“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Danijel Zambo must have had clear reasons for naming this project after the famed book by the American author Thoreau. A hankering for solitude in nature is definitely something you can feel throughout the music of this record. The third release actually, by this musician.
The goal of this project is to create music that evokes ideas and emotions through referencing nature. As inspirations are also cited bands like Ulver and Empyrium, which is tangible in the dark folk sound that Walden produces. So time to immerse ourselves in the solitude of this Augsburg artist.
Walden is minimal guitar play, more expressive and impulsive than really creating songs, over mild ambient tones and the reverberation of the lower tones. It’s the sound of a lonely musician, enjoying the instrument without the need for song structures and complexities. Merely plucking the strings in an absent state and pondering life, enjoying the feeling of creating casual sounds.
Ofcourse not all of the record is like that, but most of it does hold to that feeling. On ‘Rad Der Zeit’ we can even enjoy an oriental bit of play, with precious precision. But most of the album is like the album cover, a smooth sunset that takes its own time in emerging. Letting go of time and other urgencies, just being and becoming regardless of human influences. It’s finding harmony within itself, that makes this EP so powerful and touching to listen to. A search for tranquility through music, by letting it flow freely.
Normally I just share the recent album, but I’d like you to check the covers that Walden did too here, so here goes. Particularly ‘The Rains of Castamere’.
Uzbekistan is probably not the first place you think of when you hear metal music. Still, there’s a big scene of alternative music in the former Soviet states south of Russia. Uzbekistan is an overly Islamic country that actually has seen its share of censorship in the best years, but the music flourishes, especially if the lyrics are in English.
With a dense history spanning the ages, it was rather surprising to me to find a band that took its name from a horrible spot of executions during the time France still had kings. Their sound was an eclectic mixture of various genres and this is what drew me to the band Montfaucon. I got in touch with them through e-mail.
Valentin Myamsin has left Uzbekistan and lives in the United States now, but the band keeps working on material across the globe. With a new record just released, titled ‘Renaissance’, the band is keeping it up and staying strong, so we had a nice little conversation about metal in Uzbekistan and Montfaucon.
Could you kindly introduce yourselves as band? Have or are you guys involved in any other musical projects?
Montfaucon has been formed in 2002 in the city Tashkent in Uzbekistan by me (Valentin Mayamsin) on guitar and Mikhail Epifanov on piano. We started actively working on composing songs and have been selected to perform at two day festival ‘Alternative music festival 2004’ organized by British council. (It was quite an event I’d say given that we had rare metal gigs and just a few metal bands). That was a trigger to find a drummer Renat Khidirov and bassist Sergey Sadokov. Over the course of next few years we had on bass Denis Raytuzov and Andrey Astashov and at last saxophonist Andrey Golubev. Today Montfaucon exists as a project since I moved to USA and I am separated with other members by the entire planet Earth. Thanks to Internet we’re still actively composing new stuff, but unfortunately cannot perform live.
How did you get inspired to make metal music? What bands specifically inspired you and why?
We all had different influences in different bands. I personally had influence of a very wide range of bands and styles, most notably Satyricon, Cradle of Filth, CannibalCorpse, maudlin of the Well, Andromeda, My Dying Bride, Opeth, Emperor, even PinkFloyd. What inspired me to make metal music? When I met Mikhail and heard a few of his dark piano compositions, I realized that it moves me. We combined them with heavy guitars, brutal vocals, and produced a unique and interesting sound driven primarily by piano. I thought that piano is quite unrepresented in metal music and it inspired my to further experiment with it.
How did you come up with the band name and concept of Montfaucon, which appears to be the place where a huge gallows was positioned in France during the time of their kings. A rather gruesome place?
Indeed. Gruesome, dark themes are found everywhere in our music and lyrics. The band name was inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’. At the end of the book he describes Montfaucon gibbet which somberness stroke me. I have also been inspired by this novel when writing lyrics. The description of torturous imprisonment in a stone box gave inspiration for ‘Prisoner’, The song ‘The last night’ is set around Montfaucon gibbet and medieval punishment traditions.
Musically Montfaucon is an oddity, combining raw death/black elements with progressive and experimental bits. How did you come up with your specific sound?
