|Princess of the Night (from my personal collection)|
Monday, October 21, 2013
Review: Pale Roses - Princess of the Night
The final weeks of October are upon us, a spooky time, a season for a witch.
My girlfriend and I got to meet +Brian Garant for drinks and Mexican food this past weekend, and he bestowed upon me some CDrs of music that I should’ve heard but have not. He also showed me a book called England’s Hidden Reverse which now costs a zillion dollars, but I took the hit and found a copy on Abe Books. Primary texts for this genre of music are hard to come by, so I need to scoop up what I can. Perhaps what I can do is put some annotations up on this blog?
So now we are in week two of short reviews as I continue to work on other projects that need to be wrapped up by this month’s end. This will be a review of the one track single Princess of the Night by +Pale Roses , a French neofolk band. Much like the Allerseelen Sonne Golthi-Ade review, I’ll be positing more questions that I want to note to tackle in future blogs.
None – but +Ben MFA from Pale Roses is a cool guy and I like to talk to him whenever the opportunity arises.
General Overview and Packaging
Princess of the Night is a one track single put out by Catgirl Records Historical in 2011. Catgirl Records Historical is a sub-label focusing on neofolk bands and falls under the Catgirl Records label proper, a label specializing in noise music. All the Catgirl releases are in a D.I.Y. style, some fairly absurd (wrapped in supermarket adverts, scotch tape, etc.), but for the sub-labels the releases they are in giant transparent A5 sized envelopes with graphics on photo paper and the music on generic CDrs.
Princess of the Night is no different, with all the photography focusing on images of trains and train tracks, which are fitting for the songs lyrics (see below). The images are heavily modified, to be in grey scale and gloomy, but nicely executed. The CDr is non-descript and would benefit with a sticker placed on it, lest it get mixed up with other CDrs. The print run of this single was 20 units, making it fairly collectable.
Princess of the Night
“Princess of the Night” is actually a cover originally performed by British heavy metal band Saxon. Saxon was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which notable acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Venom were also a part of. “Princess of the Night” originally appeared on Saxon’s 1981 album Denim and Leather.
Fan-made Youtube video for the original Saxon version
The first interesting tangent I want to note is the strong association between neofolk/military pop and the metal genre as a whole: the bond between both camps is strong and often blurred. This will definitely have to be a series of blogs by themselves to explore this association, but at a cursory glance there are some key points that need to be made. Firstly, many metal musicians are neofolk musicians and vice versa. The members of Pale Roses, for example, are also in a doom metal band called +Modern Funeral Art. Marcel P. from +Miel Noir has been in Halgadom, a band that is 50% of the time neofolk and 50% of the time black metal. Cornelius from Sagittarius had his own black metal project called Hailstrom. Josef K. from Von Thronstahl sang for the Tanz Metal group Weissglut (Tanz Metal and Neue Deutsche Härte being used interchangeably) and guest sang on one Agathodaimon album (Chapter III). Carl Lang from Agathodaimon and Megalith performed with The Days of the Trumpet Call. Black Ambient musician Alex Wieser from +Uruk Hai has an ur-folk project called Hrefnesholt. Dimo Dimov’s flagship project of Svarrogh began as a black metal project that gradually took on neofolk elements over time. Austrian ur-folk supergroup Sturmpercht has seen musicians that are or were also part of metal bands, such as the aforementioned Dimo Dimov, Christoph Ziegler (Vinterrket) and Hajot Gmeilbauer (Soulsearch). And even if a neofolk band has members not part of the metal scene, they have collaborated with them, such as Changes and Cadaverous Condition or Der Blutharsch and Our Survival Depends on Us. The list goes on and would benefit from a relational diagram of sorts.
Secondly, one can help but noticed that both metal bands and neofolk/martial bands draw subject matter from the same source material. From Vikings to occultism, from anti-Christian themes to paganism, from WW2 to alchemy, from medieval battles to Germanic poetry. Styles and imagery are also shared, such as Death in June using umlauts in their band name. This pool of subject matter definitely needs to be cataloged, and which I have been preemptively doing it by listing what cultural references when possible when I do these reviews.
Finally, another observation to bring up is the abundance of covers. The neofolk and martial genres of music do an amazing amount of covers. Although maybe “covers” is not the right word to use when traditional songs are sung, such as Blood Axis doing “Follow Me Up to Carlow” or Werkraum doing “Jabberwock”, but regardless they are lyrics these artists didn’t originally compose and are re-appropriating them. Aside from traditional songs, the scene does make rampant use of covers, both of songs within the genre and out. Many bands have done a cover of “Runes and Men” by Death in June. Outside genre examples include Von Thronstahl doing a cover of The Stranger’s “Curfew”, Kirlian Camera doing Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and Pale Roses doing this Saxon cover, And let’s not forget all of those Laibach covers either!
Lots of footnotes I want to mention with the intent to cover later, and this release by Pale Roses triggers those creative juices for questions to ponder and then address.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxYFM5yNDqc - Video on Arnaud’s YouTube channel (Arnaud = Pale Roses member). Some reason, Blogger doesn't want to embed this video.
“The Princess of the Night” is a song about a train and the narrator’s fond memories from their youth of receiving mail, riding it and being in awe of the power behind the train. However the narrative is told in past tense, indicating the train is no longer in service, has been scrapped, or is still in service and not performing up to snuff any more.
The original Saxon version is in traditional British heavy metal fashion, and the song is definitely better sounding in proportion to how long your hair is. If you’ve ever heard “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest, then you’ve basically heard what the original Saxon version sounds like.
The Pale Roses version is extremely stripped down, slowed down, and subdued. This version is all acoustic guitar: it has the feel of a man standing solo by a fire, guitar in hand, lamenting the sad lyrics to a quiet audience. The vocals are equally somber and ghostlike and compliment the lyrics in this regard. You wouldn’t know the lyrics were so somber listening to the original version, but you definitely do with the Pale Roses version.
While the vocals do fit the subject matter, as a matter of personal taste, I prefer Pale Roses’ vocals in other songs. They are far superior sounding in their native tongue, with songs such as “Le Village Assasin” and “La Nativite Julienne” being good examples of them in top form.
Verdict – Decent Song
“Princess of the Night” is a decent enough song, but I would not recommend this track to someone who has not heard Pale Roses before as a foray into the band. I would instead recommend their split album with Barbarossa Umtrunk, which is far superior.
This release though has got me thinking more and more how complex this blog will be, and how writing about neofolk and martial music is going to be a huge, multifaceted task. But as I explore deeper in the heart of it all, I do hope the readers gain and even more appreciation for these bands and explore them as well. All of these reviews are from bands from my personal collection, and I am not wasting my money on buying crap, so you know the bands I am show casing here, I stand behind.
British heavy metal, Saxon, Trains
http://paleroses.bandcamp.com/album/princess-of-the-night - Band Camp page for this song
https://myspace.com/morepaleroses - Official MySpace
http://www.reverbnation.com/paleroses - Reverb Nation page
https://www.facebook.com/arnaud.spitz.9 - Facebook page