Empyrium: A Retrospective 1996-1999

One band that has been a huge foundation for me and my interests in neofolk, classical and black metal is the band Empyrium from Germany. When I first got my hands on “Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays” back in the early 2000s I was immediately hooked to the dark, bardic melodies of Empyrium that allowed me to appreciate the beauty of night and all its mystery and wonders. Since getting lost in their music and diving into their discography deeper and deeper I have grown to develop an affinity to what the world offers when the sun sets. Another element to Empyrium’s music is how much their music hits me in my emotional core. I always found ways to escape the negatives of my existence by getting lost in the enchanting music of Schwadorf (Markus Stock), and Thomas Helm.

I have decided to start another run of mini reviews of Empyrium’s discography and will be beginning with their early albums from 1996 until 1999.  I would say the first half of Empyrium’s works where revolutionary during the times of the big three doom metal giants (Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost). Also, their music gave the world a hint of what German black metal could sound like influenced by Ulver’s original black metal trilogy specifically “Kveldssanger” with these first three albums. I would say these years of Empyrium were full of creative, and innovative fire because hearing these earlier works were nothing I have really heard before when I got into underground metal.

A Wintersunset… (1996) 8/10

I listened to this album later in my foray into Empyrium’s music. Hearing “A Wintersunset…” shows a youthful energy that has a mystical even dreamlike quality to the music and production. There are obvious goth tinges mixed in with classical music, and black/doom metal. It reminds me of all the thoughts and memories I have had in my later teens and early twenties regarding melancholia and yearning, but also, escaping from a banal existence. The album evokes misty images of fall and wintertime and wandering through woods and meadows engulfed in the elements. It gives a warm, cold, and even hazy energy to the listening experience. I rate this album a little bit lower because there is a definite naivety to the album, and I think it just comes with being Empyrium’s first album. What makes it such a good album is the fact it gives a precursor to how much Empyrium has grown as musicians in future albums. Best Songs: Under Dreamskies, The Franconian Woods in Winter’s Silence, and The Yearning

Songs of Moors & Misty Fields (1997) 9/10

A year later Empyrium released easily one of their best albums in “Songs of Moors & Misty Fields” hearing this album takes you on a journey unlike any album I have heard. There is a real sense of mystery, wonderment, pain, sadness, and pensiveness to the writing in this album. It takes you down multiple paths to venture and always gives you a beautiful end to the different song trails. The album has a knack for giving real emotions about the sadness of love both unrequited and ending. There is a genuine sense of vulnerability and frustration in both the instruments and lyrics. I think it is one Empyrium’s most well-rounded and consistent albums. The songs are all great quality with great imagery abound. It hits all the right black, doom, goth, and folk notes in every single song. It is the perfect atmospheric record to listen to and it does an incredible job getting you lost in its various nooks and crannies throughout. Best Songs: The Blue Mists of Night, Lover’s Grief, and The Ensemble of Silence

Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays (1999) 10/10

Surprisingly “Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays” was my first real introduction to the neofolk/dark folk sound. It is to this day my all time favorite Empyrium record. When I first got the CD and put it into my player I was immediately lost in the bardic, mystical, and medieval sounds of the album. I absolutely loved the vocals it brought out the dreamlike vibe to the album in a multitude of ways. The album brought me back to ancient times of decrepit castles, wandering ghosts, dark woods, and meadows dancing with mist and fireflies. There is a real sense of pastoral nature throughout the record. Hearing the album while driving at night in the woods of New Hampshire is the perfect place and time to get lost in the music and imagery. When it comes to a potential soundtrack of night and its mysteries “Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays” is the way to go. Best Songs: All of them!

Bandcamp: https://empyrium.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Empyriumfans

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4zDkgQanNydhYIqQwQK9Ct/discography

A Conversation with Kim Larsen from Of the Wand the Moon

It is getting colder, and darker out these days in New Hampshire and the changing of the seasons means the darker and introspective elements of myself come out. Nothing is as dark and as introspective as the music of Kim Larsen and his project Of the Wand and the Moon from Denmark. To wrap up my articles on this brilliant and emotional dark folk project Kim took time out of his busy schedule to answer some in-depth questions in the interview below. He gives us glimpses of what lies behind the music and why he spent 22 years creating a world of such stark, and compelling music that has touched so many people over the years.

I appreciate Kim taking the time to answer my questions knowing how reclusive and private of a person he is. He shows depth, intelligence, humor and care in his answers and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. His new album “Your Love Can’t Hold this Wreath of Sorrow” is out now and it is absolutely required listening (you can purchase the album with the links following the end of the interview).

Photo – @kimsolve

Hello Kim, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me!

I guess my first question for you, is could you tell us your origin story Of the Wand and the Moon and how it was conceived?

“Hello Ryan, thank you for the questions. It has been a while since I gave any interviews. So please excuse me if some answers might be short.

Somehow it feels like walking in your own thoughts and then someone coming up asking you about something. Caught off guard.

But I’ll do my best.

I used to play in a doom metal band called Saturnus. At the same time, I was very much into music such as Current 93 and playing classical guitar. So, I incorporated this more, apocalyptic folk music into Saturnus (alongside the doom metal). Eventually the more acoustic ideas and compositions became too many to use for that band, and along the way I wanted to have a purer outlet for those ideas. And the other guys didn’t have the same love for this kind of dark/apocalyptic folk music. So, a natural step was to do my own project. In the beginning I hooked up with a female vocal duo that was doing singing in old Norse etc. But we weren’t really on the same page. I wanted something a bit darker, I guess. So, in the end I thought it be easier to just go ahead and do everything myself.”

At one point during an interview, you mentioned the style of music for Of the Wand and the Moon as “loner folk” could give us a more detailed definition of “loner folk” and what it genuinely means to you?

“It was a term that I heard from my co-producer Mikkel who recorded the new album. Guess it was more coined on musicians such as Dave Bixby, Bob Theil, Simon Finn etc etc. People who kind of got lost in time and were rediscovered decades after making some legendary albums. However, I felt somehow it matched pretty well where I had moved on to musically and lyrically. I really feel my music moved in another direction from when I first started out Of The Wand And The Moon. Not sure if you could call it folk nowadays even. Of course, there is some essence from the beginning but…yeah. There’s a lot of jazzy trumpets on the new stuff. And more of a 60s rock/folk band feel over it all, I think. It’s difficult for me to explain the style to be honest.

Anyway, loved that description…”

A common element to your music and lyrics is the concepts of love lost and regained and lost again. I noticed this as a very common theme in most of your discography, what made you want to pursue these themes to begin with?

“Never really planned out that this is the way the lyrics or music should be. Just my nature as a person, I guess. Hard to say what sparked that line of expression. But of course, things happening in my life pushed these thoughts and lyrics. Perhaps just trying to give a little back to the world what the world had to offer me …haha.”

How would you describe your creation process, are there any rituals or interesting things you do to help you write your music and come up with your ideas?

“No rituals really. Just must be in the mood and wanting to pick up the guitar or fumble around on the keyboard or whatever. Sometimes I can think of a line or watch something in a movie which will inspire a quote or a line. But usually just sitting down with the guitar. Compose the music. And then the lyrics will come after. The name Of The Wand And The Moon came into place as I used to do my music at night. And at the beginning I was somewhat into magick, runes etc. hence the “Wand” reference.”

Another element I noticed in your themes is nature and old faiths and such what drew you to these ideas for your music for Of the Wand and the Moon?

“I think this was mostly in the beginning of the band. I would read a lot about runes and magick as it was an interest at the time. Go to the royal/university library in Copenhagen and go through books on rune stones, mythology, and stuff like that. It’s more of a personal and intuitive thing these days. Like seeing signs and runes in building’s shapes for instance. But not really a big topic in the lyrical universe now.”

How important is Denmark to you and your writing process? Does it play a key role in influencing your ideas at all?

“I guess it has a huge role as the winters here are very long and dark. And it takes a big toll on my mood. Not good for my depressions. Probably not good for my production in those months either. But perhaps some work comes out of it after all.”

Another thing I noticed in your albums and music videos is a homage to old black and white films and you directly quote from these films too in some of your songs. What are the names of some of these movies and what do you recommend to our readers?

“Think those movies just somehow made sense to use. I have a nostalgia for those old movies. Love the works of Fritz Lang. So, the movie Spione was an obvious choice to add to some video. And movies like Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Le Feu Follet, Bonjour Tristesse etc. And later movies such as Taxi Driver had a lot of impact on me. I could go on. Anyway, just seemed to fit perfectly with the universe of the music.”

Of the Wand the Moon has been lumped into the neo-folk scene for many years now, what is your take on the scene and how has your experiences been with the musicians and bands you played with over the years?

“I am really grateful for all the experiences and the friendships from the scene. Also, people I was a fan of became friends. Had very magickal moments along the way for sure. But I don’t really want to get stuck. And repeat and repeat. Things will inevitably change…the way of life.”

Where do you see the dark folk scene going now in 2021? Nighttime Nightrhymes came out back in 1999. Has there been a huge shift in interest since then from your personal perspective?

“I don’t really sit and ponder about where things are changing regarding music. Maybe some young people will come along and pick up the torch and blow our minds. Who knows…?

All I know is that I’m always striving to make my own music better. For me. In my own little world. Whether or not people will like it.”

What was the main influences and feelings you were going through in the writing process of “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow”?

“The usual, I think. The pain of lost love. The pain of having to move along alone. Nostalgia. Solitude. Memories. All the good things in life haha…”

There is an almost romantic urbanism found throughout the album, prior Of the Wand the Moon albums had a distinct nature/pastoral feel while the new album is the complete opposite. What made you want to go in this direction?