I think it’s because of my wide exposure to different bands and styles. A friend of mine regularly introduced me to different bands before even Internet became widespread in our country and speed was enough to pirate music. It was late 90’s. He is an artist with extensive connections abroad who supplied him disks of rare bands, demos. Back then we could only find cassettes of popular bands like Metallica, Sepultura or My Dying Bride. But this guy had things like Satyricon, maudlin of the Well, SymphonyX, etc. This is what I grew up on, and this is what Montfaucon is heavy influenced with. And this is just influence on my side since every member of Montfaucon brought in his own influences.
Your musical production has been sparse. Are you working on anything right now?
Yes we are! We haven’t had a chance to produce a full length album for many different reasons. Back when we got started we merely didn’t have enough money. Mikhail was first among us who had a computer and we produced a few demos at home which allowed us to participate in big music events in Tashkent and promote on radio. Later on we were busy building our careers and couldn’t find enough time for music. And finally last year we decided that we owe ourselves a decent record and started producing our first album. We recorded everything at home, decent recording hardware is quite affordable nowadays. All songs have been composed a decade ago, but we refined some parts, added layers of additional details. Yet we tried to keep original parts contributed by each member of our band. Legendary Swedish sound engineer Dan Swanö agreed to mix and master the album which turned out terrific! He made every part of every song sound best, he managed to find our unique sound and he even put a few easter eggs for those who will listen carefully.
You’ve got a new album ready, can you tell a bit about that?
The new album is basically what we have composed over the course of active years. There are many experiments with the style and sound. Every song has it own unique sound and feature. We were lucky to work on the album with legendary sound engineer and musician Dan Swanö who made every our song sound the best it can possibly be. The album was recorded in the comfort of our home without any rush over the course of 6 months and exchanged files over the Internet. We didn’t have any previous recording experience so we involved the leader of ‘The Faceless’ Michael Keene who advised us on the process of recording. I was focused on the quality and I had to rewrite all guitar and bass parts 3 times. Mixing process was challenging as well since we had no clue how piano can be put together with guitars so it wouldn’t get lost. With Dan we went over many variations and experiments with the sound before achieving perfection.
What can you tell me about the history of metal in Uzbekistan and how does the scene look like now?
Well, I don’t think I’m competent to give accurate history of the movement as I joined metal community pretty late. I’d recommend reaching out to Peter Stulovsky for that matter – he can tell about promoting metal on radio and cover history comprehensively. However, I can give you my perspective on that.
When I first visited a metal gig it took place in an old ‘Palace of Culture’ which was quite common at the time. The place was not fit for this kind of activity: there was no dance floor, just dense rows of seats stationary nailed to floor. No wonder when people got high on heavy music and alcohol they started to crash this place and it finished with police and troubles for organizers. This kind of concerts and outcomes were quite common those days and seemed like other clubs learned that and stopped giving places for any gigs. There was a quiet period for a few years when old bands disbanded and new bands formed grown up on Internet and a new radio show called ‘Hard days’ (‘Тяжелые будни’). That was the time when we formed our band as well. Suddenly it was announced on the radio that there is going to be a two-day festival organized by British Council and there is a call for demos and rehearsals. Needless to say, it was one of the biggest events in music history of Tashkent. Many new metal bands showed up including us, Zindan, Sweet Silence and Titus. Here is a few of videos from that concert:
It triggered a renaissance in metal scene of Uzbekistan. Internet also became more widespread, opened a new metal forum where bands could promote themselves, gigs has been organized and announced. New bands started to pop up every month or so, opened a few more or less permanent rock/metal clubs, new records by local bands played on radio. A few examples. ‘Sepsis’ playing death metal including covers on Cannibal Corpse and Death. A black metal band from Ferghana (unfortunately I don’t remember their name, hope Peter will help out with that) playing blast beats on crappy Soviet drums. A progressive metal band ‘4th dream’ playing 10 minutes long ever-changing compositions with a vocalist singing in ranges from high pitch clean vocals to growl and screams.
It continued to be this way pretty much till I left the country in 2008. I guess Peter can cover up period from 2008 onward.
To wrap up, I’d say it was pretty isolated metal community. A few of Uzbekistan bands played abroad, mostly in Kazakhstan. A few foreign bands played in Uzbekistan. Although we always followed what happened on Europe and USA metal scenes.
How are the facilities for you in your country? Are things like music, instruments and such easily available? are there venues to play and rehearsal spaces, studioś and such available?
When we got started it was hard to find a rehearsal space, metal music was not welcomed, metal culture has been (and still) stigmatized in many people’s minds. As I mentioned earlier concerts has usually been held in ‘Palace of Culture’ with help of Soviet era amplifiers and speakers. Music instruments was hard to find. Guitars, basses, drums – everything was from Soviet era. Originally I even played on a DIY guitar combined from other guitar parts. I made my own distortion pedal, even tried different schematics found on Internet to achieve better sound. Occasionally somebody brought some wonders from abroad like guitar processors, cardan shaft drum pedals, etc. Rehearsals took place in basements, storerooms or in the best case in ‘Palace of Culture’ next door to some dance studio.
Later on it improved substantially. Some folks managed to find an abandoned high-rise student dorm and turn it into rehearsal space. There was room for everybody and they did not disturb other people. People started selling gear from China and Russia which was both affordable and way better then we used to have. People started hanging out in new rock/metal clubs demanding more metal gigs. Venues improved as well by providing better experience and security.
If you were able to play anywhere, what places would you most like to play shows at and why?
Haha. I don’t have any place in mind. I just love to play for any crowd.
Uzbekistan being a mostly Islamic country, do you face any repression as a metal musician? I’ve learned that this differs immensely depending on where musicians live and I’m interested to know what it’s like for you guys and if you have some experiences to share?
Well, I have not experienced any repressions on religious grounds. Although most people practice Islam, they are pretty mild. At least in big cities like Tashkent or Samarkand. However people still have Soviet mindset and police is quite repressive. Occasionally there was ‘educational’ police raids which I heard was quite humiliating experience. It didn’t happen to me though and as far as I know it usually didn’t have much consequences to others. Censorship might have existed, but all our songs are in English and nobody seem to bothered to translate what we shouted out from stage.
Do you put something typical Uzbeki in your music? Like note patterns, instruments or such?
Not really, I didn’t feel much influence of Uzbek music on me. Although we have an Oriental instrumental which hasn’t been recorded yet and a few turns in piano parts. Though I may not realize it, others may tell there is an Oriental twist in our music. You tell me…
What bands from Uzbekistan should people check out and why?
I don’t really follow Uzbekistan music scene these days. I hope Peter might suggest something.
What future plans do you have as Montfaucon?
I hope to finish new compositions which will raise quality bar for Montfaucon. We have a few unfinished songs which already sound terrific. I dream of Montfaucon to grow out of just being a project and perform live.
If you had to describe your band as a dish (food), what would it be and why?
Haha. Funny one. Bloody burrito? I dunno, music and food are in different dimensions to me which cannot coexist in close proximity. Say what?!…
Band: A Band Of Orcs
Origin: United States (or Hirntodia)
So the group of human children that played D&D and accidentally brought the A Band Of Orcs into our world are now dead… except for their DM’s older brother , who tought them how to riff like Slayer. This eased the bloodlust of the tribe, who now embrace metal as a means to conquer and dominate.
Blending nerdism and metal is the best, really. Originally this band was a five piece, but the war machine has been thinned down to only three mighty Orcish warriors from their own realm. The whole concept has been worked out pretty brilliantly. Merch consists of a card game, dice and miniatures and the group performs in costume. Though this release is not that new, it was so awesome that I had to cover it.
The sound of A Band of Orcs has developed from a blend of Slayer and Norther with the epic balls of 3 Inches of Blood to a more gritty and dirty assault on this record. More directed to death metal, less controlled and with vocals that have crusty feel to it. Maybe something like Kvelertak meets Svartsot in the Amebix basemetn style equipment? It has all the groove and brutality to go there, but also the epic riffing.
Sticking to their gimmick, the opening track is a weird war chant with frantic drumming, which launches into the title track. Hoars, shouted vocals rally the troops and indicate agressive action. Hooky, sharp riffs and tumultuous rhythms guide the song to its ultimate conclusion. ‘Heaving Death’ follows after a mad scream and a distorted, hazy assault of drums and guitars. It’s a thundering track and the pinnacle of this ferocious EP. Double vocals, chaotic and definitely wild, this track really harnesses the agression of the Orcish horde in a punked up aural attack. Oog, Cretos, and Gronk! are a deadly machine, so check them out!
Yes, I made a funny title, but I’m really torn about Rogue One. When I watched it the first time, I really dug the film. I had the full on cinematic experience with popcorn and was not too critical. Maybe also because I was celebrating my 5 year relationship (really proud of that). So why did this film suck not so bad?
