review by Travis Baumann
Of all the bands that I knew and loved playing the Wave Gotik Treffen festival, Janus was one of those that I was anticipating most. On CD, Janus had really grabbed my attention, both with their cool visuals in sense of package design but also in shear quality and complexity to the music. I wasn't sure what their live set might by like as there was such diversity in terms of style and instruments from one track to the next on disc.
Up until Janus went on stage, the day had been plagued with overcast sky and light showers but as they took the stage, the sky cleared and sun shown down upon us for the entire duration of the set.
On stage Janus consisted of Tobias Hahn on keyboards, Rig on vocals, a guitarist, bassist, live drummer (for the first time I found out later), a live cellist, and a live violinist. The strings add such a dynamic in the live situation, it was a full, and complex sound, fitting and comparable to their recorded sound.
Rig was animated and entertaining, bringing you into the emotional content of his vocals with his facial expressions and body language. Rig has excellent range as a vocalist, being able to alter from slow, emotional ballad to raging force on a beat. His appearance was strikingly similar to the stylized illustrations Oliver crafts for the album covers which brought a smile to my face. He captures the essence and mythos of Janus just from a glance.
Tobias played his instruments with intent concentration, oblivious to his surroundings, making sure everything sounded as it should. The songs were even more powerful than on disc. The set opened with "Schwarze Witwer", one of my favorite songs off of their first album, "Vater".
On "Meine Seitenspiel", Sonja from L'ame Immortel joined him for the female vocal parts which was an especially fine treat and a great performance. Janus have songs that make you want to jump around and let out aggression but they also have beautiful, emotional songs that nearly bring a tear to my callous, cynical eye.
Rig continuously brought a smile to my face with his expressions and actions, drawing the entire audience into the performance, and captivating them with each song. Every lyric delivered had added strength and weight in the live setting.
The string section added enormous impact and was particularly eye-drawing. The two talented musicians enhanced every song and made the sound very full and emotional. With every sound being generated live, the musicians were able to jam and add to each song, making it new and exciting but still keeping all the complexity and nuances of the original.
They played a great set, touching on all my favorites from both of their full-length releases. I was able to finally pick up both of the singles I was missing and picked up a cool shirt as well which is an added bonus as these items are extremely difficult if not impossible to find State-side.
The next day we were at the same venue to see Asp and Sanguis et Cinus and I recognized the guitarist amongst the crowd and said hello and how much I enjoyed the show. He was very happy and introduced me to Rig, Tobias and Oliver (Oli does all the excellent graphics and illustrations for the cohesive and moving packaging, website, and merchandise.
It was great fun meeting with and talking to one of my favorite bands. My Deutch is extremely weak but luckily, their English was extremely strong. Due to my difficulties with the language it is needless to say that the extremely intelligent and complex storyline that runs as the theme and inspiration for each album can become confusing. Rig was excellent to talk to as he explained to me the basis for several songs including my favorite "Schwarze Witwer" or Black Widow but of the male variety. It was such a cool idea and added so much more to the song to hear Rig explain it in detail. (If only I could hang out with those guys more, I could get the story on every song).
Rig, Tobias, and Oli (and the rest of the band as well) were super cool guys, lots of fun to talk to and hang out with. I am still amazed at their talent and originality. I find myself going back in my mind to that day in Leipzig now quite often as I listen to their CD's back at home.
I anxiously await their next album and the next time I can see them live. I have also been noting from my other CD booklets at how many other bands Tobias is involved with; from their tour-mates L'ame Immortel (whom they explained have become like family from their time together on the road and helping each other out) to the mysterious and reclusive Sopor Aeternis. Tobias really blew me away with the orchestration and compositions on his own material but to find out how diverse and talented he is quite impressive.
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