“I just wanted to open up the universe of the music to not get stuck in the old ways. To be honest I think I am somehow going back in time to when I was in my teens. The memories and the sounds I was exposed to then. As a kid I would go with my friends to these abandoned sites, run down areas where I grew up. Where nature took over the concrete and what have you. Music wise there is a straight line from my father’s record collection as well, I think. The bass sound. The tic tac bass is the sound of the records my father had and that I was listening to when I was very young. The “Je t’aime moi non plus” single with Serge Gainsbourg (with “Jane B” on the B side). The Beatles “Rubber Soul” and “Help”. The trumpet fetish I think came from watching an ancient Danish crime series called “En by i provinsen”. The intro theme had some trumpet that stuck with me I think. My father was also a big fan of jazz. Miles Davis and such. I would also sometimes record the music and dialogue from movies off the TV on my cassette tape recorder when I was a kid. Like “Escape From New York”, “The Warriors” etc. A lot of these things made a big impact on me.

I am curious about your reasoning for writing the songs “Fall From View” and “Williamsburg Bridge” they seem to be almost jarring to the flow of the album in a completely good way. What message were you trying to convey in those tracks?

“Williamsburg Bridge was a kind of intro to Nothing For Me Here. And the title was a homage to a night walk with a good friend of mine, Luke, over that same bridge when I visited New York years ago. Again, perhaps some reconnection with imagery of my childhood memories, movies, and such. And all the sudden, seeing/being in it myself in some strange way these many years after. “Fall From View” was a somewhat purging/cleansing of depressive thoughts. Not sure how to otherwise put it.”

The trumpet plays a huge part in a lot of the songs in the new album (it seemed to be used sparingly in “The Lone Descent”) what about this instrument? Because to me it fits perfectly in the mood and feel of the new album.

“I met Bo Rande the trumpet player many years ago, watching him play for the band Blue Foundation. Which he is still playing in. I asked him to play on “The Lone Descent” album and he agreed. While he recorded the stuff for that album, I was in such an awe of his playing, his technique, that I said to myself, “the next album I will do he has to have more songs to play on.” So made room on the new songs for him to throw in a solo or a part. Can’t praise him enough. At the recording sessions, everything he recorded we could use. Was just a matter of choosing. So wonderful.”

What is the overall message you want listeners to feel and understand about “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” what should we pay attention to or be aware of in the listening experience?

“I just hope people will enjoy the music. There is no message as such I want to pass on.

It’s a painting I painted. Just enjoy it for what it is.”

Out of all the Of the Wand and the Moon albums you created, which one would you say is your most favorite album as well as your least favorite?

“The new album is my favourite. I don’t have a least favourite. They all had their place in time.

I really don’t listen to my old stuff. Apart from playing it live. When it’s done it’s done for me, and I’m off to another place trying to do something new.”

What are some of your interests outside of music? Are there any surprising aspects of you (Kim Larsen) that fans would be interested to know?

“Haha…don’t really know what would be interesting. I love taking rides on my bicycle around Copenhagen in the summertime (which is too short). Sometimes taking rides to places or streets I haven’t been down before. Discovering new areas of the city and surroundings.”

How would you describe your music to someone who may not be familiar with Of the Wand and the Moon?

“It’s really difficult for me as I’m not a music journalist. Perhaps, melancholic music that were inspired by 60s soundtracks and acts such as Lee Hazlewood, Serge Gainsbourg, The Beatles, loner folk and of course my starting point of the dark folk/neofolk/whatever genre. Apart from that I don’t know…”

And finally, do you have any closing words for our readers?

“Love is made of dreams and dreams are made of hope and hope will smother dreams and dreams will smother love! But remember…the tears are free!”

CD: https://tesco-germany.com/…/of-the-wand-the-moon-your…/

Bandcamp: https://tescogermany.bandcamp.com/…/your-love-cant-hold…

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3NyIa5rnbzdjLg6cJiEbbF

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wandmoon

Of the Wand and The Moon “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” Review

It is about 10:30PM here in New Hampshire and I have a glass of scotch nearby as I write this. The nights are growing cooler, and the air feels like the crisp crunch of fallen leaves. The smell of chimney smoke permeates the cloudless star-filled sky reminding me that the slow death and decay of the earth is upon us. This time of year, when the Autumn Equinox has arrived is a perfect time than any to hear the haunting lamentations of Kim Larsen’s new Of the Wand and the Moon album “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow”. I was graciously given a promo of the new album and got to spend a long, long time giving it a listen and think it is one of Larsen’s best works. It has been eleven long years since “The Lone Descent” and I can say “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow is a fantastic follow-up in every sense of the word.

One thing about Of the Wand and the Moon is I always stumbled upon his albums at times that are very difficult in my life. I always felt a sense of synchronicity when I listen to Larsen’s music. It is like the music and lyrics reflect my life in the uncanniest way all the years I have been a fan. Larsen has a supernatural knack for writing music that not only is dark and depressing in nature but also so relevant to my life and many others who have gotten the pleasure of stumbling upon his music. “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” arrived in my inbox during an incredibly painful transition in my life. Every lyric, note, and image just overwhelmed me with emotion I haven’t felt in a long while. I am brave enough to admit that this album caused me to get misty eyed on more than one occasion because of how on-point the album parallels to my recent heartache.

I would call “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” an album that is incredibly cinematic and almost a concept album in many ways. If you were to describe the highs, lows, beginnings and ends of relationships this album eerily hits all those moments and feelings to a raw, vulnerable degree. For me, I was in a two-year long relationship which took me to the old, beautiful, dirty streets of Dublin, Ireland. The idea of romance in a city and the inevitable end is very pronounced in a multitude of ways in “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” Larsen takes many daring streets of almost making Of the Wand and the Moon urbanized compared to the typical rural, and pastoral feel of earlier albums. At first this may sound jarring, but it works in many incredible, clever, and creative ways. I think it makes the music more powerful to hear because a lot of my past pains happened in big cities.

To me the city is a place with so many stories, people, thoughts, and feelings. When I wandered the streets of Dublin, NYC, Salt Lake City, Boston, and Portland I could feel and even see a dreamlike romance of two lovers in a smoky bar I could see a jilted lover openly weeping on a park bench underneath dirty streetlight. Larsen completely takes these concepts and runs with them. The two songs that really hit these ideas to the fullest extent is “Let’s Take a Ride (My Love)” and “There’s Nothing for Me Here” I cannot stop listening to these songs because not only are they beautiful, but catchy (which is unusual for Of the Wand and The Moon).

There is a ton of wonderful dark folk songs to be had in the album and all the songs hit so many emotions. Though, there are three songs that are unique that took me longer to understand and digest. The first track “Fall From View” it starts out as an ambient, amorphous entity that starts quiet and goes down a chaotic (even nightmarish) rabbit hole that is very uncomfortable to listen to (in the best possible way) to me the song reminds me of the many sleepless nights where I can’t shut down my brain and I think the worst of the worst. Then, I eventually go into restless sleep and have nightmares that haunt me even when I have been long awake. The second track is “Les Journées Sans Fin Et Les Nuits Solitaires (Endless Days and Lonely Nights)” it is a very quiet song that reminds me of the “Nighttime Nightrhymes” song “The Substance of Simplicity” it has this beautiful, airy, and ethereal female vocal chant happening throughout the song and then a female monologue spoken in French filters through the chants and gentle acoustic strumming. To me it is a song giving the perspective of relationships and how one wishes things could have been different and feels guilt around what transpired, also there is a sense of longing and thinking of when things were beautiful and full of life in the beginning. The final unique track is a quick minute and a half instrumental called “Williamsburg Bridge” to me it is the closest you could get to the atmosphere, and energy of life in the big city at night it sounds so lonely and isolating even among the roiling sea of humanity around you. This quick song really sticks with you long after you hear it.

One thing that really stands out with not only “The Lone Descent” but “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” is when Kim Larsen incorporates more guest musicians to his vision. You notice a massive surge in sound and feeling in the songs and almost a bombast compared to quiet contemplation in earlier albums. I think with contributing musicians to Of the Wand and the Moon’s music it makes the emotions more intense in the songs. The one standout is the trumpeting work of Bo Rande never have I heard a trumpet make my eyes well up more than the trumpet work in “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” it somehow gives the songs a whole new meaning and fits the citylike feel of the songs to an even greater extent. Rande’s talents give me a whole new perspective on the beauty of the iconic brass horn and how it can be used perfectly in dark folk music.

There are so many dichotomies found throughout “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” there is a constant sense of movement, transitioning, and eventual healing after so much pain and heartache. When an album can genuinely hit your core, it is a masterpiece in my opinion. To me “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” is exactly this. I think Kim Larsen nailed it in ever sense of the word yet again. I sense this album is going to get many, many hundreds of listens in the foreseeable future. I have finished my glass of scotch and feel like after going through the journey that is “Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath of Sorrow” I can honestly say it helped me close that chapter of Dublin in my life, and now I can move forward to new horizons though guarded but hopeful all the same.

Rating 10/10

Bandcamp: https://tescogermany.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wandmoon

Of the Wand and the Moon…When Love Ends

Photo Captured by: Marquis Xavier

I have once again been on a bit of hiatus with my blog and I am sorry for being so behind on things. It has been a really stressful couple months with both my personal life and stuff happening within my family. The one constant that has eaten up my emotional and mental energy was a two year long distance relationship that came to an end in the most awful of ways. I started thinking more about my past relationships and how often I end up choosing the wrong people or the timing is just not right. Love is one of those emotions that has so many roads and meandering paths that lead to good as well as bad outcomes. It has led to me thinking deeply about the concept and how as of now I have yet to find a relationship that is good and stays that way (even when difficulties arise).