Rogue One story
The story of Rogue one is so thin, that you can see through it. If you would wear Rogue One in public, it would be indecent. The plot revolves around the Death Star. To destroy it, the blueprints need to be acquired. We all know where this is going, but just not how it’s going to get there.
The protagonist is Jyn Erso, whose dad designes an builds the Death Star. Jyn is as a character not very believable, mainly because there is so little of it. We see Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso, daddy, in a performance that is as convincing as he always is, but also thin. It’s hard to find any sense in the motivation and acts of the characters, which is incredibly sad. Alan Tudyk (Firefly) voices a droid, who is ment for comic relief… Well, atleast it’s not Jar Jar Binks. But do the characters really matter that much? Not really, because the whole point of the film is hinting at the Trilogy and those characters. Shame that Jyn Erso and her compatriot Cassian Andor are just such lousy characters… No clue why they would risk their lives. I just didn’t understand them, nor connected to them.
Mind, this is in no way ment to criticize the actors. You can only offer criticism on that, when they are actually allowed to act. Maybe the actors know who their characters are, but they never have the room to bring that across. In a franchise that asts Hayden Christenson as Anakin Skywalker, perhaps character simply doesn’t matter…
But the spectacle of seeing Darth Vader in his castle, or seeing Grand Moff Tarkin brought back to life with technology is amazing. Even a fleeting glimpse of Leia made a guy in the row in front of me jump up in frantic movement, simply because the enthusiasm couldn’t be contained. The way they movie makers did this part is absolutely glorious and brilliant.
The huge battles, the explosions and creatures of many different kinds are brilliant and believable. The film has all the spectacle it needs but maybe just a little too much. Maybe a bit of character build up would have made the overal performance of this film better. It’s such a shame, because this part is so brilliantly done. Still, I remain with the question that if the character Cassian carries with him a personal prison, why don’t we find out? Why trivialize the character so much with a mere response to this mystery, that goes like this: ‘yeah, I did some bad things… but I believe in this.’. Grandeur replaces character and that is murderous for the quality of a film.
The Star Wars Canon
A big bummer for many fans of the franchise was probably the fact that there was not a single mention of Kyle Katarn. Kyle Katarn is a character in the fringes of the Canon, who really came to life in the video games and legends of the Star Wars universe. Originally, he was the one who stole the plans of the Death Star. Well… no more.
Though more and more Legends are being reintegrated into the Canon, it’s hard to see what the impact is of the film. Rogue One is in a sense a rather small bit of history, that regarding the progression of the story will have little impact on the rest of the canon. It remains unclear though what this will mean for the further universe and the way it will develop. Rogue One doesn’t open any new doors, just rushes towards one that is wide open and titled ‘Star Wars IV – A New Hope’. It’s from there it derives all its value.
History will call Rogue One an insignificant film I fear. The overall response is that it lacks any real meaning, some real sense of inspiration. All the vibrant enthusiasm it evokes, it evokes by referring to the Trilogy. The highlight of the film is the moment you see Leia. If you haven’t seen it yet, that might keep you to your seat till the end of the thing. It won’t be its narrative brilliance.
So to wrap up the story, it doesn’t suck so bad. Just curb your enthusiasm and enjoy the spectacle. There’s little else Rogue One has to offer. All in all it will be a footnote in the franchise’s history.
Label: Temple of Mystery Records Band: Night Gaunt Origin: Italy
Who doesn’t like old fashioned doom metal? You know, doom the way it supposed to be. Well, if your answer is no, you should look no further. You wouldn’t understand how cool Night Gaunt is.
Night Gaunts are creatures from Lovecrafts unearthly tales, most particularly the Dream Cycle. There is little reference to the Lovecraftian tale though, but that’s alright. This release has two songs that are big and bold enough to stand on their own. It’s been released as an EP and is the first act of the band since their full length in 2014. Though this is not that much material, their whole aesthetic spoke to me enough to check it out.
The first track is the tragic, gloomy title track ‘Jupiter’s Fall’. It clocks just under six minutes and immediately hits you with the slowly progressing, big riffs. The minor tones are instant guarantee’s for a feeling of sadness and remorse, but the interesting gong sounds do wake you up from the nodding to the beat. The vocals by ‘Gc’ are smooth, even seductive to be fair. Sparsely using the vibrato in his voice, there’s an uncommon subtlety to the singers delivery, which is the right sort of magic for a haunting doom album. The sound has a bit of echo to it, making it sound more cavernous even.
