This legendary and eclectic group was formed in 1991 by Michael Popp and Ernst Horn, both members of another popular band Deine Lakaien. The idea was first developed all those years ago with the concept to combine medieval melodies and texts with modern electronic music. Taking this concept and making it a reality they soon were joined by vocalist Syrah (Sigrid Hausen) and they created what has become a legendary work in the form of their debut album QNTAL I released in 1992. With the release of this album we were treated with the club hit "Ad Mortem Festinamus" which still gets lots of club play around the world today. While members worked on various side projects, including Michael and Syrah's Estampie, they managed to put together another album QNTAL II which was released in 1995. This album brought the popular track "Palestinalied" to us and won fans over worldwide again with their awesome sound. At this time they also began to tour and play live shows with Deine Lakaien. However, after this popular time in the band's history, members of the group soon parted ways with Ernst Horn leaving to focus on his work with Deine Lakaien. Soon the band was joined by third member Philipp Groth who remained with the band through their QNTAL VI album. After 8 years of waiting, we were presented with the awesome third work by this stellar group in the form of QNTAL III. The legend lives on and the music is still as good as ever with the release of QNTAL IV, QNTAL V, QNTAL VI, QNTAL VII and a remix album released in North America Illuminate.
For those not familiar with the wonderful style of music produced by this excellent band, it's a great combination that many thought just would not mix well and wouldn't be received well by anyone. These critics were wrong on both counts and we have a popular and favorite group for many people. They combine an awesome electronic sound that is sometimes powerful, other times relaxing and ethereal, but always beautiful. The name QNTAL comes from the letters that appeared in one of Syrah's dreams soon after joining the group. Out of all of these strange circumstances and combination of musical styles and influences, we're presented with a legendary band that just keeps going strong.
QNTAL VII - Review
With the release of this album we see the band enter a new chapter in their history. With Leon Rodt replacing Philipp Groth as producer and live keyboardist and also the addition of Mariko (Sarah Newman) as a permanent member of the band they continue their adventure of creating an excellent blend of classical and medieval with modern electronic music. The band also emerges from the medieval era with lyrics garnered from poetry and writings spanning through the 17th to the 21st century, yet they still maintain that same stellar style we've grown to love more than two decades ago with their first release. Spanning fourteen of these creative tracks we have an excellent album packed with great music.
While this new album sees the band continue to create and produce their create blend of medieval and electronic music, I feel like this one stands out a little bit with a little more dynamic elements to it across the various tracks. We have some great ethereal pieces that leave behind the heavier beats while we have some great upbeat music that bring on the driving and pulsating rhythms harder than in recent memory. For fans that enjoyed some of the more dynamic elements of their first two albums, we have more of that here on this work. The overall album is great and each selection stands great on it's own, however I'll just touch on a few here to point out some of the great elements we have to enjoy here. "Flaming Drake" starts it all off with a soft and beautiful tapestry of music with more emphasis on the classical sound while pulsating electronics do come out interlaced with many modern instruments as well. This is one of those that leaves the heavy beats behind and just focuses on the serene and peaceful sound. This gives way however to one of the definite more upbeat pieces on the album with "Tenacious Love". At first the beats are a little more subdued, but the moving rhythm keeps the track progressing along for a nice dance-friendly piece. Of course across most of the album we have Syrah's soft yet siren-like vocals luring the listener in and portraying the lyrics she's dug up from past centuries. However, another nice treat includes Michael Popp taking the lead on the vocals for "By The Light Of The Moon". His smooth tenor vocals grace this soft piece with haunting female vocals in the background as the soft and subtle percussion mixed with layered instruments and electronics create the beautiful moods.
As the album moves along we're presented with more great diversity across the varied tracks. A few of the pieces bring out more of the avant-garde and experimental electronic sounds we enjoyed with their early works and with Deine Lakaien. "Swebend" is soft and beautiful throughout most of the piece, yet halfway through it builds up into an intensely driving instrumental interlude of these experimental electronics before drifting back off into the soft and ethereal dreamscapes. "Fru¨hlinsgslied" is another piece with some of these classic dynamic and moving experimental elements that has quickly become a favorite with more of a dance-friendly beat. We see the moods and tempo shift as the album progresses from piece to piece, on some the dreamy atmospheres permeate much of the piece while on others the moving rhythm takes the forefront, all capped by Syrah's softly haunting vocals. As the album starts to come to a close we're treated with some great pieces, but I found that "Melos Lacrimosum" stands out as another definite favorite, hearkening back somewhat to the style and dynamics of "Ad Mortem Festinamus" for a stellar piece.
