Label:Code666 Records Band: Fen Origin: United Kingdom
On Winter the band Fen is trying to really create a record that expresses their identity as a band. This is one of the reasons why this record turns out as the great piece of music it is. Perhaps the best record Fen has made this far, though that is always a matter of taste.
The story on ‘Winter’ is that of the season, as told through atmospheric black metal. That immediately sounds like a match made in heaven. Throwing different styles in the mix, the Britons have crafted a great fifth album in that English tradition. Intrigued about the name, I wanted to mention that the group is named after a region called ‘The Fens’, a flat land full of bogs and marshes with a sense of mystery. That is also something that is put in the music.
The album opens with a slow piece of music, titled ‘Pathway’, which is expressing the atmospheric postrock influences the band wishes to display on this album. Creating a long and slow build-up, the track really allows you to slide into the album gradually. Once the vocals kick in, you’re already under its spell. Peculiar is how gentle the music is at this point, even with the screams of vocalist Frank Allain. The band pulls of a grander sound on ‘Penance’, where mighty cascades of guitars push outward and expand their reach. For me their sound is close to that of an Agalloch, but also Island-buddies Saor comes close. There’s something to the sound that tells you of its origin.
Big parts of the record feature shoegazy, dreamy passages. In that sense, Fen really goes for the feeling more than the power. It gives a warm sound, remniscent of sunrays and the tremble in the air on a nice summer evening. The music paints in different colors and moods, working with long songs and complex meandering passages. The song ‘Internment’ for example offers a gentle, folky intro that lasts for minutes and could last forevermore for all I care. This record is one hell of an album, clocking over 70 minutes over six tracks.
This might actually be some of the best work that Fen has delivered. It’s warm and conveys an abstract image of the nature and land it comes from. Beautiful stuff.
Now and then you find a band that is approaching music from a very own perspective and position. With experience in Winterfylleth, it is no surprise to find that Dan Capp is one of those that likes to find the root of things and go from there. Wolcensmen is essential Englishness, but without the stereotypes. There is no superiority, just a thoughtful and captivating story of its identity.
It’s noteworthy that though Dan is active in Winterfylleth, his own journey with Wolcensmen started way earlier and has its roots exactly where I felt they came from. But why spoil information that you can read below from the source. What I would like to address in this brief introduction is the album that Wolcensmen has released recently, titled Songs from the Fyrgen. This record is a collaborative effort that takes you as a listener far, far away from England that you may imagine to something more essential and pure. To a pastoral vista that you may only still find in novels these days. I think it’s an album that you can fall in love with.
First off, let me ask you how the idea of Wolcensmen was conceived. I understand it’s been a work of multiple years actually? Dan: Musically, the roots of Wolcensmen are in my teenage years, around about 1998. I’d recently been introduced to the early works of Ulver, Opeth and Empyrium (as well as ’90s Norwegian black metal) and I was particularly taken by the mood created in these bands’ acoustic interludes. I was inspired to create something similar and would use my stereo Hi-Fi system to record dual-guitar parts onto cassette. Friends at the time said I should do more of this but I instead chose to make more aggressive music for some years. Then in 2010 I found myself in a Dublin pub watching an Irish folk band perform and it dawned on me that England lacked this sort of culture and perhaps I could be someone to resurrect it – this was the conceptual beginning of Wolcensmen. I remembered how much I’d enjoyed writing acoustic songs in my younger years, wrote some songs for a demo and… here we are.
How did you get into making folk music like this? Is that a long lasting desire you had and where does your inspiration come from? Are there artists that you would cite as influences? Where do the other elements come from?
Dan: I guess I pretty much answered this in response to your last question, but I’ll add a few things. I was introduced to folk music by metal bands who had veered from the trodden path and used acoustic instruments to enhance their dark, romantic atmospheres. It’s only in recent years that I’ve familiarised myself with more traditional folk (usually in the form of acts like Steeleye Span and Blackmore’s Night who perform many traditional songs from around the British Isles and Europe). Wolcensmen’s primary influences will always be early Ulver and Empyrium in particular. However, Songs from the Fyrgen wouldn’t sound the way it does were it not for classical music and black metal (related) bands such as Summoning, Burzum and Bathory.
What is the goal, the purpose that you had with the project? The feeling you wish to evoke? Where do you draw your inspiration from? Dan: The purpose of Wolcensmen, thematically, is to remind the World that England exists as a people and a culture, and that its original culture is Heathen and Teutonic. Obviously that is not to say that it is music only for Englishmen – far from it. Most of the people who seem to have truly connected with it on a spiritual level are from all over the World. But because of this purpose, the feeling I want to evoke is one of a pre-Industrial England where mysticism reigns supreme and man can still lose himself among quiet, pristine hills and forests. ‘Fyrgen’, from the title, means ‘wooded hilltop’ – remembering a time before dense human population, industry and farming had removed much of the woodland.
