Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: Allerseelen - Anubis/Chairete Daimones

After a small period of respite, Gerhard Hallstatt’s Allerseelen project has seen a burst of activity in 2017: a brand new album, Dunkelgraue Lieder, comes two years after their last album Terra Incognita; an appearance on the Alpha Ωmega compilation; and a brand new non-album single, Anubis/Chairete Daimones, the project’s first single since 2009’s Sonne Golthi-Ade.

Allerseelen 7" single - from personal collection

Allerseelen proper, since the 2010s, has definitely shifted its configuration from being a one-man project with a peppering of guests to something a more solid. The albums and releases have gotten more robust, while still maintaining that distinguished Allerseelen sound, with the same guest performers becoming more like recurring key personnel, with lots of crossover with collaborators of projects helmed by producer Marcel P. Marcel highlights this phenomenon in conjunction with his production duties for Anubis/Chairete Daimones:

The music of Allerseelen is constantly evolving with more styles, instruments, collaborators and even guest-vocalists. It’s a tapestry of music, if you will. A group-effort guided and directed by Gerhard. My part as a producer (totally separate from my part as a musician or vocalist) is to “bring everything together”. There are challenges, especially ambient noises (because some of the different track parts come from semi-professional studios). But over the last couple of years we’ve become a well-rehearsed and established team. Faye R. worked with me on Miel Noir songs, Voron and I have been doing a couple of tracks for Allerseelen together and Gerhard has come to rely on my production and arrangement ever since the MCD before the Rauhe Schale album. It may not be a “band” in the classical sense (like people meeting in real life and working stuff out in a room together), but it’s the kind of “musical alchemy” which Gerhard used to do by himself, done as a group.”

The first track, “Anubis,” features Algerian singer Faye R. on vocal duties. Faye R.’s cover of “Runes and Men” attracted the attention and friendship of Hallstatt and Marcel P., which opened up collaborations for both Miel Noir and Allerseelen. The Egyptian motif of “Anubis” was a natural fit for Faye R.: “...the song itself has that alternative Middle Eastern side which I already like, my voice is naturally like this, I embraced the song since the first time I heard it because I felt like it defined me.”

For Hallstatt, “Anubis” draws inspiration from a few different sources, the first being the Moon Tarot card as designed by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris which depicts two towers with jackals. The dark imagery of the tarot card was the catalyst for the song, but Hallstatt also draws inspiration from coyotes, specifically a performance piece by Joseph Beuys, along with coyote quotations lifted from Carlos Castaneda and Charles Manson.



Anubis” is a jarring Allerseelen song in that it has a heavy metal atmosphere, without going full metal, showing the project actively incorporating other styles into the formula. The repetitive, gravelly industrial loops that is customary in an Allerseelen song are still present in the background, but emphasis has been placed on the metal-ish guitar, Arabian-inspired music flourishes, and the vocals from Faye R. which sound symphonic.

The second and final track, “Chairete Daimones,” is pure Allerseelen in both music composition and occult subject matter. Per Hallstatt, the genesis of the second track, “Chairete Daimones,” came from the desire to create a song about a Gnostic Ritual described by Friedrich Nietzsche in one of his letters:

[Nietzsche] decided to drink some red wine with friends who lived in other cities. At the same time [his friends] left [their] house[s] and drank on the street dark red wine – they drank one half but spilled and offered, sacrificed [the other] half of the wine to the demons with the words ‘Chairete Daimones’ (be greeted, demons). This was on 23rd October 1871, the exact time was ten in the evening. [Nietzsche] lived then in Basel, Switzerland, his friends in Berlin and Kiel. Demons in this context he did not consider as evil spirits but as benevolent powers, in the sense of the antiquity like Marc Aurel or also many centuries later in the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.”

This is not the first time Allerseelen has explored the world of spirits, with the split album Barco Do Vinho with Sangre Cavallum and the song “Svyatoe Vino” from their Men Among the Ruins split album with Changes also being about libations. The music of “Chairete Daimones” throttles back to standard Allerseelen fare, with repetitive industrial loops and spoken-word style lyrics.

Limited to 200 copies, the Anubis/Chairete Daimones single is handsomely packaged: a white 7” vinyl with a hint of marbling, in a foldable sleeve with dark-impressionistic artwork by Laetitia Mantis, who has had artwork featured on releases from Allerseelen alumni projects Fahl and Sagittarius. Consumers who purchase the 7” directly from New Era receive an additional foldable sleeve with the band name and release title stamped in gold foil. Allerseelen being released by New Era seems like an odd choice since that label focuses on black metal. Per Hallstatt though, it was at New Era’s request that Allerseelen release a single with them: “The owner of the label asked us if we have something dark that may fit. So we decided to record for this special edition [release] two songs that have a rather dark and demonic atmosphere. Or twilight atmosphere. ...[We had a] layout that concentrated on the colours of blood and night but then thought that white vinyl could be a perfect contrast.” As nicely packaged and presented the release is, having a digital copy would have been a nice medium to have available, though it might degrade the limited/special edition aspect of the release.


Because of this, the Anubis/Chairete Daimones 7” single is a curio release, probably geared more toward the die-hard Allerseelen fans and completionists rather than a casual listener. Both songs are executed well though and are canonical-sounding Allerseelen songs, with “Anubis” in particular showing unique dash of metal infusion.  

Official Links

Bandcamp: https://allerseelen.bandcamp.com/


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Essay: Tobe Hooper, Laibach and Martial Industrial Music

On Saturday morning, August 26th, influential horror director Tobe Hooper passed away.1 Hooper was legendary for his film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which is a landmark film in its influence on the horror genre. Hooper directed many other films, such as Eaten Alive (1977), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), and many episodes of horror and scifi television series through the 90s and 2000s.

While Hooper’s influence on cinema is legendary and well documented, it should come as no surprise that his influence was felt in other media as well. Industrial music has had a long relationship with sampling dialog and sound clips from films and incorporating them into compositions. Such sampling has been a hallmark of various industrial music genres, a practice that Simon Reynolds recognizes goes all the way back to Cabaret Voltaire2 and many of Hooper’s films have been used in such a fashion.