There you have it, another great album in a long line of stellar works. Fans will not be disappointed as the legacy lives on.
QNTAL VI - Translucida - Review
It's astounding how some artists get their creative juices going and there's nothing that can slow them down. Ever since they regrouped for their third album, we've received one excellent work after another, now up to their sixth official full-length release. I guess when you have something good going, it's hard to slow down or stop. This album shows how all of their talent and hard work pays off with eleven solid tracks (and if you get the limited edition with the bonus CD, you get a few extra tracks as well).
As with their previous works we're presented with one spellbinding piece after another featuring old English, German, French and other lyrics from centuries long past. These lyrics are portrayed through Syrah's talented vocals that can make any listener swoon with their captivating beauty. And it's all brought together in a finely woven tapestry of musical compositions by Michael Popp and Phillipp Groth. Through various moods and tempos from the dreamy ethereal and medieval sounds to the moving beats and electronic masterpieces the music moves along through these varied soundscapes holding the listener captivated and entranced from one delightful piece to another.
As with other recent releases the music remains somewhat uniform and consistent throughout without anything really standing out as a club hit or hit single. Fans will definitely pick out their own favorites based on their own styles from the dreamy introductory track "Sleeping" and finale piece "Passacaglia" for ethereal fans to the more moving electronic pieces with a somewhat trip-hop dance-friendly beat on "Departir" and breakbeats on "Glacies", the driving piece "Sumer" or mid-tempo "Obscure". Overall the moods remain somber through all of the various music and nothing really ever takes off, but remains dreamy but moving throughout.
Overall we have another beautiful album that fits nicely right along side all of their past gems. This trio really has something going here and as they tour and continue to work I'm sure we'll hear a lot more from them. Fans should enjoy this disc as the latest great chapter in their history.
QNTAL I - Review
It's nice sometimes to just go back to the beginning, and that's what we're doing with the release of this album. This is a special treat for N. American fans or any others that may have missed this release the first time around so many years ago. The disc comes with a dozen selections and a booklet with the lyrics presented in the original language and a translation into german and english. With these translations we can know a little better exactly what the songs are about. This excellent work has not dimmed with time, but remains a stellar landmark album for all fans of electro, goth and various medieval and ethereal music.
"Un vers de dreyt nien" is a beautiful intro to the album and is a special treat for the fans of simple, ethereal music. This angelic piece sets the stage for what becomes a roller-coaster ride through medieval texts and a combination of a wide range of musical styles that will keep the listener moving and guessing, physically and emotionally. After this short intro we're launched right into the powerful club track "Ad mortem festinamus" that has had dancefloors full and moving for so many years. Though not many people may have given a second thought to the lyrical content, with the translations provided it all becomes more meaningful, not only just the lyrics but also why the powerful, pounding upbeat music is used on this piece, and yet ethereal beauty is in place on others, such as the next stunning piece "Anc non lo vi" which is a short piece, under 60 seconds and serves more as an interlude between the next moving piece "Por mau tens".
With these first few tracks, the listener starts to see how their music is starting to take shape, at one minute lifting the listener onto a cloud of ethereal bliss, and then subsequently waking them up from the dream and getting the body and soul moving. The way these artists put together the modern electronics and percussion with the medieval texts and instruments (or synthesized instruments) was extremely unique at the time of this release. Over the years a few more groups have appeared following their lead, but this still remains such a pioneering album in so many ways. As we listen to more of the album the mixture of these styles really works as apparent on "Por mau tens", "Floris e Blancheflor" with it's almost industrial grinding electronics and beats. The already mentioned short intro and interludes provide a nice peaceful backdrop and break in between tracks, but some really stand on their own as well like the next couple of tracks "Unter der linden" and "Rossinhol" which is appropriately named ("nightingale") for it's lilting quality.
The album wraps up with the dreary "Sanctus" which is something of a slow and ominous version of "Ad Mortem Festinamus" and takes us right into the ten-minute finale of "Black Death" which is nearly overkill on the driving techno beat and breakbeats. However, it does slowly fade and become the outro of the album as "Un vers de dreyt nien III", leaving the album to close in much the way it began, in beautiful splendor.
