Prior to embarking upon a musical career, and becoming  one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians, Gandalf travelled extensively. That’s why the talented multi-instrumentalist never released his debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land until 1980. By then he was twenty-nine. However, soon, Gandalf would make up for lost time. He would release over thirty albums between 1980 and 2016. These albums would be heavily influenced by Gandalf’s life before music, when  he travelled extensively.

Gandalf’s travels took him all over the world, including to India. The constant travelling certainly broadened the mind of Gandalf. He also realised that music was a universal language. It was something that people in different countries and continents shared a love of. Gandalf experienced this firsthand.

As he traversed the globe, Gandalf made a living making music. He was the twenty-first Century equivalent of a travelling minstrel. It was during his travels that Gandalf realised that he wanted to make a living as a musician.

This came as no surprise to many that knew Gandalf. He had grownup in the small town of Pressbaum, in Lower Austria. That was where Heinz Strobl was born on the 4th of  December 1952. It would be much later when Heinz adopted the Gandalf moniker. Before that, Heinz proved to be a gifted and natural musician as he grew up.

That was despite having no formal musical education. Heinz could pickup an instrument and soon, was playing along to a song on the radio or a record that was playing. Soon, he could play the piano and guitar. By the time he headed off on his travels, Heinz had mastered a number of different instruments.

On his return from what was the modern equivalent of a Grand Tour, Heinz had mastered a myriad of instruments that he had discovered on his travels. This included a sitar, saz, charango, bouzuki and balaphon. They would play an important part in Heinz’s future musical career.

Initially, Heinz began playing with various rock bands during the seventies. During the seventies, progressive rock was at the peak of its popularity. Heinz was a member of a couple of progressive rock bands. This however, was all part of his musical apprenticeship. 

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Heinz decided to reinvent himself, and adopted the moniker Gandalf. This stemmed from Heinz’s love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Little did he realise that his new moniker would feature on over thirty albums. This included Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA  and recently was rereleased by Esoteric Recordings. Journey To An Imaginary Land showcased Gandalf’s unique and inimitable style.

It began to take shape on Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA in Austria during 198o. This marked the debut of Gandalf, who later described himself as a “painter of musical landscapes.”

This is quite fitting, Having written the six tracks that became Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf began painting these “musical landscapes” using his has extensive musical palette. It included everything from acoustic and electric instruments to the traditional, ethnic instruments that Gandalf had discovered and collected on his travels. Included in Gandalf’s palette, were various synths and samplers. They would play an important part in not just Journey To An Imaginary Land, but Gandalf’s future albums.

With his impressive array of instruments, Gandalf began recording Journey To An Imaginary Land at Beginning Soundstudio in August 1980. He arranged, recorded and produced the album. Gandalf played each and every instrument, including the synths that play such an important part in Journey To An Imaginary Land. Once the album was recorded, Gandalf mixed his debut album. It was completed in October 1980 and then delivered to WEA, who Gandalf was signed to.

WEA scheduled the release of Journey To An Imaginary Land for late in 1980. Before that, critics received a copy of Gandalf’s debut album. 

Journey To An Imaginary Land was well received by critics, who were won over by what was hailed an innovative and progressive album. It was a fusion of eclectic musical instruments, influences and genres. When they’re combined by Gandalf, the result is a groundbreaking and genre-melting album, Journey To An Imaginary Land. It features elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and folk. When they are combined, they become part of what’s a captivating, mythical and symphonic musical journey that gradually unfolds over forty-five minutes. It’s an ambitious and accomplished album. Especially considering it was Gandalf’s debut album.

Buoyed by the reviews of Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf eagerly awaited the release of his debut album. When Journey To An Imaginary Land was released later in 1980, the album failed to find an audience. Suddenly, Gandalf’s dream of making a living as a professional musician were dashed. However, after the initial disappointment, Gandalf was determined that his sophomore album would be his breakthrough album.

