• A welcome escape from reality - A review of In Extremo's Kompass zur Sonne

    In Extremo - Kompass zur Sonne (2020)

    The newest studio record by German medieval rock septet In Extremo had been scheduled to be released in March and was supposed to be followed by a tour in spring. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the release date got pushed back to May and the tour had to be rescheduled for next winter. While the initial disappointment to wait even longer for the new album after what had already been the longest gap between two studio records in the band's history, the band managed to make the very best out of the frustrating situation. In Extremo released four singles to keep fans craving for more, published two creative music videos and constantly communicated with personal messages and videos via social media. The band and its fans grew even stronger together throughout the past two months. It's no surprise that Kompass zur Sonne immediately conquered the German album charts upon release.

    If you liked the quirky, diversified and creative predecessor Quid pro quo, you are certainly going to appreciate Kompass zur Sonne as well. The record includes energetic band anthems and party songs such as the tongue-in-cheek ''Reiht euch ein ihr Lumpen'' and the convincing bonus track ''Sieben Brüder''. The band shows its calm, emotional and intellectual side in the tearjerking masterpiece and album highlight ''Schenk nochmal ein'' and the courageous eerie album closer ''Wintermärchen'' with its lyrical depth. The folk instrumentation works best in the enthusiastic title song ''Kompass zur Sonne'' that should work perfectly in concert as well as in the fast, joyful and relentless ''Gogiya'' featuring Austrian ska punk band Russkaja.

    Not every song is an instant hit however as some tracks take some time to grow. ''Salva Nos'' intrigues with exotic lyrics but feels like a filler due to its unspectacular musicianship. ''Biersegen'' has similar issues as it also features historical lyrics but fails to leave a deeper impression. ''Wer kann segeln ohne Wind'' is the record's most unusual track that has been controversially received when it has been released as a single. It's a reinterpretation of a Swedish folk song featuring hoarse guest vocals by Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg. The combination of calm folk instrumentation and guttural growls seems incoherent at first contact but ends up growing and developing a unique atmosphere. If anything, this song proves that In Extremo is still open for collaborations and experiments twenty-five years into its career.

    Kompass zur Sonne might not compete with the band's strongest outputs such as Mein rasend Herz and Sterneneisen but it's on the same level as strong predecessor Quid pro quo four years ago. Anyone who likes medieval folk instruments, energetic punk rock and joyful hard rock anthems should give Germany's best band a chance by listening to Kompass zur Sonne. I will cross my fingers and hope to attend the band's upcoming concert in Cologne next winter. Until then, I will listen to the group's twelfth full length studio effort over and over again. This joyful, entertaining and creative album is an excellent way to escape from sinister news these days.

    Final rating: 85%

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