Skinny Puppy, the Canadian outfit who solidified sampling as an industrial staple due to their prolific usage of the practice, visited Hooper’s work in a handful of their songs. Their song, “Blood on the Wall” from Bites samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,3 while both “Shadow Cast” from Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate4 and the live version of “Dig It” from Ain’t it Dead Yet?5 samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Front Line Assembly makes extensive use of sampling sound effects from Lifeforce in their songs “Modus Operandi”6 and “Paralyzed”7 both from Hard Wired, and the dialog in “Circuitry (Complexity – Remix by Haujobb)” from the Circuitry EP.8 Xorcist follows suit with the heavy Lifeforce sampling in their songs “Pray”9 and “You are the One”10 from Damned Souls and “Be With Me” from Phantoms.11

In the realm of martial industrial music, Tobe Hooper’s presence can be felt via genre progenitor group Laibach and their album Kapital. Kapital, released in 1992, saw Laibach shift way from pure martial percussion to embrace more electronics. The album, released shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, repurposes Karl Marx’s themes. Per an older incarnation of the unofficial Laibach fanpage: “Laibach turns its attention away from totalitarianism and warns the newly freed Eastern Bloc of Capitalism. Kapital is Laibach's rewriting or sequel to Karl Marx's Das Kapital to make it relevant again for the future.”12 The album is certainly an oddity in Laibach’s repertoire, perhaps showing the band at their most experimental between their bombastic martial-industrial of the 1980s to the more Wagnerian-techno and Neue Deutsche Härte sound of the latter 90s. The album contains a rap song, “Hymn to the Black Sun,” (an oddity in the industrial scene), the songs on every version of the album (vinyl, cassette and CD) differ from each other, and the release is almost purely electronic with a substantial quantity of lyrics being sampled from films. All the dialog/lyrics from “Le Privilege Des Morts” is taken from Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965, Godard),13 while “Regime Of Coincidence, State Of Gravity” is made up predominantly of samples from THX-1138 (1971, Lucas).14 The various versions of “Wirtschaft ist Tot”15 opens with a foreign language newscast of sorts.

Laibach's Kapital and Wirtschaft ist Tot from personal collection. Photo by Michele Brittany


Much in the vein of Front Line Assembly and Xorcist, Hooper’s presence on Kapital is felt in the song “Young Europa Pts 1-10” in that the song is entirely made up of samples of both dialog and sound effects from Lifeforce.16



Young Europa Pts 1-10” is a hallmark song on Kapital in that it is probably Laibach’s first purely danceable, techno song in a traditional sense. The linear booklet notes list no lyrics for the song (not even the lines of dialog from the film), but instead the 10 parts of a Young Europa:

  1. Volga
  2. Zest
  3. Diminuendo
  4. Mémoire
  5. Nacht des Traums
  6. Meat and Dream
  7. Mezza Voce
  8. Masha
  9. Faith in Ferro-Concrete
  10. Pro/Forma17


The song edits, loops, and repeats the the vampire’s line “Come, be with me” over and over, with the song ending with the line “Our bodies are not important.”18 A Marx reading of this song could be taken in a few different ways. The title “Young Europa” could refer to a newly unified Europa, after the fall of the wall, much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. The early 90s Europa was a new, re-birthed, and in essence “young” in this regard. The vampire’s lines, “come, be with me” said seductively, can be seen as the alluring nature of capitalism and commercialism in which the Eastern bloc would be flooded with as new markets for the West had now been opened up. And yet, the lines are said by a vampire, and thus giving into her (and by extension, capitalism) will have negative consequences. The danceable nature of the song adds a courtship element as well.

Laibach has always been known for their subversive nature in their music, in particularly their martial covers of Queen’s “One Vision” and Opus’ “Live is Life” released as “Geburt einer Nation” and “Opus Dei” respectively from their Opus Dei album in 1987. Kapital sees Laibach continuing their modus operandi of subverting meaning from other works into something new, but in this case, rather than covering songs in their iconic fashion, they turned to sampling instead. Tobe Hooper was given the distinctive Laibachian-honour in this regard, as elements (dialogs and sounds) from his scifi horror film were re-appropriated into something else. “Young Europa Pts 1-10” has a distinction of being an accessible Laibach song. Prior to this, Laibach’s abrasive martial and bombastic percussion, combined with totalitarian imagery made the group intimidating. Kapital, and songs like “Young Europa Pts 1-10” would see the group shift into more commercial and radio-friendly sounds, as would be seen on the next albums NATO and Jesus Christ Superstars. In this regard, Laibach certainly gave into Hooper’s vampire’s tempation.

Come, be with me.”

Endnotes

1. Pat Saperstein, “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74,” Variety, last modified August 26, 2017, http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.

2. Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984 (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 101.

3. “Skinny Puppy- Blood on the Wall,” YouTube video, 3:00, posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” Novemeber 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

4. “Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast,” YouTube video, 4:23, posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

5. “Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live),” YouTube video, 6:26, posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

6. “Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi,” YouTube video, 5:50, posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

7. “Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed,” YouTube video, 5:31, posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

8. “Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb),” YouTube video, 7:35, posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

9. “Xorcist – Pray,” YouTube video, 5:24, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

10. “Xorcist – You Are The One,” YouTube video, 5:18, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs.

11. “Xorcist – Be With Me,” YouTube video, 5:17, posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

12. “Kapital,” The Unofficial Laibach Site, accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

13. “Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014,” YouTube video, 5:38, posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

14. “Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity,” YouTube video, 7:27, posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

15. “Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot,” YouTube Video, 3:46, posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg. The official video for the song is taken from the
Wirtschaft ist Tot (Metal Mix – Short Version)” which is found on the single and is a shorter, differently mixed version than what appears on the CD album.

16. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10,” YouTube video, 6:14, posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

17. Laibach, Kapital, Mute, MUTE 61282-2, 1997, compact disc.

18. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.”



Bibliography

Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1965. New York: The Criterion Collection, 1998. DVD.

Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb).” YouTube video, 7:35. Posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi.” YouTube video, 5:50. Posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed.” YouTube video, 5:31. Posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

Kapital.” The Unofficial Laibach Site. Accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

Laibach. Kapital. Mute. MUTE 61282-2. 1997. Compact disc.

Laibach. Opus Dei. Wax Trax! WAXCD 030. 1987. Compact disc.

Laibach. Wirtschaft Ist Tot. Mute. CD MUTE 116. Compact disc.

Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014.” YouTube video, 5:38. Posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot.” YouTube video, 3:46. Posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg.

Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.” YouTube video, 6:14. Posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity.” YouTube video, 7:27. Posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

Reynolds, Simon. Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Saperstein, Pat. “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74.” Variety. Last modified August 26, 2017. http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.g

Skinny Puppy - Blood on the Wall.” YouTube video, 3:00. Posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” November 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live).” YouTube video, 6:26. Posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast.” YouTube video, 4:23. Posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

Xorcist – Be With Me.” YouTube video, 5:17. Posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

Xorcist – Pray.” YouTube video, 5:24. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

Xorcist – You Are The One.” YouTube video, 5:18. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review/Interview: Ostara - Runaway Horses

Since the autumn of 2016, there has been flurry of activity for Richard Leviathan’s Ostara project. Firstly, Ostara released a new album, Napoleonic Blues, on vinyl back in October (note: my review of this release can be read here at Heathen Harvest), with a digital version via Bandcamp and a digipack CD version being released in January of this year. As with Ostara’s prior album, Paradise Down South, Soleilmoon handled the physical versions of Napoleonic Blues. In between these releases, Ostara saw a handful of live performances as well, with an Australian concert in December and an appearance in Nuremberg in October.

Ostara's Napoleonic Blues, CD version (personal collection)

February, however, saw Leviathan do something expected: out of the blue, he released a digital only single for a song called “Runaway Horses” on Bandcamp. Posited as a non-album single, “Runaway Horses” isn’t quite a companion to Napoleonic Blues, yet it isn’t totally divorced from the album either. Leviathan explains how the song came into being as such:

It's a completely new song that was in the repertoire just before the release of the album and has a somewhat different mood and quality from that collection and thus could be a prelude to what is to come. Sometimes a song comes into being and stands out, insisting to be recorded, like an omen seeking fulfillment. I remember when Death in June's "Leopard Flowers" was released separately from Rose Clouds of Holocaust and really stood apart from that work while complementing it quite beautifully.1

Per the text on the Bandcamp page, “Runaway Horses” is inspired by the 1969 novel of the same name by Japanese multi-genred artist/writer, Yukio Mishima. Mishima has has a profound influence on the neofolk scene (as well as other underground genres of music). Douglas Pearce of Death in June has expressed Mishima being his favourite author next to Jean Genet.2 References to Mishima can be found in songs on The World that Summer3 as well as the grey-market boxset release of Tribute to Yukio Mishima & Jean Genet which contains a live Death in June performance from Japan.4 “Raio No Terrasu (Jesus Wept)” on Current 93’s Dogs Blood Rising references Mishima’s play Terrace of the Leper King.5 Les Joyaux De La Princesse’s Erik Konofal has expressed influence from Mishima6 while Die Weisse Rose’s release Kyrie Eleison contains a quotation from him.7 Leviathan explains how he became exposed to Mishima’s work and his influence in Ostara’s “Runaway Horses”:

I started reading him at sixteen when I read Temple of the Golden Pavilion and then proceeded to devour the rest of the novels and short stories. Runaway Horses was an enduring favourite, along with the rest of the four books of The Sea of Fertility. I think Mishima was unique as a writer and quite literally as an author of his own destiny, his death by suicide being the final act of a living book in which the man and the mask, the pen and sword became one. His personal fanaticism, his coupling of aesthetics and the martial spirit is rare in the modern age but it can be inspirational to others when it is brought into the light as a living example beyond nostalgia or illusion. While many are drawn to the life and the cult of his personality, it is through reading the work that you discover how his obsessions with beauty, mortality, history and fatality are presented in a very human, conflicted and ambivalent way. It's never just about heroic ideals and spiritual principles. At the centre of everything is the way in which the characters think, act and interact, mostly as tragic figures seeking something enduring in a life doomed to dissolution and decay. It's that 'runaway' sense of a fanatical urge to live, act and die with absolute resolution regardless of the consequences that inspired this song. It is ultimately a kind of liebestod, which is why I designed the artwork and video around some striking photographs I have from a geisha performance I attended in Kyoto in 2014. These complement the romantic and erotic themes of the song quite well.8

Taking the text and music as is, independent from the influence of Mishima, “Runaway Horses” sounds romantic. The song is in the vein of Leviathan’s iconic neofolk-pop style, yet it is “beatier” as there is a toe-tapping rhythm to it. There is also this feeling optimism to the song. Closing ones eyes, one could picture a heroic narrator saving his betrothed, riding off into the sunset together. This interpretation, of course, has little in common with Mishima’s Runaway Horses, but that is perhaps indicative of the multifaceted nature of the lyrics. They can be an extension of Mishima’s work, or something catered uniquely to the listener. Typical neofolk songs that pay lip service or tribute to a literate source are not usually written to be consumed in a variety of means. Intentional or not, “Runaway Horses” is definitely multifaceted. This attribute, combined with Leviathan’s pop/folk stylings makes “Runaway Horses” an extremely attractive, standout song.

"Runaway Horses" graphic used at the Ostara Bandcamp page

The song may be confined to Bandcamp for the time being, but Leviathan has greater plans for it: “Bandcamp is a nice way to showcase music but the goal is always to extend that effort towards an album, which is where it will eventually end up. I acted on impulse with this one and the reaction so far has been fantastic.”9

“Runaway Horses” can be found via streaming or purchase here: https://ostara.bandcamp.com/track/runaway-horses-single


Official Links

http://www.ostara.net/ - Official website for Ostara
https://ostara.bandcamp.com/ - Official Bandcamp page
https://www.facebook.com/ostaramusic/ - Official Facebook Page

Endnotes/Citations

1. Richard Leviathan, email message to Nicholas Diak, March 14, 2017
2. Andreas Diesel and Dieter Gerten, Looking for Europe: The History of Neofolk, trans. Markus Wolff (Zeltingen-Rachtig, Germany: Index Verlag, 2003), 91.
3. Ibid., 91-92.
5. Diesel & Gerten, 63.
6. Ibid., 325.
8. Leviathan, email.
9. Ibid.

