The word seems to have fallen out of use as quickly as it came into it, but I remain something of a completist, and Colour Haze‘s 1998 second full-length, Seven, has haunted the back of my mind for years. Perhaps even more since March 2012, when I shelled out for a copy of the German outfit’s moody 1995 debut, Chopping Machine (discussed here), since that made Seven the last of their full-lengths I didn’t own. The only one. To date, Colour Haze have 11 records, and just the one I didn’t have. If you listened hard enough, you could hear the teeth gnawing at me. Squint, and you could see the hole on my CD rack.
Early in 2014, I put up a review of their 2001 fifth outing, Ewige Blumenkraft, which boasts the track “House of Rushammon.” That song originally appeared on Seven, and I referred to the album in a parenthetical aside as, “the Great White Whale of my CD collection; someday I’ll own a copy and gaze upon it with pride for the remainder of my days.” Extreme, maybe, but not untrue. You might think I’m kidding around when I title these posts “Buried Treasure,” but I’m not. I place real value on owning albums, CD, LP or tape, whatever format it might be, and being the last of Colour Haze‘s work I hadn’t heard — having refused to chase down an illicit download or listen on YouTube — Seven was a genuine prize in my head.
I knew from hearing Chopping Machine and the fact that the band hadn’t reissued it that it probably wouldn’t be a landmark in terms of the actual material itself, but still. Still several years off from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek starting his Elektrohasch Schallplaten imprint, Seven was released on CDR with inkjet-printed labels on the jokingly dubbed Self Burn Records. I don’t even know if they made 100 copies, let alone any more than that. It’s never been re-pressed, was never widely distributed, and in the wake of the brilliant offerings they’ve had since, has been largely forgotten, much, I think, by design.
A package arrived a short while ago from Munich. After that Ewige Blumenkraft review, Koglek teased that he’d have to see if he could find a “great white whale” for me, but honestly, I wasn’t holding onto much hope. Then there it was. Having just been through a move, Koglek not only found a copy of Seven, in its original jewel case with the printed liners and all, but took the time to send it over with a few other choice keepsakes to be detailed at another time, knowing that, indeed, I’d spend the rest of my days gazing on it with pride. The included note read, “Hi JJ, As it happens… it took a while but I stumbled over the ‘white whale’ for you during the preparation for our move. Hope you enjoy all the goodies a lot. :) All the best, Stefan.”
This, my friends, is the stuff of life.
I’m almost hesitant to talk too much about the album itself, since the band obviously doesn’t really want it out there or else it would be; they have their own label and haven’t been shy in the past about putting stuff out again when they feel the time and circumstances warrant. Like Chopping Machine, the audio of seven is a long way from what Colour Haze would become in years subsequent — for one thing, they’re a four-piece, with standalone vocalist Felix Neuenhoff singing and Koglek handling backing vocals and guitar while Philip Rasthofer plays bass and Manfred Merwald (listed in the liner as “Mani,” as I’ve heard others refer to him) plays drums — the trio as they are today otherwise intact.
And while one can hear where Koglek, who was at the time engaged in the work of finding his own voice, may have later taken some influence from Neuenhoff, Seven is a different vibe throughout that I think would surprise a lot of people who follow Colour Haze today, from the post-grunge grit of “Planet” to the Christian lyrical themes in “Under Water,” “Superstar” and “House of Rushammon” — those would remain intact on the re-recorded version, but the context is different — to the early-Tool-style rhythmic push of “Second Man” or “Pulse,” which also appears as an instrumental as the finale of Seven‘s 71-minute run.
Yet, particularly in light of the work they’ve done in the 17 years since, from the exploratory first steps toward their groundbreaking heavy psychedelia in the next year’s Periscope to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), one can hear flashes of what’s to come, in the deft turns Merwald makes sound so fluid, or in the rumble of Rasthofer‘s bass and the standalone moments of Koglek‘s guitar. They’d make that shift quickly, losing Neuenhoff within a year’s time and beginning to form the classic power trio dynamic they continue to refine, but one can hear listening to Seven the shift taking place between what they were on Chopping Machine and what they’d be on Periscope, and I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have had the chance to hear that for myself on an actual copy of the record.
Copious and heartfelt thanks to Koglek for that opportunity. Rest assured, I’ll be storing Seven somewhere with an easy line of sight.