Lord of the Lost – Confession (Live in Christuskirche) (CD/DVD Review)

Lord of the Lost are a band that know a little something about bold statements, and with the upcoming Confession (Live in Christuskirche) they go massive – a double live CD and DVD combo that arrives Friday, November 16, 2018, thanks to Napalm Records. Here, Chris Harms and co. deliver the ultimate Christmas present to their fans!

Some bands are comfortable with complacency, sticking to the formula of one disc every two years. German Gothic Rock chameleons Lord of the Lost, however, shun all mundane standards and perpetually go bold! Frontman and the genius behind it all, Chris Harms has become known for everything from edgy, sensuous and hard rocking material, to acoustic and Neo-Classical ensembles, to concept albums, to completely random Latin crossovers. This diversity is especially evident throughout the band’s extensive catalog of material, including their six full-length studio offerings – which range from 2010’s Fears to the recent double-disc odyssey, Thornstar.

Forever making rebirth an artform, Lord of the Lost – Multi-Instrumentalist Harms, Guitarist π, Bassist Class Grenayde, Multi-Instrumentalist Gared Dirge, and Drummer Niklas Kahl – are set to deliver their next epic: the 2CD/DVD combo Confession (Live in Christuskirche). The great irony of the collection is that, despite the band still riding the high from their chart-topping Thornstar, none of those songs are represented here. Instead, this collection was recorded live on the Swan Songs II 2017 tour, in Bochum, Germany, at the neo-Gothic Christ Church (Christuskirche), a beloved piece of 1800s architecture that was destroyed in World War II (save for its steeple) and rebuilt as a memorial dedicated to peace and understanding among nations. Filming for a DVD in this specific location, therefore, holds a special meaning, an Easter egg, if you will.

The two CDs that contain the 22-song performance of Confession (Live in Christuskirche) are accompanied by a DVD that contains the concert footage, and has an approximate runtime of 103 minutes. Beautifully shot, the footage is interspersed with oft black and white close-ups of the band and orchestra, creating something that is more an artistic, long-form music video than a standard concert DVD. Some fans are apt to appreciate the creative insight that went into its filming, while others will, no doubt, have preferred a standard, no frills recording. Whatever the case, if you’re paying attention throughout, you will easily catch Harms playing cello on many of the songs – adding an additional dimension to the band’s already impressive performance.

The double-disc’s first half opens with the orchestra leading the build into “Raining Stars,” complete with dramatic cinematics and a wholly striking sound that weaves a trance that is only broken by the arrival of Harms’ deep vocals, shifting the tone to ominous intensity. Kahl and Dirge’s percussion add a new layer, anchoring the entire sonic backdrop of the track that originally appeared on 2016’s Empyrean. There, it was an electronically-tinged dystopian offering, while here it takes on a filmic quality that would place it perfectly onto the big or smaller screen.

Harms then greets the audience in his native German, thanking them before the orchestra moves into the next composition. Practically made for this situation, the hopeful “Wander In Sable” represents 2017’s stunning Swan Songs II. With soaring strings that rival Harms’ vocals, and a solid beat, there is no great contrast between this rendition and the original, though this arrangement certainly allows the track to meander through more dramatic hills and valleys of sound.

They seek to kill the pain with the emotionally evocative plea of “Dry The Rain,” which undergoes a massive restructuring since its inception on 2010’s Fears. Here, as on the majority of Confession (Live in Christuskirche), the orchestra is truly allowed free reign to shine. In fact, it should be noted that the acoustics inside Christuskirche lend themselves beautifully to this recording, while compliments are also due to those involved in capturing the performance on both audio and video; they do the musicians’ talents proud with their careful preservation of each moment.