Bibliography

Diesel, Andreas, and Dieter Gerten. Looking for Europe: The History of Neofolk. Translated by Markus Wolff. Zeltingen-Rachtig, Germany: Index Verlag, 2003.

Ostara. Napoleonic Blues. 2017 by Soleilmoon. SOL192CD. Compact disc.

Ostara. “Runaway Horses.” 2017 by Bandcamp. No catalog #. Digital download.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: TSIDMZ, Division S, Perturbator, Miel Noir, Time Moth Eye

Review Recap

It's been a while since I've last updated this blog, the last original material being the MARS interview. My focus is turned to working on my neo-peplum book at this moment while my neofolk oriented writing still appears at Heathen Harvest.

I have not quite been up to snuff relinking my reviews from there to here, so here is a recap of the released I've reviewed thus far in 2016.

Time Moth Eye - Grave Needs

Link to Review: https://heathenharvest.org/2016/04/27/time-moth-eye-the-spectral-light-grave-needs/

Time Moth Eye - Grave Needs (from my personal collection)

I am a big fan of Timothy's project Stone Breath, his Werewolf Songs EP being one of the most unique releases and catchy folk songs I've heard in a while. Time Moth Eye is a project of his for content not really geared toward Stone Breath, such as covers and protest songs, but it's quite an enjoyable album. It is also a MEATY album with lots and lots of tracks.

Miel Noir - From the Ashes

Link to Review: https://heathenharvest.org/2016/03/26/miel-noir-from-the-ashes/

Miel Noir - From the Ashes (from my personal collection)

After a hiatus, the dark-pop band Miel Noir returned with the appropriately named album From the Ashes. Project pillar Marcel P. is a long time friend of mine and I am a fill supporter of his endeavors, so it was important to me to review this album and give him some support. I actually have the limited edition version that has a cloth and a download card, but for the life of me, I cannot find those items to put into the photo. Regardless, check this album out.


Perturbator - Uncanny Valley

Link to review: https://heathenharvest.org/2016/06/13/perturbator-the-uncanny-valley/

Perturbator - Uncanny Valley (from my personal collection)

Ok, not a neofolk release but a synthwave one, and I am a huge fan of the synthwave genre. Perturbator has rapidly become one of the best acts I have heard in a long time. Their album Dangerous Days was a masterpiece. I had the honour to review their latest album, Uncanny Valley, and I am really proud of this review - I really dive into the cultural backbone of it.

Division S - Something to Drink 6


Link to review: https://heathenharvest.org/2016/06/25/division-s-something-to-drink-6/

Division S - Something to Drink 6 (from my personal collection)

My newest review at Heathen Harvest, the newest album from Division S. I totally bought this album because of the Helmut Newton photograph on the cover. The music is not really my cup of tea, but for those who like their dark-cabaret a bit more on the abstract side, this album is for you.

TSIDMZ - Rene Guenon Et La Tradition Primordiale

Link to review: https://heathenharvest.org/2016/02/24/tsidmz-rene-guenon-et-la-tradition-primordiale/

TSIDMZ - Rene Guenon (from my personal collection)

If you recall, I did a huge analysis on the TSIDMZ album Ungern von Sternberg Khan a few years ago on this website. Rene Guenon is the sequel to that album and I got to review it for Heathen Harvest. My review is not as in-depth as my Ungern von Sternberg Khan one, but I think I do a decent job at tackling the mysticsm and traditionalism conveyed in it.

Of special honour to me though is that TSIDMZ lists me and this website in the thank you section in the CD tray:

N. Diak (heiligetod.com)

What an honour! I am very flattered by this.

Thank you all for stopping by, checking out these reviews and being supportive!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Call for Essays: Neo-Peplum Films and Television 1990 to Present


Good day everyone -

Taking a small off topic post here at my blog to do something extremely important. I am currently in the process of editing and compiling an edited academic anthology on neo-peplum films and television. I am trying to spread my call for abstracts and essays to as many places as possible to see what other scholars and academics may be interested and consider submitting to. So naturally, one of the places I should be posting my CFP is here at my own blog.

Obligatory shot of "peplum"-themed albums from martial-industrial bands
to somewhat make this entry music related

So please, read below and see if this might me a project you would be interested in being involved in.

Thanks!

Introduction

After the success of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in 2000, the sword-and-sandal genre of films was officially resurrected and has not seen such a prolific output since its heyday in Italy in the late 1950s and 1960s. This second wave of peplum films - or more specifically “neo-peplum” to reflect this distinctive contemporary cycle - has achieved unprecedented critical and commercial success, with big screen films such as 300 to ambitiously realized small screen fare such as Spartacus and Rome. Marginal, critically panned and box office bombs such as Gods of Egypt still make an impact, contributing to the canon of films. With an upcoming remake of Ben-Hur on the horizon, films set in ancient Greek and Roman times, based on their mythologies or featuring gladiatorial combat or large centurion armies, are certainly in demand to theater-goers and Netflix binge watchers.

With such sword-and-sandal films enjoying such popularity, it invites an academic gaze to unearth their cinematic importance beyond simple movie watching consumption. These films and television shows are definitely important: are they a reflection of our times? With our high tech lives, what is the fascination with depictions of the ancient world? With body and gender dialogue more open, what does this say about films that have a strong emphasis on the herculean male or Amazonian female?

