I guess I first came upon Eloy around 40 years ago, and was immediately drawn to the progressive leaning German band. At the time, the progressive rock scene was not really the crowded, vibrant place it has become in recent years, so Eloy stood out, and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since. The fact that they are still making new music in their distinctive style all this time later is rather pleasing, even though, in all honesty, one could also say that they have progressed little in all that time. This latest opus, Echoes from the Past, is exactly that; it echoes past glories, and is instantly recognisable as Eloy. It is at once comforting and comfortable listening, even if it doesn’t break any new ground. No matter, it’s nice to have them back.
Echoes from the Past completes a rather long running (8 years) trilogy of albums charting in great detail the life of Joan of Arc. Frank Bornemann, who basically IS Eloy, has become something of an authority on the subject after much research, such is his obsession with the heroine in question. There is no doubting that the story of Joan of Arc shows her to be enigmatic and legendary, and her short life makes for fascinating reading. Her demise, being burnt at the stake at the age of nineteen, was tragic and ensured her story would be told down the centuries.
The first two instalments of the Eloy version of her story, The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre (parts 1 & 2), told of her rise and fall across the last two short years of her life, and the new album goes into further depth and recaps her story. As fascinating as she is, whether it warranted three whole albums is a moot point, but I have to say that Frank Bornemann certainly did his homework, and he covers his subject in great detail. Musically, as I’ve indicated already, it is typical Eloy, and for me, that’s just fine. I’ve always enjoyed their easy Floydian rock style, and it does seem to lend itself to expansive storytelling. There’s plenty of Floyd keyboard drone intros, precise crisp drums, chugging electric guitar, soaring synth embellishments and power chords for dramatic effect.
Opening track Conspiracy is a good example, with a lovely intro that is similar in feel to Poseidon’s Creation from Ocean, and I’m hooked straight away. Spacey keys, some murmured spoken word vocals from Frank setting the scene, then the guitar motif, bass and drums pulsing, then the power chord – I just love it! Then we settle into a mid-tempo rocker, Frank intoning the virtually spoken lyrics, talking of the conspiracy being plotted against our heroine. This pretty much sets the template for the album. It may not surprise, but it is very well crafted with great care and attention to detail.
Personnel wise, Klaus-Peter Matziol (bass) survives from the last album, The Vision, The Sword & The Pyre, Part 2, as does dexterous drummer Stephan Emig. Keyboards are provided by a new face, Steve Mann, and he does a good job, making all the right noises in all the right places and adding some symphonic underpinning at key moments with his keyboard string effects. Eloy absolutely needs layers of keys to support Bornemann’s guitar and voice, and he fits in very nicely.
The title track is a very atmospheric piece, beautifully judged, and Danger follows with a more ominous feel, and heavier Gothic production as Jeanne D’Arc senses her betrayal. The whole album is building to the inevitable climax, Fate, then the terrible end, The Pyre. It’s all remarkably well done, and I’d have preferred if the story had been left there to be honest. The final song, Farewell, is the only piece I really don’t like. It’s a sorrowful piece, mainly guitar and voice, full of regret, and for me it just sounds rather stilted and awkward. I’ll be skipping that ending from now on to be honest, but maybe it’s just me.
So, now that Frank Bornemann has finally got Joan out of his system, it will be interesting to see whether he feels sufficiently motivated and inspired to come up with anything new and different. Having worked on this concept for 8 years, who knows? All I know is, if you are a fan of Eloy, or concept albums generally, then this is a very solid album which you’re going to want to hear. If you want edgy or revelatory new sounds, or risk taking, you might want to look elsewhere!
01. Conspiracy (5:45)
02. Compassion for Misery (3:05)
03. Echoes from the Past (5:39)
04. Danger (4:42)
05. Deceptive Glory (5:10)
06. Warning Signs (6:34)
07. Fate (3:21)
08. The Pyre (9:22)
09. Farewell (5:19)
Total Time – 48:57
Frank Bornemann – Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitar
Klaus-Peter Matziol – Bass
Steve Mann – Keyboards
Stephan Emig – Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Drakkar Entertainment
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 23rd June 2023