KARAKORUM - Fables And Fairytales
Named after an ancient Mongol city from the time when Genghis Khan was still around, Karakorum is a quintet from the South of Germany. Two years ago, they released their debut album Beteigeuze on Tonzonen Records. The album consisted of one long track subdivided into three parts. Now they are back with Fables And Fairytales, and although there are once again three long tracks, this is not a concept album.
Like some famous albums from the early Seventies, like Yesí Close To The Edge or Van Der Graaf Generatorís Pawn Hearts, we get two long songs on one side of the vinyl, and an even longer side-filling on the other one. And like these two cult records, Fables And Fairytales also offers thought through rock songs that could be considered on par with their influences.
The album begins with the nearly ten minute long Phrygian Youth, a crunchy hard rocking kraut rock song that reminds of Birth Control but also a little of early Uriah Heep. Itís a really great and varied track, but what follows is even better. Smegmahood is a fourteen minute long prog rock extravaganza that channels the multi-vocal medieval progginess of Gentle Giant with the twisted humour of Frank Zappa. This song is on an incredibly high musical level, and the vocals are just as sublime, even though the lyrics are throughout the song about dick cheese. Bon appetit!
The album ends with the twenty-three minute long tour de force Fairytales, starting with chants like Berbers singing in the Sahara desert. Feels to me a little like Grobschnitt who also had a great talent to combine kraut with progressive rock. There are tons of other influences, from guitars reminding of Steve Howe (Yes) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson), plus all kinds of other nods to the greats of prog.
The ingredients, taken by themselves, are not necessarily original. But Karakorum manage to put them together in such a charming way, without ever neglecting meaningful songwriting and hardly ever losing themselves in jam parts. If you want to count the different parts within each track, I wish you good luck. In times where bands often come up with long tracks that are basically pointless jams, it is wonderful to still have artists like Karakorum who really play their music in the spirit of the pioneering bands of kraut and progressive rock. Fables And Fairytales is the most spirited album I have come across in a very long time. Anything less that a maximum rating would be an insult to this unbelievably great band.