This anthology is looking for essays that aim to explore this neo-peplum cycle of films that shares commonality to the original Italian films and Hollywood historic epics. The original peplum cycle of films began with Hercules in 1958, so it is appropriate to say the neo-peplum cycle begins anew with the Hercules character in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys of the 1990s. This anthology seeks to solidify the neo-peplum genre as a distinct term and re-appropriate it to specifically refer to sword-and-sandal films and television shows made after 1990 and evaluate these entries in a variety of interdisciplinary lenses and frameworks.


Potential Essay Topics 

A list of possible (but not comprehensive) topics and themes that contributors could submit on:


  • Anti-Peplum – exploring change in tone from adventure and action to more dramatic and gritty stories
  • Auteur theory (Timur Bekmambetov and The Arena)
  • Portrayal of women from vamps and damsels in the original peplum cycle to Xena-inspired characters in the present cycle (Xena, The Arena)
  • General Masculinity/Femininity portrayal
  • Compare/contrast original Italian cycle with present cycle
  • Compare/contrast original stories/characters with remakes (Hercules remakes, Clash of the Titans remake)
  • Close reading at source material and how neo-peplum films interpret them
  • Neo-peplums as allegory for present day politics
  • Peplums for young adults (Gods of Egypt)
  • Neo-peplums combining with other genres – such as sci-fi (John Carter) or disaster film (Pompeii)
  • Ancient worlds portrayed in “hyper-realistic” fashion 
  • Mono-myth and neo-peplum characters
  • Pastiche, parody, subversion (Hail, Caesar!, Meet the Spartans)
  • Representations of race, white-washing
  • Shakespeare, tragedy (Titus)


Authors are encouraged to submit more than one abstract. If you have multiple great ideas for potential essay chapters, feel free to submit each one. I will assemble the most cohesive arrangement of essays that will provide the most well-rounded discussion of neo-peplum films.

Films and Television Series 

Below is a list of potential films and television series post 1990 that could potentially fit into the neo-peplum formula. This list is by no means complete, but it is presented to give examples of the types of films/TV shows that fit within this genre and to inspire creative ideas for the films to write about. Not all neo-peplum films deal directly with ancient Greece or Rome, as some of the aesthetics and styles are being used for Egyptian, Viking and barbarian themed films as well. This list is only a guide; other films and TV shows that are neo-peplum-like will certainly be entertained for this book.

Films

300 (2007), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), Agora (2009), Alexander (2004), The Arena (2001), Centurion (2010), Clash of the Titans (2010), The Eagle (2011), Gladiator (2000), Gods of Egypt (2016), Hail, Caesar! (2016), Hercules (1997), Hercules (2014), Immortals (2011), John Carter (2012), The Last Legion (2007), Meet the Spartans (2008), Pompeii (2014), Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010), The Scorpion King (2002) and its sequels, Titus (1999), Troy (2004), Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Television Series

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999), Rome (2005-2007), Spartacus (2010–2013), Vikings (2013-present), Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), Young Hercules (1998-1999)

Publication Timetable

Below follows a generous timetable at essay composition, editing and submitting:


  • June 30, 2016 – Deadline for abstract submissions
  • July 10, 2016 – Notification of acceptance, distribution of style guide
  • December 4, 2016 – Chapter drafts are due
  • April 29, 2017 – Chapter revisions due
  • May 31, 2017 – Submission of manuscript to the publisher


Drafts and revisions are strongly encouraged to be submitted before the deadlines. The essays will follow Chicago style citations. The style guide when disseminated will round out the essay specifications.

Abstract Submission Instructions

Please submit your abstract(s) of roughly 500 words along with your academic CV/resume and preliminary bibliography to the email address below before June 30th. Please use an appropriate subject line when submitting – have it contain the phrase “neo-peplum submission.” I will confirm each submission via email within 48 hours.

Essayists will receive a contributor’s copy of the book when it is published.

Nicholas Diak, editor

Email: vnvdiak@gmail.com
Website: http://www.neopeplumbook.com


Nicholas Diak is an independent pop culture scholar residing in southern California. He has a strong interest in neofolk and post-industrial music, exploitation cinema, Italian genre films and H.P. Lovecraft. He has contributed to the book James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland, 2014) and has an essay appearing in an upcoming anthology on space-horror films. He is a frequent presenter at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Conference, a contributor to the website Heathen Harvest and a member of the H.P. Lovecast Podcast. He is also an academic member of the Horror Writers Association and National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Interview: MARS (Marcus S. Oliver F. and Nadine)

Introduction
     Back in 2014 I had commenced working on an essay about the MARS album Blood is the Food of the Gods to give it an in-depth and analytical treatment. Interviews were conducted with Marcus S., Oliver F., and Nadine to form the basis of original research, while I began to consult textual sources such as René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred. This turned out to be an enormous task that I faltered on completing in 2015, so it was shelved as other obligations kept popping up.
     However, tabling the original review questions from MARS does not benefit anyone, and with a looming new album and upcoming concerts, this is an opportunity time to take the Q/A, edit it into an interview, compliment it with additional questions and present it. What follows are questions conducted during 2014 that were originally geared toward Blood is the Food of the Gods, (but are still relevant), combined with recent questions that are more topical.
     A sincere thanks to Marcus, Oliver and Nadine for their time, and apologies for the tardiness of this final product.

The Sacrifice EP
     In 2013 MARS released a vinyl and digital EP called Sacrifice which would set the official ground work for what would follow in Blood is the Food of the Gods.
     There are some connections between Blood is the Food of The Gods and Sacrifice. Firstly, what is the reason that “Icarus” appears on both releases? Is this an anthem of sorts for MARS
     Marcus: The 12" Sacrifice is a kind of preface and key to understanding Blood is the Food of the Gods. It may be considered our first fully realized release (while Sons of Cain is more of a demo). There are two songs present on both releases, which are “Icarus” and “Sacrifice.” Both are key songs for the sacrifice-concept. Both songs will be presented on concerts to come for we feel very close to their lyrics and the message. Both songs were originally written by myself. “Icarus” is a special case for it was initially written for my first band :Golgatha:. It appears as a version sung by myself and by Patrick Leagas of Sixth Comm. The Mars-version is the third version of “Icarus,” provided with a new melody. I consider it the ultimate version of the song so far. This will not be the last new interpretation of a :Golgatha: song by Mars. In my opinion Mars is the official follow-up of :Golgatha:.
     What is the difference between “Sacrifice” from Sacrifice and “Sacrifice 2” from Blood is the Food of the Gods?
     Marcus: “Sacrifice 2” is mixed on different equipment and has distinct break towards the end. Check it out.

