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Bathed in the Weird Moonlight - 85%

Five_Nails, February 13th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2008, Digital, Independent

It would be impossible to accuse Cornelius Mikael Waldner of including too many elements in his albums or building up a wall of sound. His quiet and intimate offerings in Sagittarius make for meaningful and pensive releases with remarkable impact from such simple starts. Additional musicians make this once silent study, sat at a solitary piano, overflow with companionship to serve as a cross between putting on a party in the parlor of a bachelor of marginal nobility and mourning a recent loss at a graveside.

The first three tracks, “Erio (Version 2006)”, “Sternwandel V”, and “Menuet” are a series of piano and flute pieces that seem to sink in to their cups as eyes unfocus, words on pages blur, and the fire in the hearth smolders. The mood is further solemnified by “Nova Apocalypsis” as the flute bows out and the piano lumbers its breathy riff into a slumber where the melody slowly, sadly, and sequentially changes pitch to make its own silent exit.

Where Waldner involves his fellow musicians in a more sociable harmony shows an immediate enhancement of his vision. I very much enjoy “Little Black Angel”. It is a solemn song with a rocking rhythm that hides just how hopeful the lyrics truly are in its pervasive dark imagery. As the only song with sung lyrics on this album and a stretch into rock and roll from the folk and classical roots that have been so well entrenched, “Little Black Angel” makes good use of both fan service and a freer, more improvised, atmosphere that seems to throw caution to the wind and cast off its trenchcoat of pretense. The same goes for the airy piano piece, “Nihil Arisen (Soundtrack Version)”, where synth violins join the piano and moments of floating vocal cries create a combination that would work well with scenes of windswept fields leading to expanses of sea. Waldner experiments in spaces outside of his comfort zone and captures them well, making for a more adventurous offering than simply sticking to baying at the moon with a piano from the balcony of an ivory tower.

That isn't to say that the baying never happens after the party guests leave. This version of 'Fragmente II' closes with a fresh rendition of Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata”. Unlike the way this song was slowed down in 'Die Grosse Marina' for “Wenn der Spleen regierte”, this edition of “Moonlight Sonata” is played at the common speed and is accompanied by a reading of a sonnet from 1883, originally written as an accompaniment to this Beethoven piece by Stanislaus Eric Stenbock. This makes for a haunting and captivating experience. The esoteric ambiance is captured in verse as the narrator travels through a dark and stifling area, what seems to be a cave, in search of an alluring birdsong in the blackness, as though hearing a canary crying in a coal mine. This song and its complimentary sonnet characterize the balance of bleakness and beauty so prevalent in heavy metal music and culture as the narrator discovers a rose, its crimson petals pallidly painted by a shaft of moonlight. Through such subtlety in Waldner's output comes a morose inkling between elegant elegies that show a second, hidden dimension hinted at throughout this music.

'Fragmente II' is an album that shows Waldner's confidence growing along with his competence as he explores new atmospheres, brings new players along with him, sheds some of his subdued Spartan stoicism, and takes a few steps out of his silent study. With a cover showing Medusa's severed head and mane of snakes solemnly staring ahead into nihil, the image echoes the inner conflict of stone-like stoicism and inescapable emotionality that infect every artist. A balance of both is a surefooted step forward for Waldner in 'Fragmente II', for this musician and his collaborative efforts make way for a great payoff from such modest roots.