Karat - 1986 Funfte Jahreszeit

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited August 2 in year-1986


ALBUM: Funfte Jahreszeit
SERIAL: 6.26396 AP, 8 56 218 (GDR)
YEAR: 1986


LINEUP: Herbert Dreilich - vocals * Bernd Rommer - guitar * Thomas Kurzhals, Ulrich 'Ed' Swillms - keyboards * Christian Liebig - bass * Michael Schwendt - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Fetzen Aus Samt * 02 Funfte Jahreszeit * 03 Die Fahrradverkaufer * 04 In Deiner Galerie * 05 Hab Den Mond Mit Der Hand Behrurt * 06 Der Doppelganger * 07 Aus Zweiter Hand * 08 Er Kam Sah Und Siegte * 09 Der Liebe Fluch * 10 Die Glocke Zweitausend


East German AOR kings Karat were riding high by 1986, coming off the back of two big albums (1982's 'Der Blaue Planet' and 1984's 'Sieben Wunder Der Welt').

These platters had seen them cross the Berlin Wall to achieve success in West Germany as well, platinum success to be exact.

Their touring stocks were also pretty high, hitting several European stops despite the infamous travel related red tape applied to iron curtain acts.

Karat even played Cuba, resulting in a small pocket of support in the States to this day. Having always blended prog elements into their particular brand of AOR, much like Saga and Eloy, 1986 saw a slight dilution of that approach as they chased their commercial aspirations.

The result being a more streamlined, direct AOR approach for 'Funfte Jahreszeit' ('Fifth Season'), with prog influences more of an undercurrent than an upfront presence.

The Songs

'Fetzen Aus Samt' glides down the pike on skittering electronica, eventually building to a frisky mid-tempo shuffle with subtle melodies that are not necessarily immediate. Intensity does pick up as the track progresses though.

Some of the guitar riffs and licks put through an echo device recalling the old dub reggae technique... King Tubby meets AOR? Don't get me wrong, it never sounds reggae as such, turning out to be one of those AOR tracks you need to hear a few times to 'get it'.

Title track 'Funfte Jahreszeit' is up next, a ballad built on a very strong AOR chord progression. Starting at almost sedentary tempo, it does gather speed, culminating in passages of exhilirating drum and guitar power in the post choruses. Great use of the old light and shade principle, great track.

'Die Fahrradverkaufer' went right by me, an awkward affair in tempo and melody, hard to find the merit here. I'll indulge them their experiment and hope for better to come.

Well, Karat go on a golden run at this point, delivering the Wiener Mischung coffee in spades.

'In Deiner Galerie' is one of the more simple AOR tracks I've heard in structure, but damned if it didn't stay in my head for weeks. Built on elegant piano and a considered mid-tempo, guitar colouring the soundscape with fluid melody. Power is at hand in the chorus, with one of those unexpected mid-song bridges tying it all together. A more organic Eloy comes to mind, magic cut.

'Hab Den Mond Mit Der Hand Behrurt' lays down the mid-tempo again, some prominent bass work spicing up the verses. It's the chorus that hits the home run though, a revolving cascade of understated melody and crystal guitar, this would have sat comfortably on Saga's 'Behaviour' album. This was the album's big hit as well, thoroughly deserved success for a rich coffee laden AOR stunner.

'Der Doppelganger' is built on Ulrich Swillms panoramic synth pattern, half tempo at verse time but the choruses have the necessary mid-tempo bite, and melody to match. Some very prominent rhythm guitar adding crunch to said choruses as well, the track ends as it began, on waves of that synth dreamscape, a true example of prog AOR crossover.

'Aus Zweiter Hand' is another of those slow starters, something of a trend with Karat, but as with previous tracks it picks up speed and intensifies the melody as it goes on, easily reaching it's mid-tempo ambition. Another tick in the positive column.

'Er Kam Sah Und Siegte' comes crashing in on layers of electronic synth sequencing, but there's more aggression in the atmosphere this time, hinting at power to come. As ever, Karat build the intensity, massive riffs and some well placed drum effects add to the drama and by the time the snare drum fires off five gunshots you'll be climbing the wall like a panther, finally they break free of mid-tempo and cut loose!

There's something very Omega about the scope and execution here, dark and brooding but still utterly AOR. Coffee meter lying in bits all around me, so it's a good thing 'Der Liebe Fluch' is a gently acoustic ballad, no drums but enough charm involved.

The album closes with 'Die Glocke Zweitausend', something of an AOR power ballad. A very singable chorus and some astutely applied crunching guitar make this another winner.

In Summary

'Funfte Jahreszeit' was another AOR success for Karat, and well deserved. Together with Omega and FSB, they form an essential trifecta of AOR from the iron curtain.

Around this time, keyboard maestro Ulrich Swillms left the band citing health concerns. He would later return in a live capacity, but in the meantime Karat soldiered on, and were nowhere near done with quality AOR.

'Im Nachsten Frieden' would follow in late 1989, also well worth a look here at GDM.

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