Since my support of Esoteric Recordings goes back nine years ago when the blog was starting in 2008 and being a student back in Houston Community College working on my degree in Jazz Studies, I’ve always would go to their website and see what obscure gems they would release at the end of the month. This year, I was fascinated by an artist that blew me away. His name is Gandalf. It’s an alias name for artist and composer, Hans Strobl.
His third album entitled, To Another Horizon which was originally released in 1983 on the WEA label in Germany and Austria, is a conceptual story about the awareness of a global threat between the environment of nuclear weapons and how will humanity destroy itself or how we can change our behavior and the consciousness before it’s too late? Listening to this album, it’s a combination of Tom Newman, The Enid’s first two albums, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and Mike Oldfield.
His keyboards tell the story as if you as a listener can close your eyes and imagine the story from Gandalf’s vision by making it the movie inside your head. It is a touching and haunting dystopian vision of the dangers that will happen between life, death, and rebirth. It’s atmospheric, ambient, new age, and symphonic. The lush of the mellotron’s, synths, organ passages, and piano work he brings, is a stirring yet emotional with a futuristic setting.
I love Flight of the Crystal Ships. Here Gandalf doesn’t just play they keyboards, but he plays guitar also. He has these ambiance and swirling Yes-like settings that brings forth the style of Steve Howe. It’s a dazzling yet adventurous composition as you can imagine flying on the crystal ships across the galaxy towards into the Milky Way with the electronical settings that give the view of the stars and looking how beautiful our solar systems are.
Natural Forces Getting Out of Control begins with a flute introduction done by Robert Julian Horky with some wind-blowing keyboards and natural world that has now gone haywire as Gandalf takes some innovative styles between the finger-picking classical guitars and the synths showing that Hell has now begun with Mother Earth’s body being in pain by making volcanoes spitting the fires out and floods starting out as the night follows.
It has the styles of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn-era as the electronic drums and synths set the thunders to the skies for the earthquakes to begin. Now I’ve mentioned about the organ passages. It’s shown on the Requiem for a Planet. By now in the story of the second act, Earth has now been damaged from the night before as the organ movements set the church-like tone along with piano passages for a mourning loss of what has happened. Including the vocal spoken-word at the last minute to give the last rites.
The opening track, March of No Reason, sees Gandalf channeling the styles of Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds, Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht, Marillion, and Tangerine Dream with Gandalf channeling his keyboards into unbelievable results. He along with drummer Eron Groger, and bassist Heinz Hummer, take you to in this parallel universe of what is happening of the conflicts between nations, war, and the final battle that is about to destruct our own planet.
The spiritual yet Indian-raga middle-eastern atmosphere with experimental vocals, sets up the hope for a new beginning of the three-part title-track suite starting with The Divine Message and the Sitar with a droning effect, gives the chance to rebuild for a new chapter and a new beginning for a Change of Consciousness while near the end of the story, it becomes clear instead of fighting, they are working as a team as Gandalf goes into the Yes styles of Tales from Topographic Oceans-era on the Creation of a New World.
This is my second and third time of listening to Gandalf’s To Another Horizon. I was on the edge of my seat just being blown away of how Hans himself takes the New Age, Atmospheric, and Symphonic structures to another level. It’s not just Progressive, but the adventure that will take you towards seeing how the dangers can affect everybody. The 16-page booklet contains the 2-part story, including liner notes done by Malcolm Dome and an interview with Gandalf (Hans Strobl) about the making of the album.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Esoteric label which is a part of the Cherry Red Family since 2007, have never disappointed me when it comes to reissue gems from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Here, Gandalf’s third album is the soundtrack and movie inside your mind. If you love Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze, Marillion (Fish-era), The Enid, Yes, Mike Oldfield, and Vangelis, then I highly recommend exploring To Another Horizon.