QNTAL II - Review
Here is another treat for N. American fans and others that may have missed it the first time around in the form of the re-release of this, the second album from QNTAL. On this album we see this remarkable group grow and solidify their sound even more through the mixture of medieval instruments and texts layered over modern electronics and often a dance-friendly, moving beat. Like the previous album, we're presented with another dozen spectacular tracks that will remain a solid piece of musical history.
After the short intro, appropriately titled "Introitus" we're immediately launched into "Palestinalied" which quickly became a club hit throughout the world. This piece starts out with a lilting quality, slowly building and building until we finally have it all come together with powerful percussion providing the driving punch and force behind this excellent piece. It fades out once again to the ethereal beauty we've grown to love from Syrah's vocals over the years and then the album moves on, though this piece is hard to match in any aspect.
Like the previous album the music moves on through the fast-paced electronically driven pieces and on through the ethereal beauty of slower selections. All the time Syrah's vocals provide an excellent rendition of the medieval texts in French, old German and Latin. The translations are available in the booklet and this provides more meaning for listeners that are willing to take the time to read through them while listening. The album blends well through the use of all of these diverse elements, which may be a surprise to many that would listen to each track individually and see how diverse the styles used really are.
A few favorites besides the tracks already mentioned stand out in their own way. Besides "Palestinalied" and "Ad Mortem Festinamus" and a few other upbeat pieces from this group, it's the mid and slower tempo ethereal pieces that have grown to be my real love. The mid-tempo, trip-hop piece "Hymni Nocturnalis" has been another longtime favorite and once again shows the diverse mix of styles as Syrah's haunting vocals soar above the pulsating electronics and slowly beating percussion. The light and lively piece "Fruhling" presents the feeling of "spring" perfectly, and on the other hand, the soft and subtle textures of "Herbst" or "fall" provides the perfect contrast, though both are dreamy and ethereal masterpieces. Bringing out something of a neo-classical approach "Virgo Splendens" is equally beautiful, powerful and haunting, using a lot of reverb as if sitting in an echoing cathedral while a small chorus of angels sing with soft and beautiful, yet subtle electronics provide the backdrop.
The album wraps up nicely without any repetition, but just by using sweet yet powerful music and stunning vocals. "Ab Vox d'Angel" is an excellent way to end the body of the album with solid QNTAL style, by using subtle electronics that are apparent enough to remain true to the style we've grown to love with that modern touch, but leaving Syrah's vocals as the main focal point which brings out the medieval touch that makes the music so spellbinding overall. As this fades we're providing with deep, pulsating sounds of "Epilog" which finalizes the album in perfect form.
QNTAL V - Silver Swan - Review
Throughout more than a decade I have been listening to and thoroughly enjoying the music from this band. I await each new release with much anticipation to see what great new material we'll be presented with. Over the years I have yet to be disappointed. With this album I went all out and picked up the absolutely stunning limited edition box. This release comes packaged in a beautiful A5 (DVD-size) case which folds out revealing two CD's and a 32-page booklet full of excellent artwork, lyrics for each song and other information. With this beautiful packaging, I can't understand how anyone could buy this album as a digital download, you're missing out on half of the product without it.
Now we move onto the music from this album which is nothing less than outstanding. The first disc contains eleven pieces that range through a number of medieval sounding pieces, containing traditional text all sung by Syrah in her mesmerizing voice. The listener is immediately taken in to the unique world of QNTAL mixing mostly authentic instruments with various electronics and a moving rhythm on "Monsieur's Departure", which is one of the few tracks with english text. As we move along we're presented with everything from the sweetest ethereal tracks like "Von Den Elben" to the upbeat pieces like "Levis". "Von Den Elben" shows how beauty and power through synthesized strings and soft percussion providing the backdrop for Syrah's vocals can be at once spellbinding and uplifting yet tranquil and dreamy. There is just treasure after treasure on this album and coming to a close all too soon with "Silver Swan". This piece has some similarities to "Air on the G String" by Bach, one of the all time great orchestral classical pieces, and the way Qntal are able to captivate the same classical feel in the music is excellent mixed with Syrah's vocals wrapping up the first disc in style.