Blood is the Food of the Gods Album
     The first truly realized and fleshed out album proper of MARS, Blood is the Food of the Gods was released in the summer of 2014 by Lichterklang in both a standard and a limited edition version with an extra CD of a live performance.
     The cover of Blood is the Food of the Gods is a watercolor painting depicting a nude woman, bloodied hands outstretched to the sun. Can you tell me about the genesis of the cover?
     Nadine: Marcus, Oliver and me, we were talking about the cover and we all liked the imagination of a naked, female shaman standing with her back to the beholder. So I've made a (very) small watercolor sketch which was the origin of the picture. And while I was painting, the music of MARS inspired me of course.
Blood is the Food of the Gods album cover
     Why is everything dead in the piece? The trees hold no leaves and it is a barren area around the lake.
     Nadine: I don't think it is dead, it is more a landscape in winter, it is sleeping. In the first place that was an artistic decision in favor of shape and composition. Nevertheless there was the idea of a tormented nature somewhere in my mind, indeed. It might be a nature which needs to be treated with more respect, just like the shaman does, and which - maybe - demands the one or another "sacrifice".
     The cover depicts the Wolf Queen, the subject of track 10, "Song of the Wolf Queen.” Can you elaborate on this inspiration?
     Marcus: The idea of the Wolf Witch was derived from the respective scene in the film Conan the Barbarian yet I always was bothered by the connotation of her being “evil.” The other inspiration was a walk through a wolf areal in a zoo nearby with Nadine. It is a kind of love song at the same time.
Oliver F. - photo courtesy of the band
     What textual insight do you want to share, or did you want to convey with the songs you wrote? "Blood is the Food of the Gods," "Hunters," and "Saviours?” MARS wears inspiration on its sleeve with lots of literary sources, what where your inspirations for these tracks and what do you want to convey with them?
     Oliver: I'm also an academic (history/culture science) and read a lot in my life about cultures, history and philosophy and so on. From these experiences and from life itself I get my inspirations. When I write a song, it's usually based on a core idea and then I keep it in my mind for some time. I also try to create a creative environment where the words can flow. Sometimes I get my inspiration from walking alone in the nature, visiting old Mehir Stones or Celtic ruins not far from my hometown. I never know when it is "coming" to me, but I try to stay prepared.
     For the three songs:
     "Blood is the Food of the Gods" is mainly a song referring to old hunter cultures and their involvement with religion. It is a reminder that man is a predator. The meaning of the phrase "blood is the food of the gods" should remind you that blood is not only a kind of motor oil running through your veins, and that humans are not only scientific beings. I think we live in two worlds: the so called rational and science world and in a spiritual world. In our blood everything that we are and who our ancestors were comes together. The gods are those who give and take. That blood is their food refers on one hand to old blood sacrifices, but also a reminder that the gods (or what else someone believes) are not here to make it easy for you, they don't prevent catastrophes or personal tragedy. But in the best way, we live like those hunters and go out night after night, not knowing, if we will kill our prey - but nevertheless we praise the spirits/gods and take life as it is and destiny reveals itself to us. It is hard, but life is just not meant to be easy.
     "Hunters" as the title says refers also to these traditions. You could call it "Blood is the Food of the Gods Part II.” Here we are called to evoke our inner strength. It doesn't matter how hard life is: we are the hunter and not the hunted. It's a call to be brave in life and never to forget who we are and that we take the fight against the hardships of life.
     The part "things differ /not only in the eyes of the gods and live flow like rivers/ not only in the eyes of the gods" reminds us that we don't have a guarantee to succeed - but again, we should accept it and take on the fight.
     “We are on our path to war /Freedom is so glorious /so fine and pure /But we cannot choose / the destiny that‘s woven / Dreams do never rust/ The Blossoms of a fresh morning /At the day of your death.” That is what represents the warrior heart.
     "Saviors" is a criticism song. From time to time, one man/woman climbs up from the masses, someone with an overwhelming charisma. His heart is full of ideas and he seems to burn for it - the saviors "hearts burn like fever.” But in the end, we see, that a savior is also only a human being that was never capable to fulfill what he has promised. So this savior “leave(s) nothing but questions.” Even Jesus Christ left his followers before he could answer all questions. We "wander like blindes" and "the vastness lies before us” - many people are (subconsciously) waiting for someone who leads them - the blind masses- through this vastness of this desert. They are like "terrified children."
     MARS had mentioned that The Seeker was being recorded with 17 mics and there was 32 tracks to be mixed. What other technical aspects like this can you share about Blood is the Food of the Gods?
     Oliver: We recorded The Seeker and “Ravens Eyes” in a very fine studio with a lot of old-school equipment. This was a very nice production and for some of the future songs (especially those with E-Guitars and heavy drumming) we will do it again.
     For the Blood is the Food of the Gods album, this was totally produced and recorded by ourselves. We both have small studios and the rehearsal room has a very good acoustics. The process from idea to final recording is like this: first the idea, then working on it in rehearsals, doing a demo, playing it for a few weeks and then we do the final recording. All vocals and instruments are done separately, like in any other studio. As Marcus has over ten years of experience in producing music he does the final mix and mastering. He is very accurate and I like the outcome a lot.
Photo courtesy of the band
     Many MARS’ songs are textually repetitive, with lines are said over again. Is this repetition is supposed to evoke a ritualistic quality to the music? How does the work of René Girard in regards to ritual violence and sacred tie in?
     Marcus: Yes, ritual IS repetition, yet we try to avoid that neofolk thing to focus on only very few repeated lines.
     The ideas from Girard I refer to are:
  • The history and use of the blood sacrifice
  • The idea of kydos - the cruelty of the hero
  • In general, the relation of violence, blood letting, sacrifice and religion
  • The dialectics of mythos and modernity

