DIES IRAE — First (review)

DIES IRAE — First album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Psych Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
One of the lesser known earliest German Krautrock bands, the Saarbrücken band DIES IRAE adopted the Latin phrase with means “Day of Wrath” as its moniker when it formed in 1968 and stuck around for five years before calling it a day. The band consisted of Andreas F. Cornelius (drums), Robert J. Schiff (bass), Harald H.G. Thoma (guitar, vocals) and Cord Wahlmann ( lead vocals, harmonica) and retained the psychedelic rock attributes of the 1960s while adding the hard rock sounds that had become popular by the time the band’s sole album FIRST hit the market in 1971.

DIES IRAE was quite popular on the German live circuit and shared the stage with many of the bands that would become Krautrock legends but for many reasons DIES IRAE did not enjoy the longevity that many of its contemporaries have enjoyed with the resurgence of psychedelic music and therefore have been pretty much forgotten by all except the hardcore Kraut addicts who seek out the obscurities. One of the problems with FIRST when it was released in 1971 was that the occult lyrical content was extremely controversial and while other Kraut bands were receiving radio airplay time, this band was literally shunned.

However when a band becomes banned, there are always those who seek out the forbidden fruits of the music industry and therefore this band has enjoyed a cult following over the decades complete with CD reissues. Another problem with FIRST is that it is all over the place with the opening track “Lucifer” featuring a hard rock repertoire with bluesy rock and even a harmonica. Compared to early Black Sabbath, which is totally legit, the band totally abandoned the hard rock aspects in the middle of the album and with the track “Trip” drifts off into true psychedelic freakery much like Can did on “Tago Mago” and bands like Faust and Cluster did all the time.

Although the opening track “Lucifer” is rather silly and amateurish, the remaining heavier tracks remind me more of the Scorpions’ debut album “Lonesome Crow” which was basically a bridge between the psychedelic Krautrock of the early 70s with the more straight forward hard rock of the latter part of the decade. Unfortunately lead vocalist Rainer Gerd Walhmann doesn’t quite match the charismatic singing prowess of Klaus Meine but he does get the job done. The album’s bizarre inconsistency reminds me of those late 70s albums where bands were forced to stuff in a career’s worth of ideas because they knew they only had one shot and therefore FIRST seems more like a collection of tracks rather than a cohesive album experience but having stated that, it’s actually all quite pleasant and totally fits in with the Kraut vibe of the year 1971, opening track excluded.

Unfortunately first impressions do matter. The opening track “Lucifer” may sour this one for many and the unattractive barbed wire fence album cover evokes more of a concentration camp scene rather than a Kraut filled escapist’s paradise. Yeah, the DIES IRAE members were not masters of marketing by any means but with the right guidance this band certainly had the talent to take things a bit farther and deserved a couple more albums since the potential is obvious from the tight-knit musicianship and the effortless transition between lysergic floatiness to bluesy hard rock. The band did have a brief reunion in 1991 but no new album came from it so DIES IRAE remains one of those one and done bands that released a sole artifact on the timeline and then went bye-bye. This is one of those albums that’s a bit hard to rate. It’s not good enough for 4 stars yet is too good for 3 so i guess 3.5 stars is warranted.
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