Nightime Nightrhymes (1999)

The more I think about this the more I have come to the conclusion that there is one musical project that has always been there for me to help me understand and navigate the painful aspects of relationships ending as well as the experiences dealing with unrequited love. That project is Of the Wand and the Moon which was conceived by Kim Larsen out of Denmark. I first heard about Of the Wand and the Moon (:OTWATM:) from Don Anderson of Agalloch fame. I remember to this day emailing him and asking for suggestions about neofolk projects that helped influence Agalloch’s music (especially from The Mantle), and he recommended :OTWATM:. So I started scouring the internet to learn more about this project and found the album “Nighttime Nightrhymes” that came out back in 1999. When I received the CD in the mail I put it into my stereo and was immediately blown away about how beautiful, dark, and painful the music was. There was a stripped down, and vulnerable aspect to the album that was mostly acoustic guitar and whispered lamentations. It immediately hit me in such a way that when I even hear “Nighttime Nightrhymes” to this day I am still awestruck at how much it hits home. The is one specific song on the album that I listen to all the time (probably in thousands over the years) called “I Crave For You” the lyrics are as follows:

“I crave for you
And the incense of night
To bathe
In the flame of your light
Cold pale in sorrow
In the tears that followed
The years that swallowed
The innocence of my love
I crave for you…”

I think this song above all other Of the Wand and the Moon songs stands out as the most on point song that has summarized my relationship history over the years. I was always put into really difficult situations and was tricked by what I thought love was. In the end I was always put through a veritable buzzsaw and came out scarred and bloody every single time and it took me years and years to recover and be myself again. But the thing is this has happened over, over, and over again. I have yet to be in a loving relationship that helped me heal my scars and stem my blood loss. I have become so disillusioned and jaded to the point that I didn’t even think of dating for almost 5 years. And now the cycle of pain has started anew, and now Of the Wand and the Moon is consistently in rotation to remind me that Kim Larsen has been through his own relationship hellscapes and the emotions that come from navigating those hellscapes. What I can say about sad and dark music is that it has always helped me move towards healing because it reminds me that I am not as alone as I think I am.

Bridges Burned and Hands of Time (2019)

I think another aspect of :OTWATM:’s music is how much it reflects the dreams I have had over the years and the feelings and emotions that come with them. Whenever a relationship ends in the most awful and traumatic ways in my life there are always recurring places or situations I am put into within my subconscious. There is another song from Of the Wand and the Moon, “I Called Your Name” that reflects what sometimes happens in my dreams:

A fire lost at the cost of love
my stare bares witness to the demons I fought
the things we won’t do for love

And I called your name in vain – in vain
loves my bane and time marches on

Four years till this day in this slow decay
a prayer for an end and you’re far away
you’re far away…”

Typically I see myself in a wood that has multiple rooted paths, or I see myself in a giant house that has stairways that lead nowhere or somewhere. One time I would take a path or a stairway and end up being in a downtown part of a city that I am familiar with, and I see through the sea of people my ex walking around or with someone else and I always yell at the top of my lungs their name and they don’t listen. It is like I am surrounded by soundproof glass or in a different parallel world that only allows me to see over interacting with them.

Emptiness: Emptiness: Emptiness: (2001)

My mind is such a vast and sometimes scary place to navigate because when I love someone so deeply I am devoted and loyal and true to them to a fault and it often takes me a long time (years even) to get over someone I have fallen so deeply in love with. I sense their energy, scent, and see them everywhere in my peripheral vision. I don’t know why I get haunted by my past loves but in some weird way it helps me find closure (it just takes longer). All these thoughts and feelings always fall back to the songs Kim Larsen has written. His lyrics are so on point and the emotions and feelings he invokes in his music exactly reflects every single one of my experiences of losing love and the pain that follows with it. A song that really kind of hits all the points in my experiences, healing and recovery is “Can I Erase the Demon?”:

“I see it’s growing darker
And darker still
I see my heart growing darker

And darker still
I felt your heart growing darker
And darker still
I see this life growing darker
And darker still

Can I erase the demon?
Can I ever fill the hole?
Will I see the stars
And start anew?”

The Lone Descent (2011)

It is always such a dark and melancholic moment dealing with the aftermath of a long, hard, and loving (?) relationship especially with what I am currently navigating these past couple weeks. I thought I would not feel all the anguish, loss, and shock of losing someone I love but it happened again and I hope it is the last time I am going through these trials and tribulations in regards to relationships. I definitely feel like I have paid my dues tenfold with the most immense heartache that came with it. I am ready to press forward and find someone who loves me for me and will be there with me through the good and the bad. I am forever grateful to have stumbled upon Of the Wand and the Moon. The music has been my constant companion and reminded me that the feelings and emotions I have dealt with are normal and not too uncommon either. Misery, anger, sadness, wistfulness, nostalgia and memory are always going to be commonalities in regards to love and relationships. If I can think of one last song that helps me move forward would be “Watch the Skyline Catch Fire”:

“Words ring hollow
Clouds draw in
Discouraged
Spring rides on
Embrace the solitude
The fruit of life
Sorrow deep
Impenetrable
Watch the skyline catch fire
Strangers come and go
There’s death on your lips
I never knew
Our tears are water
Under the bridge
A distant memory
Before I go to sleep
Watch the skyline catch fire
Swallows come and go
I was never really here
But these streets know my name
Behold…”

All lyrics by Kim Larsen

Bandcamp: https://tescogermany.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wandmoon

Aerial Ruin/Bell Witch “Stygian Bough Volume I” Review

It has been a great while since I have updated my blog. 2020 was a really stressful and trying year (also for many other people). Because of the pandemic and working from home for over thirteen months now, I have lost interest in writing consistently. Now I feel like I am good to write again after much-needed multiple vacations in Ireland. I wanted to write a review for an album that has really been in consistent rotation since the album’s release and has really hit my emotions I have been dealing with when COVID became a thing. This album is “Stygian Bough Volume I” a collaborative project by Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch. I would say if I could choose one album that has hit all the right notes for these dark times “Stygian Bough Volume I” is that album!

This album hits the darkness, intensity, and emotional ruin of Bell Witch’s music. While also including the airy, melancholic, and withdrawn hopelessness of Aerial Ruin. I have a huge reverence and love for both these bands and hearing this collaborative project between the two is absolute musical gold. If I were to choose an album that fits my recent emotional trials and tribulations, this would be it. There are so many moods and feelings throughout the five tracks of “Stygian Bough Volume I” that it has been a cathartic and important listening experience for me. Listening to the album takes patience, determination, and grit to get through. There is nothing catchy about the album. What it lacks in earworms it more than makes up for in musical vistas of suffocating darkness, death and retribution.

Photo By: Makenzie Stone

The album begins with the stunning track “The Bastard Wind” it starts out with Erik Moggridge’s sorrowful voice and acoustic strumming and I picture an image of someone standing on a cliff side overlooking a calm sea shrouded in fog and moonlight. There is darkness everywhere and a sense of loneliness and apprehension. As the song progresses we are introduced to a wall of bass feedback and riffs by Dylan Desmond of Bell Witch and that calm sea ends up roiling and raging as a storm rolls in from the firmament. There is a sense of absolute anger and rage at the world as the song grows heavier and heavier. This ties directly to the funeral marching beats and fills of Bell Witch’s Jesse Shreibman’s drumming talents. That cold loneliness I felt in the first half of the song leads to overwhelming anger and sadness in the second half of the song. Throughout the massive sound and growls from Bell Witch, Moggridge’s voice filters through the storm as a strong and steadfast sentinel standing firm in the sea. The storm rages but there is a sense of calm and balance like the beam of a lighthouse guiding you out of the dark.

As the “The Bastard Wind” dissipates, we are then introduced to a 13-minute acoustic driven song called “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” while the first song gave a sense of looking over the raging sea this song gives a sense of wandering an endless labyrinth of trees in perpetual twilight. The sudden emotional highs and lows of “The Bastard Wind” has transitioned to a feeling of stasis/numbness in a forest of emotional limbo. There is a sense of peaceful uease in the song, like walking without disturbances but feeling like someone or something is following you. It gives a sense of creeping doom that you really aren’t completely safe from whatever is stalking you. As the song ends we are then introduced to a sea of feedback and drones that leads to one of the quicker songs on the album “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” this is a powerful, intense and moving piece of music that overwhelms the senses with despair and sadness. The way the guitars, bass, drums and vocals swirl in with one another is otherworldly and emotionally draining. It is like all the feelings from the prior two songs have unearthed almost a madness of the mind where there is no control but just utter mental/emotional wreckage. As the song progresses it suddenly comes to a close with an instrumental interlude called “Prelude” where the madness subsides and there is just silence in a void with quiet contemplation. Then the song ends and we are introduced to one of the best closing songs in a metal album I have heard in a long while, “The Unbodied Air”. 

If I were to describe the sound of “The Unbodied Air” it is literally all the emotional hills and valleys the whole “Stygian Bough Volume I” album puts the listener through coming to a crushing and apocalyptic end. The growls are on the forefront in the first half of the song and it makes a setting of being lost and ripped to shreds within the ominous and destructive clouds of severe thunderstorms. Hail hits your flesh and causes you to bleed, the electricity of lighting courses through your nervous system making you feel like you are dying over and over again. There is no sense of calm. You are continuously tumbling, and tumbling in endless storms without a sense of direction or even a sense of self. Eventually the winds subside and you feel the lashing cold rain hit your face. It almost brings you a sense of relaxation, but you know a storm of hail and lightning could hit you when you least expect it. Though as the song progresses it is almost as if the storm is dissipating. The rain is not as overwhelming, it seems to fall lighter and the warmth of the sun enters this aggressive, and deadly weather system. You feel a balance of warmth and cool. As soon as you hear Erik Moggridge’s ethereal voice come out of the fog you see land surrounded by roiling and churning ocean waves. 

Photo By: Lauren Lamp

There is shade standing in the middle of granite monoliths stacked perfectly and organized. Your soul drifts to the land like a slowly falling leaf. And you join the shade and your soul becomes flesh and you come to see this land goes on forever. There are endless mountains, rivers, streams and green trees lying before you. “The Unbodied Air” ends with a crescendo of vocals, drum beats and waves of guitar/bass feedback. Everything sounds organized and even hopeful. The emotionally draining journey of “Stygian Bough Volume I” ends and your mind and soul is once again full of life and light. You are not entirely sure what hides within these hills, trees and dales. You have left a life of disease and looming dread, you have come to the world that exists hereafter. 