The second disc is a real bonus and treat for fans. If you have a choice, be sure to pick up this double-disc edition featuring five bonus tracks as well as a video clip of "Von Den Elben" and a multimedia track featuring the artwork of Brian Froud. Once again the music is the main reason why you would pick this up and so we'll delve into it a little bit. "Von Den Elben" is presented in a "Single Edit" version which includes a little more prominent percussion and shortened up a bit. Next we have the excellent piece "Levis" with the "Half Light Mix" which adds something of a slow danceable beat and could easily make this into more of a "club mix" that I wouldn't be surprised to hear it at a few goth clubs around the world. Another dance-friendly remix is "292" with the "A Darker Shape Mix" which really brings out the powerful electronic beats and additional synth elements on this otherwise quite traditional old world piece. I found it very interesting to see and hear the track "Veni" and the "Filthy Floor Mix" because many will know that Helium Vola put together a danceable track also called "Veni Veni" based on the same traditional tracks. Maybe these two related groups have a little bit of a (friendly?) rivalry going on? With that we're left with "Rot" to wrap up the album which is a beautiful bonus track, also not found anywhere else. It starts out with beautiful flute and slowly moves along with harp and Syrah's vocals and builds with a fast-paced beat, gradually building in body and volume, adding more electronics and other instruments for a powerful climax and ending to the album.
So there you have it, another great work from this band that just never ceases to amaze me. Be sure to check it out, this one is well worth picking up, not just the regular version, but go out and find the double-disc box, you won't be disappointed.
QNTAL IV - Ozymandias - Review
It is great to see this band so active after the long break they took before returning with their third album. This new work marks the third new North American release in just a couple of years. Fans of this group will be thrilled with the musical style and quality on this album as they continue to use various medieval styles mixed with modern electronics and percussion to give it a solid and robust flavor.
While the first two albums had quite a unique electronic element to them, these latest two albums have more of a solid medieval sound mixed with more contemporary electronics or those that seem to blend well with the medieval style. This latest album is true to the style presented in their third album with a good mix of slow, romantic ballad-like selections as well as others that could be good for the goth/industrial clubs around the world with a solid beat and various guitars and other moving elements.
The album starts off with the slower, more romantic sounding tracks with "All For One" kicking off the album. This track presents us with english lyrics, something that has not been present in very many past releases and is a real treat to the many new fans this band is getting in North America since they have released their albums through Noir Records. The title track "Ozymandias" appears next with something of an explanation behind the song, again appearing in english. "Vogelfluc" starts to pick up the pace with more of a modern touch added with various electronics and more percussion. The pace gradually picks up with "Blac", but then backs off again to a beautiful medieval-sounding track "Dulcis Amor" which is very comparable in style to their side-project Estampie with the use of a number of flutes and Syrah's angelic vocals.
The album varies somewhat from track to track, picking up the pace with modern percussion, guitars and electronics and excellent vocal work for a nice mix in "Amor Volat", "Cupido", "Flamma" and "Indiscrete" to name a few. Many of these will be interesting and fun for those fans of faster-paced club-friendly music. But for those that their real loves are the romantic or folk-like ballads, there is plenty here to enjoy. Besides those beginning tracks already named, "Flow" is perfect with it's down-tempo beats and building instrumentation layered under Syrah's vocals. This and about a half-dozen others are real excellent tracks for fans of this down-tempo, medieval, modern and neo-classical music. "Remember Me" wraps up the regular tracks on this album lasting over eight minutes and exploring a number of various musical styles, experimentation and leaving us in much the same way as the track started.
Two bonus tracks are included on this album as remixes of "Rose in the Mor" and "Lasse" which are both highlights from their previous work. Woth mixes are excellent and worth including on this album.
Overall, once again this is definitely a collector's item for fans. They manage to keep the music coming while maintaining quality and their unique style and not giving into any pressures to change or move towards what might bring them more immediate popularity. But by staying true to themselves, they have managed to build their own well-deserved popularity and it continues to grow throughout the world.
Illuminate - Review
From the minute I heard about the release of this album, I knew it was going to be great. Take the two great single releases O, Tristan and Nihil from the excellent latest album Qntall III. Add onto that two bonus tracks and an excellent exclusive video and you have a wonderful package in your hand.
