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Die Engel Des Herrn - Die Engel Des Herrn

Die Engel Des Herrn

Released 1992 on LSD
Reviewed by phallus dei, 12/05/2013ce

Die Engel Des Herrn, recorded 1988-1991, released 1992 on LSD.

Die Engel Des Herrn is Klaus Dinger's most obscure project. Like the proverbial tree that fell down in a forest, the life, death, and recorded legacy of DEDH went by largely unnoticed. Today, when the band is mentioned at all, it is usually as a footnote in Dinger's long career.

Such neglect is party due to the time in which the band was active. Operating between 1988-1993, DEDH was the odd transition between Dinger's angry political posturing of the Neondian era (mid-80s) and the feminine sounding, spontaneous La! NEU? recordings of the following decade. In spirit, however, DEDH was akin to neither of these two. Its closest affinity lay with the Japandorf project.

Like Japandorf, DEDH was intent on presenting itself as a Band, with regular members, and with an abundance of photographs as evidence. In fact, the oversized booklet that accompanied their lone studio album is literally crammed with pictures of the band in various stages of their "career." Comprised of Dinger, drummer Klaus Immig, and pretty boy Gerhard Michel (guitar and sometimes vocals), DEDH seem to have spent the majority of their existence in self-imposed isolation, steadfastly documenting their day-to-day activities as they continuously developed their craft in the hopes of Making It Big. When multiple attempts at securing a record deal came to naught, DEDH finally decided to go DIY by self-releasing a collection of structured songs and spontaneous jams (a format later used on the Japandorf album) that were recorded over a period of years (again, like Japandorf). 1 Their booklet contained the optimistic message, "Please recommend us to your friends!" Yet, in 1992, a time when krautrock was all but forgotten, there were precious few interested in hearing the newest band by "Klaus Dinger - Erfinder von NEU! + La Düsseldorf" (as stated on the album cover). The only tangible results of DEDH's venture in self-promotion were crates of unsold CDs and a mounting debt. After a single live performance the following year, the band split up.

Admittedly, the failure of DEDH to find its audience cannot only be attributed to the harsh climate in which the band found itself. As is usual for most of Dinger's post-La Düsseldorf output, the sequencing of DEDH's studio album is atrocious. Opportunities for sustained mood or emotional development are squashed by an unflattering track order. Ideally, an Album should flow like an Acid Trip - build, peak/realization, and come down. Considering that Dinger claimed to have taken "far more than 1000 trips," and given that the name of the label that Dinger created for this release was LSD, it is extremely ironic that DEDH's studio album is sequenced in such a piss-poor way. Dinger, you should have known better. Here, then, is the order in which Die Engel Des Herrn should have been sequenced; and yes, I have cut out the Gerhard Michael track: 2
S.O.S. / Die Bengel des Herrn / Die Engel des Herrn / Little Angel / Sunlight / Cha Cha 2000 / Cha Cha 3000 / Tschüs

"S.O.S" starts things off in a Big Way, immediately grabbing you by the seat of your pants and forcing you to pay attention. "We're runnin' outta money, we're runnin' outta time, we're runnin' for our honey in a world that's full of crime" Dinger sings is piss-take fashion. And then, as if to drive the point home, the vocals morph into a cartoon Donald Duck voice - "Entertainment on TV? Oh lord! How can that be?" Remember, this was a time when DEDH would have been competing with the likes of David Hasselhoff for attention. Declaring war on the MTV and ADHD generations, Dinger and co. employ every bit of studio trickery (phasing, panning, echo, etc.) into this opening song to wake you Up & Out of your corporate slumber.

You know that sudden rush of excitement when you drop? When the acid is still dissolving on your tongue, and it's too early to feel anything, but your own mental anticipation of the coming trip has already started to color your perceptions? You can't really put a finger on it, but the world is already different. "S.O.S." is like that. It's the blotter that holds the acid. In any other place on the album, "S.O.S" would sound inconsequential and throwaway. But here, at the start, it's the ideal album opener, reorienting your senses for the alternate temporal experience that follows.

