March 20, 2021 BlutEngel – Fountain of Destiny (Album Review)
There’s no denying that 1980’s Synthpop and New Wave have stood the test of time, with the ’80s continuing to stand as the pinnacle era for both genres. Merging their skills with these beloved sonic breeds, Germany’s masters of Gothic Darkwave in BlutEngel are ready to get your “blut” pumping with Fountain of Destiny, a collection of delicious nostalgia. Out of Line Music delivered the LP on March 12, 2021.
Established in 1998 by Singer-Songwriter and synth aficionado Chris Pohl, BlutEngel (German for “Blood Angel”) serves as an outlet for the talented musician’s passion and creativity. Blending German and English lyrics, plus macabre and sensual themes, Pohl issued his debut, Child of Glass, in 1999. A prolific creator with a strong fanbase, over the past decade he has added ten more full-length collections to his oeuvre, ranging from 2001’s Seelenschmerz to 2019’s Un:Gött.
Having worked with an impressive list of female vocalists throughout the past two decades, Pohl is currently accompanied by the exquisite voice of Ulrike Goldmann. And for their latest, the pair carefully handpicked a selection of ten tracks from the ‘80s to place the signature BlutEngel stamp on. Initially slated to be an EP/mini-album due to issues with copyright clearances, it is thanks to the dedication of the duo’s label, Out of Line Music, and their own perseverance that the package arrives as a 12-song entity.
So, no longer a miniature, Fountain of Destiny contains ten 1980s cover songs, as well as two brand new originals. But BlutEngel is meticulous with their selections, never making any obvious moves. Sure, there are bands that listeners, particularly Americans, should definitely know, though Pohl and Goldmann are careful to avoid the expected. For example, they tackle Duran Duran’s “The Wild Boys,” rather than “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf,” providing a bigger and bolder take on the 1984 single. This is something that will continue throughout the duration of Fountain of Destiny, as the pair also show their source material the respect that is due, all while uncovering the perfect balance between holding onto that familiar magic while still managing to add their own signature into the mix.
This, it’s no shock that, rather than choose the obvious—that’d be “Take On Me”—they opt for a-ha’s 1985 offering “The Sun Always Shines on TV.” Injecting deliciously slinky electronics to its lush yet languid pace, the end result is a satisfying homage to yesteryear. Of course, not all of the songs come as a surprise, like Heart’s 1987 hit “Alone.” Something different and delicate, Golmann’s vocals add a touching intimacy to the track, which was actually originally recorded by i-Ten in 1983.
Similarly, Mike + The Mechanics’ 1986 hit “Silent Running” fits BlutEngel brilliantly as they embrace the undeniably infectious choruses with zest. That same flawless evolution is on display in their reinterpretation of the 1979 Tubeway Army dystopian single “Down in the Park.” Again, a more obvious choice for Gary Numan material would have been “Cars,” but the dreamy synths that emerge on this bold retelling are a highlight of the collection.
However, there are also several tracks from artists that might not be as familiar to some listeners. Case in point Ultravox’s 1983 New Wave offering “Hymn,” and, also from 1983, British Synthpop outfit Yazoo’s dancy “Nobody’s Diary.” Certainly “Dr. Mabuse,” a 1984 offering from Germany’s Propaganda, is not a well-known offering here in the US, but BlutEngel delivers an enormous sound full of layers that is apt to turn listeners on to the original.
Two of the songs sit somewhere between the lesser known and the well-honored: “Forever Young” and “Ship of Fools.” The former being the 1984 offering from Germany’s Alphaville, the latter representing Erasure’s 1988 track. Oddly, it is this rocker that is the least satisfying of the covers, so it is thankfully not the collection’s concluding track.
In a sense, BlutEngel has saved the best for last, as they know that many fans will check out Fountain of Destiny for its two new original songs: “Unsere Zeit” and the instrumental “Journey to the Edge of the Night.” Both fit with the cover selections perfectly, with the infectious dance-stomp of “Unsere Zeit” standing as a shining ray of hope for the next all-original BlutEngel album. “Journey to the Edge of the Night,” however, takes itself to a whole new level that can only be referred to as epic. With insane synth-work that imbues an underlying video game feel, it is the perfect way to end an album and leave your audience begging for more.
To rewind a bit, as we often did in the ‘80s (if we were kind), it makes perfect sense that Fountain of Destiny would be thick with Synthpop and New Wave, considering BlutEngel has always maintained Darkwave and Synthpop elements to their sound. Having previously placed their stamp on other key offerings from the ‘80s and early ‘90s (Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel,” Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister,” Shakespears Sister’s “Stay”), their choice to dive deeper into the decade comes as no big surprise. And though some of the choices lean towards obscure, we’re certain that this was done on purpose—to show off BlutEngel’s skills and influences, and to inspire listeners to take the trip back in time.
Thematically, all of these selections are apropos of a 2021 audience and provide the perfect foundation for Pohl and Goldmann’s newest material—which is hands-down the best portion of the disc. Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t magnificent moments amid the nostalgia present here—particularly “Down in the Park” and “Silent Running”—but more than anything Fountain of Destiny shows that BlutEngel can tackle another artist’s material with a tender respect while still providing enough flourishes to make it their own. As a whole, it is a reminder that, despite the international struggles of the past twelve months, BlutEngel is still chasing their muses and creating new art for the ears. Blessed be! For this, Cryptic Rock gives Fountain of Destiny 3.5 of 5 stars.