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Elend is currently a five-piece project, consisting of founder members and composers Iskandar Hasnawi and Renaud Tschirner, keyboard player, programmer and engineer Sébastien Roland, soprano singer Esterie
Rémond, and violinist and viola player David Kempf. Sunwar The Dead, the new album from the French-Austrian project, is a grandiose and ambitious
project on a number of different levels.
To start with, this is the second part of a five-album cycle that started with the 2003 release Winds Devouring Men, following the acclaimed Office des Ténèbres
trilogy. Secondly, the permanent members of Elend were joined for this recording by the Ensemble Orphique, consisting of a female choir and classical musicians. Over fifty artists took part altogether, and it shows – Sunwar The Dead has a truly epic sound, which begs to be played at high volume through good speakers for
a truly absorbing listening experience. The music of Elend is neo-classical which puts most other efforts in the genre to shame – claiming inspiration from
important 20th century composers including Krzysztof Penderecki and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elend’s dark and dramatic music swells and surges in urgent, swooping waves of choir and orchestral strings, with intelligent and sparing use of percussion and very slight and occasional industrial-electronic elements.
The overwhelming impression, though, is of orchestral music, and overwhelming it certainly is - I had to listen to this demanding and intelligent album a number of times before I felt ready to say anything coherent or sensible about it. My one criticism would be that excessive prominence is given to the Brendan
Perry-alike male lead vocals – I actually prefer the choral passages, and of course when the lead vocals kick in ,this begins to sound much less classical and
much more poppy. But fans of Arcana and Dead Can Dance will experience little difficulty in appreciating Elend. Another quality release from the consistently
interesting German label Prophecy Production, whose roster runs the gamut from black metal to dark ambient and neo-folk.