Everything is slower here. "Die Bengel des Herrn" feels hot like a sauna. You see the sweat trickle off you arm as you reach to shield your eyes from the blazing sun. A desolate desert. And then the movie fades into what appears to be a dueling match. It's hard to tell whose guitar is whose. I assume the lead is Dinger? The band members are in this really weird state of Now. Like you have just caught them spontaneously, watching them watching each other, on the prowl. Pacing each other before the kill, not yet aware that they are being observed. But then they realize that you are there, and their manner changes. They look back at you, and begin a sort of musical dance. A kinda call and response between the drummer and you. You are observing them live. It is like a cool sort of magical incarnation, Klaus Dinger is live in your room. You are experiencing him the way he experienced himself. Is this what it means to be immortal?

And by the time Dinger enters his "du siehst gut aus" zone, you realize that you have really entered it, an alternate form of reality. You realize that, without even being aware of it, Klaus Dinger has brought you into Someplace New. The drugs have already hit. You realize that you're tripping.

And the voices come down and remind you of your past lives, stripping off layers of your primordial consciousness as if they were layers of clothes. And it is Then that you feel like you are at that moment of There, that first instance of self-reflexology, that first moment of self-awareness of You and the World. This is where Dinger has brought you. And everything feels so sexy. And everything is imbued with a sense of discovery.

And then there is a change in sound. The guitars and drums become dissonant. It's as if Klaus Dinger, Gerhard Michel, and Klaus Immig are simultaneously creating and exploring their own reality right there before your eyes. It's as if they are making a portal into another dimension. And at this point you just have to hang on and accept the ride.

Out of this portal appears a dinosaur. It is Klaus Immig, that heavy brontosaurus, taking the lead. He lumbers across your floor with an unexpected gracefulness, followed by Dinger and Michel, whose guitars give off hungry, life-affirming roars. It appears to be the beginning of a long march. The dawn of time.

Come along with me. Over a ridge, across the valley and we see it, our goal, that for which we have strived. And it's there, enticing us. DEDH plod on like obedient soldiers. Propelled by nothing more than sheer force of will through the heat, the mud, the grime & the filth to that Elusive Goal for which they have searched so long.

"Du siehst gu aus," Dinger says again, whatever that means. "Du siehst Du aus... boh." And then the guitars and the drums come screeching, pounding, hammering back in with a sudden burst of energy, a new found sense of determination. We are in the home stretch now and it feels so right! We have heroically triumphed, we have traversed across a field of sorrow, and now we are staggering toward the finish line.

The Freeman brothers in Crack in the Cosmic Egg said that the only good song on this album was the 20-minute bonus track. Well, this is that track. Only, it doesn't belong at the end of the album, it belongs here, at the front. Really, Dinger, who did you think was going to be the audience for this album? In 1992, the only people who might be interested in hearing this would have been a small group of self-proclaimed avant-gardists. So don't bury your most "difficult" track in the back as a CD-only bonus. Put it at the front. Show the world that you are still just as vital as ever. Because this is the track that the world needs to hear. This is the euphoria that we all need to experience.

...and right as you cross that finish line the song morphs into a completely different groove, something akin to NEU!'s "Negativland," though perhaps less harsh. It only lasts a minute, though, before a sudden, unexpected release that staggers you back to your senses.

And then the peak of the album. A nursery rhyme.

The sound of church bells. (The same church bells that were later used on Japandorf?) Doves flutter down, settling on the rugged terrain of the last song. The beginnings of spring. You recall a childhood memory. Something from when the world was innocent and you hadn't been led Off The Path by words such as cynicism & irony. And when the angels appear, it doesn't matter that they are just the "chorus" presets on a cheap electric keyboard. They sound absolutely perfect under these circumstances.

The contrast between this song and the last is immense. But without that contrast "Die Engel des Herrn" wouldn't sound nearly as good. It would be schmaltz instead of sincere. The emotional catharsis of "Die Bengel des Herrn" is necessary for the beauty of its fairer-named cousin to shine forth.

"Die Engel des Herrn" is Dinger at his most sentimental. "Die Engel des Herrn" is Dinger expressing himself directly to your Heart. And in order to feel this song you have to be in a state of mind where you aren't guarding your heart. When Dinger begins his guitar solo, you need to feel it in your Soul.

