After the release of his third album, To Another Horizon released in 1983, Gandalf (Heinz Strobl) went back into the Beginning Sound Studio in the summer of that year to work on a follow up of another concept album. But taking inspiration from the 1927 novel by Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf.
The story of a middle-age man named Harry Haller is led through several doors of this Magic Theatre he embarks on. It deals with Harry’s pain and suffering and he has a chance for redemption.
When the book was released during that time period, people didn’t quite get it because they were dealing with Haller’s depression and missed the whole point of the story as he free from the journey that he went through and has a chance to be free from the prison he was in. What Gandalf did, is make it almost as if it was as I’ve mentioned on previous albums, the soundtrack and movie inside your mind. Gandalf honored and stay true to Hesse’s vision of Magic Theatre.
Originally released on the WEA records in Germany and Austria and reissued by Esoteric Recordings this year, the tracks on here mixes the sadness and the hope for a new beginning of a spiritual journey towards understanding oneself. Each of the doors in the compositions of the seven chambers of each of where they go to. Gandalf is very smart on creating the atmospheres of all the doors and what’s behind all the doors.
It creates mood, tension, despair, childhood, and bringing peace to their inner selves. Joseph Campbell who wrote The Power of Myth once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Pieces like Loss of Identity in the Labyrinth of Delusions is incredible with the electronic drums, poly synths, heavy guitar rhythms, and screeching sax’s done by Peter Aschebrenner.
Here, both Strobl and Aschebrenner create these climatic battles of inside the perception loss of who they were before ending in a mysterious echoing cavern from the Sax. 12-string acoustic guitars flow through a path of the beginnings of growing up from their Reflections from Childhood as synths and flutes go through the time what was life like growing up while Peace of Mind sees Gandalf delving deep into the Mellotron and walking towards of bringing the chance of tranquility.
I love how he takes his classical guitar into the ascending warmth sunrise. It has the extra boundaries between Camel and Pink Floyd. And it’s a futuristic composition thanks to the synthesizers to create the oceanic wonderous adventures. The Fountain of Joy channels the essence of Moonmadness and almost as if Strobl wrote a continuation between both that and Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as he combined into two with the Lunar Sea in a jazzier approach.
It’s been 33 years since this album was released and I could imagine Gandalf himself doing more of a film score of Steppenwolf as if it was done the right way. This is a beautiful and emotional concept album that I’ve really enjoyed. The liner notes done by Malcolm Dome contains the history about the album including an interview with Strobl in a 16-page booklet.
The cover done by N.A.O. Creations who also worked on the second album, To Another Horizon, is brilliant. It’s feels very much like a Xanadu of a palace and they nailed it down to honor not just the book, but the vision and musical landscapes of Gandalf. For me, I love this reissue and always finding the hidden treasures that Esoteric would release.