1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Hamburg's multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert return to his musical roots. Influenced more strongly again by rock acts such as Yes and Rush, Bossert's Eureka project tells the true story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's sensational Antarctica expedition in the years 1914 to 1916. Musically, Shackleton's Voyage operates at the interface of prog rock, symphonic, Celtic and – mainly in terms of his guitar style – Mike Oldfield influences. Another sensation is the involvement of Billy Sherwood, a former member of prog rock legend Yes, who contributed the vocals on ‘The Challenge’ and ‘Going Home’. “I'd always dreamed of working with Billy Sherwood”, says Frank Bossert. “Eureka came to his attention a while ago via my MySpace site. Billy sent me a message, telling me how much he liked my music, so contact was established and we decided to work together.”
Along with Sherwood, Shackleton's Voyage features other illustrious guests: Yogi Lang of the German act RPWL, mixed and mastered the album and contributed a fantastic Moog solo on ‘Heading South’, complementing Bossert's synthesizer passages on ‘Going Home’ and ‘Into The Lifeboats’, and Troy Donockley (IONA, Nightwish) played bagpipes and flute on ‘Departure’. In terms of content, the songs on the concept album are connected by a narrator, the voice of British actor Ian Dickinson, noted for his part in Wim Wenders' movie ‘Person To Person’, among others. The album's cover artwork and booklet featuring original photographs from the expedition (licensed by the London Royal Geographical Society and the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge) are also well worth seeing.
Shackleton's Voyage is a musical interpretation of Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary Antarctica expedition, which turned into a survival story. A total of 28 adventurers wanted to be the first to cross Antarctica in 1914, but their ship Endurance sank just one day's sail from its destination. The Endurance was crushed by pack ice while the crew made their dramatic escape in the three remaining lifeboats to a remote rock island. From there, Shackleton and five of his men braved the dangerous Drake Passage in one of the boats to get help from the whalers' base of South Georgia. Following the daring sea journey and having reached the island, Shackleton and two of his men crossed the island's icy mountains, which had been considered impassable, to launch a rescue mission. All 28 seamen survived, Shackleton became a hero, particularly in Britain and Ireland, and is considered, along with Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, the most important Antarctica pioneer.
Shackleton's Voyage is the fourth album release by the Eureka project, which was founded by Frank Bossert in 1997. Bossert had been singer, guitarist and bassist in a number of Hamburg rock bands before moving to the North Sea town of Husum at the beginning of the 1990s, where he built his own studio. His debut album, Eureka, saw the light of day in autumn 1997, featuring a mix of Celtic motifs, world music, rock and symphonic sounds. 2002 marked the arrival of Eureka's second CD, The Full Circle; Bossert formed a band consisting of musician friends and brought the complex sound of his music to the stage for the first time. The project's third album, The Compass Rose, which was greeted by glowing reviews especially in the prog rock press, was recorded in 2004 and 2005. Shackleton's Voyage sees Frank Bossert embark to more rock-oriented shores again, without neglecting the deeply atmospheric flair of his previous releases. (Eureka My Space, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
Frank Bossert wanted to deliver the unique and important story and legend of Shakleton set to music. Shakleton’s is an important story that teaches us that even if you miss your first objective, because of forces beyond your control, you can still salvage something greater from the effort and your ability to adapt and survive in one of the most hostile environments on earth. In a time of global economic challenge and the epic paradigm shifts of the 21st Century, this story of how average people rose above the elements to perform extraordinary acts of courage is perfectly made for these times.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
- The Last Adventure – This epic begins with sounds of the ocean and a narrative introduction of the story.
- Departure - (feat. Troy Donockley) - A beautiful Gaelic opening track that just helps build the momentum for the launch of the voyage. Wonderful pipes, keys and drums open this journey.
- The Challenge(feat. Billy Sherwood) – A musical description of the crew and the reason they are setting off on this epic voyage. Billy does a wonderful job of describing the emotions of the crew. “A group of 28 men, soldiers of fortune…into the unknown, an obsession to us all.” “This time we’ll cross the big white ice, it’s now or never, the challenge of our lives.” “This time we’ll cross the end…less white.” “It’s now or never, the chance will not come twice.” “We’re packed with gear, filled with food and coal, moving towards dark nights for us all.” The guitar solo that follows is very good. “The mission has no boarder.” Bold adventures trying to prove Man can leap all boundaries as a collective whole.
