Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Savage World: Review of Awen’s The Hollow in the Stone

Released late in 2019, The Hollow in the Stone is American neofolk outfit Awen’s third and newest studio album since their 2014 release, Grim King of the Ghosts. Released right on the eve of Awen’s fifteen year in operation, The Hollow in the Stone is the band’s most refined, polished, and ambitious album to date. The album is mixture of distinct, yet associated styles – neofolk, post-industrial, narrative spoken word – arranged on the release in a seamless, cohesive fashion. This balance of styles has not gone unnoticed by fans of the band, with Erin Powell, figurehead of Awen, stating “stylistically we have maintained a combination of folk and industrial elements for the last several albums, whereas some projects seem to just focus on an all acoustic instrument sound. I’ve had feedback from people over the years that they appreciate this mixture of sounds from us.”

Cover art to The Hollow in the Stone

The Hollow in the Stone contains thirteen tracks, two of them being intro/outros, with the rest being original compositions, with only “I am Stretched on your Grave” being a traditional song, rearranged by Katrin X. Guest appearances are a trademark of Awen, with long time alumnus b9 InViD of Et Nihil appearing once again, along with a first time appearance of Jerome Reuter from ROME. “Perversity of Joy,” “Brigid the Dark, Brigid the Light,” “Hawthorn Rod,” “The Death Of Reynard,” and “The Hollow In The Stone” constitute the album’s neofolk offerings. “Englyn for Blodeuwedd,” “In the Heart of the Corpseknot” and “The Sickle and the Setting Sun” are the industrial/martial-industrial tracks on the album while “I am Stretched on your Grave” adds an ethereal sound to the mix.

The neofolk tracks are exceptionally well executed, with Powell displaying a fondness for “Hawthorn Rod” that he feels shows all facets of Awen coming into play. The song is an excellent duet between Powell and Katrin X, with catchy and seductive guitars that lures a listener in. “Brigid the Dark, Brigid the Light,” which is about the Irish goddess Brigid, captures the same romantic neofolk elements.

Awen live, 2019. Photo by Karl Hendrik

“Morrigan” is an unexpected surprise on The Hollow in the Stone and a tremendous delight. A departure to traditional Awen songs of the past, “Morrigan” is a spoken word track. Awen has come close to flirting with the genre on prior releases in songs such as “Sacrifice” from The Bells Before Dawn, which is more akin to an NSK speech or a Praise the Fallen-era VNV Nation track, and “Dream of an Omen,” which also contains bits of the spoken word formula, yet still feels more like a song than a narration. Instead, “Morrigan” is a narrative, third person perspective, dark fiction, spoken word short story. In the tale, an unnamed protagonist travels though a dark forest with a sinister steed and happens upon the mysterious titular Morrigan at a stream. It is an encounter that will not bode well for the protagonist. “Morrigan” demonstrates that Powell is a master orator, and Awen should consider releasing more songs, or even a one-off album, of narrated stories. As Cadabra Records has shown with their luxurious vinyl releases of readings of H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Thomas Ligotti, there is a niche market for dark spoken word albums set to ambient/industrial soundscapes. Awen, who have repurposed poetic works before (as “Empire, Night & the Breaker” from The Bells Before Dawn which uses the poetry of Breaker Morant) is the perfect outfit to release even more tracks in this vein.

For fans of ROME who are not familiar with Awen, but are interested in checking out the album due to Reuter’s appearance on the track “The Death Of Reynard” (or perhaps due to Awen’s appearance on ROME’s Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro) are in for a treat as Reuter’s distinctive, hypnotic voice is put to excellent use on the neofolkish song. The song showcases a great mixture of both ROME and Awen.

Excluding the outro “Cyfraith Dyn,” The Hollow in the Stone ends with “The Sickle and the Setting Sun,” and what a way to end. The song is an excellent representation of Awen’s aggressive-side of their music catalog, and if this were the 90s-2000s, “The Sickle and the Setting Sun” would be the album’s first MCD single, complete with remixes and multimedia tracks. The song is an apocalyptic-pop, bombastic tune. Powell’s voice booms over thunderous drums while Katrin X’s vocals seethe the song’s title in a call-and-response fashion. The opening lyrics “the symbol of the setting sun / cruel crescent that severs grain and chaff as one / the punishing steel / once cut, it’s done! / the sickle and the setting sun” sets the stage for the subject matter of the song, drawing imagery from neofolk tropes, and yet uniquely applying to Awen, creating an anthem of sorts for the band. The sickle has been an iconic implement used by the band, especially during live performances with Katrin X brandishing them, drawing parallels to, say, how Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle did during the May Day celebrations in The Wicker Man. Powell further elaborates on the meaning of the sickle to Awen:

“Katrin does use a pair of antique sickles with a contact mic on them in studio recordings and live performances. It is an interesting symbol to me. Agricultural, but also urban and modern in the context of 20th century political iconography. We read that the ancient druids used a golden sickle to cut mistletoe in their rituals. The shape of the blade is a crescent moon, which has many interesting connotations throughout the ages and different cultures. The severing blade, life from death.” 