In 2013 you’ve released a demo, how did that help you to get to the final product and did you get in touch with the other artists before or after this production? Did it help in conveying the idea you had? Dan: The demo was very much a solo project – an experiment more than anything, as I’d never even sung lead vocals on anything before. I had no idea whether the songs would even turn out well. It certainly set the mould for Wolcensmen, undoubtedly. The concept was already very sure and strong by the time of the demo recording. The only contributor I was talking with at that time was Jake Rogers, who was offering me feedback on the mix (via email) as it unfolded. During that time he offered to perform flute on any future songs I wanted him to, which is how he ended up contributing to the album.
Can you tell me how the collaboration worked? I understand you are in charge of the final product, but in what way did different people from various countries contribute to something that is quintessentially a British folk album? Dan: It was a different story for each of the contributors really. As mentioned, Jake Rogers had offered to play flute for me, which I was very keen on as I only play guitar and wanted a variety of real instruments on the album. With most of the parts, the good men involved performed and recorded with real instruments what I had written in MIDI, set to a MIDI tempo map. They’d then simply send me the digital files and I edited them into place. On ‘Snowfall’ I gave Jake a blank canvas to compose a flute part over the top of, and the result almost brought me to tears. Likewise with ‘Neath a Wreath of Firs’ where I asked Grimrik to create an intro and outro – whatever he wanted as long as it fit the song. Again, he amazed me with what he conjured. Nash Rothanburg was given a section of the song ‘Hoofes Upon the Shymmeringe Path’ to add some ritualistic vocals to and did just what was needed. Mark Capp, my brother, is a drummer and helped me to write all the percussion parts as well as performing Bodhran on two of the songs. Dries Gaerdelen brought a wonderful human touch to my MIDI piano compositions. And the most difficult instrument to coordinate the recording of was Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s cello, because it is present throughout most songs. I needed to give him a big set of files and time to learn it all (which he did masterfully, as expected).
Songs from the Fyrgen is quintessentially English, but I didn’t need all performers to necessarily be English – Englishness is just the foundational, conceptual concept behind the project.
What does the heathen aspect mean to you? And where do you get the stories and themes from for those willing to delve into this? Dan: Well the Heathen aspect is vital, because I am a Heathen and Wolcensmen is essentially a cultural statement. It is meant to be romantic, and I simply can’t see that there’s anything to romanticise about post-Christian England. It was the beginning of our decline. The stories are mine, except for ‘The Mon o’ Micht’, which is lyrically traditional, and ‘Hoofes Upon the Shymmeringe Path’ whose lyrics are based on the names of the horses belonging to the Asa (Aesir) gods, on which they ride across Bifrost, ‘the shimmering path’, to Asgard. My other lyrics are inspired by folk tales, natural phenomena and esoteric concepts.
You’re also active in Winterfylleth, a group that (although not always as explicitly) draws inspiration from the land and heritage very strongly. Has that helped or affected your own project in some ways? Did they help you with ideas or such? Dan: Surprisingly, no! I joined Winterfylleth two years ago at the start of 2015 and Wolcensmen was already well under way. Myself and the other guys in Winterfylleth are long-time friends and happen to have a similar worldview, which I suppose is one of the reasons they felt I was a good choice when they needed a new guitarist. They were always on hand to offer feedback while I made Songs from the Fyrgen, and I value their support. But composing for Wolcensmen was a very personal process and only those who performed on the album had any real influence on the music.
You’ve recorded in various places. There are other artists in the folk realm who’ve done this in order to captivate something in the music. Is that something you had in mind as a goal or did it become part of the result in some way? Dan: No. There was nothing desirable about recording different instruments in different parts of the World. My collaborators did a stunning job which I’ll forever be grateful for, but given a choice I’d rather record everything in one place and time – preferably in a good studio.
When I listened to the record, I immediately felt a connection to the way Tolkien depicts the Shire as a sort of pre-industrial England in The Lord of the Rings. Very pastoral, calm and natural. Does that make sense to you in a way? Dan: Absolutely!!! I touched on this earlier in the interview without having read your questions ahead. Tolkien is without a doubt the earliest, most key influence in my cultural and creative mind-set. His books set the scene for all of the language, art, landscape and mythology I would go on to love. He was deeply regretful of England’s industrialisation, as am I. In some ways – and without having mentioned it anywhere – Songs from the Fyrgen should really be in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien. Furthermore, my target audience would tend to be the types of people that also fell in love with his books; so I hope with this album to have given a little ‘boost’ to that part of someone who felt magic when first reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but maybe hasn’t felt it too often since then.