“Stygian Bough Volume I” is easily one of the best albums to come out in 2020. It is the perfect remedy to the depression, loneliness, anxiety and pain that this pandemic wrought. This album has really helped me get out of a darkness I thought I got lost in for too long. What is even more exciting is that Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch are working on “Stygian Bough Volume II” maybe we will hear how the journey goes for our soul once we have arrived into the hereafter. Who knows what vistas and lands we will visit when we hear the next album. I for one do not wish this sonically cathartic journey to end that Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch has created. I hope it can continue onward into a land where COVID is finally eradicated and we can live our lives without fear and have a little hope again.

Rating: 10/10

Aerial Ruin Bandcamp: https://aerialruin.bandcamp.com/

Aerial Ruin Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aerialruin/

Bell Witch Bandcamp: https://bellwitch.bandcamp.com/

Bell Witch Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BellWitchDoom/

Bell Witch Official Site: https://bellwitchdoom.blogspot.com/

A Conversation with Fen’s The Watcher

 

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Photo Credit: Tom Huskinson

Happy 2020 everyone! I had the distinct honor of being able to interview Fen’s vocalist and lead guitarist The Watcher. He discussed a broad range of topics from the conception of Fen’s new album “The Dead Light” to lessons he has learned over the years, as well as his thoughts on the direction black metal is going as a whole. He spent a lot of time giving detailed answers and brought so much insight into the world of Fen and how they have become one of the premiere acts in the United Kingdom black metal scene today. You can check out their new album “The Dead Light” on the following links below. It is an absolutely wonderful album full of greats ideas and new dynamics musical-wise. I hope you enjoy the interview and feel free to comment below.

Firstly, what was the inspiration and ideas that came to mind in the creation of “The Dead Light”?

“The central drive to create what would eventually become ‘The Dead Light’ occurred almost immediately after we finished recording the previous record, ‘Winter’. For me, once an album is completed, it is like the closing of a chapter – what needs to be said has been said and the focus therefore must be to look forward, to give shape to the next phase of expression that needs to be defined, explored and realized.

 With this in mind, we reflected on what we had achieved with ‘Winter’ – we recognized that it was a sprawling, earthy album that was rooted with a sense of weightiness (both sonically and conceptually). Not only this, it was incredibly lengthy and winding from a compositional perspective, which was again a reflection on the labyrinthine, earthy subjects that the album tackles. Therefore, taking all of this into consideration, we consciously decided we wanted to do something very different and found our gaze wandering skywards. I found myself deliberating on the phenomenon of light travelling across the cosmos from celestial bodies that are unimaginable distances away from us here on earth – celestial bodies that may well have become extinct in the time it has taken for their light to reach our mortal, human eyes.

 This initial consideration really cemented the kernel of the avenue we wanted to explore and it was really this premise that underscores the album and indeed gave birth to the album title, ‘The Dead Light’. This is a very direct reference to the phenomenon outlined above – looking upon a window into the distant past, the light from long-dead entities still travelling through the fathomless void to ultimately deliver to us an image of something that no longer exists. From this central premise, the rest of the ideas for the album began to take shape – principally, mankind’s relationship with the cosmos and how this has impacted on the philosophy, theology and scientific thought since the dawn of civilization.  

 Musically, meanwhile, the decision was made to reflect this conceptual stance by creating material that was crystalline, spectral and sharper. It was also key for us to make the new songs more concise – with ‘Winter’, we felt we had taken our indulgent proggy streak more or less as far as it could go. None of us had any desire to simply make ‘Winter – the sequel’ or try and outdo ourselves on the winding ‘long song’ front as I think it would have crossed the line into over-indulgence. So, we set ourselves a new creative challenge – to say as much as we did before but in less time, to really focus on self-editing and brevity.

 For a band such as ourselves who have been writing very long songs since the very start, writing long songs actually isn’t all that difficult. Indeed, you have the freedom to have all the time in the world to basically let your message unfold and develop – the REAL challenge is keeping it brief, keeping the compositions and arrangements tight. We always want to push ourselves and therefore, this was a challenge we were fully up for attempting!”

What was the recording process like? Did you try anything new or different with the writing of the album compared to past albums?

“This album was recorded at Foel Studios with Chris Fielding (of Skyhammer Productions) overseeing the production/engineering. Foel is a place I’ve known about for some time – it is truly in the wilderness, set deep into the depths of the Welsh Countryside and the perfect place to escape from the multitude of distractions that life insists upon throwing at you. When the opportunity arose to record there, we had to take it! Chris is also someone I have been interested in working with for a while – his record speaks for itself after all – so to record with Chris at Foel was something of a dream arrangement.

 It was a real pleasure to record if I’m honest – the isolated setting made not only for total concentration/focus but also the splendor of the surrounding landscape helped inspire, gave us an additional impetus to really deliver. They were hard, long days, don’t get me wrong – there’s only three of us in the band and we all have to ensure that we put in our ‘A’ game – but they were productive, satisfying days. We spent a lot of time experimenting with effects pedals, different amps/tones etc. to ensure that what was ultimately put down on tape was the optimum expression of the sound we were trying to achieve.

 We did try some new things with this record – we worked with clicks for the first time ever, primarily to save a bit of time with the final tracking/editing process but also to ensure that the songs were as tight and as sharp as possible. Writing-wise, the songs very much came together as most Fen records do – myself and Grungyn composing most of the material individually in isolation and then bringing songs (or half-formed songs) to the rehearsal room to be worked on as a full band. As ever, some songs can evolve dramatically at this point in the process whereas others remain more or less as originally conceived. Of course, some rehearsal room improvisation/jamming contributed at points but one needs to be very disciplined with this approach – quite often, ‘jamming’ is a lot more enjoyable for the practitioners than it is for the listeners so a high degree of self-editing and awareness is needed! It can sometimes lead to some quite unexpected and welcome outcomes however so it can be a useful tool for composition when used correctly.”

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Photo Credit: Tom Huskinson

In your description of “The Dead Light”, you wanted to focus your efforts to the celestial skies above. What made you want to go in this direction instead?

“As I outlined earlier, if ‘Winter’ was an exploration of earth, death, burial and renewal then our drive with ‘The Dead Light’ was to undertake an approach that, whilst focusing on something that was the conceptual opposite in many respects, still encompassed a great deal of spirituality. Not only this, the fundamental bleakness at the heart of the human condition is a thread that runs through all of our releases so it is no different.

 That said, I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, the mysteries of the universe and the fundamentals of the cosmos. Yes, most kids like ‘space’, that’s true – it appeals to the seeking, questing mind for a start and ultimately, how can something so vast, unexplored and quintessentially ‘alien’ to our terrestrial existence NOT be fascinating? For me, I’ve always looked at it from a more scientific angle I guess and indeed, did study elements of astrophysics as part of my degree.

 Ultimately, however, it is the vastness, the emptiness and the sheer mystery of the celestial aether that inspired me to explore these themes. In many ways, the depths of the cosmic voids are the ultimate embodiment of true bleakness – for a band that claims to channel a sense of bleakness through music, it only makes perfect sense to embrace such a topic!”

Fen have been in existence for over 12 years now, what lessons have you learned as a musician/artist since then?

“Many. Whilst all of us had band experience prior to Fen being formed, we have learned so, so much about how to conduct ourselves as individuals, musicians and (perhaps most importantly a collective) since Fen was originally conceived. The biggest lesson for me has been on the business side of things – and as crass as it sounds, it is only when people are actually showing a genuine interest in your band (as opposed to just being supported by mates etc.) that this really starts to rear its head. Sadly, as soon as any amount of ‘real’ money enters the equation, you need to have your wits about you – not only this; you need to stay strong, stand your ground and defend your art.

 We were probably guilty in the early days of under-selling ourselves; or perhaps not fully understanding the value of what it is we can bring to (for example) a live event. We are lot more confident now in what we do and what we can achieve – and in how we respect our own art. We will never undersell ourselves now and I think it is important for all bands to do this. As much as we all want to play shows or have albums printed/released, it is important to understand that labels, promoters etc. are all businesses at the end of the day. With this in mind, any discussions relating to gig booking, signings, releases, must be approached for what they are – business negotiations. It is vital to go in to such discussions with your eyes open and that you stand firm about what it is you expect. At the end of the day, if you do not respect your own art, how can you expect anyone else to do so? We’ve definitely learned this the hard way since we started.

 The other thing I have learned is to never rest on your laurels – never lose your edge or become complacent. Always work on improving in all facets of what you do – composition, musicianship, even just, in how you express lyrical concepts or think through your approach to bringing ideas to life. When a band has been going for a long time and has an established fan base, I can imagine that the temptation to sit back and ‘coast along’, getting by with ‘churning stuff out’ can be tempting. Not for me. After all, you are only as good as your last album or gig and the thought of somehow getting lazy or moving backwards terrifies me. It literally keeps me awake at night – and it should. Standards within the extreme metal scene are getting higher and higher – I try to attend as many gigs as I can, to check out new and up-and-coming bands, to see where the bar has been set. I need to be kept on my toes, to be pushed and to feel the continuing drive to excel and exceed previously set standards. And in my view, this should be the approach of any self-respecting artist!”

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What inspires you to come up with your incredible imagery in your lyrics as well as songwriting?

“I’m a bit of a sucker for a powerful metaphor I have to admit! I’m actually not much of a fan of ‘direct’ lyrics really – nor do I feel particularly confident in writing lyrics that express themes and ideas in a way that ISN’T shrouded in metaphor. That’s an important point for me – I am always conscious of trying to ensure that there is an interpretive quality to what we write, that it isn’t just a lecture or some sort of surface-level story. Layers, inference and subtext are absolutely key.

 So, given this, I think evocative – and occasionally unexpected – imagery is a powerful way of driving ambiance within our lyrics. It helps emphasize the drama inherent within the music whilst also (I hope) encouraging the listener to think a little, to start exploring ideas that aren’t initially obvious within the song and to add their own interpretive slant to what is being discussed. It is almost like painting with words in some respects and as I like to think our music/albums are very visual in many ways – after all, we spend a lot of time developing our album artwork/aesthetics – it is fundamental that the lyrics support this approach.

 Ultimately, the best lyrics act alongside the music to drive the listener ever deeper into the material – to truly resonate with what is being said as well as emphasizing or highlighting the drama of the song playing out. When these two elements synchronize harmoniously, that’s when I personally feel that Fen’s art is at its most compelling.

