I had never dared to hoped that over a decade after the previous album, Nicholas Lens would release a new one! Nicholas Lens, the mind-blowing modern classical composer who used electronics in his ground-breaking “Flamma Flamma” (1994), the first part of the “The Accacha Chronicles” trilogy.
The two later parts of the trilogy (“Terra Terra” 1999 and “Amor Aeternus” 2005) and also “Orrori Dell’Amore” (1995) were less experimental, less pompous and less dark, but still interesting. Then suddenly I find out about a new album, an album with Nick Cave! Nick Cave does sing though, he wrote the lyrics.
“Shell Shock” is a classical type of opera with an orchestra, sopranos and a choir. The opera is still somewhat pompous here and there, but there are no electronics, strange gypsy choirs or modern classical experimentations. It is a fairly straight-forward opera. Nice to listen to, but nothing like “Flamma Flamma”.
Link: Nicholas Lens
1994 Flamma Flamma – The Fire Requiem
1999 Terra Terra – The Aquari
2005 Amor Aeternus – Hymns Of Love
I remember it well, it must have been 1994 or 1995. A friend of mine filled a tape with music that a friend of his used to fill a tape. I had no more information than “Flamma Flamma, The Fire Requiem”. Supposing that this was a release from the gothic scene, I started looking for a band named “The Fire Requiem”. Of course without succes. It was the time before internet and all kinds of handy ways of looking for things, so it took a very long time before I found out that this was actually classical music, but then very modern. I went to a local classical music shop and asked for “The Fire Requiem”. “You mean Flamma Flamma?” “Right!”. I spent a shitload of money (classical music is very expensive) on the very first version of this brilliant cd. No words about a trilogy then. On my search for more music of the Belgian composer Nicholas Lens I soon found out that his material was quite hard to get. I did run into a copy of the soundtrack cd “Orrori dell’Amore” (1995) some time later. I started asking people who were more into (modern) classical music than music if they knew anything like this. Everybody seems to love Lens, but nobody knows anything that comes even close. Fortunately in 1999 a new cd was released, called “Terra Terra, the Aquari”. For this event the first cd was rereleased in a digipack with a new cover and suddendly “Flamma Flamma” was the first part of a trilogy. It again took over five years for the next part of the trilogy to be released, but it is finally there! “Amor Aeternus, hymns of love” just saw the light of day. Together with this new cd (again in a digipack) the trilogy is (re)released together in one box and that for just a few Euro’s more. The photo on the cover is also in my “Flamma Flamma” cd, so at least 10 years old!. I bought the box which has a booklet with the complete story of the trilogy. I noticed that “Terra Terra” is now called “The Aquarius Era” and that the vocalists of “Flamma Flamma” are no longer “bass”, “soprano”, etc., but characters in the story. A very nice release, especially when you don’t have anything of Nicholas Lens yet.
The first cd is very experimental (chamber) opera. It has electronic elements, very bombastic tracks, but also sensitive and beautiful vocal solos. The second and third cd are more modest, but the new album is again pretty experimental with some strange classical (hardly any electronic) jokes. I don’t think Lens will ever come close to his debut masterpiece, but “Terra Terra” certainly isn’t boring and “Amor Aeternus” is a marvelous cd in itself.
So, whether you are much into classical music or not, just go and have a listen to this great music. You can even do that on the internet on a few places. How things got easier over the years!
My interest in Nicholas Lens was relighted when I found out that a new colleague of mine listens to modern classical quite a bit, so I hoped that maybe he knew Nicholas Lens and could point me in a good direction to look for more of this kind of music. I also tried this once quite a while ago when I met a girl who studies opera, but however she loved “Flamma Flamma” she had never heard anything like it! Also the colleague didn’t know Lens yet and when he heard it he was to total exstacy, but he he had never heard anything that even comes close (damn!). Then he played it to an uncle of his who is a total classical music addict, but the reaction was the same (damn!!). (I also played Devil Doll (one of my favourite mysical projects) to the colleague which he loved (of course!).) Anyway, I decided to find out if Lens had released anything after my previous search for his music. It came to me that his music isn’t as easy to get anymore as when I just bought “Flamma Flamma” in a local record-store. But I was delighted to find this 1999 cd.
It is recorded with almost the same people as “Flamma Flamma”, so you will hear similar beautiful voices. However the music is again quite experimental and electronic, there are more real instruments (also some quite uncommon) and the music is by far not as bombastic and dark as on “Flamma Flamma”, but still this is very very nice. If you like “Flamma Flamma” you better buy “Terra Terra” as well. One more point: I have seen “Flamma Flamma” with an alternative cover and this cd says: “The Accacha Chronicles part II”, so if “Flamma Flamma” is part I, I guess there is (or will be) also a third part.
Closing off tip, I was suggested to listen to György Ligetti, who is also reviewed.
Every now and then I search the internet to find out if the third part of Lens’ “Accasha Chronicles” trilogy has finally been released. Always this is without result. This time I ran into an internetpage naming five works of Lens and bluntly state that most of them are available on cd. Well why can’t I find any of them then?! Then I came up with a marvelous idea. There is a Dutch internetpage that finds the lowest prices for many kinds of articles for you. Looking for cd-artist Nicholas Lens, El Cheapo came up with one title that I didn’t have, available from a Dutch distro. “Orrori dell’Amore” is the soundtrack for the film “Marie Antoinette Is Niet Dood” by Irma Achten (a film I don’t know) and has nothing to do with the trilogy. It is (therefor) different in sound. No electronic influences, less dark and bombastic, but still ‘very Lens’. This strange opera for a small group of performers goes from melancholic to crazy. One piece even reminds of Sopor Aeterus in use of vocals, melodies and rhythms!
The search for the last “Accasha Chronicle” (named “Amore Amore” by the way), continues, but here is an old new Lens!
I got a few tracks of this cd as a filler up on a tape that a friend recorded for me. I loved what I heard and asked what it was, but the only thing he knew was “The Fire Requiem” so I started to search for this band, but I didn’t have a clue where to look. I guessed the gothic scene would be a good start, but I had no luck. Later this friend told me that the cd was actually called “Flamma Flamma – The Fire Requiem” and was composed by someone called “Nicholas Lens” (he asked the person where he got the tracks from), so I pursued my search in classical corners and found out that this cd is actually pretty easy to get, but very expensive. It has been serveral years since I got my own copy of this cd. I remember to have listened to two other cds of Lens of which I didn’t like one and the other one was too jazzy. Was this a one-time experiment then? For years and years I have tried to find something with even the faintest similarity both in gothic, classical and other corners, but especially in the latter, I’m not an expert and I have had no luck until now (well maybe Philip Glass, but I’m not too fond of his music).
Anyway, the music is a totally impressing new form of opera with mostly electronic music, even with beats. The vocalists are extremely good and are undoubtely from a classical background, so this is not just someone making neo-classical music.
Also I found out that there are more people in the gothic scene who know this cd and I even heard the title track played on a party one time and quite some people knew it.
Anyway, if you can get your hands on this cd and you are not afraid of opera, be sure to buy this classical music masterpiece.