What future plans do you have for Wolcensmen? Will there be a live experience? Dan: There are no future plans, only vague dreams. Composing is what I love most, and I hope I can make another album sometime. I wouldn’t be short of ideas, but I simply can’t bring myself to self-record again (even if the result was pretty good). Unlike a lot of modern musicians, I don’t enjoy the production side of things, and I would need a producer to work with – someone who understands this music well. This would depend on future label support so I’m not holding my breath. Deivlforst are wonderful, but these days, in the musical underground, many labels often count on musicians to self-record their music in home studios.
As for live performances… I really don’t know. At first (when I watched that Irish Folk band perform) I envisioned it being very much a live thing. But then as the project took form I knew it couldn’t be recreated onstage. Now there are a few people calling for it so I’m not ruling it out. The demand would have to be high though, because the preparation required for even a single show would be quite a task. Another possibility is some kind of stripped down two-man version, which I’d say is more likely.
Finally, if Wolcensmen was a dish (food), what would it be and why? Dan: Haha… Let’s go with: Fried mushrooms in wild garlic, with a desert course of berries. Mushrooms because they’re wild, mysterious and have long grown in the indigenous forests of northern Europe. Garlic because of its healing properties. Berries because they’re linked with Yuletide, as Songs from the Fyrgen seems to be.
Thanks for the thoughtful questions and interest in my answers. Wæs þu hæl to you and your readers Guido.
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.
Thanks everyone for reading my ‘Sounds of the Underground’. It’s much appreciated, so here’s #25 with Graveworm, Murg, Witchsorrow and Fluisteraars.
Graveworm – Ascending Hate
Things tend to get back to you in time and bite you in the face it seems. Graveworm is one of the first extreme metal bands I got to hear and genuinely scared me at the time. Their album covers fascinated me, specially in the early days. Now, the Italian band is back with a death/symphonic/blackened explosion titled ‘Ascending Hate’, which to me sounds most like Cradle of Filth having a car crash with Therion.
The album is very well produced, which helps bring forward the symphonic and melodic elements in the music, which has soaring guitars and ambience enhancing keys playing throughout the songs. The harsh, barked vocals offer a contrast of brutality, together with the death metal barrage of guitars, but the bands doesn’t shy away from using their softer side when they can, like ‘To The Empire Of Madness’. There’s a beauty to this album, that unfortunately not the whole world will appreciate.
Murg – Varg & Björn
Fuck yeah, black metal the way it used to be made, that’s what I want! This album brings back the fury of the original second wave in the hand of this Swedish company. Blistering guitar play and a dense, northern atmosphre make this a well worthy ride, full of frostbitten grimness. These are songs with blast beats the way you love and cherish them, in full furious swing and high on energy. There over you hear the tremolo guitar play, reaching up to this static buzzing sound.
It is rather hard to find info on the band, but there’s a good interview out there if you are interested. To the sound, though it can be murky and harrowing, there is also a certain beauty and melodic nature to the sound, hidden underneath tones that speak of decay and morbididty. Big, wavy guitar parts speak in no uncertain terms of a grandeur and power of nature, which is an influence clearly to be felt in the music of this mysterious duo. This record brings back the past, but a bit more in its grandeur and passion. A next album might come into being, so I’m rooting for that one.
Witchsorrow – No Light Only Fire
Brittish doom lords Witchsorrow have a new one, which looks rather good on first sight. The eye does not lie with this record, but it’s not just doom. Opening title track is a jagged, heavy stoner anthem with a break neck speed. The vocals are restrained, as if the full power of the band is waiting to be unleashed as yet on this record, which happens on the thrudging ‘The Martyr’. The celebration of their 10 year anniversary is definitely one this three piece does by showing the full scale of their skills.
The slow and heavy part is definitely in order with these guys, who manage to combine that element with a certain hardcore vibe. All the sound is crisp, clear and filled with a certain venom. This is however, without ever sounding like anything that isn’t doom. Witchsorrow is one of those bands that reinvigorate the genre with a catchy and open sound. It is not without reason that album immediately resonates with me and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who bears love for the genre as a testament to its enduring longevity.