‘Penance’ is the other side of the 7″ this is released as, with an urgent guitar line that hits you instantly. The song is more creeping, subtle like a snake that is wrapping itself around the listener. This song then does get a bit more muscular with the sturdy riffing, that never fails to have a sturdy, gothic demeanor to it. The pulsating rhythm does its part as well, even giving a hint of an oriental twist in the delivery.
Night Gaunt delivers on their promise. Doom with a pitchblack flavor.
Label: Metal Blade Band: Downfall Of Gaia Origin: Germany
The German Downfall Of Gaia is definitely a unique sound in the sludge/hardcore world. I like placing them in that genre-corner, because they remind me a lot of Converge, Altar Of Plagues and their ilk with the intense, bleak sound they produce. The band has concocted a very own mixture of styles nd it’s a highly effective one at that.
Thought he comparison of previous bands seems obvious, there’s definitely more to the band than that. Isis can be heard in the sludge elements, which are thick and spiced up with those wavery guitar parts. Then there’s a more rough around the edges crust element akin to Amebix and Discharge. All that leaves you as a band completely free to go in whatever direction you feel like. That is what the band does on ‘Atrophy’.
The howling vocals are really bringing that Converge comparison to life on opener ‘Brood’. Thunderous rhythms are combined with melodic guitar, completely disconnected from the ferocity going on with the vocals and rhythm section. The way the band manages to create music that is pleasant to listen to, while maintaining that raw edge is definitely part of why Downfall Of Gaia should be much bigger. The appeal of their sound is just very broad. The bestial bark of Dominik Goncalves dos Reis just works fine with the sweet riffs on ‘Woe’. There’s almost a bit of postrock there, with the warmth-evoking guitar work.
Building up tension is another postrock element the band has fully embraced. On ‘Ephemerol’ the tranquility of the guitar play and its sudden vibrant harmony with the rhythm section is part of that, of creating that tension so necessary for this music to really work. Always there’s a slight raw edge, in this case a distorted buzz around the edges of the guitar tones. Another majestic track unfolds, after which we get a short intermission that is as dreamy as music by the xx.
A highlight of the album is the soaring guitar work on the titlesong. The vocals appear from a cavernous underground, distant and muffled. As the album deals with themes of dead and life, you can feel the continuous contrast in the sound with opposing elements. Stretched guitar tones create some sort of blaring black metal static as melodious guitar play trickles into your ears. One feels close and warm, the other far away and cold.
Atrophy as a whole is a vitalist, contrasting and energetic record, where humble acoustics go hand in hand with black metal majesty. It’s agressive but never abrasive, furious but never losing control. If this was football, this would be total-metal by Downfall Of Gaia.
Sometimes you simply can’t cover it all, but you still want to. Because of that I’m going to do a round up of some releases, that have gotten plenty of coverage elsewhere. Why do I then still cover them? Well, because I feel it is my duty in a peculiar way to say something about Krallice, AshBorer and Bölzer.
Krallice – Prelapsarian
Label: Gilead Media Origin: United States
Though Krallice can be a bit too chaotic for me at times, they are one of the most interesting bands out there. They’ve been very productive, releasing an album in 2015 and an EP in 2016 and then suddenly here’s another full lenght with four rabid, mesmerizing tracks. The sheer intensity with which Krallice delivers their songs is uncanny. Shouted vocals, more akin to a Converge (‘Hate Power’) combined with riffs that at times (‘Transformation Chronicles’) feel more Dragonforce-like at times. The eclectic combinations the band makes is in a way what makes them so interesting, though on this record they are more returning to the frantic black metal sound Krallice originates from. The music constantly shifts pace and surprises you at every turn. The mix is great and the record is great, what more do you want me to say about this?
Ash Borer – The Irrepassable Gate
Label: Profound Lore Records Origin: United States
Ash Borer is in a league of their own when it comes to creating densely atmospheric black metal with a majestic streak to it. Filled with ambient elements, to create an all overpowering sound, the band is heavier than thou and irredeemably good on this offering. The doomy overtones with the subterranean drumming are a constant battery for your nerves. The cacophony of noise the band unleashes here and there helps to create the right vibe of a sound that is much more natural and real than that of your average Satan worshipping black metallers. The grandeur and consistency in which Ash Borer weaves their aural patterns is not unlike bands such as Wolves In The Throne Room, Balancing between the ferocity of USBM and the complete sound of Cascadian black metal, Ash Borer shows themselves to be a class apart on the general BM firmament.