     Also reflect on the name of your own site: 'heiligetod', which is German for 'sacred death' - death in a sacred state, the sacred act of killing, dying for a sacred purpose etc. Here I have to point out that the German word 'heilig' is also connected to 'heil' (well-being, sacred state), which is very unpopular due to its use in the phrase 'Sieg heil' - which also may refer to a 'a sacred victory.' These concepts are tangled indirectly by Girard. Girard is catholic by the way. I am not.
     In the photos inside the linear notes/lyrics there is a cool looking book. One picture has it closed, one has it opened. What is the book if I may ask?
     Marcus: This is my personal MARS book of lyrics. It was given to me by Nadine, is bound in buffalo leather, sewn by handmade paper and imprinted with the 'horned triskele of Odin'. Every finished version of a song is written down there by hand.
     On Facebook, in the MARS photo albums, there is an album called "Mars inspiration." In it you have a lot of books - from Jack London to James Dickey. For Blood is the Food of the Gods, what books compliment this album? What are some of the references you create in the album to these sources?
     Marcus: The big topic of Blood is the Food of the Gods is the sacred rite of sacrifice. Of special use were Mircea Eliade's writings on shamanism, George Bataille's writings on the theory of religion, and Curzio Malaparte's collection of short stories, Barbara Ehrenreich's Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, and especially: Rene Girard's Violence and the Sacred. Also there are adaptations of Yukio Mishima's Sun & Steel and Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian on the album.
     The book that the song “The Dragon Seed” is based on is not out in English. It is an exploration of the nihilist hero of the early 20th century as featured in German literature. “Icarus” is closely related to Yukio Mishima’s writings in Sun & Steel. But references are not always in actual quotes, but more in mood and ideas.

MARS Presents the Trail
     After Blood is the Food of the Gods, MARS turned their attention to the ambitious project, MARS Presents the Trail, a soundtrack of sorts depicting the American west heavily based on the book Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy.
     MARS Presents the Trail had an almost singular focus on Blood Meridian, with a few dabs of other western iconography (Peckinpah, Morricone, etc) thrown in. Since MARS has many literary inspirations, is there another topic you would love to laser focus on such as you did with the Trail?
     Marcus: There are always certain things working within me. Blood Meridian is a novel that left a huge impression on me over ten years ago. I might go even further back and find Melville's Moby Dick again. Again a very mythical tale of archaic power. These kinds of things never cease to inspire me. Also I am planning to compose a whole album based on the myth of Ragnaroek which accurately reflects the state of humanity at the moment. We are literally waiting for the end to come, not knowing what might arise from the ashes of human civilization. But this would be executed best as a collaboration of MARS and Vortex. Who knows…
Marcus S. photo courtesy of the band
     The Trail had some struggles at getting released in regards to labels or mail orders not wanting to carry it, or thinking it was outside the norm for what they thought their customers would want. Can you elaborate on this ordeal at getting The Trail out there?
     Marcus: Yes, releasing The Trail was a tragedy in itself, which took several years. First I approached my usual labels but one said it is “too unspecific” and “not interesting enough,” als “too American.” The other said “it is just not the direction we are heading at the moment.” Then we started contacting more metal and post-rock based labels, but rarely got an answer. You are only released if you are an actual buddy of the label boss. Otherwise - rare chances. Oh, and we tried a label for 70s film music and they said there were too many songs on the album. The thing is: you can always release music on your own, but who will distribute it? When I decided to release it on my own :Ikonen: media label, I did it the way we envisioned it: as a hardbound media book, with high quality sewn in booklet, full colour etc. No compromise made. It looks terrific as you have realized yourself. Yet it did never sell out for the lack of distribution. People who have it, they love it and keep listening to it as I have heard. But there could be like 500 more.

