The Alps are a mesmerizing part of the European landscape. Inhospitable, inaccessible and full of inspiration for many artists throughout the ages. From composers to painters and writers, the mountains have a special attraction. I can tell… One of those artists is Rauhnåcht, hailing from Austria.
This band is the brainchild of Stefan Traunmüller, a restless musician with a small cohort of bands under his belt. Just a small selection contains Golden Dawn, A Portrait of Flesh and Blood, Wallachia and that’s just the start. Rauhnåcht takes a particular place in his work and feels quite distinct from most bands you might have heard before that merge folk with black metal.
Taking inspiration from the Alpine traditions, it’s a band that requires a different kind of listening. Music, that somehow emulates the eerie sounds of the peeks and embodies the myths and fears of the inhabitants. I found Stefan eager to answer some of my questions, which you can enjoy below. We spoke about the majestic feeling of the Alps I find in his music, his love for the authentic and aesthetically fitting and the collaboration on Sprukgeschichten.
Piercing the wall between dimensions
Hello, how did you get started with Rauhnåcht and where does the name come from?
The starting point was in 2010, when I met Max of Sturmpercht and was intrigued by the magic of some of these archaic Alpine Folk tracks. So I took samples and loops of their music and formed Black Metal songs out of it. The result was the first album „Vorweltschweigen“. The name comes from the „Rauhnächte“, which are, according to old belief of the Alpine region, 12 magic nights during the change of the year. In this time, the borders between this reality and beyond dimensions are open and communication with animals and the dead is possible. Another band holding the rights on the name Rauhnacht threatened me with legal action, so it was decided to make an å out of the a. In my local dialect (and especially in Bavaria) the a is more or less spoken like the Scandinavian å, so this makes sense.
You’ve been involved with various projects, I’m interested to ask you how they connect to each other. Particularly, of course, the project Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht?
My initial project was Golden Dawn with three albums between 1996 and 2010. Yes, I am involved in quite a lot of projects in one way or another, too many to mention them. I work as a producer and engineer in my own recording studio and sometimes I am asked to play as a studio musician or to contribute something to existing arrangements. There are even projects where I am „ghost writer“ for singers that cannot play an instrument but want to have a band. Sturmpercht is such a case, the members of the first albums more or less disappeared and the main man asked me to carry on for him on the basis of numerous riffs, snippets, samples and field recordings from different musicians. The work for the split Zur Ew’gen Ruh was very interesting because I developed all songs in two different directions for two different bands.
What inspired you to explore Alpine heathenism and mysteries in your music, after having been active in various other thematic avenues? Are there any bands you see as examples for what you’ve done with Rauhnåcht?
The early Sturmpercht albums were the conceptual template for the first Rauhnåcht album. I have never heard such a fitting musical transformation of all the eerie and strange Alpine myths and rites. Of course, I know a lot of bands that call themselves Pagan Metal but many of them stay on a quite superficial level in exploring heathen traditions – at least some years ago, I witness that nowadays there is a growing interest of finding more honest and authentic approaches to this. More and more young people cherish the roots of their local culture, including dialect and special masquerade during rites. I think that this is a logic counter-trend to the globalized world that leaves less and less space for real individualism. But this should by no means be a political statement, nor should a support for local cultures in art be used in a political way.
I’m curious if you could share some views and insights into the myths and legends you voice through your music, maybe some examples or outlines?
I think that the concepts and ideas behind Alpine traditions and myths are not so much different to other regions, but they are exercised in a unique way. For example, the Perchten runs with the craftily designed masks are something very special. As with any folklore, this has been commercialized a lot but the deeper you enter the more remote Alpine valleys, the purer the traditions have been preserved. The Rauhnåcht lyrics have a lot of connections to tales that refer to certain mountains, moors or other places. For example, there is a rock on a mountain near my birthplace that is called „sleeping witch“, because it really looks like this. Of course, there is a tale that refers to this place and explains how the naughty witch was punished and transformed into stone. The tales are full of trolls, hounds, worms, and giants and when you are like me a lot on desolate mountain paths, you get an impression how each place has its distinct special energy that fits the mood of the tales. I had the big luck to grow up at the foot of the Untersberg. This mountain is often referred to as the heart chakra of Europe, we know sayings like this even from the Dalai Lama. There are a lot of really obscure tales surrounding the Untersberg, a lot of them contain time phenomenons and dwarves that lead hikers into the center of the mountain. Rauhnåcht breathes the atmosphere of this mountain and other places in my region, I have the music in my mind when I am hiking and I visualize the places when I compose and record. So actually I could also call the style Mountain Metal.
You’ve brought out records with both Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht. Particularly enjoyable I find my first experience with your music, the release of ‘Zur ew’gen Ruh’ from 2014. How do you walk the tight line, where these projects are distinct, yet also really feed into each other?
I think that arranging is what I am best at. I am not someone who composes great tunes and songs every day, but when I have a basic idea or riff, I can take this as starting point and simply walk in two different directions from there. On this album, I wrote a complete song for Sturmpercht one time, a complete song for Rauhnåcht the other time and then I just deleted everything apart from the basic idea and built the song anew out of this fundament. Again I can use the metaphor of a mountain, this album is one mountain with two peaks, one rough and full of rocks enshrouded in mist, the other one calmer with meadows and fountains and Alp huts, where old farmers tell stories of long forgotten times.
How do you go about writing and creating the music you make? Do you start with the concept or with the music?
