Hard beats thunder out of the darkness, a threatening storm is brewing. But then a soft voice floats above the electronic rhythm, the clouds break open, light penetrates the mysterious mood. Suddenly the beats turn into a driving groove, another voice joins in, the screen widens, a feeling between hope and melancholy becomes tangible - until the gloomy beats come back again, more vehement than before. "Red Sun," the opening track of ROIA's new album "Hint of Light," sets the mood perfectly to reveal the record's soundscape that is as poignant as it is yearning. "No fences here / We burnt them all down," reads the lyrics. This is how ROIA sets sail for a journey where there are no boundaries.
ROIA's sixth album was created with prominent support: Christian Eigner, longtime tour drummer for Depeche Mode and songwriting partner of their singer Dave Gahan, co-produced the new songs and also played the drums as well as numerous other instruments such as vintage synthesizers or dulcimer. "It feels a bit like giving your baby away," says ROIA musician Paul Hochrainer about the decision to add a new person to the core trio he forms with singers Nina Hochrainer and Dorian Wimmer.
Christian Eigner was already enthusiastic about the new ROIA songs on first hearing: "There is an insane amount of talent gathered in this band," he says. "Christian showed energy and enthusiasm, like a young man in the recording studio," recalls Hochrainer, and Eigner returns the compliment: "It was also the perfect playground to which I was invited. I met the band at a moment when they wanted to be surprised. And the collaboration was the easiest thing in the world - everything I did fit there one-to-one, just the way it should be.“
Eigner's involvement makes the comparison to Depeche Mode obvious, of course, and indeed the songs sometimes breathe the spirit of the influential synth band - such as "Thin Line," one of the first joint productions with Eigner, in which a dark foundation gradually builds up to a hypnotic groove. And yet, in its interplay of light and shadow, ROIA's sound is all its own. "We think in scenes and images. They are stories that unfold," singer Nina Hochrainer explains the band's approach. "Because this dramaturgy is important to us, the songs also don't follow the usual forms of verses and choruses." Singer Dorian Wimmer agrees, "Our songs aren't quite as easy to digest as others - simply because they don't always fulfill the obvious expectations, but take different paths."
All 13 songs of "Hint of Light" draw intense atmospheric pictures full of surprises and moving moments. The earthy beat of the opulent wide screen song "Blue" is contrasted by almost sacred choirs, while the delicate piano ballad "Up in Smoke" develops into an indulgent hymn. Alongside, "The Crumbs You Left" drives forward with rocking energy, while the surreal "Sirens" guides into a weightless state. The journey leads past strange and sometimes gloomy places like in the claustrophobic "Year Without June", but again and again ROIA breaks free from the ground and strives towards the light, which becomes tangible not only in the album title. Then the listener is carried away by the beguiling melodies of a song like "French Gown" or follows the hesitantly progressing "Cover the Dust" into a sudden jazz part - playful and completed with a ravishing flugelhorn solo.