Coldharbour Records leading man Markus Schulz wears a lot of hats, and in this latest foray into full-fledged artist album territory, he’s bringing a whole lot more with him. With a veritable busload of collaborators and vocalists in tow, his new artist album Scream boasts 19 tracks—or 23 on the full extended mix edition. It seems that the vast number aims to cover all the bases he possibly can within one record, from the darker underground tracks that Coldharbour tends to promote, to the more commercial tracks that are sometimes controversial among trance fans.
Markus definitely succeeds at running from one end of the spectrum to the other, and then back again. The first full track is Ferry Corsten collaboration Loops & Tings, which has been a polarizing remake of the classic track by Jens, but packs undeniable arena-level energy and gives a nod to trance’s roots. Ironically, to my ears, it also resembles the instrumental melody of trance classic Ligaya (by Gouryella, which also featured Ferry). Either way, it’s an interesting opener.
Straight afterwards, though, the album delivers a procession of no less than five vocal tracks in a row. Nothing Without Me and Love Rain Down, featuring newcomers Ana Diaz and Seri respectively, are a pair of very commercially-oriented tracks that were clearly intended to be festival set crowdpleasers, featuring solid production and standard vocal & lyrical themes. Even Carry On with Armada family favorite Jaren fresh out of her first studio album with collaborators Cerf & Mitiska doesn’t stun the listener as much as it could, but there’s no denying that the final result is polished and the rich bassline is impossible to dislike.
Deep In The Night, with another relative unknown named Fiora, is the first standout among the vocal tracks, with some serious vocal acrobatics and melismatic runs in the break that demand your attention. The backing instrumental, too, sounds as if it would be able to stand on its own. On the other hand, Caught, featuring Adina Butar and already released as a single, sounds on the first listen as if it drew from the same instrumental as Carry On combined with similar vocals to Love Rain Down.
The album returns to instrumental-only territory briefly with Triotonic, an aptly-named three-way collaboration with Coldharbour favored sons Elevation and KhoMha, who pack this production full with the elements that characterize the Coldharbour sound: deep, dark, dirty production that doesn’t necessarily boast a million effects and layers but relies heavily on good sound design and feeding the energy levels of a crowd. In spite of the level of talent available on the track, though, it doesn’t surpass the following instrumental track, Soul Seeking; here, Markus stands on his own, with a slow, deliberate escalation of tension in the track–a practice that he is better at than most anyone in the trance scene.
Sing Me Back To Life, featuring prolific singer/songwriter Aruna, boasts an interestingly bouncy production that definitely warrants a second listen. Another string of five vocal tracks in a row is kicked off by Until It’s Gone, featuring male vocalist Trevor Guthrie, who adds a traditional pop-rock voice to the roster of vocal features. Adina Butar makes her second appearance of the album on Universe Is Mine, which I’d argue is more interesting than Caught; it provides a slightly more ambient track, boosting the variety of styles on the album. Another vocal standout on the album comes from familiar singer Sarah Howells, who has been moving from strength to strength lately. She outshines and lifts the instrumental on I Like It, featuring Khaz and E.L.I. It’s likely a wildly divisive track if only for the single reason that it features a very dubstep-tinged vocal break; halfway through, I almost forgot that I was listening to a Markus Schulz album.
The four tracks that are available as bonus tracks are all Coldharbour artist collaborations. Push The Button includes Mr. Pit and is easily as lethal to unicorns as you might expect any Coldharbour track to be. Go! channels the talents of Dennis Sheperd into a refreshingly consistent and unembellished deep track that has handled its own standalone single release, and I could listen to it for hours in spite of the “go!” vocal sample that’s almost unavoidable in EDM. Karbon is a track graced by Arnej and while not as impressive as the sum of these two talents might suggest, it’s still not shabby. Finally—actually the end this time—Silence To The Call seals off the extended album release with a surprisingly light track by Wellenrausch that features none of the club-friendly leads that characterize many of the other tracks in the album.