- by Stefan Brunner -
new biography 2003 :
- how it all began -
Sven Friedrich (vocals) and Norman Selbig (guitars), together with Berlin producer Thommy Hein, laid the foundation stone for ZERAPHINE after their previous band Dreadful Shadows had broken up in 2000. The first ZERAPHINE CD Kalte Sonne, out in 2002, was recorded at Hein's studio. Kalte Sonne turned into a surprising debut: sung entirely in German, the album proved to be a highly intense aural experience, a journey through emotional lyrics and dark sounds which alternated between aggression and melancholia. Despite, or maybe because of the high standards that particularly the lyrical side of the album set for its listeners, Kalte Sonne was an immediate success, and the readers of Orkus magazine voted ZERAPHINE "Newcomer of the Year 2002".
- what belongs together grew together -
While ZERAPHINE were a well functioning construct, split into three different levels of involvement when their debut album was recorded, they have since grown into a band in the true sense of the word. Alongside Sven, Norman, and Thommy Hein, the musicians involved practically formed the outer layer of the productive structure. Numerous concerts later and with a lot of added experience under their belt, ZERAPHINE decided that they were so familiar with each other and accustomed to working together that not much stood in the way of a band "transformation", so the new album, TRAUMAWORLD, is the result of a collective work process. The creative centre still consists of Messrs. Friedrich and Selbig - however, Manuel Senger (guitars, backing vocals), Marcellus Puhlemann (drums) and Michael Nepp (bass) were given the opportunity to get involved at any given moment in the productive process that became TRAUMAWORLD and to influence, for example, the arrangements. As they had done during the Dreadful Shadows era, the band retreated to a farmhouse in the countryside surrounding Berlin, where the quintet ensconced themselves with only a few song fragments and set about working together on their new album. Thommy Hein, whom Sven Friedrich likes to refer to as "the man who holds everything together", joined them frequently. The experienced producer always has useful hints or suggestions for improvement up his sleeve and has become a factor that they cannot imagine their musical life without.
- a lingual changeover -
Naturally, the most obvious change since the debut album is the fact that German as the chosen language of ZERAPHINE's lyrical world has been replaced by English, as a quick glance at the track list reveals. This lingual changeover, however, is not really a sensation, although it would appear that the use of the German language in particular played a decisive part in the success of the group's debut. Sven Friedrich had already hinted after the finalization of Kalte Sonne that his mother tongue as a means of expression was an experiment and a challenge in one, but certainly not an integral part or indeed a precondition for the lyrical structure. Surprisingly, Friedrich initially wrote the first lines of new tracks like Light Your Stars in German - only to scrap the result. "It's difficult to express, but as far as I'm concerned, many of the songs simply have an English feel to them," the lyricist remarks. And so it came to be that only two out of a dozen new tracks are sung in German.
- drawing power from calm -
The access to TRAUMAWORLD on the lyrical level may not be as reflexive for German listeners as it was with Kalte Sonne yet, from a musical point of view the new offering receives its audience with its arms wide open. TRAUMAWORLD sounds much fresher and much more aggressive, you could almost say more extrovert than its predecessor and speaks of a perceptible maturation. If the debut still betrayed a slightly fevered element of stage fright, the second album sparkles with elegant composure and harmony. On the one hand, ZERAPHINE have the courage to leave gaps, to remain laid-back and to reduce to basics, on the other they seem to come up with charmingly catchy melodies, just like that. Frequently the listener comes across passages where the musicians have left plenty of room for entirely new and totally independent dynamics to develop. A number of sections are carried by drums, bass, and possibly vocals, alone - like the Cure-esque Failing Breath. Then again, the band enchant with haunting melodies like the magnificently arranged single track Be My Rain. ZERAPHINE have consciously ensured that the number of instruments used remains recognizable, preferring to focus instead on what each individual instrument is playing.
- a traumatic world -
There can be no doubt that the world which we live in is no birthday party. Wars, diseases, economic problems - the list of subjects that concern a "normal" person could go on. These dark clouds did not pass without casting their shadows on Sven Friedrich, and as TRAUMAWORLD was created at a time when the war in Iraq had escalated, the events had a strong impact on the album's content. As on Kalte Sonne, you won't find any signs of starry-eyed idealism in or between the lines. Again, it was much more the negative characteristics of people which - in a very personal way - were picked out as a central theme. In the maelstrom of the chaos that ruled the country between the two rivers, this deliberation has turned particularly defeatist this time; consequently the term, TRAUMAWORLD, sums up what many individual numbers on this album are trying to get across.
Zeraphine are :
marcellus (voc, programmings)
Biography 2002 (Kalte Sonne)
ZERAPHINE from Berlin have also opted for German lyrics. Their debut album, Kalte Sonne (Cold Sun), not only disproves the widely held prejudice that this language is supposedly not suitable for first-rate music - it comes up with plenty of evidence to the contrary! At the same time, the band get by without starry-eyed idealist messages but concentrate on human emotions. Sven Friedrich's lyrics centre on subjects like separation and transitoriness. Despite this at first sight slightly clichéd subject matter, Friedrich succeeds in conjuring up images that are candid enough to immediately symbolise and communicate strong feelings, yet they are too cryptic to appear banal or superficial - a type of tightrope walk that has rarely been successful, especially in the German language genre.
The hard ZERAPHINE core consists of the above mentioned lyricist/vocalist Sven Friedrich and guitarist Norman Selbig. Both musicians are former members of Dreadful Shadows, who brought out four albums between 1994 and 2000. With their powerful and at the same time very melodic mélange of wave, gothic plus a sprinkling of dark rock, the quintet had soon established themselves on the international scene, effortlessly filling reputable venues in the UK, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and Denmark, while popping up with a number of titles in the charts of various radio stations in countries like Lebanon or Yugoslavia.
Almost parallel to the demise of Dreadful Shadows, Sven Friedrich and Norman Selbig, together with renowned Berlin producer Thommy Hein, developed the idea for a new musical project, initially called Helix. When it materialised that the name was already being used by another group, they rechristened their band ZERAPHINE. The name derives from the Hebrew word 'seraph', which stands for a celestial being with six wings, two hands and a human voice. Next to the valuable assistance of Thommy Hein, Sven and Norman are supported by three additional musicians.
To this day, ZERAPHINE have never had a musical concept that demands to be realised and adhered to, their compositions simply express Sven and Norman's idea of how music should sound in order to appeal to them. They pay no attention to clichés or commercial considerations but simply let their emotions and preferences, moulded by years of experience, run wild. The fascinating result of this undogmatic creative approach can be heard on the band's debut album Kalte Sonne. Naturally, there are passages on Kalte Sonne that bear certain Dreadful Shadows traits. These legitimate reminiscences of Sven Friedrich and Norman Selbig's past are accompanied by a wide range of new and unusual influences. Particularly the intricate and versatile arrangements speak of the accessibility of the musicians involved to many different musical styles. Consequently, Kalte Sonne has turned into one of those rare albums that sound self-contained, yet offer numerous surprises - even after listening to the material several times.
Kalte Sonne is a recording that consists of authentic, emotional, courageous and at the same time pioneering music. In other words: music with qualities that are difficult to find in average productions these days. It is extremely important for the future of music itself that new facets continue to be integrated, and it would seem only right and proper that this future should belong to those bands that have accomplished these kinds of outstanding achievements.
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