Another selection from Swan Songs II, “The Devil You Know” opens with vocals, piano and cello, maintaining an intensity that is complemented flawlessly by the lofty strings. However, it is the music from Empyrean, with its heavy electronic flourishes, that truly shines in these new arrangements, allowing the band to step far outside of the original formula of the songs to unleash their utmost creativity in re-interpreting the material. “The Love of God” is no different: the vast divide between the original style of the track and this fantastical offering makes for a stunning and fun gift to fans of the band and their eclectic music. For the casual listener, it’s just magnificent music that will inspire your aural awe.

“Ribcages” retains its sweeping, subtle grace, much as “The Sands of Time” retains its initial Swan Songs grandeur. There’s an impressive orchestral build into the eternal love of “Six Feet Underground,” the first selection from 2014’s From the Flames Into the Fire, and one of many offerings to feature Harms on cello. This romantically-tinged air continues into “Beyond Beautiful,” initially appearing on 2012’s Beside & Beyond. Meanwhile, rounding out the macabre romanticism, is the delicate dance of love and loathe that is “Waiting For You To Die,” a song that was crafted for this very sonic scenario and plays out like a dark dream.

The second disc opens with the quasi-lullaby “Fall Asleep,” which, much like all of the exquisite original material off Swan Songs II, was built for this presentation: where the twinkling piano work and delicately intricate sonics highlight Harms’ softer, more wispy vocals for the track. Next, they go bold and emphatic for Empyrean’s “Drag Me To Hell,” which allows Dirge and Kahl, along with the other percussionists, to shine.

Antagony (2011) receives her first representation with “Prison,” which opens with Harms leading the audience in a sing-along. This segues into the crowd aiding in the song’s performance, creating a truly moving testament to the band’s inspiring power and the dedication of their fans. If you’re the type of person to be emotionally moved by a beautiful performance, you just might shed a tear!

The ballad “See You Soon” sees 2012’s Die Tomorrow arriving on the scene with a lofty retelling before the band explore some entirely new territory. A refined version of 2015’s “Full Metal Whore,” the exquisite “Full Metal Bawl (The True Story About Her Death)” combines splendid cinematics and Harms’ lyrical storytelling to create something that is absolutely worthy of Broadway. This flows flawlessly into another audience sing-along on the triumphant anthem “Fists Up In the Air,” originally off From the Flame Into the Fire. If it’s possible for a Neo-Classical ensemble to get Metal, they do it here and it will bring a smile to your face!

In truth, the bulk of the songs throughout Confession (Live in Christuskirche) come from Swan Songs or Swan Songs II, where they were either already arranged for this type of presentation or directly written for it. The candid confessional “My Better Me” is just this: a Swan Songs II offering that was meant for this atmosphere. This moves the band into “Annabel Lee,” Edgar Allan Poe’s finest poetic hour is set to stunning sonics; a kingdom by the sea that originates with piano and builds into a moving sing-along. The King of the Macabre would be proud!

“The Broken Ones” ignites like a flame burning brilliantly into Die Tomorrow’s “Credo,” which name-checks the band’s name in a beautiful lament that often mirrors the well-known Bible passage 1 Corinthians 13:4. Here, another sing-along breaks out to accompany the orchestra’s sweeping soundscape. Then, the candid confessions return with Swan Songs’ “Lost In A Heartbeat,” a powerful and moving experience that paves the way for the collection’s grand finale. Arguably one of the band’s best-known, recent offerings, “Lighthouse,” closes out the collection with a hope-filled, larger than life bang. When all is (musically) lost, Lord of the Lost are a light in the dark, for sure!

It is a true testament to a Rock band’s talent that they can take their songs, entirely rearrange their structures, and present them alongside a chamber orchestra – and have the material hold up and, in many cases, gain new meaning and broader appeal. In a world of disposable musical acts, this is an oddity, something that is likely to never become commonplace. Lord of the Lost, therefore, are the exception to the rules: a heavy-hitting band who take sex on sonic legs and turn it into pure, symphonic poetry. Not to restate the obvious, but that’s something special! For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Lord of the Lost’s Confession (Live in Christuskirche) 5 of 5 stars.

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