 And as with all of our writing, the inspiration often comes from within – a feeling, a notion, a state of mind that can often be emphasized by situation or circumstance. A bracing walk through the autumnal fens; a splendid hike through the mist-shrouded fells of the lake district; simply sipping a decent whisky at night in solitude can set the fires of inspiration burning!”

I have read in other interviews that Fen was first heavily influenced by Ulver and the Fields of Nephilim do both these bands still resonate with you now after all these years? What other bands have been influencing you as of late?

“Definitely – Fields of the Nephilim in particular are an absolute staple, one of the fundamental bands for me all these years later. There is just something absolutely magical about their first three full-length albums that remains undimmed by the passage of time. Ulver are similarly vital – ‘Bergtatt’ of course laying down the blueprint for this style of black metal nearly a quarter of a century ago!

 As for bands that I’ve been influenced by more recently, it’s hard to say. When I am composing music for Fen, I try to separate myself from what has generally been on my record deck as my goal is (as ever) to write from a ‘pure’ creative perspective, to channel an almost subconscious creative desire to realise the essence of Fen in musical form. And to be honest, I listen to such a wide and diverse selection of music that it wouldn’t always be appropriate – just recently, I’ve had W.A.S.P.’s ‘The Headless Children’ and Pond’s ‘The Weather’ nailed to the turntable which, great as they are, wouldn’t really be massively appropriate to dip into for inspiration!

 I guess one of the big discoveries over the last few years has been finally getting into Yob – a truly unique band with an absolutely unquestionable vision. Instantly recognizable, diverse, heavy (in the ‘right’ way!), excellent riff writing – Mike Scheidt is as close to a genius as we can get in this scene in my eyes. I’d say these guys are a real inspiration to me – forging an utterly distinctive musical path with such elegance and with just three guys to deliver it. Massive respect.

 Alongside this, I’ve been keeping my ears warmed with all sorts of stuff – plenty of 70s Yes, The Chameleons (another great guitarwave band from the 80s who have a massive impact on the shoegaze scene), the first Verve album, The Great Old Ones (excellent French post-black with Lovecraftian themes. It’s a diverse roster indeed and one that I’d like to think all helps inform how Fen ultimately expresses itself.”

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Lately many bands I have been hearing have been focusing on space and the universe is there a reason why metal bands (specifically Fen) have focused on these themes?

“It is a bit of a weird one – many bands have chosen to explore ‘spacey’ themes in the last year or so it has to be said! I’m not sure if it’s a pure coincidence or just simply the result of individuals despairing so deeply with what is taking place here on earth that they feel compelled to look to the heavens for some sort of solace…

 Like I explained earlier, I’ve always been fascinated by cosmological concepts since I was a child and it is something that has followed me as I have got older. I don’t see how it isn’t possible to be fascinated by this, frankly – there are so many avenues for exploration, so many incredible phenomena that lurk within the vastness of the universe (or even the multiverse if we want to go there…) that it strikes me as willful ignorance to simply disregard any consideration of the cosmos. Out there lie the very fundamental secrets and tenets to our existence here on our rather unremarkable planet orbiting a rather unremarkable star – something that may give some substance, meaning or context to the origins of life here.

 And beyond that, there are so many other phenomena we barely comprehend – dark matter, space/time, gravity, singularity – phenomena which underpin the very fabric of everything that surrounds us (after all, lest we forget, all matter we perceive on this planet was essentially born in the heart of a star). How is this NOT utterly compelling? And of course, given the type of characters who are attracted to the extreme metal genre, it’s no surprise that such concepts have so many willing enthusiasts within the scene. It’s an intoxicating mix of darkness, mystery, nihility (if one adheres to the theory that we are truly alone in a freezing, uncaring universe), violence, destruction and ultimately, sheer unknowable vastness. It’s a rich, rich wellspring for the metal mind to draw upon and such themes/concepts are perfectly delivered via the vessel of black metal I think.”

Fen has become one of the premiere black metal bands in the United Kingdom, do you think black metal in the UK is going in a positive direction or has it plateaued? In general, do you think black metal is an evolving genre or has it stagnated?

“You’ve asked two separate questions here really – firstly, has UK black metal plateaued? The answer from me is a resounding ‘no’ – indeed, it has never been healthier to my mind. There are so many new, up-and-coming bands forming at the moment who not only exhibit a real sense of considered definition and quality-control in their music/aesthetics but also demonstrate a real hunger and drive to succeed. The scene here just keeps getting stronger – it’s a far cry from the early days of it just being Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned and Thus Defiled being the sole flag bearers for the genre on the world stage.

 We have some acts from the UK now really cementing international reputations – Winterfylleth, Saor and A Forest Of Stars being the vanguard of those who underpin the quality of what has originated from this isle in the last fifteen years or so. But there are plenty of others who are now making names for themselves – all adopting their own unique take on the genre but being united by a sense of common purpose and a palpable drive to succeed. Notable acts include Aklash (excellently composed atmospheric BM), Wolvencrown (searing melodic BM), Abduction (harsh, nihilistic fury), Necronautical (riff-heavy and symphonic), The Infernal Sea (vivid aesthetics married to snarling old-school sonics), Thy Dying Light (monochromatic lo-fi aggression) – there are plenty of others. I’d urge you to spend some time digging through everything our scene has to offer.

 As for black metal itself stagnating? It’s hard to say – it’s a genre that has traditionally seen so much reinvention and genre cross-pollination that it has almost become synonymous with change and with evolution. What is interesting however is how conservative much of the fan base can be also – and if one were to take a bigger step back, have we REALLY seen any significant evolution in the last 15 or so years? The whole late-90s ‘weirding’ of Norway was clearly a time of real experimentation, however whilst we did get a handful of excellent records out of it, some of it has not aged well at all. The ‘black metal meets electronica’ thing of the early 2000s also has been (rightly) condemned to the dustbin of history, though someone had to give it a try I guess.

 I guess these were all exercises in establishing boundaries. I think what a lot of the ‘over-experimentation’ enabled was to define the parameters within which black metal could experiment and still retain its identity – and it is much more about uniqueness of atmosphere, authenticity and songwriting bravery but crucially, within the confines of the ‘traditional’ trappings of extreme metal. Some of what I consider to be the most forward-thinking acts of the last 10-15 years (Blut aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, The Ruins of Beverast) use the traditional ‘guitar/bass/drums/synth’ tools of the genre yet deploy them in such a way that makes them original and write material that is truly unique. In this, I can only see the genre continuing to evolve in this way, for more brave souls to continue to push at the edge of the compositional envelope.

 However, this is offset by what I can see in the conservatism that currently dominates the black metal mainstream – when bands like Mgla end up becoming one of the biggest outfits in the genre by essentially re-writing the same three-chord song seven times and calling it an album, you can’t help but ask some questions about stagnation creeping in somewhere! But I digress – black metal is an individual thing after all and I’m happy to leave this sort of thing to the festival crowds whilst seeking out those acts who are trying to push themselves and the genre forwards.”

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What are some of your hobbies outside of music, tell us more about The Watcher as a person?

“Well, I’ll keep this relatively brief – I’m a bit enthusiast of craft beer and single malt whisky. Indeed, I think Scottish single-malt pot still whisky is the greatest drink conceived by human beings – it’s no exaggeration to state that it has been a very important part of the Fen creative process. It’s an evocative, invigorating spirit that carries with it a real sense of time, place and landscape. It has therefore accompanied many a late-night writing session – it’s a rare treat to kick back with the guitar, a glass of cask-strength Ardbeg and then look to summon atmospheric inspiration…

 Other than this, I also quite enjoy hiking across country, up hills and mountains and across rugged terrain. Given I live in the city, it’s not easy to get access to such landscape but we generally try and get away to the wilds once or twice a year.

 I also quite enjoy fantasy gaming – role-playing, tabletop/miniature games and card games. Yes, classic geekery and something that is far more prevalent in the black metal scene than many would like to admit. I know a LOT of folk who have rediscovered their love for miniature paining recently – I sadly don’t have the time to dedicate to it that I’d like but I try and reconnect once in a while!”

Has any movies, books or other mediums helped influence the music of Fen?

“Movies – not really. I enjoy watching films but much more as an escape or a distraction – a way of ‘switching off’ if you will – than as a genuinely artistic pursuit. I guess there’s only so much space in one’s brain and we all need our vices or ways to unwind. So film isn’t something for me that I take inspiration from in Fen.

 Books are a different matter I suppose. Again, I read a lot of escapist fantasy literature to relax, however I also spend a lot of time reading philosophical works also and some of thinking therein really helps with giving form and voice to the lyrics/concepts we like to express with our albums. It’s not something I have the mental energy to dig into all the time but when I can, I do dig into works by many of the existential and metaphysical writers in an attempt to try and add some structure/meaning/sense to my own worldview. Key writers include Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, Russel – I have also dabbled in the works of Neiztche and Sartre but found these perhaps a little TOO opaque, though some of the key themes definitely resonated.

 Whilst the above are not directly referenced or drawn from as inspirational sources, they have been key in helping shape my thinking and my worldview – almost sitting behind what I do in Fen as some sort of inspirational ‘background radiation’ supporting the concepts and ideas we look to explore in our music.

 For ‘The Dead Light’, I have also drawn upon some of the more philosophical/outlandish theories that can crop up at the fringes of astrophysical considerations. Again, this has also been supported by some key writings that deal with the wider implications of a number of scientific theories – Tipler’s ‘The Physics of Immortality’ and Deutch’s ‘The Fabric Of Reality’ are intriguing reads, even if occasionally being a little questionable from a strictly scientific viewpoint. Nevertheless, these are fascinating subjects and any cursory read into metaphysics, astrophysical phenomena and transhumanism is sure to get the inspiration circuits firing.”

Reading more about your background you have your hand in many other musical projects, which ones are you focusing on as of late? Which projects should our readers focus on?

