Touching Oblivion is the debut album by Philipp Lippman, a promising 23-year old German guitarist from Thuringia, released under the Briscon name. It brings together around five years of instrumental composition, recording, mixing and hard graft – and the current lockdowns and isolations have provided him with the time and space to bring it all together this summer.
The result is an instrumental solo guitar work, augmented with sympathetic keyboards, effects and drums, with enough ‘proggery’ to please many a progressive rock listener, whilst spanning a range of styles from heavy rock, melodic blues, space rock, prog metal and atmospheric compositions of light and shade, all combining together into its own unique style.
Philipp describes Touching Oblivion as “…an instrumental story about self-liberation and the escape into another world with all the overwhelming moments and the ups and downs of the paths we choose. From dark ways into the bliss of freedom, the fear of loss and back to reality. My goal was to record an instrumental story that is strong enough in the emotional expression to create living pictures in the head of the listener. Therefore, I choose to dispense on the lyrics, as singing would have ruined this concept. I think. I wanted listeners to hear the bright soundscapes, oppressive passages, heavy attacks and soft escapes within the music.”
Philipp started the writing process with the track that opens the album, Through Tired Eyes, but soon realised it was, for him, the beginning of a story that he wanted to tell. The rest of the album flowed from there and whilst it is split into nine individual pieces, it is effectively a multi-part 44-minute epic that can – and should – be appreciated as a whole.
His influences are varied across the classic and prog rock spectrum, which shows across the album: the soulfulness of Gary Moore, the melodic charm of Thin Lizzy, the pentatonic style of Joe Bonamassa and the melancholy of Buckethead. However, there are also the progressive styles of Riverside and Pink Floyd, the prog metal complexity of Dream Theater, and perhaps most clearly, the dense arrangements of Devin Townsend.
“The main inspiration for Touching Oblivion was Terria by Devin Townsend, especially in the bright wall of sounds that I use. I listened to a lot of Type O Negative in this time. But it mostly wasn’t the inspiration taken from other bands, it feels like a lot of this album came directly out of my head and heart into the instruments. I never heard an arrangement that sounds like the beginning of the bass passage on Along the Shoreline for example.”
Philipp has used a range of guitar effects to create his soundscapes, especially multi-delays and reverbs. When surrounding the clean guitar work across most of the album, it enhances it significantly and takes the production up from what would effectively just be a solo guitar performance. Elsewhere, church organ, Hammond B3 organ and even a grand piano add depth to many songs. The drums, whilst programmed, provide a solid background from where his Ibanez lead guitar and Charvel rhythm guitar work can push up from.
Through Tired Eyes starts the album atmospherically and sets the scene with a smooth guitar motif slowly built upon by more powerful chord rhythms, some nice retro keyboards and guitar effects. Along the Shoreline builds up from a brooding bass run before wailing guitar passages power the music after half-way, with lots of reverb and delay layered throughout. A rich, proggy, church organ dominates As the River Met the Sea, with effects-laden chords joined later by sleepy guitar soloing.
Fields of Rye is an undoubted highlight and hits immediately with some frantic rock and discordant guitar chugging away. However, it also has some very melodic passages and is perhaps the most Lizzy-like track on the album. I enjoyed the variety that the keyboards brought to the music later on. Night Shift Interlude brings simple acoustic guitar chords to the fore and holds the tension before Fields of Rye (Reprise) hits with a satisfying slab of rock before a calmer finish.
Waking the Sleeper has a dark, growling prog-metal intensity and sense of menace akin to modern-day Opeth before slipping into the longest track on the album, Tournament of Souls. Phillip throws the ‘kitchen-sink’ at this pivotal track: ’70s-style keyboards are met by clean, chiming guitar, before once again the power steadily builds up. A nice contrast is provided by the piano before a brisk, thunderous rock finish. A sombre atmosphere pervades with a Mars – The Bringer of War-like theme prior to a more hopeful and uplifting conclusion. Touching Oblivion sees hypnotic bass runs moving into haunting instrumentation. A sense of conflict resolution is hinted at – however, it is then overwhelmed by another powerful climax with power chords and organ signalling the end of our journey… for now.
Touching Oblivion is a refreshing, enjoyable and promising debut by young German guitarist Philipp Lippman, who has fashioned a true ‘labour of love’ which highlights his undoubted guitar playing skills, whilst showing restraint and avoiding the excessive virtuosity and relentless pace of many prog metal releases. In fact, the ‘prog metal’ genre title many might place on this work is a misleading one. There are some powerfully heavy rock moments, to be sure, but the layering of keyboards and effects produces something in which symphonic prog or neo-prog followers would find much to enjoy, with a range of tempo, intensity and styles.
Although it occasionally shows its self-produced, solo performer character, Philipp has largely been successful in creating a coherent band-feel on most tracks and he has the talent and potential to build positively on the whole debut experience. I do hope it can reach a wider audience and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
01. Through Tired Eyes (4:26)
02. Along the Shoreline (6:49)
03. As the River Met the Sea (3:19)
04. Fields of Rye (5:02)
05. Night Shift Interlude (2:31)
06. Fields of Rye (Reprise) (2:29)
07. Waking the Sleeper (3:42)
08. Tournament of Souls (9:18)
09. Touching Oblivion (6:17)
Total Time – 43:53
Philipp Lippman – All Instrumentation, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Drums, Effects
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 18th June 2021