Awen live, 2019. Photo by Karl Hendrik

The album concludes with “Cyfraith Dyn: which echoes the sound of the album’s intro track, “Cyfraith Natur.” Both tracks act as opulent bookends to the album.

Though it has been five years between the release of Awen’s second album, Grim King of the Ghosts, and The Hollow in the Stone, those years were not idle ones for the band. The time period saw numerous live, split releases (such as 2016’s European Crusade 2015 with Et Nihil and 2017’s Abyssus Abyssum Invocat [Deiance in Dallas] with Boyd Rice) and a handful of tours and live appearances. Awen’s accumulation of prestige over the years is evident in the band’s new home on the legendary Trisol label, making them bedfellows with renown acts such as, ROME, Clan of Xymox, L'Âme Immortelle, and Project Pitchfork. Per Powell, the move to Trisol came about during their concert in Frankurt in 2017:

“Alex, the label owner of Trisol, was at our concert in Germany when we played with Boyd and played as Awen as well as Fire + Ice for Ian Read. Jerome Reuter was also there, and I invited him backstage to meet everyone and gave him his first Neofolk Bullwhip! He later recommended us to Alex, who was already impressed by our performance. We decided to make the move from OEC to Trisol then.”

The end result of Awen’s signing to Trisol is the release of a beautiful and ornate vinyl edition of The Hollow in the Stone. Matching the artistic acumen demonstrated in the music proper, the physical release of the album is equally lavish. Limited to 500 units, The Hollow in the Stone is pressed on transparent vinyl, with lyrics to all the songs printed on the inner sleeve, all housed in a sleeve with unsettling (in a Giger sort of way) artwork, adopted from photos taken by Powell. Those without a vinyl player are taken into consideration as a CD with all the tracks comes packaged with the album. All in all, a luxurious release, both in regard to the packaging, but also to the music within.

The Hollow in the Stone

Post The Hollow in the Stone, the future looks as bright as the setting sun for Awen, with plans of a new albums already in the works. Powell tantalizes:

“We are working on a new album currently and have the foundations for ten songs so far. This record does not have a title yet. Expect several acoustic songs, but also an array of industrial percussion including oil drums and scrap metal. I have a concept in mind for the album, with a rambling piece of guitar music that runs like a river in between all of the other separate songs, like a subplot in a story. I think this element will only be heard on the vinyl edition, and the CD version should feature the tracks without it...making a different listening experience between the formats.”

Track List:

Side A

01. Cyfraith Natur
02. Perversity Of Joy
03. Brigid The Dark, Brigid The Light
04. Englyn For Blodeuwedd
05. Hawthorn Rod
06. In The Heart Of The Corpseknot

Side B

07. Morrigan
08. The Death Of Reynard
09. The Hollow In The Stone
10. Ravenna
11. I Am Stretched On Your Grave
12. The Sickle and the Setting Sun
13. Cyfraith Dyn

Awen official Facebook:
Bandcamp Page:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sounds of Ruin: Sublime Sounds in the Hands of Ruin Soundtrack for Watson’s The Fall of the House of Usher

     Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” has been adapted in variety of mediums since its publication in 1839. There have been comics, audio recordings, artwork, operas and films. The Roger Corman version, House of Usher (1960), might perhaps be the most iconic, with the always delightful Vincent Price as Roderick Usher. However, thirty-two years prior, two silent film adaptations of Poe’s story were released: Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher (1928) was made in France while across the sea in America, James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber co-created a short, thirteen minute version simply called The Fall of the House of Usher (1928).

   The Watson-Webber Usher is perhaps an overlooked incarnation of Poe’s story, but it is an interesting interpretation, especially when taken in tandem with an alternate music score composed by British martial-industrial group Hands of Ruin in 2017. The Watson-Webber Usher is done in a surreal, expressionism style, much akin to German Expressionism that was developing concurrently during the same decade. Martial-industrial music itself draws heavily from futurism which was being developed in Europe a decade before. The Watson-Webber Usher, with the Hands of Ruin soundtrack provides an intriguing configuration: a gothic story, adapted into an expressionist film, scored with shades of futurism.

