RPWL: ‘Crime Scene’ Review

Concept albums are no stranger to German Prog Rockers RPWL from their roots of covering Pink Floyd’s epic story-driven LP’s to their own original material of the past two decades. ‘Crime Scene’ is their most powerful as well as their darkest album yet with a concept that explores human behavior and the motivations behind evil actions.

For ‘Crime Scene’, the band is made up of mainstays since RPWL‘s beginning with keyboardist and lead vocalist Yogi Lang, and guitarist Kalle Wallner. They are again joined by drummer Marc Turiaux who has been with RPWL for the past 15 years. Making their RPWL debut with ‘Crime Scene’ is bassist Markus Grutzner.

‘Crime Scene’ opens with the powerful track Victim Of Desire and its wall of sound hook that is driven by Wallner’s singing lead guitar belting out the song’s recurring motif. Following the main themes introduction, we get a brief interlude that feels very similar groove-wise to the verse section of ‘Breathtaker’ by IQ. It’s during this interlude that we first hear Lang’s vocals which are digitally altered to sound synthetic and represent chaos in thought.

The album artwork for ‘Crime Scene’

The main verse quickly changes up from the previous chaos to a warm recollection of the past now sung unaltered in Lang’s usual comforting fashion. Throughout the remainder of the track, the chorus is now sung along with the main theme. We are also treated to a fun but turbulent bell synth break that precludes a signature singing guitar solo from Wallner. Victim Of Desire is my favorite track of the album but that does not mean that what follows this exhilarating opener disappoints.

Red Rose is a clean and acoustic-driven track and I love the interaction between the guitar and keyboards during its verse which creates a tranquil soundscape for the listener. The lyrics for this track speak of loss and regrets for time not spent to its fullest while together with loved ones. Red Rose also offers two emotional solos within it. The first solo comes from the bass guitar leading into the song’s third verse. This is the bass’s first time to shine in the album with more moments to come later. The second solo is more of a sequential one played by the guitar that leads us out of the track.

A Cold Spring Day in ’22 is a fun change up instrumentally with its looping marimba background. However, while the instrumental parts of the track are more upbeat the topic is very gloomy. The lyrics reminisce about the unsolved mass murder of six family members on a farmstead. In my mind, I’m comparing this track  to the popular Black And Pink Houses meme where the instrumentals are the fun pink house while the lyrics are the forlorn black house.

King Of The World is the album’s epic coming in at twelve minutes and fifty-one seconds. It also features the next moment for the bass guitar in the spotlight. This occurs throughout the song as the bass plays the track’s pentatonic motif in a punchy style. Other musical highlights for King Of The World include my favorite keyboard solo of the album which occurs during a breakdown section that follows a couple of runs through the verse and chorus. As it is a breakdown section, it must then build back up, and that is what happens as Wallner takes over with another fantastic guitar solo that energizes the track and leads it back to the main hook. Following a recapitulation, the song ends with one more dramatic play-through of its chorus followed by one last run from the bass guitar on the song’s theme.

The album’s final track Another Life Beyond Control does have that finality feel to it as the listener is brought to a stage of acceptance. In the case of ‘Crime Scene’, the acceptance is that life isn’t just all black and white as the inner conflict theme of the album suggests but instead it is a grey mix of both. The track as well as the album then come to an abrupt ending however with Another Life Beyond Control. Following one last grand performance of the chorus which has that dramatic closing feel to it that we are accustomed to with concept albums, it then transitions back to one more round of its bluesy opening motif that sounds like it is going to take the song somewhere else. Yet it goes no further and the album has come to an end. Perhaps a fitting way to end the song and the album as again the listener is to accept that life, even in music, isn’t all peaks and valleys emotionally but often just straight plains of uncertainty.

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