Violet District - Terminal Breath

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Tempus Fugit
Catalog Number: 20435
Format: CD
Total Time: 108:51:00

Before there was RPWL, there was Violet District, a German neo-prog styled group whose sound owed a lot to late 80s- early 90s Marillion ? widdly, crying and keening guitar parts a la Steve Rothery (Karlheinz Wallner), and twiddly keyboards a la Mark Kelly (Giselher Richter, Mischa Schleypen), and percolating bass (Chris Postl) and percussion a la Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley, respectively. Lead vocalist Schleypen, however, does not sounds like Hogarth ? actually I think it's Alan Reed that I'm thinking of. There are times where drummer Christian Brenninger's sound recalls Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until later, in the early days of RPWL, in 1997, that founding members Postl and Wallner, along with Phil Paul Rissettio and Yogi Lang, were a PF tribute band. Anyway, a hint of a Pink Floyd influence comes out in the latter part of the opening track "Lustreless Fright" and the brief track "Ego (The Hiddened One)" that follows, and it's mainly in the guitar of Wallner ? which was why the PF tribute band formed. (Oh, album does begin with the Floydian (and later Marillionian) device of a radio (or TV) being changed).

Really, if you were take any neo-prog band of the late 80s, early 90s, you'll find an element of that sound here ? Pallas, IQ, Jadis, Pendragon and, as on the core of "Down And Away," Shadowland (Clive Nolan's earlier project) ? maybe because Schleypen sounds a bit like Nolan here. But don't dismiss Violet District as a clone of any of them, because they mix these elements up quite a bit and do some arty things with them. And I truly mean arty, as each piece is like some abstract sculpture. You can follow the forms, run your hands along the smooth lines and shiny surfaces, and can ascertain certain shapes, but trying to figure out what it means in the whole? well, nothing is concrete here. And that's not something one could really say about any of the other neo-prog bands, although Fish could get elusive. Part of this is because, for the most part, the lyrics are inscrutable ? one must interpret them in a very broad and impressionistic sense. The title and some of the imagery suggest death ? certainly made the most clear in the previously mentioned "Down And Away" (i.e., buried) - it's an excellent track on an album of great tracks and ends so very hauntingly with the cry of? something... and very soft and spacey ending. A lovely, ethereal ending that is worth mentioning on it's own for the breathy keyboard sonicscapes. It may be so epic as to overshadow the rest of the album, leaving one with a strong sense of drama that the rest of the album has to live up to ? which it does, but just barely. That may sound like hyperbole, but there is just something chilling about the way this CD ends that? wow.

Terminal Breath is a nearly continuous suite, smoothly flowing from one track to the next. A standout piece is the epic "Anguishes Of A Scoundrel," a feast for those who love those keening guitar phrases, like me. According to DPRP, this and the instrumental "Together We Fall," were not on the original 1992 release, but added for the 2000 reissue. You'd never really guess from listening to this. "Anguishes?" is dark without being too much so, with soaring chorus-like passages. "Assurance" is dark as well, bringing in a digital sound (um? vague echoes of Genesis on "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" with a synth-cricket chirping sound just barely audible) for the middle section "Incomplete Tableux" with crisp, cold, percussion. But this is contrasted nicely with soft acoustic textures underscoring the main verses of the sandwiches sections "Assurance" and "Reprise (A Certain Sequel)."

Sharp, almost-shrill keyboards open "Together We Fall" with a start, before giving away to lovely proggy guitar textures ? the kind I just love: notes lovingly played with emotion, here played just above mid-tempo; all this over an odd bit of percussion. It's a showcase for Wallner and a good one at that. Softer keys open the at first gentle Yes-like "Necessary Goodbyes," replete with light, lyrical, resonant guitar phrases and Schleypen's Anderson-like voice (just a shade or two deeper). Before long darker, harsher guitars soon take over, leaving the softness to breathy keyboards and sparse drums and percussion. Shifting once again, we settle into a mid-tempo rhythm with shimmery, easy-going guitar phrases. Lyrically, you can hear the influence of Fish in the use of certain words and images (recalling Misplaced Childhood).

While this is a neo-prog dream album, featuring all the hallmarks of that genre, the track that seems somewhat out of place is the poppier "The Age" (the atmospheric lead in "The Age" theme retains the neo-prog feel, even with the bubbly, new-wave keyboard accents). Here on "The Age" it is Holidays In Eden and Euro-pop that are evoked, simultaneously. Take Rothery's guitar lines from "No One Can" and weave it into a different arrangement with tart vocal lines, bubbly, chiming guitar, and cherubic upbeatedness. It's quite catchy and memorable, making it the song that lingers in the mind after the CD has ended.

The second disk of this reissue is the band captured live in January of 1996 in Munich and features live renditions of many of the album's tracks ? "Necessary Goodbyes," "Lustreless Fright," "Ego," "Hommage To The Irretreivably Lost," and "Down And Away." It adds two other tracks, "Capillary Action" and "Priciples of Alternation." The sound quality of this live document is fairly good, some cut out in spots, but the overall evenness of their performance comes through. Here Thomas Falkner playes bass and Thomas R?ckemann plays drums (he joined in 1992 after the recording of Terminal Breath). Those two "new" tracks would have appeared on the planned second album, which wasn't to be. Lasting more than ten minutes, "Capillary?" is as strong, if not stronger, than the material on TB. A nice bonus for folks who bought the CD on it's initial release; that and the fact that is edition has been remastered as well.

If you can't get enough of the neo-prog sound ? and frankly, there's a part of me very much in that category ? then Violet District will give you more of the same and more. Hard to say if their career trajectory would be what RPWL's is now, but they certainly could have held their own against any of the bands mentioned, as long they continued to follow the underlying progressiveness (as in concept rather than genre) of the music. As it is, Terminal Breath. It is a really good release worthy of your attention.

Disc One: Lustreless Fright (6:10): Fading Previews - Lustreless Fright / Ego (The Hiddened One) (0:53) / Anguishes Of A Scoundrel (5:10) / Hommage To The Irretrievably Lost (7:43): The Lost - Here And There ? Hommage / Assurance (6:55): Assurance - Incomplete Tableaux - Reprise (A Certain Sequel) / Together We Fall (3:46), Necessary Goodbyes (5:22) / Age Theme (1:26) / The Age (4:24) / Down And Away (12:05): Some Reverend Words - ... Just A White Coffin - Down And Away - Terminal Breath

Disc Two: Live At Feierwerk, Munich, 16.01.96: Necessary Goodbyes (5:39) / Capillary Action (10:20) / Lustreless Fright (5:57) / Ego (The Hiddened One) (0:54) / Hommage To The Irretrievably Lost (9:19) / Principles Of Alternation (12:51) / Down And Away (9:30)

Christian Brenninger ? drums
Chris Postl ? bass
Giselher Richter ? keyboards
Mischa Schleypen ? vocals, keyboards
Karlheinz Wallner - guitars, vocals


Tim Ciasto - bass (8, 13)
Stephan Ebner - bass (2, 13, 14, 15)
Christian Krischkowsky - drums (12 - 15)
J?rgen Lang - drum programming (8), Organ (5), Moog (13, 15, 16) and backing vocals
Evi Melzer, Petra Felser, Michael Hinreiner,Monika Neuhofer - backing vocals

Terminal Breath (1992/2000)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin DE

Added: March 28th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 8661
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]