This virtually unknown German band released an interesting, if somewhat flawed, album with Scratching the Surface. The two main problems here are the production (you can barely make out what the singer is saying on some tracks) and singer Jens Blumenstock's faulty English. But if one can look beyond the flaws, the music can prove quite appealing and the lyrics enlightening. They speak of social issues and introspection, wars and crowds, and what it means to be human. Although one might be tempted to label them a hard rock band, a good listen would rather point in the progressive direction, noticeably in the two-parter "Fading Imagination" which is a feast for the ears, with numerous changes, variations and musical influences. Also, the singer's talents are most obvious on the second part of the track, where Jens Blumenstock pulls off some really impressive vocal stunts. To further tie Varnish in with progressive music, the band easily switches from electric to acoustic sounds, sometimes within a same track, as in "Nuclear Madness" (reminiscent of Extreme or Mr. Big) and "The Cry (In the Hearts of the Children)," a beautiful ballad which makes for a nice finale. Not a masterpiece, but definitely worth a listen if you can get your hands on it.
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