     This essay will analyze how the Hands of Ruin martial-industrial score compliments the filmic version of House of Usher. First, this essay will provide details about the Watson-Webber version of the story. Since it is such a short film, there have been great artistic and practical liberties taken with the source material to adapt it to an expressionism film. Second, what martial-industrial music is, its connection to cinema and details of the Hands of Ruin project will all be clarified. Finally, leveraging the work of Dennis Pahl in his essay “Sounding the Sublime: Poe, Burke, and the (Non) Sense of Language,” it will be illustrated how a martial-industrial soundtrack compliments Poe’s gothic story via the Watson-Webber film.

The House that Watson and Webber Built

     Watson-Webber’s The Fall of the House of Usher is a surreal short film, starring Watson’s wife Hildegarde as Madeline Usher, Herbert Stern (an architect who had no previous acting experience)1 as Roderick, and co-director Webber as a traveler. Per Hildegarde’s memoirs, the film was shot in the stables near the senior Watson’s home in Rochester during midwinter.2 Per Hildegarde, “It was Webber who suggested that a movie be made of the Poe story which, up until then, had never been filmed.”3 The original version of Watson-Webber’s Usher had no soundtrack, but was later scored by family friend Alec Wilder. It is this version that can be heard in the Unseen Cinema boxset release of the film.

     The film begins with transparent and overlaid copies of the first page of Poe’s story moving across, diagonally, and up and down across the screen in a mirrored effect. A traveller arrives at the fog shrouded, silhouetted House of Usher. Inside, both Roderick and Madeline sit down for dinner and drinks. The contents of a covered serving dish – a coffin - are shown to Madeline and she faints. Later, the traveller rings the door bells of the house, summoning Madeline. She wanders the halls in a daze, before fainting again. Images of coffins flutter by as Roderick seals his sister away in a casket. Repeating images of hammers fill the screen, signifying that she is being sealed inside.

     Soon after, Roderick too begins to roam his house, swinging his arm around as if he was still hammering. Concurrently, a phantom of Madeline also wanders the halls, her form split into multiple copies as if using a mirrored effect. Roderick encounters the traveller who shows him a blank book. At the same time, Madeline’s coffin appears, with the words “Beat, Beat” (showing that she is much alive) filling the screen as the traveller turns the pages. Madeline rises from her coffin and flings herself onto Roderick as the traveller flees into the night.

     There’s quite a few alterations between the Watson-Webber version and the source material. The narrator of Poe’s story sees their role greatly reduced to that of the traveller. The filmic version instead focuses on the relationship between the Usher siblings without much input from the narrator/traveller. Roderick loses most of his characterizations, such as his hypochondria, and instead they seem to be repurposed to Madeline. The setting remains the same, though the house in the short film is much more sinister. This is no doubt due to the expressionist art style. The house shares much in common with set pieces in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene) with painted shadows and doors and staircases at odd angles. The Gothic trappings are still there, the core Poe story still intact, though imagined through a surrealist style.

The House of Ruin

     Martial-industrial, a subgenre of industrial music, has a deep relationship with cinema. The genre freely samples dialogue and sounds from various films, compose songs specifically about films and filmmakers, and even compose their own soundtracks to films.

Sampling dialogue from films and incorporating them into songs is a long standing practice for industrial music proper which can at least be traced back to Cabaret Voltaire in the 1970s.4 There are numerous examples of martial-industrial projects engaging in the practice. The following examples do not constitute a comprehensive list of sampling instances, but it should succinctly convey how ingrained the practice is for the genre. TSIDMZ samples the final dialogue between Joan of Arc and God from The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999, Luc Besson) in “Avatara In Eurasia (Yeni Ceri Mix).” Many songs off Laibach’s Kapital album use dialogue lifted from films instead of traditional sung lyrics, such as Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965, Jean-Luc Godard), in “Le Privilege Des Morts,” Lifeforce (1985, Tobe Hooper) in “Young Europa pts 1-10,” and THX-1138 (1971, George Lucas) in “Regime Of Coincidence, State Of Gravity.” Von Thronstahl’s “Polar-Expedition” samples The Thing From Another World (1951, Christian Nyby) and “The Whole Great World in Flames” samples Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch). Dernière Volonté samples Klaus Kinski from Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog) in “Der Zörn Gottes.” Hrossharsgrani’s neo-peplum themed album Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est samples sword and sandal films 300 and Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) on tracks such as “Never Surrender,” “The Victory,” and its titular track. Kreizweg Ost, a project strongly aligned to cinema, samples Der Untertan (1951, Wolfgang Staudte) in “Für Kaiser, Gott Und Vaterland” and Mädchen in Uniform (1931, Leontine Sagan) in “Eiserne Menschen.” There are, of course, numerous others instances of martial-industrial music sampling filmic sources.

