There are so many genres popping up today for artists to describe what they feel they are. We have post punk rock, indie alternative, jazz rock fusion, pop rock, grind core – alright, some of these I’ve made up but I promise they will exist soon enough. One genre which passed my way a while ago was that of gypsy rock. I discovered it purely by accident when attending an impromptu concert in the park years ago in Calgary. For a while I neglected this style of music, but recently it reared its feisty head quite suddenly in the form of Elmfeuer’s Schatzsuche.
Elmsfeuer is a concept hard rock band who has decided to dub themselves ‘pirate rock’ due to the constant tales of pirating plunders. Yet the persistent emphasis on the violin and accordion, the interjections of an acoustic guitar and the rise and fall of the Captain’s voice make for a categorisation of folk and/or gypsy rock. However, let us enjoy the concept of the pirate and go with the flow shall we?
Elmsfeuer are a German band with a crew of six including Captain Wirti (Sebastian) who enthrals us with his voice and skills on the acoustic guitar. The first mate Dargon (Andre) provides us with a powerful lead guitar, while the ship’s doctor Holsch (Holger) works the bass and keyboard. Steady drums are provided by helmsman Simon, and the violin and accordion are manned by diplomat Franzi (Franziska) and labourer Anni respectively.
The debut album Schatzsuche was released in May 2013 and is quite the rollercoaster ride of a cunning treasure hunt. It begins with Captain Wirti and first mate Dargon walking up the beach discussing their plans for the next 11 tracks. Now, I don’t speak German and understand only a few words here and there but you get the general idea of an adventure filled with danger, excitement and a case of ‘get the treasure, kill whoever stands in our way.’ In fact, I think I heard the cocking of a gun halfway through the introduction before the guitar/accordion medley.
Elmsfeuer are rather smart introducing the accordion halfway through the first track as it allows for a smooth transition into the second. I often see an uncomfortable halting between the first and second track when bands present with a prologue of sorts. Instead, the rather shocking discomfort arose about 20 seconds in when Captain Wirti began singing. Perhaps this is based on the stereotype of hard rock vocals, but the Captain’s voice does not seem to fit at all. The clarity, control and pronunciation of each syllable made me feel he is more Broadway while the others are more back alley venues. It would not surprise me if he had theatrical training, which would most likely explain the concept of a pirating crew.
While the Captain’s voice is out of place, an arguable feeling that stuck with me through the album, it did make a few of the tracks more enjoyable. His John Barrowman like strength and evenness made the ballad ‘Der Seemann’ far more soothing than it might have been were the vocals gruffer. Of course, the accordion allowed for a unique backing which is generally provided by a piano or acoustic guitar.
As I said, I don’t understand German but the tempo of the songs made it clear what part of their treasure seeking adventure they were facing. The impassioned tracks ‘Seerauberleyd’ and ‘Die Schlange’ see all hands on deck pounding hard to get their point across. ‘Seerauberleyd’ is a jolly almost Irish jig-like tavern song with emphasis on the violin and guitar, whereas ‘Die Schlange’ tells of a battle with a heavy bass, growling guitar, stormy accordion and even a growling Captain. The instrumental ‘Beim Klapperbautermann’ is a calming break in the middle allowing us to enjoy the gypsy rock element with emphasis on the guitar/accordion/drums melody while catching our breaths.
All in all, Elmsfeuer have released an exciting and intense album with Schatzsuche despite the discomforting incongruence of the Captain’s voice. Yet, once you get used to it it’s an enjoyable album but only when you’re in the mood for an adventure.
Offical track list:
3. Klaus Stortebeker
4. Das wahre Leben
6. Die Schlange
7. Beim Klapperbautermann
8. Der Seemann
10. Unterm Sichelmond
11. Der zerbrochene Krug