It all starts with a feeling. When I play something and my soul resonates in the same way as it does when I am walking some majestic path in the mountains, then I know that a good song has just come into being, I only have to stick to this feeling while doing all the „technical“ work of arranging and producing. Sometimes, even a sample of just one tone played in the right way with the right instrument can create this special feeling that inspires me. This is why I love to work with samples or loops, they immediately throw you into the right mood and often I can even delete them in the end, because I built everything well around them.
To be honest, I almost never start with lyrics or concepts, to the contrary, most of the time a song is already finished as an instrumental before I start to think about the lyrics. It is easy for me to find the best places and melody lines for vocals but hard to find words, especially in German. Sometimes, a few words or a certain line suddenly appears when I repeat a part again and again in my mind. I really like to be intuitive when I create music, usually, this brings much better results than stuff that has been mangled through mind and thoughts for too many times.
The latest release featuring Rauhnåcht, is the ‘Spukgeschichten – Anciennes légendes des Alpes’ record. How did this come into being and what brought the 3 bands on this record together? What can you say about its overall theme?
The idea appeared when I got into contact with Léon from the French bands Grylle and Hanternoz. He is also very fascinated by the old stories of the French parts of the Alps. Tannöd is a mysterious band from Southern Germany that is also rooted in topics about nature and local myths. So we decided to build a bridge over the Alps between France, Austria, and Bavaria. Each band represents its region and on the bonus side of the double LP, I combined field recordings of all three regions, so the listener really is on a trip through the whole Alps.
The aesthetics of your work get a lot of attention. Natural views, pagan imagery and also amazing editions. I imagine a lot of work goes into that. Can you tell something about this? What do you aim for with the physical releases you put out?
I just had the luck to work with the right people who know how to create a fitting visualization of my music. On the first two full-lengths, as well as on the upcoming album, I had Moga Alexandru (Kogaion Art) from Romania as artwork designer. This man really embraces the spirit of nature in his works, I know that he is in deep love with the Romanian mountains and he also takes great pictures. Max from Steinklang shares my faible for special releases like wooden boxes. For the first version of „Zur Ew’gen Ruh“ we had a box with branches from a fir and a bottle of „Zirbenschnaps“, I really like collectors’ items like this. For the Spukgeschichten split, Joanna (Atelier Chandelours), the girlfriend of the Hanternoz singer, drew a super-size painting of the Alps with a broken bridge. I don’t really like artificially constructed Photoshop-covers, at least not for Rauhnåcht, so I either aim for majestic photographs or for paintings of a natural scenery. I like it when a supernatural touch is added, like the creature on Vorweltschweigen, the album cover of the new album will also feature a connection of nature and let’s call it a higher sphere.
Are there any artists you would recommend, that you feel are kindred spirits for you?
For me, still nothing can or will ever beat Bathory, without Under the sign of the black mark, Hammerheart and Twilight of the gods I would have never started music the way I did maybe. I do not follow the current scene at all, in fact I do not listen to metal anymore, but Wolves in the throne room, Agalloch and Evilfeast would be three names that come to my mind now that you ask me this.
Could your music be made anywhere else in your perception?
The funny thing is that several other mountain regions in different parts of the world have similar myths and similar atmospheres in music. I use a lot of samples or instruments from traditional Mongolian music. These people have a long tradition of overtone and throat singing also. The new album will also feature a traditional flute instrument from Persia called Duduk, which has an exceptionally melancholic sound. When I use sounds of alphorns, why not also didgeridoo? Both instruments are clearly related. The first tasks of music as signals over long distances and as vehicle to support rituals and shamanic work were similar with many ancient tribes all around the world. So I don’t limit myself by excluding certain instruments, everything can be used that creates the atmosphere I aim for.
What to you is the meaning of this thing called black metal, specially today?
Okay, basically we have two groups of Black Metal bands, first the „traditionalists“ that still think that it is cool to burn churches and praising Satan in one way or another is essential for a „Black Metal lifestyle“. Second, we have the bands that don’t really care about topics and only like to play Black Metal as a music style. Most of them give themselves a pseudo-ideology and their lyrics are full of serpents and anti-cosmic chaos. When you talk with them, you often can’t find real knowledge about those topics. This is dangerous, because you still open the door to these energies, no matter if you invoke them seriously or only „just for fun“. And there is one thing that those people often do not understand in my opinion: When you want to follow Satan, you only have to swim with the tide of our modern society, he is omnipresent. Continue with your slave-job, eat supermarket-rubbish, follow the ideology of mass media and Satan will for sure be your companion. This does not go well with the rebellish anti-social attitude within Black Metal.
Personally, I respect when bands create a really negative and chaotic atmosphere in their music but this does not correspond with my lifestyle and spirituality. I accept my own inner dark side, as well as the dark sides of this material sphere we live in, but I for myself do not intentionally focus on chaos and destruction. Also I do not believe that anyone can reach true fulfillment through Satan. This is why I actually do not want to call my music Black Metal, on the other hand, people have the constant need to label something. „Atmospheric music with inspiration from Black Metal and Folk“ would be too long, so I understand when my label „Alpine Black Metal“ will still be used in the future. But actually Rauhnåcht contains more colours, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.
What future plans do you have for Rauhnåcht?
The new album called Unterm Gipfelthron will be out in autumn. By the time this interview is online, maybe people will already know the label to release it, right now we did not make an official announcement yet. I still have some ambient material aside, also one long track with a lot of nature sounds and relatively pure arrangement, this is ready to be released on another split or „special release“. In the next years, I’d like to keep up with both, serious well-produced full length releases as well as more obscure, raw and limited stuff.
If you had to describe Rauhnåcht as a type of food, what would it be and why?
Bread baked in a wood-fired oven, smoked cheese on it, mountain herbs on top. And a glass of Zirbenschnaps.
Rauhnåcht contains more colors, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.