Departure opens Journey To An Imaginary Land. Synths replicate the sound of a rocket taking off, as it heads for a distant galaxy. It soars above the earth below, en route to its eventual destination. Banks of synths are to the fore. They buzz, shimmer and add glacial and ethereal sounds. Meanwhile, drums, bass and guitar augment the synths as the arrangement builds.Together, they add to the cinematic sound as Gandalf takes the listener on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Just a a glacial synth and lone acoustic guitar opens Foreign Landscape. So are a prowling bass and searing guitar. It cuts through the arrangement as swell of synths envelop the arrangement. Soon, a buzzing bass synth adds an element of drama as the arrangement builds, before becoming understated. All that remains are washes of synths and that ominous beat. They’re joined by a futuristic synth as elegiac and dramatic sounds arise from the arrangement. Still, the drama continues to grow. Soon, the music veers between dramatic to understated. It became ambient, atmospheric, futuristic, otherworldly and later, dramatic. Seamlessly, sonic explorer Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey to a  Foreign Landscape during this nine minute epic.

As The Peaceful Village unfolds, Gandalf gently strums his guitar, before washes of synths sweep in. Together, they create an ethereal, elegiac and dreamy sound. Gradually though, the arrangement begins to grow and build. Gandalf digs deep into his sonic palette and adds a bass and further layers of synths. They fill out the understated arrangement, and the tempo rises. Already Gandalf is fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, rock and world music. Soon, there’s  a return to the spartan, elegiac sound. This is just a curveball. The arrangement is transformed as drums pound and join a fleet fingered futuristic synth solo. Still, the washes of ethereal synths remain as the drama builds. It seems that Gandalf has left behind The Peaceful Village and he’s about to embark upon the next part in his genre-melting cinematic Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Gusts of wind blow, as Gandalf embarks upon a March Across The Endless Plain. Already the arrangement is atmospheric, dramatic and understated. Swirling, buzzing, synths are joined by ominous drums and an acoustic guitar. It takes centre-stage. That’s until a  searing electric guitar replaces it. Still, there’s an ominous backdrop as Gandalf continues his journey. Then an almost otherworldly synth is added, before the guitar returns. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare, and all that remains are swells of elegiac synths. Gradually, the arrangement rebuilds, with the drums, guitar and synths returning. They conjure up images of sonic adventurer as he embarks upon what’s a lonely journey into the unknown, a March Across The Endless Plain.

As The Fruitful Gardens reveals its delights, an acoustic guitar and  glacial synths combine. They’re soon joined by a slow, deliberate elegiac synth. They combine to create a meandering arrangement. Later, a bass synth is added as the arrangement builds and the drama increases. It’s a well trodden path, and one used throughout the album. What differs is the addition of an urgently strummed guitar, that’s soon joined by gliding, glacial synths. They then take centre-stage as the guitar drops out. This adds to an ambient sound. Later, when the bass synth returns, it a futuristic sound to this cinematic soundscape.

Closing Journey To An Imaginary Land is Sunset At The Crystal Lake. A droning elegiac synths takes centre-stage, before chiming sounds can be heard. Soon, the elegiac synths quivers and shivers, before a bass synth is aded. Again, there’s an ambient and cinematic sound to the arrangement. The addition of the bass synths adds a sci-fi sound, and conjures up images of a spaceship en route to Sunset At The Crystal Lake. That is no surprise. Despite the  understated arrangements, they’re rich in imagery. Later, as Gandalf nears his destination, the arrangement grows. The bass synth plays a leading role. So does a crystalline synth as the Journey To An Imaginary Land ends Sunset At The Crystal Lake.

Inspired by his travels and musical past, Gandalf spent three months recording Journey To An Imaginary Land. The album was completed in October 1980, and rereleased to critical acclaim in Austria in late1980. Sadly, Journey To An Imaginary Land failed to ind the audience it deserved. This was just a minor blip.

Critical acclaim and commercial success were omnipresent from To Another Horizon onwards. Gandalf went on to release over thirty further albums between 1981 and 2016. Nowadays, Gandalf is regarded as one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians. Gandalf who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, is also one of Austria’s most prolific artists. 

That came as no surprise to those who discovered the delights of Journey To An Imaginary Land upon its release. Here was an album where Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey. The music is variously atmospheric, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, futuristic, moody and otherworldly. Alway, there’s a cinematic sound, as sonic explorer and innovator Gandalf, takes the lister on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Land.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: