Update VIII – 1/18/2016

The zine has been updated featuring an interview with English Folk band Wolcensmen and reviews of Idis Orlog and Dark Awake! More interviews/reviews are currently being worked on (including a ‘special’ interview which will interest Dungeon Synth fans), so check back soon.

Dark Awake – Anunnaki (Review)

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Title: Anunnaki

Artist: Dark Awake

Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Martial Industrial / Dark Ambient

Year: 2014

Country: Greece

Label: WolfTyr Productions

Links: https://darkawake.bandcamp.com/album/anunnaki

Martial Industrial is a genre that I am very passionate about, although due to time constraints I’ve missed the opportunity to cover the genre in detail in the zine thus far. I’m pleased to feature Dark Awake’s album Anunnaki as the first Martial review in this zine.

There is one word that instantly comes to mind when listening to this album: Power. On their bandcamp page, Dark Awake write “Dark Awake’s brand new opus takes inspiration from the ancient gods of Mesopotamia, Anunnaki. Anunnaki are a race of superhumanly powerful humanoid beings who were once worshipped by several of the tribes and cultures of Mesopotamia”. The opening track Blut Ist Feurer immediately brings this idea to life. Aggressive military percussion is combined with hostile orchestral brass and bleak choirs, creating a sense of dread and also raw force. The orchestral strings and brass are arranged in a cinematic manner, adding a feeling of drama long lost since the glory days of Richard Wagner. This track (and the rest of the album) is easily on par with contemporary Martial acts such as BloodSoil or Legionarii.

The album moves beyond Martial Industrial in some moments, with dissonant ambient sections that add some much needed space to the music. These dark ambient passages allow the listener to catch a breath before being returned to the incredibly oppressive force of the Martial moments (“Virgo Lucifera” with it’s Latin choir chants and metallic synth pads being a fine example). While the album in general can be classified as Martial Industrial, there are some unique aspects that are not necessarily typical for the genre as well. The track “Decay” features spoken word and lyrics from the Greek poet Kostas Karyotakis. Spoken word in Martial music can be difficult to achieve, and Dark Awake succeeds yet again in this regard. “Towards the Nine Angels” features heavy cathedral organ and bells with a more traditional approach to Industrial percussion, highlighting the Industrial roots of the subgenre. The track “Virgo Lucifera” ends with tribal drumming, and “Thy Satyr” features Eastern styled pipe instrumentation. Dark Awake are able to combine many aspects of various genres and musical styles to create an album that is truly unique, without losing the atmosphere of a genuine Martial album.

The album is beautifully packaged in a digipak CD, featuring a full explanation of the metaphysical and philosophical ideology behind the album. The power of Dark Awake’s music is not found solely in the bombastic Martial moments, but in the bleak esoteric atmospheres of the ambient sections of the album as well. I highly recommend Anunnaki to fans of Martial Industrial who are looking for something that goes beyond the typical style of the genre, and appreciate music that is inspired by power and enlightenment.

Idis Örlög – Frøya og Svipdag and Songs from Njartharlåg (Review)

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Title: Frøya og Svipdag and Songs from Njartharlåg

Artist: Idis Örlög

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genre: Heathen Folk

Year: 2015

Country: Norway

Label: WolfTyr Productions

Links: http://idisorlog.bigcartel.com/product/frya-og-svipdag-and-songs-from-njartharlag

 

Idis Örlög is an acoustic Folk project from sole member Siv Idis, which is heavily rooted in Germanic lore. Musically Idis Örlög is based primarily around acoustic guitar and clean vocal performances, bringing to mind other similar acts such as Hagalaz’ Runedance or Carved In Stone. Other instruments (such as harp and fiddle) are used to enhance the atmosphere of the music, and includes guest performances from Runahild of Eliwagar (another talented Folk band from Norway).

One aspect of Idis Örlög’s music that I am very impressed by is the thoughtful concepts behind each song. The wonderfully packaged digipak CD contains a booklet with liner notes explaining the themes of each song, including lyrics (which alternate between English, German, and Norwegian). Songs dedicated to Frigga, the Norns, the cyclical nature of all things, and the historical worship of gods such as Tyr in areas of Scandinavia are covered, offering a wealth of genuine heathen inspiration that is presented with sincerity and respect. Drawing upon the literature of the Eddas and Nordic myths for inspiration, Idis Örlög can be seen as a medium for expressing deeper and more meaningful forces at work. In other words, this is not just another Folk band singing about Valhalla and other metal-esque clichés, but a more serious exploration of Germanic paganism and the worldview of our ancestors.

The track “Frøya og Svipdag” is a definite highlight of the album for me, although after several listens I found the album doesn’t have many “standout” tracks and is best listened to as a single listen. With this in mind, I found the inconsistency of production between some songs to be offsetting, but these are details that may not affect every listener. Idis Örlög has created an excellent tribute to our pagan past with this release, and is recommended for those who wish to escape the dreariness of the modern age.

Wolcensmen (Interview)

Wolcensmen is an English Folk band which was one of the first reviews I did for this zine. Wolcensmen instantly caught my attention with the first demo, and currently stands as one of my favorite Folk acts in the present day. In this interview I speak to the project’s mastermind Dan about the origins of the project, his musical and personal influences, and the upcoming debut album.

You can read the review for the Wolcensmen demo here: http://www.barbarianskull.com/wp/reviews/wolcensmen-demo-review/

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    • Wes hael Dan! Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull. Please introduce yourself and provide us with the history of Wolcensmen. What does the name Wolcensmen mean and what significance does it have to your music?

      And good health to you Nathan. Glad to be sharing thoughts with you. My musical background lies mainly in metal, among various acts which I won’t bore readers with. Wolcensmen was born of two epiphanies:

      1. Several years ago I found myself in a pub in Dublin, Ireland, enjoying the music of an Irish folk band. It dawned on me that England – my homeland – had no common counterpart to this; cultural outfits regularly entertaining locals. I stood there, in this Dublin pub, troubled by this, and resolved to do something about it. As it happens, the music I’d go on to record had none of the happy, merry-making appeal I’d first envisioned, but anyhow…

      2. I’d been a long time fan of acts such as Empyrium, Wongraven and Ulver. When I was about 15, in the late 90s, I would use my bedroom hi-fi to record two-part acoustic compositions in the vein of Ulver’s Kveldssanger album, early Opeth and all the moody acoustic interludes featured in 90s black metal albums by Abigor, Dissection, Satyricon etc. Friends would hear these tapes and praise my abilities. At the time I thought little of it and quickly reverted to writing metal, like a good teenage rebel.

      When the idea came to me, about 2010, to embark on a dark-folk project, I recalled the joy of composing basic acoustic parts all those years ago and sought to reignite that spark. In fact, I have ideas that are at least a decade old which may find their way onto future Wolcensmen recordings.

      As for the name – long story short – it began as ‘Welkin’ (the middle English word for ‘heavens’) + ‘men’. Originally I saw it being a genuine collective of musicians playing folk instruments – a band, hence ‘men’. Also, ‘-kinsmen’ would have been a component of the name. The theme of the project began to solidify as being specifically a celebration of old England, so ‘welkin’ regressed to its old English counterpart ‘wolcen’, and runic significance sprung therefrom. It incorporates certain esoteric properties which are intrinsic to the music. In short: a longing for greatness in man.

    • Wolcensmen is religiously Heathen folk music, which immediately separates the project from the thousands of bands that are inspired by the Germanic mythology of the past but still believe it to be nothing but “superstition”. How do you feel about heathen music today, are there any particular projects that you support?

      It is true that Heathenry, to me, is more than a mere set of metaphors within which to find guidance. Few musicians can bring themselves to endorse pagan lore entirely, often looking to excuse ‘primitive’ belief by redefining or misconceiving the way in which their forefathers saw the world; essentially naming it – as you rightfully put it – ‘superstition’. With Wolcensmen the intention is to treat the people of pre-Christian Europe with the utmost dignity, never pretending to be more enlightened than they. I don’t spend time worrying about the integrity of pagan-themed bands, but it doesn’t escape my attention that many of them have a strangely materialist conception of the religion(s) they celebrate thematically.

      Great music is certainly made by bands who probably don’t share my philosophy, but some bands I know who do express a deeper realisation of Heathenry are: Byrdi, Eliwagar, RunaFolk, Athelruna, Syven and a little-known act called Wardruna. Hexvessel also, in a slightly different way perhaps.I’m sure there are many others but it’s generally difficult to know their inner-thoughts and beliefs.

 

    • Another highlight of Wolcensmen is that each song is heavily based on heathen lore. How do you choose what themes or subjects you would like to focus on in a song? Does the concept come first, or the music?

      The music always comes first, because – without trying to sound too abstract – that’s where the real message is conveyed, as opposed to lyrics which put forth a more rigid thought pattern. What I mean by this is that, words are a tool, and if their purpose is to inform and instruct, then they don’t necessarily do anything that wordless music cannot do on a deeper, more ‘gnostic’ level. For example, a far stronger mythical, Heathen message can be gleaned when listening to an instrumental album like Woodsmoke by Nest than can be gotten from listening to something by Amon Amarth with all of its pagan Norse lyrical sensibility. No offence to Amon Amarth; they just illustrate my point quite well.

      That said, your question didn’t actually ask about lyrics but about concept. Instrumental songs can be written conceptually. I never set out with a theme in mind when conjuring the first musical ideas, but I think everything Wolcensmen does is attuned to a particular mood, and therefore all musical parts must convey that. Lyrics tend to be an afterthought, although it is still deeply important to me to get them right and to ensure that the lyrical message suits the music.

 

    • Although Wolcensmen is a traditional folk band, you’ve mentioned that you are inspired by a variety of different bands, including Metal bands such as Empyrium, Virgin Steele, and Isengard (all of these are favorites here at Barbarian Skull as well). How do these non-folk influences manifest in Wolcensmen? Do you believe there are parallels between Metal and Folk music?

      Firstly, I really wouldn’t say Wolcensmen is traditional folk, nor neo-folk. The themes, modes and melodies have a very old English feel to them but beyond this I’ve made little effort to remain traditional. My music is gloomier at times and incorporates a lot of synth – these are definitely two things drawn from my non-folk musical tastes and influences. Actually, I’ve always felt that ambient synth parts are strangely underused in neo-folk, dark-folk – whatever you want to call it – and felt that I could really make effective use of them to bolster the immersive atmospheres I try to create. I’m actually quite inspired by 80s synth use in this sense. There was something very resonant about the instrument sounds of that decade, if not the compositions themselves.

      It has always been the atmosphere of metal, rather than its technical veneer, which truly drew me in. Of course, the way that the moods are delivered contributes to the mood itself, but what I hear in a lot of metal is trulyancient, or at the very least classical in its spirit. Virgin Steele really bring ancient, pagan history to life and the music itself feels as though it hearkens from Mount Olympus. As childish as this may sound, I truly believe that a Teutonic or Spartan warrior would find more familiarity in (good) heavy metal music than anything else the modern age has to offer. Black metal – which is ultimately what led to Wolcensmen’s existence – is, to me, National Romanticism embodied. It invites the listener to revisit a wilder, more noble, free and mystical time. It is a romantic form of folk music; inaccessible for the sole purpose of repelling the failings of modern man. Acoustic or ambient-synth music which has its roots in 90s black and doom metal, like Wolcensmen, shares the same heart and spirit as black metal but delivered in a less rebellious manner.

 

  • The Wolcensmen demo consisted of a variety of instruments from strings to synthesizers, do you plan on incorporating any new instruments in future releases? 

    The forthcoming album features flute, piano and new synth sounds.There is really no limitation on the instruments and sounds Wolcensmen might employ in future – whatever serves the atmosphere. The only thing I will be making a conscious effort to change are the drums. Expect them to be less ‘rock’, more ‘tribal’ in future.

  • Your demo originally consisted of three songs, and was released on tape by the excellent German label Deivlforst Records with two bonus tracks included. How was this tape version of the demo received? Do you plan to continue to work with Deivlforst for future releases? 

    The tape was better received than I could have hoped for – the small run of 50 selling out within just a couple of weeks I think. When I first recorded the demo it was duplicated on 30 CD-Rs and pieced together by hand as just that –an old-fashioned demo. I sent a few to record-labels and gave the rest to friends. After that I decided to make it available for free on bandcamp until the arrangement with Deivlforst came about. They wanted to re-release it on cassette with the only other two songs I’d recorded – both of which had until then been exclusive to compilation albums. Deivlforst will certainly be releasing the debut album on some physical format this year; beyond that, I don’t know yet.

  • In addition to the tape release done by Deivlforst, you also designed layouts for Deivlforst artists Murgrind and Grimrik, including artwork for the newest Grimrik album and contributed a guest guitar solo. What other projects have you contributed to or are involved with currently? 

    Professionally, I am a graphic designer and take great pleasure helping musicians realise the visual side of their work. No other guest contributions to speak of really, just a string of varied musical endeavours over the years which I’d rather not bore readers with. Since the beginning of 2015 I also play lead guitar in Winterfylleth.

  • At the time of this interview Wolcensmen is in the process of creating a full length album. What can you reveal to us about the album at this time? What canfans of the demo expect from the full length? 

    Yes, the debut album will be out well within the first half of 2016 and I am being rather more precious over it than I intended to be (or have the time to be, frankly). It dawned on me once recording got underway that this was going to be my most important musical project to date, for various reasons. Because of that I was emboldened to take great care over it, so I can guarantee it being a step up from the demo in all ways. Songwriting, performance and production are all improved. It will be called ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ – the meaning of which might be better discussed once the album is released. It will consist of nine songs, and features contributions from several musicians from around the world who I have great respect for and am honoured to have involved.

  • Ultimately, what is it that you’d like to express most with your music? 

    My own self, put bluntly! The meaning of this Earthly existence is for each individual to leave something positive, noble and meaningful behind when we are gone. Whatever I achieve with Wolcensmen will be to this end. On another level, Wolcensmen exists for a specific purpose: to inspire people to reconnect with their ancestors and the old ways of their people. It is Romanticism – not in anunrealistic sense but in an idealistic  Don’t settle for what is, strive for what could be. Mankind’s story is cyclical, and the only reason we as a species even know to tell tales of chivalry and godlike wonder (Tolkien, Arthurian legend, the Norse Sagas…) is because these things have existed before and will exist again. I’d like Wolcensmen to be a small beacon of light in an age of darkness; a small reminder to those not yet dead inside to maintain their inner-spark whilst many of those around them have let it die, wanting for nothing more than to consume and follow.

  • Thanks again for taking the time to answer this interview Dan! We are looking forward to hearing more from you here at Barbarian Skull. Any last words areyours! 

    Thanks again Nathan – great questions which I enjoyed giving thought to. Wolcensmen is a small, scarcely known entity at present and the interest and support in recent months from true lovers of the art such as yourself has been humbling. It’s rare for an act who’ve only released a demo to be given a platform like this and I’m grateful. I hope the readers enjoyed our discussion and I’d just ask them to spread the word about Barbarian Skull and Wolcensmen (and indeed all small bands whose music they appreciate) because chances are that you’re one of a very small number who are even aware of what we do. Musicians feed off of praise (whether they like to admit it or not). The forthcoming Wolcensmen album would probably not exist had the demo been ignored, so your support really does cause good music to come into existence. Thank you.