Bölzer – HERO
Label: Iron Bonehead Origin: Switzerland
I have felt conflicted about the Swiss duo, mainly due to their ridiculous reclamatin of various nazi-symbols. It seemed so boneheaded to me, that I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. Having seen the band perform live twice, I think there’s a good reason to do write about this odd duo. Why then? Because they are incredible! Sure, live their sound gets a bit muddled and loses any sort of semblance of subtlety. Still, the ‘world-eating’ sound (as read in band bio) is a thunderous, unstoppable force. Chosing minimal means, does not mean an artist limits himself. Also adding clean vocals, Bölzer sound like heathen, barbarian kings on ‘HERO’. A display of thunderous rhythms and remarkably noticable guitar melodies. On a track like ‘Hero’, that makes the men sound like titans. Big muscular riffs and booming vocals. I still don’t understand their strange love for the sun wheel and wolfsangel, but on the other hand I get the stubborn position behind it. The whole record is a bull headed effort to wring out epic sounds of minimal means. They sure do pull that off!
So here we go again, reading books like there is no tomorrow. Well, there usually is so… well, this time I have read some Dutch literature in the form of Harry Mulish’s books, a book about reggae and ofcourse some works of R.A. Salvatore.
Michael De Koningh – Young, Gifted & Black: The Story of Trojan Records
Ska, reggae, rocksteady and more are the typical sounds of Jamaica. The genre came across the sea and captured a generation of young Britons and left a lasting impact on the music we know as pop. If you tell the story of reggae, you need to also tell the story of Trojan Records. A label so intertwined with the rise and growth of the music, that it has almost become synonymous with the genre. This book tells you everything about the growing genre from one perspective, but also what is around in the world where Trojan developed. The labels, the artists and the weird gold rush that the record industry undertook in that time and age.
This book is not about idealistic record producers and a label with a golden heart. Trojan Records never started from any good will, but as a means to make a lot of money of something not many others were jumping onto. The reggae genre was at first considered obscene, shocking and ill fitting to British society. The keen skinhead crowd was not helping that image much either. The book also contains a dense discography and further lists with information concerning the label, it’s productions. A must have for the fan or collector of Trojan releases, but also for those who just love or would like to investigate Jamaican music.
R.A. Salvatore – The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy (The Thousand Orcs, The Lone Drow, The Two Swords)
Well, another trilogy by R.A. Salvatore that I can mark as read. This trilogy is in a way much more grim and definite than others. Where the characters seemed to pretty much walk away from events unscaved, that is about the change when they face a foe that is so much mightier than others. Luck is not on their side and the shifting mechanisms of their world is much bigger and complexer than ever before. Though there is one of those phases, where Drizzt feels he lost everyone only to find them again, things are not whole in the end. The characters are much more introspective, less a coherent unit and that makes for some uncanny story telling.
The orc tribes are uniting under one God-gifted leader, named Obould Many-Arrows. Where the orcs have always been a race of merauding recklessness, Obould is a different cookie altogether. WIth his sight set on a kingdom for his people, a place on this earth to call their own, he sets out on a bloody crusade and the heroes appear to be right in the middle of his path. This leads to the grim story of an all out war. Not a skirmish, a chase or a battle, but entrenched, long lasting war. R.A. Salvatore manages to translate the experience of war to the fantasy realm with a great effect. This is maybe one of his finest hours in writing. The book really takes the reader into a much grimmer direction and the end might not be what you would hope to find, but in a way it’s also unavoidable.
Harry Mulisch – Siegfried
Harry Mulisch is one of the most well known Dutch authors, but I rarely read anything from his works up until now. This book is the story of a writer, much like Mulisch himself, of international fame who goes to visit Vienna for a reading. During an interview he mentions Hitler. Hitler has been the topic of many, many books, but no one ever really managed to get to the core, the essence of the figure. The main character promises he will attempt to capture HItler, to trap him in a frame of fiction. The writer is struggling with many thoughts about this project, of the past and maybe with himself as well. Then the story becomes strange.
