It’s been a few years, now, since the last Seabound album proper – in fact, nearly four – and in the time since a fan’s appetite has been sated by a live album, a collection of B-sides and rare moments…and also now two albums of Frank Spinath’s “other project” Edge of Dawn, who had been around for some time before Spinath joined them, however it appears that his arrival spurred on the project and saw material released.
The really odd thing, though, is that despite it being a side-project, this is no mere place to shove tracks that weren’t good enough for his “main” band, Edge of Dawn are quickly becoming just as high-profile on the same label as Seabound are – partly thanks to a couple of stunning singles and a striking album back in 2007, and now this.
Dependent have made a habit over the years of heralding the albums to come in a new year by having early versions of selected tracks act as a taster, and this happened here – with album centrepiece Stage Fright having it’s first peek around the curtain at the end of last year on Septic VIII, and that served notice that the forthcoming album was going to be worth a listen.
All of Spinath’s albums have had a loose theme, when you look for it – the last Seabound album Double-Crosser was steeped in the art of revenge and retribution, for example, while the first Edge of Dawn album appeared to be steeped in lust. This is somewhat more positive, being based around the ideal of survival, and Stage Fright‘s musings on overcoming one’s fears and losing ones self in the moment are the ultimate culmination of this.
But before you get to that, the first few tracks to begin with seem somewhat, well, lightweight. Particularly as the first voice heard on opener Beyond The Gate isn’t Spinath, but instead is Reagan Jones from Iris – but keep with it and this soaring gem of a synthpop track with wrap it’s arms around your heart. Denial is a calm, still water of a ballad, and All The Time starts unassumingly enough, before hauling itself into life with chorus that just begs to bury into your mind.
After this so-so start, though, suddenly the full glory of this album is revealed by a run of six back-to-back songs that are so good it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s certainly no one song I can possibly pick as better than the others – so let’s look at them at all. Stage Fright I’ve already mentioned, but Valid World – with a more live band feel including what sounds like some sampled acoustic guitar – is a gorgeous track, sparse but hard-hitting, and with a lyric seemingly featuring a dreamer who thinks of himself as ten feet tall to get through the day, but then mentally collapses in desperation at the real situation, which clearly isn’t so good.
The magical, otherworldly bombast of Capture‘s string and full orchestral samples then act as a perfect break point, to allow the taking of breath after what has been something of a good few moments of jaw-dropping brilliance. It’s also notable for the very rare appearance of Spinath’s native German in one of his songs – he clearly prefers to sing in English, and perhaps English rather than German suits his intricately detailed and deeply emotional lyrics.
We’re back into synthpop brilliance soon enough, though, with Lucid Dreams. A more direct, harder hitting electro track, with clever use of a breathy female backing vocal as a foil to Spinath’s urgent lyrical delivery, it’s almost like if Stromkern had delved into matters of the heart rather than politics. Falling picks up the pace, a rare track involving Spinath these days that would suit the dancefloor, it’s cascading chorus fitting the title and feel of the lyrics personally – that of someone head-over-heels-and-then-some in lust/love, those moments where life passes by in a desperate rush just to get another moment of that feeling…but tellingly it’s never suggested that the feeling is reciprocated. Siren’s Call finishes this astonishing run, a lush ballad of lust and other lives, a song of forgetting even the immediate past and living for the moment, even if it may only be a brief liason.
This isn’t to say the last three songs are weak, they just aren’t up to the level of what came before. In Your Sleep reminds me of first-album Seabound, though, with the addition of crunching industrial metal guitars – a most unexpected musical appearance with an artist usually so icily restrained. Save My Soul is probably as close to mawkish this band will ever get, and as a result kinda drifts past, while Capsized is more notable as a lyrical bookend to the survival instinct of the album, as the protagonist finally seems to let go of all hope.
And this is part of the tightrope Edge of Dawn walk here. On one side is the astonishing confidence – both in the gloriously detailed lyrics and wordplay from Frank Spinath, and the elegantly constructed music of Mario Schumacher on the other, almost as perfect a foil as Martin Vorbrodt’s musical contribution in Seabound – and on the other is brittle emotional core of their music, just on the right side of breakdown as they fight on.
This isn’t, in the main, music to dance to, this is music for the brain and heart. And oh, how I wish there was more like this. Electro-industrial music, or whatever you want to call it, has seemed to sneer at the very idea of intelligence and delicate emotions in recent times, instead aiming for the pummelling fury and one-dimensionalness of artists like Combichrist, and for those of us who might want something more, this is an essential purchase. We seem to be saying it with every new release, but perhaps Frank Spinath has reached the pinnacle at last. But who’s to say if he can’t get even better next time? I’ll be listening out with great interest and anticipation.