MARS Miscellanea
     As a complex and interesting band, there are quite a few general questions for MARS that do not directly connect with a specific release but still gain tremendous insight into the project.
     MARS practices ALOT. Not many other bands in the scene do this. Not to sound disparaging, but many bands now-a-days are "bedroom musicians," meaning a bulk of the work is simply done in their private home studios on computers. But I see social media posts all the time of you and Marcus doing rehearsals. Do you think this is a lost art? What effect do you think rehearsing has on MARS and your ritual performances?
     Oliver: From some musicians I heard things like "We don't believe in rehearsals". But I don't think that there is anything to believe about it. Rehearsals are a powerful tool, and it is also a lot of fun.
     It's not only about playing your songs better, but also to develop new songs and to get even closer with your bandmates. It helps to get in the "flow" while you’re playing live.
     As you say, many bands are kind of "bedroom projects", some of them only meet two hours before a concert and only one of them is writing music and recording for himself. Sure, it is possible to play a good concert under these conditions, if the musicians are good enough. But what I love about doing music is to work together with my bandmates, in this case Marcus, and create something as a team! It is more like an ongoing process. Sometimes we have a song idea we both love. If you don't rehearse, that’s it. The creative process ends with this. But if you do rehearse these new songs, you will discover only by playing them many times, what else can be add or removed from it to make it even better and - I would say- authentic/organic.
     Our approach to this is very old-school. Rehearsals and band structure are a must.
Photo courtesy of the band
     You call your live performances rituals. Can you elaborate on this verbiage? What separates a "performance" from a "ritual"?
     Oliver: For me the aspect of doing a ritual on stage has three important points. The music builds a closed frame where we lead the audience through. We don't "pose,” for us this is very serious! And also the topics of our songs support it, that it's a kind of ritual.
     The MARS logo looks like an altered Mannaz rune. Can you elaborate on the design of the rune? Who came up with it, and what you'd like to convey with it?
     Marcus: The Mars band logo is completely based on my personal bind-rune which I designed around 1999. Mars was initially meant to be a solo-project by myself and refers to my name MARcuS, which means 'dedicated to the Roman war god Mars'. The bind rune is constructed of the runes Mannaz, Ar, Raido and Sowilo, while for me Gebo and Kenaz are also involved and equally important. Mars is meant to be a 'male brotherhood', thus Mannaz is very important as well. Oliver and I decided to keep it as the band logo for our joined band Mars.
     What do you think separates MARS from other neofolk/dark folk/etc. acts?
     Marcus: A lot. First we do not consider Mars a neofolk band. Our music is very far from the typology of (German) neofolk bands. We sing in English to reach an international audience - we have no interest in the 'national identity' thing that most neofolk bands are into. We will include even more electric guitars in future. Our music is based on rhythm, not on melody - like most of the well-known neofolk bands. We have no keyboards e.g. and use stings very rarely and only from guest musicians. Concerning our song writing we seem closer to punk or black metal than to neofolk, which is often heading towards pop and catchiness. Mars' music is more raw and archaic. We work on the basis of rituals rather than classical song writing. - Saying all this it seems to me that our music is much closer some acoustic elements of bands like Neurosis, Wovenhand, Young and in the Way, or Swans. On the stylistic level we are very different to most neofolk bands. First of all we love leather jackets, especially the Perfecto jacket from Schott NYC. We use a lot of shamanistic imagery like animal skulls and bones, wood carvings, natural objects etc. I personally feel closer to rock bands like Fields of the Nephilim or Wolvserpent.
     MARS has only appeared on one compilation, Au Bout Du Monde: the Jules Verne Compilation, that was released via Bandcamp in 2013. A lot of bands of the subaltern scene try to appear on many as compilations (digital and physical) as possible. Any particular reason why MARS doesn't appear on a lot of compilations?
     Marcus: There are bands who seem to be keen on being on every compilation suitable, while others (Rome, King Dude e.g.) avoid appearing outside their own context. We do not “boycott” compilations, but we will carefully chose into which context we might fit. The Jules Verne-compilation is a very mixed bag and in my opinion we do not even fit into it very well. The respective song “Mobilis in Mobile” works much better on our album. Compilations were a very important promotion means in the 1990s, and the neofolk scene still keeps this tradition from time to time. But honestly the time for this format seems over. In any case we are mainly interested in concept compilations, but it seems ages ago that such an opportunity was given (I remember the Arthanor compilation Lucifer Rising...).
     MARS uses Bandcamp to proliferate their releases, digitally and physically. How successful has this platform been for you? Do you feel a listener may miss out on a "full experience" by only having a digital edition of one of your albums rather than the physical version?
     Marcus: This is due to listeners' demand. We know that people in Latin America have a hard time buying CDs, so it is a good chance for them to download our music. But they definitely miss out the whole experience, yes.
     Original artwork by Nadine and luxurious digipack treatments grace the MARS releases. How important is the physical presentation of MARS music to go the extra mile? As a high quality band, does MARS seek to be associated with high quality releases?
     Marcus: Yes, we want people to realize that MARS is a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total piece of art, including layout, material, bonus etc. To understand what we want demands the whole thing. And the Sacrifice EP on 12" or The Trail CD turned out exactly as we wanted. The inclusion of download codes is just a concession to our listeners. Ideally you should concentrate on the music and get inspired by the artwork. Thus we are very happy that we found David of La Esencia (Spain) who was totally enthusiastic to release the new MARS 7" in an appropriate way: as a gatefold cover with postcards, including the option of a bonus CD 6 months later with exclusive songs and mixes all focussing on the two solstices.

The Seeker – MARS on the Horizon
     The next album MARS intends to realize on their journey is the appropriately named album The Seeker. As a preview of things to come, MARS released a digital only release of Whispers/The Pyres to test the waters with and satiate fans until the album release proper.
     What has been the responses and feedback so far from Whispers /The Pyres?
     Marcus: A digital single does not really work as a commercial outing. But it was important to mark a new level by MARS. Both songs represent different aspects of our brotherhood, as different as they are complementary. Caught between gothic melancholy and pagan awareness. So reactions have been nice, especially considering the video clips that the German film artist Danilo Vogt did for us. But I expect the 7" Farewell to the Sun to create much more attention. The best one can do to promote a band is play live. And we even managed to play the legendary Slimelight at London which might be closed soon. This was a great event for sure. Next up will be the Sabbat Bloody Sabbat festival at Vienna (Austria).
Searching - photo courtesy of the band
     What has been the production story behind The Seeker so far? Places recorded, equipment used, lyrics revised - etc. What has been on this creative journey so far?
     Marcus: Some songs on The Seeker date back several years and existed at the time of Blood is the Food of the Gods yet they did not fit in then. We like to see our activities as a constant work in progress and allow changes to the material all the time. We also have started collaboration with the apocalyptic folk band Solitude Ravencrow from East Germany who share the same spiritual view of the world. They added subtle strings, bass guitar and a certain droning male voice to our sound. Oliver has bought several new instruments, mainly effects and guitars, which enable him to create a much richer and more atmospheric sound than before. Some tracks we recorded in the legendary Rama studio at Mannheim with producer Christian Bethge, who also produces the doom act Ahab. This changed our sound towards a more Swans-like edge.
     What do you hope to accomplish with The Seeker?
     Marcus: The Seeker will be the essence of our work and it will take more time to complete it. It is meant as a complete piece of spiritual art, enabling the audience to reflect on the downfall of human societies and to re-capture the nearly forgotten spirit of the ancient gods. The Seeker is a quest for the essence of the human soul to be found within ecstasy and ritual.
     Finally, what will listeners and fans see or hear in regards to the MARS sound with The Seeker? What will you be doing differently, and what will you be honing?
     Marcus: The Seeker is not finished by now, but this might be due to the title, hehe. This will be an epic album on the process of seeking spiritual truth and finally becoming “god.” The Odinic search if you like. We have over 70 minutes of material finished and will eventually aim for a double album: on disc with the acoustic songs, one with more atmospheric post-black-metal as on some tracks before. But now on a much grander scale. We have better technical possibilities now, new collaborators, and our sound will be much more diverse and soundtrack-like. This said, The Seeker will be a huge piece of audiovisual art, probably suitable for a vinyl version. Sound-wise I am heading for a more ritualistic approach, more drumming, more chanting, but there will also be classical songs. True apocalyptic pagan doom folk.

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