Cromwell -
Black Chapter Red

(CD 2016, 56:05, Progressive Promotion Records PPRCD041)

The tracks:
  1- Starlit Sands(8:20)
  2- Black Confetti(6:12)
  3- Roots(6:49)
  4- The Lights(3:24)
  5- November Sky(6:00)
  6- Black Chapter Red(8:16)
  7- Kissing Dynamite(4:04)
  8- Deep Down(6:13)
  9- End Of Life(6:41)

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One of the most surprising comebacks in 2016 is without doubt the resurrection of the German band Cromwell. Founded in 1993 in the town of Worms and they released their debut album Burning Banners in 1997. It was recorded in the following line up; Anke Taeffner (vocals), Wolfgang Taeffner (keyboards), Thor Stone (guitars), Josh (bass and acoustic guitar) and Eric Trauzettel (drums). It was a fine album, but not really groundbreaking. After this release they didn't leave any signs of activity until this year. You could certainly say that it is a phenomenon that the second album of Cromwell appears a mere nineteen years after their debut. They named it Black Chapter Red.

Keyboardist Wolfgang Täffner and drummer Eric Trauzettel are the only remaining members of the original lineup. The frontman is now Holger Weckbach, who is also the singer for melodic metal band Dreadful Minds. The quartet is completed by Frank Nowack on guitars and bass. Guests are Joshy Tenner on bass and Rainer Weckback (also Dreadful Minds and twin brother of Holger) on guitar. Together they came up with nine excellent progressive rock tunes which move into the musical direction of a band such as Jadis. Just listen to the great opening song Starlit Sands and you know exactly what I am talking about. Also the band IQ might be a possible influence as the second piece Black Confetti indicates. But then again traces of Saga are notable too, a band you will hear on most of the compositions. Just listen carefully to Roots and you can't deny that Humble Stance is on your lips! Tunes like November Sky and the title track have musical references with this Canadian band as well. But I don't care at all that they use all those influences, as long as they make the songs even stronger than they already are. A special mention goes to the song The Lights. This is a strong mellow piece with a leading role for the acoustic guitar. This track brings some rest to the album because the album is most of all dominated by up tempo tracks.

All in all you can say that this band plays strong melodic, symphonic neo-progressive rock where the guitar parts occasionally rock. The drums and bass lay a solid foundation and the soloists in the band can shine by playing excellent solos on the electric guitars and synthesizers. It's all done very nice and tastefully, but above all with solid craftsmanship. That the album is only nearly one hour long after such a long silence in the band's career, I will forgive them. Nowadays one hour of only strong compositions are enough for me, and I guess most readers will agree with me that excess harms, most of the time.

The mix between the old school and the neo-progressive rock on Black Chapter Red works very well for me. I can honestly say that this album belongs to the best progressive rock albums of 2016 for me. So welcome back Cromwell! Maybe you were away too long, but that doesn't matter now because you came back with a bang!!! Recommended to lovers of Jadis, Saga and IQ!

****+ Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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