This review on Letzte Instanz is far from my first one as I respect this band and once deeply loved it, so I am not indifferent to what LI is releasing from album to album and in which direction it is moving. But I didn’t have another read of my old reviews and I don’t remember which theses were voiced there and which were not very well. But I believe that the main one can be safely repeated at the beginning of each of my reviews: “I am not comparing Letzte Instanz with Sebastian Lohse as well as with Holly“. For me, these are 2 different bands, so any analogies and comparisons that I will make will only relate to the “modern” period of Letzte Instanz, which originates in 2006 with the “Ins Licht” record. So let`s go.
I don’t see any point in describing each song of “Ehrenwort” separately, but I think it`s necessary to pay attention to some features of both this album and previous works of the band. Long time ago, I remember that after the release of “Schuldig” I tagged the style of the band as Romantic Pop Metal. And I still consider this definition to be as close to the modern sound of Letzte Instanz as possible. In fact, today the band has only a set of instruments in common with rock music: a real-instrument rhythm section, overdriven guitars as well as some arrangements. But at the heart of all this is absolutely smash-hit, for the most part, filling, both in melodic and lyrical terms. I would like to dwell on the last aspect in more detail. With its sublime romantic lyrics about everything and nothing, LI reminds me of the blessed Graf (Unheilig) filled in his consciousness. And the lyrics, in general, are not bad, simply they are often “background”. Of course, there are exceptions on “Ehrenwort” like “Santa Aurelia”, which is based on Otto Ernst`s poem titled “Nis Randers”, or the melancholic “Vogelfrei”, where the lines of the refrain “Wir waren vogelfrei – doch das ist vorbei” (“We were free – but it`s all behind”) immediately sticks in memory and resonates with the current view of life and media space. But for the most part, it`s the same sublime romantic line that Holly has been following for quite some time.
Musicwise arrangements and mood, “Ehrenwort” is 100% successor to “Liebe im Krieg” and “Morgenland”. There is absolutely the same approach to songwriting. As a result, we have 3 albums, listening to which, it is rather problematic to identify the origin of each individual track. The above-mentioned Unheilig has the same issue when well-made songs are practically indistinguishable from each other.
One of my first thoughts after listening to “Ehrenwort” was the thought that out of the last 3 albums released by the band, it is possible to collect one very cool release that could be rated 10/10. But in reality we have a series of almost identical records that have very timid experiments within the framework of their sound. I have already highlighted “Santa Aurelia” and “Vogelfrei” on “Ehrenwort” specifically. But they stand out not only because of their lyrics. “Santa Aurelia” has an interesting vibe. Holly`s rough, low-pitched, hoarse voice in the verses evokes associations with Leonard Cohen, and the arrangement and melody of the chorus resembles a kind of fusion of LI and Santiano. In the end, it all sounds really exciting and does not have a “smash-hit” flavor. For my taste, it is the best song on the album. It is a very well balanced and well presented track. Followed by “Vogelfrei”, whis is although somewhat simpler in terms of music but very successful in terms of melodies played by strings and also has a very interesting way of presentation. If the previous song made me associate it with Leonard Cohen style of singing, then in “Vogelfrei” I seem to hear the style of singing of Konstantin Wecker with his “Sage Nein”. Of course, this was hardly a reference for a specific composition, but at the level of sensations, I drew such a parallel. In addition, the arrangement perfectly fits the mood of the song, creating a slightly tragic and melancholic atmosphere, contributing to a complete emotional immersion in this musical theme.
But there is also “the other side of the coin”; for example, the track which is called “Fels in der Brandung”. Again, I return to the same analogy, but this is a purely Unheilig track. Just a good German hit with nice vocals and guitars. I`m sure that such music also has a place to be and it will find its audience, but, as they say, this is not really my vibe. And of course, “Fels in der Brandung” is not the only track of such kind on the album; I just used it as an example.
You needn’t look hard to find the next example; the album is closed by the same kind of track which is titled “Zeig uns dein Licht”. Just imagine the voice of Der Graf and a video clip with the elderly people/children/Afro-Americans/transgenders in it… well, you get the idea. I consider the line “Du hast unser Ehrenwort” (”You have our word of honor”), which loops the album in some way, to be the only interesting idea in this track.
Musically somehow I can also note the title track of the record called “Ehrenwort” with its almost industrial precision of its rhythm. It was really surprising to hear such riffing on a song by LI. The song opens the album and turns out to be the only thing of its kind in the end.
I would tag the next song called “Entzündet die Feuer”, which was also released as a single, by the way, as the most “folk” theme on the album. In general, some people, due to the presence of a violin and a cello in the music of Letzte Instanz, classify the band as a Folk Rock one, which, of course, is not true, but it is this track that really produces such an impression.
In conclusion, I want to say that the album sounds gorgeous from a technical point of view; besides that, you cannot deny the melodic talent of the band but the new material, unfortunately, is too monotonous. Some occasional experiments with sound and presentation are excellent, but this still has little effect on the overall picture. Letzte Instanz has a formed fan base, which accepts this material enthusiastically, but the level of creativity, in my opinion, is decreasing more and more from album to album, while the quality of the records remains at the highest level, as well as the skill of the musicians.
I will rate the album 8 out of 10 for those few tracks that seemed interesting to me, for the level of quality and melodism of this album, but if the band continues copying their albums, then even my love and loyalty will not be able to pull the same rating. I hope that LI will give their “honest word” that this will be their last release of such kind.
- Band: Letzte Instanz
- Album: Ehrenwort
- Genre: Gothic Rock/Gothic Metal
- Country: Deutschland
- Release: October 29, 2021
- Label: AFM Records
- Facebook Page: facebook.com/letzteinstanz
- Buy: afm-records.de
Reviewer Score: 8 out of 10
Author: Irgend Jemand, specially for the NDH FM Online
Translated by Yuri Kudryavtsev.