Schandmaul are getting down to business. "Mit Leib und Seele" (With Body and Soul), the fifth studio album by the band from Munich, really lives up to its name: well thought-out orchestrations, intricate songs and a careful arrangement make "Mit Leib und Seele" indisputably the band's most mature offering so far. Schandmaul have come of age. Without losing any of their spirited freshness, these folk-rockers allow their familiar strengths and years of experience to unfold: on the instrumental level with characteristic guitars between smooth caressing and powerful crashing, elegantly arranged flutes and bagpipes, exotic hurdy-gurdies and shawms. Simultaneously, Thomas Lindner's familiar voice tells metaphoric stories from the world of the fantastic. But this time around, Schandmaul have also thrown in funky and jazzy elements, alongside classic heavy metal solos. This diversity has helped Schandmaul to leave all barriers behind: warm ballads full of sweetness, such as "Abschied", contrast wonderfully with eerily rampant dark anthems ("Feuertanz") or powerfully catchy numbers ("Vor der Schlacht"). "Großes Wasser" even reveals some unexpected "singer/songwriter" qualities - airplay guaranteed. All these achievements can be discovered in "Kein Weg zu weit," the first single release from the new album. The song combines, seemingly without effort, old bagpipes and contemporary heavy guitars with a sentimental chorus. "Leib und Seele" leaves no doubt that Schandmaul have long outgrown the "medieval" pigeonhole: their German-language folk rock refuses to be restricted by any genre limitations, and unlike all those short-lived casting show products, Schandmaul come from the stage and have earned their band, their concert agency, their record contract and their numerous fans - with body and soul.
In the beginning, there was the concert: five young musicians from the same area meet at their local. Although they all come from different bands and stylistic backgrounds, these friends feel the urge to hear their different instruments, from pipes to violins and e-guitars, play together. Although the original plan is to perform a one-off pub gig featuring folk classics, the musicians are gripped by ambition. Alongside other tracks, "Teufelsweib" is the first official Schandmaul song to be written. Originally considered a crackpot idea, the band turns out to be a real winner. Schandmaul perform their maiden show in front of two-hundred enthusiastic fans, and their original mix of folk and rock sparks hundreds of requests for a record to take home. The newly-founded group immediately set about recording "Wahre Helden" (1999), their mix of traditional songs and original material selling extremely well locally, and soon the first requests for shows in the Munich area begin to arrive. "We'd have been stupid not to continue with Schandmal," vocalist Thomas recalls. Over 3,000 albums are sold to a steadily growing fan base, purely on the strength word of mouth and live appearances.
The band record their second offering "Von Spitzbuben und anderen Halunken" (2000), which seamlessly takes up where the debut left off. Due to their steadily growing success, the band from Germany's South suddenly see themselves compared to acts such as Subway to Sally or In Extremo: "So I listened to their albums for the first time and even discovered some similarities, such as the use of bagpipes in combination with rocky music. But by that time, we'd already developed our own style," says Thomas Linder. Still Schandmaul continue to be mentioned in one and the same breath with the "medieval" scene. Initially, the record companies' reactions are restrained; only a pop label gets in touch, demanding an "adaptation of the music to accommodate commercial considerations." Schandmaul politely decline and set about looking for a concert agency instead, concentrating on their live shows. During their travels in a crowded van up and down Germany, the young band learn their business starting from the bottom. Schandmaul seize every opportunity to play, and their success causes a number of record labels to listen up at last. They go on to sign their first recording deal, and producer Thomas Heimann-Trosien sets about remixing "Von Spitzbuben und anderen Halunken". 2001 sees the arrival of the remixed version at the stores, which turns out to be an immediate succès d'estime.
Backed by producer Thomas Heimann-Trosien and his partner Ekkehart Strauss, Schandmaul are ready for the next leap in their development. Their third studio recording, "Narrenkönig" (2002), reveals the band's true potential, making no. 70 of the charts. Major festivals take note, and invitations to the M'era Luna, Wave Gotik meet or Zillo festival begin to pile in. Now they travel through Germany on a nightliner coach. Schandmaul and the stage remain inseparable, the band's sound being extremely tight, as documented for the first time simultaneously on CD and DVD. They record "Hexenkessel" (2003) in front of 800 enthusiastic fans at the Backstage in Munich. Live-blood and enthusiasm are beginning to pay off: "Hexenkessel" goes to no. 52 of the charts. One key element for Schandmaul's success is a close relationship with their fans: "It remains an important tradition with us to talk to our fans or write autographs after every show," Thomas confirms.
Soon after the "Narrenkönig" production, a line-up change has far-reaching consequences: due to differences, bassist Hubert Widmann is replaced by Matthias Richter, who expands the band's range even further with his musical input. Having blended together into a tight unit, Schandmaul skip a few steps on the ladder of success with their fourth studio album, "Wie Pech und Schwefel". Even more mature, the album with the driving sound makes a successful no. 13 in the charts. At the same time, the band step out of the "one-way street that is medieval music", displaying a newly-discovered toughness and opening up to funk or indeed pop influences, without denying their roots. Their fans express their appreciation by filling large venues when the band embark on tour. During the subsequent tour, Schandmaul are busy working on new material, but it soon turns out that the next step requires more time and more consideration. A spontaneous acoustic show at a fan meeting sparks the idea of an unplugged show, but of course Schandmaul won't be satisfied with merely pulling the plug from the socket. Instead, they spend the next nine months arranging their most popular songs, plus a six-hundred-page orchestra score. Their concert featuring a string section at Munich's Zirkus Krone is a glorious triumph, and the live album "Kunststück" (2005) makes a sensational no. 12 in the charts; the DVD even going to no. 3. Following their sold-out tour, Schandmaul ensconce themselves at Runneburg castle in Thuringia, where they compose the seventeen new songs that have made it onto the new album, "Mit Leib und Seele."
The long wait has been worthwhile, so don't be too surprised if "With Body and Soul" makes it even higher on the ladder of success.
Grown-up, mature and diverse: "Mit Leib und Seele" rocks!