“At the moment, I think it is fair to say that I am only really involved in two ‘active’ musical outlets currently – Fen is of course one of these and the other is what is predominantly a solo outing, ‘Fellwarden’. The latter is an expressive outlet I commenced in around 2014 to give voice to a more sweeping, epic black metal sound that I had been yearning to undertake for some time. Havenless – who has been drumming in Fen since around 2016 – provides the drums for this and I was actually working with him in Fellwarden prior to his involvement with Fen.

 We have just completed work on the second Fellwarden full-length – the debut ‘Oathbearer’ came out in 2017 – and we started work more or less straight away after this so it’s taken a while to come together. That is understandable though as I’ve really pushed the material further on this record – more epic, more layers, a more ‘widescreen’ approach to the compositions. It also really digs deeper into the themes of the project, taking huge inspiration from the rearing landscapes of the Cumbrian fells of North Western England. I think it sounds great myself and I’m really looking forward to it finally seeing the light of day!

 This said, there are other possible things bubbling away – indeed, there has been talk that the long-awaited second De Arma record may finally see completion in 2020 – amongst other things. I guess you could say I like to keep busy!”

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Photo Credit: Stefan Raduta

Fen has done many shows and tours over the years, specifically which ones stood out to you most?

“In terms of individual shows, we have been quite lucky in some respects as we have had opportunities to play at some incredible venues in front of some amazing crowds. Prophecy Fest last year at Balver Hohle in Germany was one of these – the setting was absolutely mind-blowing, awe-inspiring and atmospheric. It was an absolute honour to play. Our set at Summer Sonnewald in Austria back in 2011 was also something special – playing on an Austrian mountainside as night descended and beacon pyres were set aflame in celebration was something else. And our show in Moscow in 2014 was also awesome – we didn’t know what to expect but the venue was great and the audience absolutely reveled in it. Playing in the US in 2012 was a rare treat also, we had a great time. All of these will live with me until my final day but there have been plenty of other great live experiences along the way also.

Tour-wise, the month we spent in Europe with Agalloch in 2013 was an incredible experience. A great bunch of guys for sure and we had such a good time with them – we also played some pretty cool shows along the way as well which helped!”

If you could describe the music of Fen to someone who may not be familiar with the sound how would you describe it?

“Man, I get asked this now and then (normally by curious ‘normal’ people) and it’s so difficult to accurately sum up to the uninitiated I fear! I guess it would be along the lines of ‘atmospheric yet furiously raging metal music, shot through with palpable sorrow and a sense of the ethereal’. Is that pretentious enough do you think?”

Finally, do you have any parting words for our readers?

“Thanks for taking the time to read this and for checking out our music!”

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Bandcamp: https://fenuk.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fenofficial

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2rZmcCq

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FenBandUK

 

 

Obsequiae “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” Review

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When I heard Obsequiae would be coming out with a new album I was so excited to hear what Tanner Anderson has created. I can safely say that he has created a potential album of the year candidate for 2019. The album is consistent, unique, and beautiful there is not a weak part to be heard in “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings”. When I first heard of Obsequiae, I was very much intrigued because I thoroughly enjoy Tanner Anderson’s project Celestiial. Listening to the epic sound found in Celestiial I was itching to hear a pared down version that was succinct but still had that immense feel to the music, and that is how I found out about “Aria of Vernal Tombs”. I purchased the album right away and immediately got into the ethereal and medieval world of Obsequiae. After experiencing the beauty of “Aria of Vernal Tombs”, I could not wait to hear what “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” had in store for me.

The album begins with an amazing instrumental by Vicente La Camera Mariño, “L’autrier m’en aloie” this is song is astonishing in its beauty and really paints the listener a picture of natural landscapes with ruins scattered across green craggy islands. The instrumental ends and the sounds of wind, and birds take over; then the first chords kick in for the song “Ceres in Emerald Streams”. This track hits all cylinders and rips but has a subtle dreamlike vibe to the guitars that somehow eases the tension completely in the song. “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” has this sound going on throughout the album, which makes it incredibly consistent.

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The next aspect of the album that really is a highlight is the muffled screams of Tanner Anderson, it really adds a mystique to the overall sound of “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” his vocals sound like they were recorded on a cliff side overlooking rivers, lakes and castles in disrepair. It gives an overall natural vibe to the music that fits the themes conveyed in all 12 tracks perfectly. In addition, the lyrical delivery in the songs is top notch and gives a sense of longing for the ancient world before technology took over. The lyrics show a deep yearning for places with overgrown hedges, vast gardens and mysterious woods nearby.

Another thing that makes this album brilliant is how atmospheric and crunchy the guitars are, I picture a bard somewhere in an old church playing electric guitar summoning the ancient spirits of old. There is such a sense of melody and beauty in the riffs and leads. I imagine in my head these songs playing while I ride horseback from the mountains, rivers, and through the misty meadows of Avalon. Each track on the “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” has this mystical, and fey-like imagery found throughout every menhir, sepulcher, and dark/dusty castle corridor. If you are itching to hear an album that will take you to different worlds, this album does it in spades.

In conclusion, I feel this album is brilliant, the imagery, overall sounds and vibe of the album hits all the right emotional notes. As I progressed through the album, I felt such wonderment and even a bit of sadness. There is a sense of longing for worlds lost to time and technology throughout the entirety of “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” it is album that allows you to journey inward to experience a world where your ancestors once walked and the sorrow they felt when man’s folly caused the impending doom of the natural world. “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” is the millions of voices lost to time and decay, please listen to their message.

Rating 9/10

Bandcamp: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/the-palms-of-sorrowed-kings

 

 

Fen “The Dead Light” Review

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Fen has released a new album called “The Dead Light” it is their next opus in their extensive and consistent discography. I had the pleasure to listen to the album and wanted to say that it is good but there are some moments where the album gets a bit repetitive. Instead of covering themes of nature and the ground beneath our feet Fen have decided to take the listener skywards to the stars and planets above. The album takes me through this journey in a wonderful way. I picture ancient populations before civilization ballooned looking up at the night sky in wonderment and mystery. I think the lads from Fen have constructed an album that really conveys these feelings.

The album starts with an instrumental that paints an image of wandering a meadow at night stargazing. There is a calming vibe with the song but as it progresses, it builds to the first song “The Dead Light (Part 1)” and as the first chords kick in I now see myself sitting on an asteroid shooting through space and time. This song is very progressive in nature, and a bit chaotic in a way to. This is the first major difference from Fen’s prior releases they get much more proggy in their song structure. I think this helps “The Dead Light” but hurts it a bit too. I have not been the biggest fan of prog metal because I feel it meanders too much and gets a bit too technical for my liking. Some moments in the album go in that direction, but Fen are able to balance it out with much more beautiful post metal passages.

As the album continues we are then introduced to another instrumental bridge “The Dead Light (Part 2)” that reminds me so much of Morgion’s instrumental “Solinari” it has this very mystical and ethereal vibe going on with it that is perfect transition to one of the stand out tracks “Nebula”. This is a really well written and beautiful song by Fen, they go straight up black metal meets post rock meets shoegaze in this song. It shows how versatile they are as songwriters because you get a sense of chaos and kinetic energy in one song and now introduced to a very dreamy/introspective tune to balance it out. I think “Nebula” is probably the closest sound to their work off “The Malediction Fields” with an even greater emphasis on clean vocals.

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The last four songs off “The Dead Light” are very different from one another and this where things end up getting a bit repetitive on the album. The first track “Labyrinthine Echoes” is a good song and epic in nature. It sounds like an extended version of Enslaved’s “Return to Yggdrasil” with many movements both heavy and quiet. The next two songs “Breath of the Void” and “Exsanguination” are where the album gets a bit rocky. These songs sound very similar to one another and just bleed into one another. Nothing really stands out about these tracks compared to other amazing songs on the album I have heard so far.

The final song on the album “Rendered in Onyx” is an amazing song and a great closing opus to end the album on a high note. The images in this song are stunning, dreamlike and hopeful. When I hear this song, I picture myself floating in the Milky Way with stars, and planets surrounding me. The millions of suns warming my face amidst the peace and quiet of the interstellar silence. I feel “Rendered in Onyx” is a healthy mix of “Bereft” and “Winter III (Fear)” it has that specific hook that really hits all the right emotional buttons. The combination of clean vocals and The Watcher’s screams makes this song super interesting. It successfully takes you down so many paths both aggressive and calming.

“The Dead Light” is another great entry in Fen’s discography. There are plenty of highlights to be heard on the album there are just some areas that didn’t impress me as much as the songs from Fen’s prior releases, specifically, “Winter” and “Carrion Skies” . If you have been a fan of Fen, you will enjoy this album and may even love the songs I did not enjoy as much. Fen is one of those bands that know how to write consistently good music and I am glad to hear the experimentation found on the album. Eventually the different paths Fen takes with their music will lead to even more interesting and adventurous albums in the future.

Rating 8/10

Bandcamp: https://fenuk.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fenofficial

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FenBandUK

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Alcest a Retrospective 2012 to 2016

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At this stage of Neige’s career, Alcest started gaining more momentum. Their popularity started growing and growing. More and more fans have gotten a chance to stumble upon the beautiful soundscapes Alcest evokes. Also in this age of Alcest, they went into very different avenues with their music. They started visiting the worlds of dream pop and pure shoegaze as the band progressed, which not only brought in a new type of fan but also showed how versatile and creative Alcest can be. In my opinion, the years between 2012 and 2016 were a mixed bag. The one thing I can say is Alcest’s music still is able to flood my mind with feelings of nostalgia and longing.

