does make a favourable impression. This is an area I'd love to see them expand a bit more into. Their video back catalogue is somewhat sparse and they are adept performers in this medium. The remix kits for "Promised Land" and, once more, "Forbidden Fruit" contains everything a "producer" in this genre could wish for. I suspect a fan-remix release may be on the cards. The instrumental song "Miss Your Voice"... yeah, have a good time with that one, everybody. It's excellent on its own but, of course, the devoted now get to live their fantasy and karaoke along with Dennis, Stefan and Jorg. Hilarious.
The reign continues.
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In Strict Confidence