This is a real treat for fans, especially for those that love the dance-friendly music that has come out in past releases. The album combines these great moving beats with the solid mesmerizing vocals with the excellent medieval styles we love. And the entire work isn't all about just dance remixes, although they all do have something of a beat that most will find enjoyable. The mid-tempo rhythms mixed with the majestic music and captivating vocals of "Entre Moi (Single Version)" is a perfect example of the shear beauty mixed with some modern trip-hop beats. This track appears twice on the album in the form of this "Single Version" and later as an "Alternative Version". Both carry this same tempo and sweet majesty, but the latter has a little more pure medeival sound and less electronics and percussion. "Ecce Gratum" also appears twice on this album, first as a "Club Version" and later with an "Extended Version". This is a great track that further shows how flexible and unique this band is with the extremely fast vocals to match the strange twists and loops in this track.
While it is extremely hard to pick out favorite tracks on this album, there are a couple that jumped out and captured my attention the first time I listened to them. "Vedes Amigo Illuminate" is one of these with the shear beauty of the ethereal and medieval majesty I've grown to admire from Qntal. As a fan of great danceable electronic music, they capture this style perfectly here. And to kick off the album is "Nihil", another selection that quickly became a favorite. The track starts off with solid, slow beats and dreamy angelic vocals, but giving way to hard-driving EBM beats coupled with these same captivating vocals.
"Am Morgan Fruo" appears with a bombastic pounding remix by Bruno Kramm (Das Ich). The bass kick on this track seems to almost override the vocals, but it still manages to be a friendly enough remix. "Omnis Mundo Illuminate" wraps up the album with a smooth mid-tempo remix. The sweet vocals mix so well with this easy-going rhythm to create a masterpiece once again.
Many listeners will recognize that some of these tracks appear with different names on this compilation than on the original album. I think the mixes are different enough that this is quite appropriate. The album layout and photos are excellent as usual, including some great photos from live performances. But the multimedia content on the CD is commendable, including a nice slide-show of concert photos and the excellent music video of "Entre Moi". I really don't think you could ask for much more, except a new album real soon with a great mix of the beautiful ethereal music mixed with powerful electro-medieval sounds.
QNTAL III (Tristan Und Isolde) - Review
This was definitely a long awaited album for me. I was finally able to track it down once it was released and the wait has been well worth it. I wasn't sure what direction the group would go with the constant evolution of most groups over long periods of inactivity, but I just have to say as a fan of QNTAL, this latest album has lived up to and surpassed most of my expectations. It is upbeat, yet carries that great medieval and electronic darkwave atmosphere with Michael Popp's legendary musical talents and Syrah's heavenly vocals, and of course I can't leave out the contributions by Fil with the keyboards, guitars and programming.
So I finally have this album in my hand and I just get excited just looking through the fotos, artwork lyrics and digipack layout, not to mention the awesome mesmerizing feeling I get just listening to it. And to kick it all of is the breathtaking "Owi, Tristan" with the ambient sounds giving way to Syrah's angelic vocals. This whole CD is packed with these layed back tracks that are full of dynamic sounds, electronic elements and excellent percussion that brings it all together for a dark, yet dreamy and beautiful mood. "Lasse", "Spiegelglas" and "Entre moi et mon amin" are more of my favorites that are along these same lines of the more ethereal soundscapes. Then you have the beautiful short interludial tracks that are dark and moody, yet dreamy and surreal at the same time such as "Lamento de Tristano" and "Gottine Minne" which also includes a deep male voice doing spoken word.
Like previous albums, this one also includes it's share of upbeat tracks that with the right crowd could be very club-friendly, but overall they just provide a little upbeat tempo to the overall album. It's a great variety to have with that amplifies the stellar quality and even the beauty in so many ways. "Name Der Rose" is definitely one of these as well as the great track that I think is one of my favorites and possibly the most solid danceable track "Am Morgen Fruo", at least it really gets me moving. The rest of the CD is just absolutely overflowing with quality, talent and beauty, far too much for me to comment on here.
You really just need to listen to this great work. If you're new to this group, find some samples, listen to Gothic Paradise radio or find some way to pick up a track or two from this group and you'll be hooked. Especially if you love the more eclectic sounds that this mix of Medieval texts and sounds mixed with electronic elements and beats. You won't be disappointed!