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Les voyages de l’âme 8/10

I would say this is my second favorite album by Alcest; there are some great songs on here that really hit the feels. The album is very sunny and warm in nature but still has this cold breeze blowing through it. There are still some amazing black metal moments in “Les voyages de l’âme” where Neige really belts out some really bone chilling screams and shrieks. However, what makes the album stand out a lot to me is how much it puts me into a blissful mood. The music is soft, ethereal and just hits all the introspective bits in my mind. As the album closes, we start seeing a preview of what is to come in the song “Summer’s Glory” for a future divisive Alcest album in 2014. Best songs: Autre Temps, Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles, and Faiseurs de mondes

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Shelter 9/10

For me Alcest’s album “Shelter” is an absolute revelation. Neige has decided to stray far away from the black metal origins of Alcest and decided to create an album of pure moody dream pop/shoegaze. To cap it off Neige enlisted the talents of Neil Halstead of Slowdive to contribute some vocals and guitar to this album. Surprisingly the song “Away” is one of the best songs on the album. It is moving, warm, relaxing and utterly spellbinding. The bulk of this album is incredibly consistent with the most beautiful package of songs I have heard in a long while. Each track evokes imagery that is positive, alluring, and dreamlike. Usually metal albums tend to be dark and dreary, “Shelter” on the other hand is one of the most positive and life-affirming pieces of music I have got to hear. Best songs: Opale, Away, and Délivrance

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Kodama 6/10

When I first heard that Alcest was going to be working on a new album called “Kodama”, I was once again super eager to hear what direction they were going to take the band. When I got the album, I was not impressed with it like some of Alcest’s earlier works. It seemed like Neige was kind of going with the motions in the writing of “Kodama”. The album seemed lackluster to me, and I only enjoyed about three songs off the album. I also thought the album ended too soon and left me wanting more. I was worried that Alcest’s creative genius was starting to wane with “Kodama”. I felt like I spent more time hearing early works then “Kodama” when the album came out. Best songs: Kodama, Je suis d’ailleurs, and Oiseaux de proie

This concludes my mini reviews of the latter half of Alcest career. As I mentioned above it was a very mixed bag in regards to the albums introduced between 2012 and 2016. The one thing I will say is Neige and company are able to still write amazing pieces of music that really brings out both feelings of joy and sorrow in each subsequent album. I still highly recommend giving them a listen if you want to experience music that is achingly beautiful but also brings out so many feelings/nostalgia with frequent listens.

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Bandcamp: https://alcest.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alcest.official

Official Page: http://www.alcest-music.com/

An Interview with Dan Capp of Wolcensmen

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Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

Seemingly out of nowhere I heard about a band called Wolcensmen out of the United Kingdom. I remember I was requesting recommendations on Metal Archives for bands that have a mysterious, pastoral, or woodsy sound and one person recommended them. I come to find out that Wolcensmen is the dark folk project of Dan Capp from Winterfylleth. Being a big fan of Winterfylleth I just had to get my hands on this project. I first bought “Songs from the Fyrgen” and when I heard the album I was blown away about how much it fit the pastoral/woodsy vibes I was itching for in music at that time. As time pressed on Dan Capp announced a new Wolcensmen album called “Fire in the White Stone” I immediately pre ordered the album on CD and vinyl. He also included a short story that ties the whole album together. Dan kept in contact with me about the shipping updates for the items, so we started emailing back and forth. I then asked if he would be interested in doing an interview for my blog. He graciously accepted and after weeks of going back and forth I can now show all you readers our in-depth conversation. I also wanted to acknowledge my friend Annie Cúglas who contributed some questions to this interview with Dan Capp. Their questions and answers are italicized so you can differentiate between the two.

I hope you enjoy this interview about metal, heathenism, inspiration, the runes and everything else in between. “Fire in the White Stone” is out now, I highly recommend giving the album a listen it is a masterwork and worth the time to listen to by the fireplace at night. Make sure you have a glass of fine bourbon in hand and get lost in the world Wolcensmen has created…

Dan Capp

Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

Could you tell us the origins of the Wolcensmen project? What made you come up with the name and the concept?
“The earliest spark of inspiration goes back to my teenage years, when I was first exposed to overtly atmospheric, dark music, but the more definitive moment of intent was in 2010 when I was on tour, in a pub in Dublin watching a folk band play. I wondered to myself why such a sight was less commonplace in England, so I decided I could have a go at making some folk-ish music based around the themes of English mythology and spirituality. When I returned home from tour I began composing initial ideas.
The name evolved over quite a while (whilst the demo took shape, with no sense of urgency). I always loved the word ‘welkin’ – which I’d first come across from the title of Emperor’s second album – and came up with the idea of ‘binding’ it together with the word ‘kinsmen’. So the initial project name was ‘Welkinsmen’. After a while, I began to rethink that a little; ‘Welkin’ is the Middle-English form of the Old-English ‘wolcen’; it means ‘heavens’ or ‘clouds’. And because the themes were going to be overtly pre-Christian, I felt that I should use the more archaic form of the word. It lost the ‘kinsmen’ component as a result, but gained something just as powerful: ‘Cen’ is the English rune name representing the torchlight of community and guidance, and is almost certainly connected, etymologically, to the word ‘kin’. The Wolcensmen bindrune embodies the features of the name: The Tiw rune for sky, two Cen runes for kinship and guidance, and the Mæg (men) rune. Wolcensmen, in a sense, means ‘men of the heavens’, or ‘men of the clouds’ – both of which are fitting for the themes I explore and convey.”

As I was reading other interviews I noticed you have been heavily influenced by the 90s black metal scene, how did you first get into the scene and how has 90s black metal influenced your creativity?
“I was introduced to black metal in the late ‘90s by some slightly older friends from school. I’ve been in love with the spirit of the genre ever since, sometimes inexplicably (given that I have no interest in Satanism). Where I grew up, near High Wycombe, England, there was a tangible connection to the second-wave Scandinavian scene in that it’s where Lee Barrett, founder of Candlelight Records is from. I knew of Lee early on, and by sheer chance later became good friends with him.
Black metal is absolutely responsible for the formation of Wolcensmen. It was the dark atmospheres and pagan-mystical themes of black metal which introduced me to the themes and philosophies I explore with Wolcensmen. The acoustic or synth-driven interludes (and in some instances, full albums) that black metal bands used to compose really captured my imagination. The spirit of those melodies and sounds almost re-programmed me on a spiritual level, and I experimented with acoustic compositions of my own. Fast-forward to about 2010 and I felt there was too little of this music and atmosphere being made anymore, and that perhaps I could do something about that.”

I also noticed that Wolcensmen is often lumped into the Neofolk scene; are you a fan of this style of music and do you personally think it has helped with your ideas as a musician?
“It’s a strange one this. I would say ‘no, I’m not a fan’, but it really depends on how one defines ‘neo-folk’. To me it always specifically referred to that breed of simplistic, ‘strummy’ acoustic act; Examples being Death in June and Sol Invictus. It was the more neo-classical leanings of Ulver, Empyrium and Dead Can Dance which inspired me, and so it was strange when I started to see people labelling Wolcensmen ‘neo-folk’. It doesn’t bother me, ultimately. Labels cannot change what music is, nor what its spirit is.”

Annie: How much of your influence comes from Scandinavian post-metal projects (Ulver, Hedingarna and Wardruna) versus specifically English folk music (The Watersons, Sol Invictus, Skyclad)? Do you consider Wolcensmen an English version of what’s coming from Scandinavia, or coincidentally parallel to developments there?
“That’s an interesting question. I’m not familiar with Hedingarna, but Ulver are a particularly key influence, and Wardruna also as I followed Einar Selvik’s work from Gorgoroth through Jotunspor and the origins of Wardruna. Wardruna’s influence on me is mainly vocal, in that many of my other influences tend to be mostly instrumental. I know a little bit of Sol Invictus and Skyclad, and the only English folk acts I can really claim to be familiar with are Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. I actually don’t feel that Wolcensmen is a ‘folk’ band, even if others do. I love most folk music I hear, but the impetus to do what I do came mainly from a desire to create the sort of epic, mystical atmospheres I heard in Summoning, Forefather, Bathory and Satyricon… but with a different sonic palette.
England is where I’m from, and I’ve never been much good at feigning who I am, or what my passions are. English Mysticism is it! There are enough non-Scandinavians pretending to be Scandinavian these days.”

When I hear both “Songs from the Fyrgen” and “Fire in the White Stone” nature is a huge element to your imagery and the overall sound. What drew you to write such mystical and mysterious music? How did you build a strong spiritual connection to nature?
“It’s simple really: I feel nowhere more content and at peace than wandering among woodlands, hills and shorelines away from the urban sprawl. In my youth, my friends and I would spend our Friday nights lugging a few bottles of beer and a portable stereo up to some nearby woods, building a fire, and sitting there soaking up the atmosphere whilst listening to Dark Medieval Times, Orkblut, Nightshade Forests, Blood On Ice or Morningrise. Going back further still, my grandfather retired in the Forest of Dean and we’d visit him regularly when I was young; he’d take us for long walks through the forest, crossing rocky streams and scaling mossy boulders. I feel like I’m being very cliché, because it’s not exactly original for a black metal fan to glorify wild natural places, but it is nevertheless an important truth for me: I love unspoilt nature and feel perpetually drawn to it.”

In “Fire in the White Stone” you included the release with a short story that directly ties with the album, what made you want to run with this unique approach to the new album?
“It wasn’t a particularly conscious plan. I just wanted a strong concept for the album’s lyrics and moods, but the concept became so fleshed out and detailed that I got to a point where I realised to do it justice, I’d have to write a short-story to accompany the album. I recorded the album nearly one year before it was released, so I knew that I’d have time to pen the story before it went to press. Wolcensmen has taught me one thing about myself: I don’t like to do things by halves. I don’t take the success of Wolcensmen for granted, and I’m not here to make casual, throwaway albums which people listen to once or twice. I have an opportunity I never expected to have, and that’s to make well-produced albums that will be heard by thousands of people. A lot of music gets released every day, in every genre, and I want Wolcensmen to stand as a monument of depth and quality among it all.”