An old couple approaches the author at the reading. They’ve heard him speak on television about Hitler and are keen to speak to him. The next day he meets them in their appartment, which is not the standard he lives in, but accomodating. There’s little special or uncommon about the couple, but they apparently have a big secret which he is sworn to protect untill they are both deceased, so their original promise is covered. And thus starts a narrative within a narrative about a son called Siegfried. The most intriguing about the book is the peculiar story in a story, the biographical elements and the irregular composition. It’s a brilliant book. If it is translated, read it for all its magic.
Harry Mulisch – Twee Vrouwen
The second book I read from Mulish is ‘Twee Vrouwen’, which translates as ‘two women’. It’s a book of international fame, which was even made into a film once. At its time it must have struck a nerve with its theme of a same sex relationship, but on it’s republication as a gift for the annual book week it still is a book that matters and adresses the difficulties and strange intolerance that has been part of our culture for that long. Even though things are looking up nowadays, it is good to remember and put it to life in literature how we’ve dealt with homosexuality in the past.
The story is that of two women who run into eachother. Though the main character is older, has been married and not been with a woman before, they click and soon move in together. Their turbulent relationship lasts for a couple of months and part of the book describes that period in all its complexities. Durin a visit to her mother, the main character asks her girlfriend to stay behind to not shake up the old lady who resides in the south of France. From here on all seems to go wrong and the girlfriend leaves at some point with the ex-husband. I wish I could tell you more, but you’lljust have to read it yourself. Spoilers and all, but know that a Mulisch book never goes the way you’d expect. You don’t need to be a confused Lesbian to experience the feelings this book gives you. Sure, it gives the perspective of discrimination, but the characers are sort of sealed of in a bubble experiencing things just like you could. That makes this such a strong work. It’s completely relatable.
Label: Deivlforst Band: Wolcensmen Origin: England
We are what we are, because we are shaped by the land we hail from. For a long time the British isles offered much of their heritage in the form of folk, story and song. You can still see that in the more remote parts like Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but England itself seems to have lost part of it. Wolcensmen is in that sense a breath of fresh air with their heathen folk, reclaiming something that might seem forgotten.
Wolcensmen is more than just a folk project by Dan Capp (known from Winterfylleth), its a platform featureing various artists who collaborated with the Englishmen to bring his dream to life. One of the participants is Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Musk Ox), who is brilliant. Another is Grimrik (Arath), who is a master of dungeon synth, and creating those Burzumesque atmospheres.
Jumping ahead for a moment to the main contribution of Grimrik, that Burzumesque feel is immediately present ”Neath a Wreath of Firs’, which was written and performed by the German artis. It truly captivates that eerie forest spirit. A great tune, but my avorite is at the start of the album. When the intro starts, I imagine beautiful landscapes like those on the Winterfylleth album covers.
That feeling remains, but even more ina an eagle-eye perspective in a soaring, praying calm on ‘The Fyre-Bough’. The second song with this majestic, droning song is a connection to The Hobbit soundtrack, particularly the song by Richard Armitage ‘Misty Mountains’. Though the similarity is not as strong as my words may suggest, there is a similar evocation of a more pure, clean world that is both rough and free as well as pastoral and calm as one can find in the work of Tolkien. I wonder if that is an inspiration for Dan Capp.
There’s something more gentle to the English folk music, compared to its Celtic counterparts. It’s gentle and freely flowing akin to a calm river through a green meadow with gnarled, old trees hanging over you. It lacks the rugged yearning of the Irish and Scottish folk, which I find is particularly true for Wolcensmen too. There are other elements woven into the music, which is mainly guitar, bodhran and synths. The droning strokes on the cello by Weinroth-Browne give the music a lot of its atmosphere with a deep, sonorous sound that gives the tunes their earthy feeling. A song like ‘Hoofes upon the Shymmeringe Path’ have something of an early approach of spring. A liveliness and hunger for green land and being alive again, with a foreboding drumming and double vocals.
A song like ‘Yerninge’ feels more like a crackling fire on a snowy winter day, when the sun has gone down and the fire offers that uncommon warmth and joy in the dark hours. There’s always a calm and tranquil feeling to the music though. It takes the listener to a time where fantastic creatures still roamed the land, like on ‘The Mon ‘O Micht. The base for the song is an old poem in dialect. The words even hold some particular wisdom. Dan Capp delivered something beautiful here.
Wolcensmen don’t sound like anything else really, but in a way they do sound very familiar. Like a voice from the past, that makes you think of a more peaceful time. A lingering memory of something that once was.