KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: XXIII
“It is an interesting question in itself why there’s so much music in American popular culture containing elements of church music as well as sounds reminiscent of carnival and the circus. Is it really just because both areas have an affinity to organs? Did Hollywood play a vital part in this, as movies often used to present the Sacred in a carnivalesque manner? Or is there something like a secret connection between these heterotopias so different at first glance, where people seek refuge for a moment from their daily grind and indulge in many different illusions – and nonetheless have the chance to learn more about life than in the most fatal of all illusions, namely the functionalized alienation, commonly known as normality? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but this thought, which has crossed my mind more than once when I think about Baby Dee, is even stronger on my mind when I think about Kingdom of Heaven.
God and Devil, doom and salvation, side shows and superheroes, the sublime grandeur of the antique world and shabby love hotels in the juggernaut of LA – these are the things that shape the textual character of Kingdom of Heaven’s debut, and if you know the better-renowned part of the duo, you won’t be surprised about the choice of subject, but will experience more than one deja-vu instead. Kingdom of Heaven was created when Nikolas Schreck, who has made himself a name as a Buddhist meditation teacher in his new Berlin home, contacted his old friend James “Filth” Collord. Collord was bassist in the earliest incarnation of Radio Werewolf, best known for their song “Buried Alive” or their appearance in the movie “Mortuary Academy”. Déjà vu, however, doesn’t mean that the two are on the road to Death Rock again, even though Schreck as lead singer, who always sounds a bit like David Bowie with a gigantic chest, cannot help but start a double-ironic persiflage on this idea. What they revive from their earlier phase is their love for all kinds of sinister trash and the mood of old B-Movies, which we all took so seriously in our teenage days.
Musically, Schreck and Collord dive deep into the realms of American pop culture, and it’s a grim form of what Rhythm and Blues used to be in the 50s and 60s – music which has little in common with contemporary R’n’B – that constitutes a major influence – may others use the term „Prog“ for the mixture of bar-piano, hammond organ and a maybe sometimes a bit too powerful drum section. It’s not only Schreck’s vocals that give the circuslike music a strong touch of liturgy, it’s also the stories that he tells in the songs. Most of the lyrics run along on the fine line between mysticism, pulp and the conviction that everything is just an illusion anyway. Lines like “I dreamt I swam in the river Jordan/A bottle of booze in my hand” from “The Ballad of Lurleen Tyler” sum this up quite well. The ambiguous character of illusions does not only appear in this story of a dubious preacher and girl killer: whilst in “Farewell to the Carousel” the farewell to the beautiful other world of a funfair is mourned, the sci-fi scented song “In Dreamland” urges the listener to wake up from a media-mediated loss of consciousness.
Many pieces revolve around biblical themes or the mystical aspects of the ancient world, or they enjoy the exoticism of a mysterious Orient, which has left its musical traces in “Midnight in Cairo”. But they always do it in the way of moody cock and bull-tales, and one can imagine these stories as a comic, which consistently satirizes the style of the „Watchtower“ of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since romantic love is one of the most beautiful illusions, even a flawless love song doesn’t go missing on the album, and “The World for You” is really a love song of superlatives, where one always wonders whether it is not about worshipping a deity. The song about a love that does not weigh all the wonders of the world, could be a hit from a Broadway musical and in a better world it would be a long runner in all karaoke shows.
In one sentence: pure „Kurzweil“, great fun and sometimes more than that, hopefully soon available on vinyl and also live in all churches and circus arenas of distinction. (U.S.)”
Translated into English from the original German review: http://africanpaper.com/2015/07/25/kingdom-of-heaven-xxiii/