Reading notes on the album on your Bandcamp page you said you wrote the story to get a philosophical message across to your audience. What is the philosophy you were going for in the conception of “Fire in the White Stone”?
“Well, it’s not singular, and I don’t want to go into depth about all of the energies and philosophies present in ‘Fire in the White Stone’. What I will say is that the overall message is one of growth and encouragement. The protagonist in the story is sort of the ‘everyman’ – certainly the ‘every disillusioned man’ – who finds his potential by stepping out of his comfort zone. I’ve studied Alchemy a bit in recent years (the theory, not the practice) and it’s not merely the mundane act of transforming lead into gold, but of transforming anything lesser into its greater potential. This applies on a human-individual level as well as on a societal level. As pretentious as this may sound, ‘Fire in the White Stone’ is designed to be an initiatory experience, musically and thematically. Anyone who truly engages with the music, the story and artwork will find some answer to the question of how they can better their existence. The teachings aren’t mine – they’re the combined wisdom of thousands of years, conveyed through the runes, Alchemists, philosophers and storytellers. I sort of condensed what I’ve discovered into this relatively concise artistic presentation.”

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It seems like the main character is very much a symbol and metaphor of yourself, but is there a story behind meeting someone that is similar to the old farmer?
“No, the farmer really represents recent generations of western men, who were tough, salt-of-the-earth, masculine men but have become domesticated as western comforts set in. Or perhaps, in a sense, he represents western masculinity which has weakened over the course of the last few generations. And by the way, when I talk about ‘masculinity’, I don’t refer to what some people choose to call ‘toxic masculinity’. A real man is just, fair, respectful and honest.”

Were you trying to use a lot of Norse symbolism in the story line? As well as the characters introduced/involved in the story?
“Yes, though I’d politely correct you in that the symbolism belongs to the wider Teutonic (and Celtic) corpus. For example, the swans are closely related to the German ‘Alcis’, and the swan associations of the King Arthur and Lohengrin legends. Some of the symbolism is more commonly associated with Scandinavian lore, such as the Norns, the dwarves who uphold the four corners of the world. Some of it is specifically English, such as the Kalc rune, but a lot of it is common to wider Indo-European and even global mythology.”

What made you come up with the idea of the Swans of Gar’s Edge? You gave them quite an interesting description what is the significance behind them?
“Around the time that I made the Wolcensmen demo in 2013 I had a particularly vivid dream featuring two giant swans. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that this dream was in some way connected to the formation of Wolcensmen and my calling to make something of this musical project. There is an autobiographical aspect to ‘Fire in the White Stone’ and the Swans of Gar’s Edge are a key component of that. At the risk of getting into areas of discussion more spiritual and esoteric than some readers might be comfortable with, the swans demanded something of me and rewarded me in turn. But it’s not a concept specific to me; All of us (who believe in forces beyond the empirical) can connect with these hidden forces to unlock our individual potential.”

When I read the story it really reminds me of the old folk tales about the fae folk, do you do a lot of research on faerie lore and how important are those tales to you?
“I’ve read a number of English and Celtic folk tales, and am particularly familiar with anything that comes to us from an overtly Heathen culture (such as the Icelandic Sagas). I understood early on that the fae folk are intrinsic to the north-west European equivalent of Shamanism and, as mentioned in the answer to your previous question, our willingness to interact with these unseen forces is an important, forgotten principle which I personally try to employ in my life wherever possible.”

As I read the story the protagonist just decided to wander into the woods and the story unfolded from there, what is your take on this kind of symbolism/metaphor?
“It’s a typical, generic basis for an iteration of the ‘Hero’s Journey’, where an unassuming, disenchanted person finds themselves on an accidental journey and discovers something about (or for) themselves or their society as a result. That’s the basic meaning of it. There is another layer which is more specific to the – for lack of a better term – subculture that I and most Wolcensmen listeners are part of. Most of us here are disillusioned with modern existence and seek to enhance the depth and beauty of our existence somehow – usually through immersion in very escapist, otherworldly music, film and literature. The protagonist in a sense represents the conformist finding his way to nonconformity, and some of the dialogue early in the story attempts to convey this.”

Is there a personal significance to the actual fire in the white stone mentioned in the tale? What were you trying to convey with that object?
“This is something I’d like the reader to ponder for themselves, having come to understand the wider context of the story. Anyone who’s read the story and still isn’t sure, I would respond to them with the question: What has fire and light always represented in countless myths through mankind’s history? Why is fire so important to Zoroastrians? What is the extent of sun worship, and why? Why will the avatar Kalki’s sword be ablaze? Why does the Yule ritual consists of bringing fire into the home?”

Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

I also noticed you worked with quite a few great artists to help you conceive “Fire in the White Stone” how did you specifically build your relationships with Aslak Tolonen of Nest and Jake Rogers of Visigoth/Gallowbraid? I cannot picture better contributing artists than those two!

You’re right – I’ve been very fortunate to befriend Jake and Aslak. I’ve known Jake since before I made the Wolcensmen demo in 2013, through working with him on some designs. We soon found a lot of musical common-ground and when I’d recorded the demo I asked if he was interested to hear it. He loved it and told me he played the flute, and should I ever want flute on future compositions he’d be glad to help. I took him up on the offer for the first album, ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ and when it came to writing ‘Fire in the White Stone’ I couldn’t fathom it being devoid of flute. It’s an instrument which brings an ethereal, very-human texture.
As for Aslak: His projects Nest and Syven are a big influence, but I didn’t properly make his acquaintance until last year, though I know he was a fan of the first album when it was newly released. I arranged a Wolcensmen release-show for the reissue of ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ in 2018 and had seen Aslak announcing his readiness to play concerts on Facebook. He’d never performed in the UK before so I thought it was a great opportunity to bring him over. The show was amazing – a real night to remember. Aslak and his wife stayed with me and we got on well. I asked if he might add a little bit of kantele to my new album and he kindly obliged.”

I am also curious how you built your relationship with John A. Rivers (Dead Can Dance’s producer) what is the story behind meeting him and how did you get him to buy into your vision of “Fire in the White Stone”?
“Well, it was purely business to begin with. I’d initially arranged to record with Markus Stock of Empyrium, in Germany. Sadly, that fell through and I was left wondering who else could do a great job with the album. In a moment of madness, or genius, I thought I’d look up who produced the classic Dead Can Dance albums, and to see if they were still working. I sent John an email and to my astonishment we managed to work something out. He liked the sound of the project and was excited to work with me. The rest is recent history. Initially I didn’t share too much with him about the themes and nature of the project – I just wanted to get across to him the sonic qualities and atmospheres I wanted to achieve. He was very attentive and accommodating, and by the end of the project I really felt it had became a labour-of-love. I do believe he’s very proud of his involvement with the album, and that’s a real honour for me.”

Annie: Do you feel like there has been a shift from lo-fi black metal to more sophisticated styles of music that has roots in black/death/doom metal (neofolk, acoustic, ambient, synth work and drone)? Do you think the average metal fan has matured to be more open-minded to these styles of music instead?
“That’s an interesting topic of discussion. The growth in popularity of (for lack of a better term) ‘Viking’ music has been phenomenal in recent years, with metal musicians and fans flocking to acquire nyckelharpas and tunics. But (what is now termed) ‘dungeon synth’ has existed since the early ‘90s. Prophecy Productions has a long history of releasing dark folk and neoclassical music to a predominantly metal audience, and when I first got into black metal there was already an appreciation for industrial, classical and even dark pop and rock music. I think the only thing that has really changed is that widespread elitism has died down, so that people now perhaps take more pride in being receptive to other genres. Wardruna came along at just the right time to tap into a desire for more traditional sounds and styles, and that’s probably moreso a subconscious reaction against the digital, material age than it is evidence of changing tastes.”

Annie: In your opinion how much of Wolcensmen is celebrating a lost past versus generating a timeless present?
“Another good question, causing me to ponder hard. If we consider that technological advancement evolves at an accelerating pace (officially, they say there’s been more technological development in the last 150 years than in the preceding 1 million) then the pre-Industrial way-of-life can rightly be viewed as the more ‘timeless’ state of affairs. So in a way, I see the pre-Industrial era as being timeless, and when I reach to celebrate one, I celebrate the other. The only constants in the history of human existence are things like religion, community, struggle, inter-human relations and our relationship with the natural world. Digital screens, junkfood, bank loans and most modern comforts are but a blip in the timeline.
What I wish to celebrate with Wolcensmen, thematically, are the fundamental truths, mysteries and needs of human existence. The beautiful things which we instinctively know to be good because of our emotional reaction to them. No healthy human is genuinely moved by the release of the latest iPhone, but we are moved by the development of a child’s speech or the sight of a mountain range.”

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What are some other interests you have outside of music? And what have you been listening to for music and bands lately?
“I’m keen on health and fitness, exercising regularly and eating wholesome food. I also like to read non-fiction, to expand my understanding of the world – particularly with regards to existential, spiritual and historical matters. I have a lot of responsibilities, so my leisure time is pretty slim these days. Music is the only ‘hobby’ I have any significant time for.
My favourite recent releases are: Deus Mortem – Kosmocide, Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire, Aelfric – Mimir’s Mead, Dautha – Brethren of the Black Soil, Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light and Bilskirnir – In Solitary Silence. I’m also never far from sticking on an album by Bathory, Dead Can Dance, Loreena McKennitt, Dissection, Forefather or any of the classic Norwegian black metal albums.”

If you could describe Wolcensmen’s music to someone who may not be familiar with your music what would you say?
“I would tell them that it’s something that needs to be listened to in a state of peace, on headphones or a quiet setting. I would tell them to let the atmosphere lead the way. It’s acoustic, at times epic, cinematic, dark, a deliberate representation of pre-Industrial north-western Europe, designed to take the listener there whilst hopefully also standing as a collection of finely composed, diverse songs.”

And finally, do you have any closing words for our readers and do you see yourself doing some shows in the United States in the future?
“Honestly, no I don’t – not because I don’t want to but because the cost of VISAs, and bringing Wolcensmen to the stage anywhere, are fairly high. I would sincerely love to come and play some shows in America, and if a booking agent wants to help me do that, please get in touch.
To the reader – thanks for your interest and support. It sometimes feels like a miracle that something as sincere and niche as Wolcensmen has been this successful. I’ve never had to compromise or pretend, and I plan to keep it that way. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m very grateful to have had so much support from true music fans.”

Bandcamp: https://wolcensmen.bandcamp.com/

Official Page: https://wolcensmen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wolcensmen/