It's not until around the five minute mark that the voices finally kick in. "Here come the angels! Angels of beauty! Angels of light!" And its like a total propaganda piece - "We're makin' music and we make it right!" Only in this case the propaganda is absolutely true. Just like a good acid trip, "Die Engel des Herrn" brings you closer to God. And Dinger knows it, too. "Listen!" he implores. Klaus Dinger at 42 years old has just finished one of the best songs of his career.

Naturally, what follows next is the come down. The transition back to reality. A familiar rock n roll singalong. "Rock little angel on midsummer night, rock little angel tonight." So un-annoying as to be unmemorable. I have tried hard to appreciate "Little Angel" but really, what's the point? "Little Angel" is Dinger on fast food. Cheap & unsatisfying. The only thing that saves this song from the cutting room floor is that it is Klaus Dinger. And by the time he repeats the lyric in German, he adds a certain inflection to his voice that I like. But mostly, "Little Angel" is just a prelude for the next song.

"Little Angel" and "Sunshine" are the album's pop-song interlude. Ultimately, they are both throwaway. But unlike "Little Angel", "Sunshine" is genuinely inspiring. "Most of all I love the sunlight" Gerhard Michael sings in his high-pitched voice, followed by Dinger repeating "I love the sun in your eyes" over & over. There is a deliberate level of underachievement, a sort of slacker coolness to the song. But at the same time, this under-assertiveness prevents it from being an obvious masterpiece like, say, "With You Tonight" off Blue (1987). But then again, in your current state of come down, you can't help but wonder if the song's banal lyrics are imbued with Deeper Truths. You suddenly realize that if "Sun" is code for "God", then what Dinger is actually doing is affirming that spark of divinity which resides within Us All. And if we are all already God as Dinger suggests, then there is no need to look elsewhere for any sort of greater authority. Thus, what appears to be a disposable pop song is in fact a wry manifesto for individual self-validation. Dinger's motivation as an artist is to inspire, not to awe. He aims to "Touch you inside." His message is not "look at me do what you can't do," but "look at me do what you can do, too!" And just as you congratulate yourself for uncovering the true meaning of the song, "Sunlight" comes to a close.

Next is "Cha Cha 2000." The unwelcomed guest! It seems every time I start getting into an album, Dinger assaults me with yet another version of Cha Cha. Like that guy who kept peddling PCP way past its prime, "Nah, really guys, this is good stuff, if you just give it a try", here is Dinger, again trying to tell us that utopia is possible. Doesn't he know that in this postmodern era, all grand narratives have been deemed passé? Why does he persist in trying to convince us that a better world is within reach? And what does that say about our current society, when the only acceptable responses to Dinger's message of collective betterment are either "naive" or "uncool"? Has Maggie Thatcher's life-denying screed, "There Is No Alternative," achieved such a stifling hegemony that the only "alternatives" left to us today are of the inconsequential Obama/Romney variety? God, I hope not!

Even if we are too jaded to appreciate "Cha Cha 2000" today, we can still try to listen to it within the historical context in which it was made. And there have been few times in recent history better than 1989, the year this song was recorded, for bringing the message of "Cha Cha 2000" to life. Think about it. The Cold War had just ended. The Soviet Union was still in existence, undergoing radical transformations that suggested a more humane version of socialism was possible. There was a pervasive sense of optimism, a sense that the world was collectively embarking into a new & better era. What if the leaders of the West had possessed the same moral integrity and foresight as Gorbachev? 3 And what if the Soviet Union hadn't imploded? Would that have led to a different result? Instead of economic restructuring and the expansion of NATO, could there have been a genuine exchange between East & West, a creative synthesis of both systems? What would the world have been like then? "Factor the gigantic possibilities!"

