by Connor Shelton
There’s been a rising trend since 2020 that has seen prog artists tackle issues which the COVID-19 pandemic exasperated. Misinformation, social isolation, and reactionary politics are just some of the ideas that have inspired bands like eMolecule and We Came From Space in 2023 alone, and RPWL have now entered the ring to give their own two cents worth on the subject of criminality. It’s far from the first time the band have run with an overarching theme.
RPWL have a long history of creating concept albums that dive deep into the way humans interact with certain ideas. They practically made a name for themselves as the little engine that could, a Pink Floyd cover band who started writing their own original music. Those early albums didn’t aim for profundity but starting with 2012’s ‘Beyond Man and Time,’ they began to rival their idols in terms of lyrical depth. So it is with ‘Crime Scene’ that the listener will be astonished at just how far the band has come over 20 years.
RPWL’s new LP opens with the cinematic mini epic “Victim of Desire.” Released in advance of the record, the eight minute song offers a journey into the psyche of a serial killer, attempting to illuminate their twisted but sorrowful headspace. The track is among the strongest in the band’s discography, and perfectly establishes both the album’s intentions and how the band are more than just a Floyd supplement.
“Red Rose” is a more sonically pleasant experience than the meditative opener, yet its romantic tone carries a chilly undercurrent. The song takes its inspiration from Carl Tanzler, a radiologist who lived with a corpse for seven years, though the band thankfully choose to avoid providing specific details of the affair, something that can be considered a net positive throughout the album. The band continue to draw from real life crimes on “A Cold Spring Day In 22,” which is based on the Hinterkaifeck Murders. The track offers more of a clear narrative than its predecessors, and ironically features the most upbeat chorus on the album. Choices like this prove thought provoking for how listeners engage with music, though the band veer away from this clash with “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” Out of all the tracks on the record, it contains the most uneasy atmosphere thanks to the drum machine used in the intro, discordant synth chords, and lyrics about girls in cages.
“King of the World” acts as the centerpiece on ‘Crime Scene,’ and it’s easy to see why considering the slinky bass line, tight drum patterns, and the subtle modulations throughout. Like with many longer tracks from prog bands though, there’s a sense that the band could have trimmed the track down, but regardless, it works as a testament to the band’s technical and melodic skills for much of the twelve-minute runtime, showing them to be just as competent as their neo-prog peers.
The album concludes with “Another Life Beyond Control,” which might take inspiration from Karl Denke, a man who was well-respected by his town but who turned out to be a cannibal. While the revelation/influence is gruesome, it presents the most sublime hook in the band’s discography. The chorus is a testament to the power of prog, how it’s more than just cerebral showmanship and calculated craft. Were the song to sustain this magnificence for the entire runtime, it would be testament to the band being a top tier talent. As it stands, RPWL’s ability to render such tender sympathy is only relegated to the chorus, though it’s more than enough to help bring the album full circle.
‘Crime Scene’ is unquestionably another stellar release from the ever-reliable RPWL, but the record’s greatest moments hint at a band who are on the cusp of truly crafting a masterpiece. This feeling largely stems from the broad scope of such a record running up against the relatively concise runtime (a respectable 45 minutes in length), a fact which cannot be critiqued too harshly. The album might have benefited with more music in order to provide further insight into the nature of the criminal mind, yet what we’re given is already quite compelling. The LP succeeds at evoking potent atmospheres that run the gamut of emotions and does a more tasteful job of telling true crime stories than most other media. These facts are more than enough to warrant investigating this album further, and it’s safe to say that ‘Crime Scene’ is every bit as consistent as RPWL’s past few albums.
Released on March 17th via Gentle Art of Music
‘Crime Scene’ Track List:
1.Victim Of Desire (8:16)
2.Red Rose (5:35)
3.A Cold Spring Day In ’22 (4:21)
4.Life In A Cage (6:11)
5.King Of The World (12:51)
6.Another Life Beyond Control (7:51)
Yogi Lang / vocals, keyboards
Kalle Wallner / guitars
Marc Turiaux / drums
Markus Grützner / bass
RPWL Tour Dates 2023:
30 March D-Stuttgart clubCANN
31 March D-Bonn, Harmonie
01 April NL-Zoetermeer, De Boerderij
02 April UK-Chepstow, Winter’s End, Drill Hall
03 April UK-Bilston, The Robin
04 April UK-Glasgow, Slay
05 April UK-Oundle, Queen Victoria Hall
06 April UK-London, Boston Music Room
07 April B-Verviers, Spirit of 66
08 April F-Pagney-derrière-Barine, Chez Paulette
09 April CH-Pratteln, Z7
10 April D-Dortmund, Piano
13 April PL-Warschau, Progresja
14 April PL-Piekary Slaskie, Andaluzja
15 April PL-Suchy Las, Centrum Kultury
16 April D-Reichenbach, Artrock Festival
18 April D-Berlin, Maschinenhaus
19 April D-Hamburg, Knust
20 April D-Isernhagen, Blues-Garage
21 April D-Rüsselsheim, Das Rind
22 April D-Freising, Lindenkeller