Fluisteraars – Luwte
There’s this new wave of black metal in the Netherlands, which seems to rely strongly on a certain poetic aesthetic. I think of Laster and Terzij De Horde, but Fluisteraars also puts on a particular brand of sweeping majesty into the sound they paint. In their bio, the band speaks of windswept black metal and that sort of makes sense when you listen to the organic, wavering sound of the band. The Gelderland collective is definitely taking the listener on a journey with their specific sound.
Continuously surging guitar parts drag you along in a sonic river of grief, remorse and sadness, where now and then an echo of hope seems to be woven into the sound. The band manages to lift that sound up to etheral hights. Without any hesitation the sound then twists and turns around again, like a u-turn into a shouty cacophony on ‘Angstvrees’. The track then resumes the stream. The record takes an epic approach to the black metal genre, which is truly captivating.
It’s been holiday times, so I had time to read some more than normally. I always love to see the pile I’ve gotten through afterwards. Currently enough other things to read and listen fill my shelves, so time to get on it.
Charlotte Brönte – The Professor
There is something specifically cozy about reading books by the likes of Charlotte Brönte. It feels like this book requires you to have a cup of tea or coffee with it and really get cozy with a blanket and some nice singer-songwriter (preferably British) playing on the radio. The story is the inner thoughts and experiences of a man, devout of real heritage, who flaunts his unwanted families offers to make his own fortune in the world. It’s a story that takes us from the grimy industrial towns of 18th century Britain to the warm city of Brussels where he finds occupation as a teacher.
It is a story of character building and growth, of love and loneliness and in the end of a righteous set of affairs happening. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a very complex work that completely blows you away, it is nice to just feel cozy and homely once in a while.
Ryszard Kapuscinski – The emperor
Many people might know Haile Selassie as a figure that is much revered in reggae music by the rastafarians. He was also the last emperor of a 1000 year dynasty in Ethiopia. A reformer and totalitarian in one, the man could not read or write, but ran a country as effective as possible in the limited time that was given to him as a ruler.
I bought this book in Poland, due to it having a Polish author and also a topic of interest to me. It gathers up stories of the courtiers from Haile Selassie after the revolution. It was quite a dangerous undertaking to gather these stories in a country ravaged by internal strife, corruption and crime. Still it paints a clear image of an impossible empire that lasted much longer than it would have, it not for the smart rule of an emperor who wanted to bring together tradition and progress in an impossible marriage.
We speak of a man who dreamed of a united Africa, while maintaining an underfed population and an ever expanding nobility. A man who built palaces in the desert, while drinking water was not obtainable. He built highways and universities, but ruled without pen and paper. An amazing journey to the past.
Hannah Arendt – Eichmann and the Holocaust: It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.
It is hard to say something about this book. Let’s start by saying I purchased it at the Jewish History Museum in Warsaw. Tight security and still not fully open for the public, it is a book about the aftermath, about Eichmann who was considered responsible for what we now know as the Holocaust. Arendt describes a man who is a true bureaucrat, a man who loves procedures and papers and has little to no actual intellect to guide him. Stuttering and muttering his way through life, only being understandable when uttering movie one-liners, all the way to the gallows in Jerusalem.
Arendt analyses the stupid and sometimes unconscious and silly kind of evil, committed by people who just don’t think. She also discusses if it was right what happened to Eichmann. Did Israel have the right to just execute the man on their own ground? No, they did not and they knew it. If he should be executed in the end? Maybe he was the neck that had to carry the weight for all those thousands of bureaucrats who ‘just did their job’. I find it hard to judge, but so does Arendt, who leaves the reader to form an own verdict. Was this right? Was Eichmann guilty or was he just a victim of the zeitgeist? Did he ever fully understand why he was walking to the gallows? We can ask ourselves this and maybe become slightly better people ourselves in the process.
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
I guess this might be the most important work of Dickens apart from the fairy tales. Maybe it is not, I found that it was very poignant. Dickens shows the other side of the Revolution in France as an event that created an upheaval in society even though it might have rational and righteous causes. Dickens makes the common people picturesque and the nobility sensitive and full of class, but also gives a distinct charm to both. He doesn’t judge I feel, in his book, about the situations in France and England and whatever he may think of it.
The tale of Two cities juxtaposes the city of Paris and London with one another to the effect of showing the differences and also the effect. In truth, the English royalty reformed and reshaped with the social changes. France missed the ball on that and got itself into a nasty revolution that ended it’s royal family. Not that much changed. After the terror new tyrants arose and spend fortunes on war.
Still, the book deals with the small people. It has the romance and sacrifice of the times, but also stupidity, rigid rebellion and vengeance. Everything is in there, except lazers. I think this is a book that everyone should read and try to learn something about opposing views. Mostly that making enemies only brings grief.