The ideal outcome for the Cold War would have involved no winners or losers but the collective merging of both camps for the betterment of all. And it could have happened. This isn't just wishful thinking. In 1989, the opportunity was there. If only we had better leaders. Leaders who "love us & don't cheat us." But the same fuck-ups as always screwed us like always and today, from the vantage point of 2013, the opportunity of 1989 appears squandered. 4

And just as you are starting to get depressed, the song switches to "Cha Cha 3000" and Yvi makes a guest appearance with a message of Hope. The theme is upbeat and optimistic. And you realize that eventually, the change we need is gonna come. 1968, 1989, 2000, 2012, they were all just bumps in the road. Next time is gonna be different.

Now, I suspect that many would disagree, but I actually prefer this version of Cha Cha 2000 (incl. 3000) more than the version on Japandorf. Unlike the Japandorf version, whose chief value seems to be nostalgic, (i.e. "the last Cha Cha 2000 played by Klaus Dinger") this version sounds extremely current and relevant when considering the time it was made. Musically, there is some carry-over from the keyboard-driven Cha Cha 2000 version on Neondian (1985), through much better, and with real guitar and drums. Also, the song as a whole seems slowed-down and sounds more spacious. Essentially, "Cha Cha 2000" serves as a sort of annual holiday card from the Dinger camp. Each card is more or less the same, but at the same time, some cards are more memorable than others. This is one of the memorable ones.

The album ends with "Tschüss," Dinger's farewell message to his father, who died in 1990 of a heart attack (heart problems seem to have run in the Dinger family.) In Dinger's own self-mythology, he attributed his father's death to the bitter disagreements then taking place between the Dinger brothers, which, in KD's eyes, were being stoked by Hans Lampe and the record companies. 5 Given the acrimonious circumstances, it is surprising that "Tschüss" doesn't sound bitter at all. Over a drum beat that alludes to "Ich Liebe Dich", that great La Düsseldorf 12-inch, Dinger solemnly intones, "Bye my friend, it's time to say goodbye." The angel-sounding keyboards from "Die Engel des Herrn" return and the whole thing is quite touching, especially the acoustic guitar solo which sounds delicate and frail, but also resigned, as if it accepts that this is The End. Then the whole band sounds like they are singing together, and their voices, along with the keyboards, bring you up into the heavens, giving you one last opportunity to reflect upon this Trip that is now leaving your body. "Bye my friend," Dinger says, "until we meet again." And then the guitar, drums, and keyboards explode one final time, and Gerhard Michel gives an encouraging yell, and the whole band gives it one last go. Just when you thought the trip had run its course, you find that there was a wee bit left, just enough to remind you of what you had experienced. And you swear to yourself that you will never forget this feeling.

Before going to bed you look again at the photograph on the back of the album, which was taken the day the Berlin Wall fell. The photo is one of spontaneity and movement, of things not going according to plan. It is a celebration of Life. The standard group photo of the band (albeit on a special day) has been gleefully disrupted by three rambunctious girls who, at the opportune time, have run in front of the camera, waving and giggling. 6 In many ways, this picture is the perfect distillation of the entire Dinger ethos: To Be Cognizant Of The Beauty & The Potential Within Every Fleeting Moment.

1. Given the multi-year span from which their studio album was pieced together, the possibility of more DEDH songs and jams being buried among the Dinger archives seems high. Hopefully, someone with a sensitive ear will be able to go through these tapes to find the jewels amidst the crud.

2. Not everything DEDH recorded is worth hearing. "Bitte, Bitte" (AKA "the other guy's song"), is a prime example. Klaus Immig's drumming is uninspired and Klaus Dinger's guitar is strictly perfunctory. The only person who's trying at all is Gerhard Michel. And truth be told, he does put forth a valiant attempt. But in this case, effort alone is not nearly enough.

3. Dinger's support of Mikhail Gorbachev is shown in the album's booklet, where a photo of Gorbachev is framed by a bushel of flowers and the jacket of Viva (1978).

4. Dinger's bitter comment on the outcome of the Cold War in "Hero '96" on Dusseldorf (1996) was "Capitalism is just as bad as communism so far."

5. In the live version of "Hero '96" on Live in Tokyo Vol. 2 (1999), Dinger blames the "industry" for destroying his family.

6. The booklet lists them as "3 unknown girls arriving out of nowhere."

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