- Grytviken Whaling Station – The journey begins. The driving engine surrounded by whale sounds and the sea everywhere. What an effect! The Vangelis keys kick in and you are being treated to Blade Runner on the high seas! The guitar and keys are just awesome!
- Heading South - (feat. Yogi Lang) – Drums and keys as the ship moves on heading south from Argentina. The theme of the music, like a theme from a film, builds and surrounds you. Keys and the sounds of the ocean and your mind drifts off as if you are there. Very good mood setting music.
- Icebound – The first contact and realization that this will be tougher than originally planned, as the ship reaches ice. The icy keys welcome you to a far more challenging territory. Though the “Vangelis like” synthesizers remind you how beautiful, vast and different this first encounter feels.
- Plenty Of Time – We have prepared for this, there is no reason to fear. Possible joy in the jig for the real journey has just begun. A feeling that the participants are hardy and ready for anything life can throw in their way. They have been through it all already. The spirit of the Titanic, “we are indestructible.” The spirit of the times summed up very well in music.
- The Turning Point – Narrative – “On October 27th, 1915, following 9 months of ever increasing ice pressure…the ship succumbs and was finally crushed…the crew is forced to set up camp on the ice.” The new objective, bring back everyone alive.
- Going Home - ( feat. Billy Sherwood) – “We’re coming home!” Determination despite the odds and perils ahead! “Ship and stores are gone.” Dragging the boats. “No glorious fame.” Left on their own, but spirits still high. “We’ll survive.” Billy really captures the spirit well with vocals.
- Into The Lifeboats – The cold, almost frozen ocean all around. No longer in the security of a main ship, they are rushing to beat the ever increasing cold and hunger that will set in with limited supplies. There is a hurried sound to this song as the survivors realize their predicament and speed on to home. Guitar and drum interplay is moving…exciting. Bass interplay is also strong.
- Elephant Island – Bold long key strokes as the pace slows and the understanding of the size and vastness of this continent begins to set in. Most of the crew is left behind as others try to cross the un-crossable mountains. Beautiful synths and sounds despite the growing fear that must certainly have taken hold.
- Will You Ever Return - (feat. Kalema) – Remembering a time before GPS, satellite and helicopter evacs, the communication back home was slow. They were nine months into their journey when they ship wrecked. So it would probably take as long to get back. Friends and families of the crew were left wondering whether or not the farewell they said was forever. Kalema does a wonderful job of conveying these emotions.
- In Search Of Relief – Months of bitter cold and minus zero temps and unimaginable wind chill are incredibly communicated by the desperate sounding music in the beginning of this track. You can feel for the desperation and struggle that the crew is going through in the music. The rhythmic drumming is like feet or ships slowly cruising back to the point of original departure. The guitar solo at the end conveys the emotion of trying to hang on.
- The Rescue – Finally! To be given up for dead, but to be grabbed from the arms of death and rescued from the peril of freezing and starvation. A realization that despite our strength and knowledge, we also need humility. This generation suffered the Hindenburg, the Titanic many aero and nautical feats of wonder and this effort is part of that generational story. The generation that was inspired by generations before it to explore the edges of the globe. They had tried to make their mark, but in failure had achieved something that others had missed. That life is too important to waste and it must be preserved at whatever cost.
- We Had Seen God! – The final narrative. To have challenged one of the earth’s last major geographic limitations. Despite failure to have achieved success in learning the importance of survival and making the most of the time you are given. “Grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.” “We had reached the naked soul of Man.”
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
Yes, it adds a new epic adventure and story to the pantheon of prog rock. A new narrative of a theme which we need to be reminded of from time to time that we can rise above the elements and factors thrown in our way.
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
I hope this will someday be made into a movie, with Frank’s music as a soundtrack. I could listen to the music again and again. We always will need to be reminded of our need to make the most of our lives.
Rating: 10/10 – As a history buff this fulfilled two of my loves. Prog music and history. I just don’t know how they could have improved this.
Reviewed by Prof on June 23rd, 2009