     The second relationship the genre has with cinema is in regards to its actual texts. Many martial-industrial bands pay lip service to cinema by appearing on or creating themed releases, or pen songs that honour different films, directors and actors (with Leni Riefenstahl being a popular choice). Other projects even overtly state the influence cinema has on them on. The compilation albums Riefenstahl and Leni Riefenstahl 100 - Geliebt, Verfolgt Und Unvergessen both pay homage to Leni Riefenstahl, and feature martial acts such as Von Thronstahl, Allerseelen and Turbund Sturmwerk. Allerseelen has a 7” release titled Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit / Traumlied dedicated to Riefenstahl and features pictures of her from Das Blaue Licht (1932, Leni Riefenstahl) and Der Heilige Berg (1926, Arnold Fanck) on its packaging. Gerhard Hallstatt makes references to the influence of both Kenneth Anger and Riefenstahl in his work in his book Blutleuchte. Von Thronstahl’s song “Tiefland (version)” is homage to Tiefland (1954, Leni Riefenstahl).

     Finally, and most important to this essay, there are instances where martial-industrial acts have composed scores for films. The most famous is no doubt Laibach’s score for Iron Sky (2012, Timo Vuorensola) a film about Nazis from the Moon that want to take over Earth. British group In the Nursery has made film scoring an art as they have provided alternative scores (which they call their Optical Music Series) to nine (mostly silent-era) films: An Ambush of Ghosts (1993, Everett Lewis [lost film]), Asphalt (1929, Joe May), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene), Electric Edwardians (films from the Mitchell and Kenyon company), The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, Jean Epstein), Hindle Wakes (1927, Maurice Elvey), Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov), A Page of Madness (1926, Teinosuke Kinugasa) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer). In the Nursery has also licensed some of their music to films, such as Gran Torino (2008, Clint Eastwood), The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese), and The Manchurian Candidate (2004, Jonathan Demme), with choice cut tracks being collected on their compilation Music to Make Movies To. So infatuated with cinema, they have even composed soundtracks to imaginary films, as is the case with their Stormhorse album.

     Following in the same vein as In the Nursery, Colin Z. Robertson’s Hands of Ruin project has a similar interest in the scoring of silent films, having done so not only with the Watson and Webber’s Usher, but also their follow up film, Lot in Sodom (1933).

When Worlds Collide: The Martial and Gothic Sounds of Poe

     Dennis Pahl asks in his essay “Sounding the Sublime: Poe, Burke, and the (Non) Sense of Language,” what role sounds play in Poe’s stories and how are they used to achieve his “aesthetic goals.”5 He posits that “one of the central aims of Poe’s aesthetics” is the “pure elevation of the soul” via “the excitement of the senses.”6 Pahl points out that “sound plays a crucial role in Poe’s work … because of its ability to produce sensory effects” for both “reader and character alike.”7 Looking at “The Fall of the House of Usher” Pahl notes that the house is “one of unsettling sounds and physical and psychological instability.”8 For example, Pahl suggests that Roderick’s guitar playing is a source of melancholy and a “sense of psychological disorientation.”9

     Pahl posits that “Poe makes efforts to dramatize the way sounds become instrumental to, and often underlies, the power of words.”10 Pahl calls attention to the sequence of when the narrator reads Roderick “The Mad Trist” as Madeline rises from her tomb,11 with sounds such as a “most unusual screaming or grating sound” which occurs concurrently as the dragon is bludgeoned and emitting “a shriek so horrid and harsh”.12 Pahl concludes with “the power of language, and of the sublime sounds coming from that language, ends up not only giving vitality to dead matter, but also bringing the being the nerve-shattering experience that leads to and includes the house’s thunderous fall.”13

   The question now becomes have the sounds that Poe wrote on paper been successfully interpreted by the martial-industrial sounds of Hands of Ruin in the Watson-Webber Usher? Watson and Webber go to great lengths to replicate Poe’s sound in their silent film, especially at the end when, as Madeline leaves her encasement, the screen is filled with texts that read “crack,” “ripped,” and “scream.” The words don’t simply appear on the screen, but they flutter or jolt about, sometimes with letters upside down, sometimes backwards, with a variety of striking typefaces. This sequence perfectly replicates on screen what Poe was trying to accomplish in his text.

     Hands of Ruin, on the other hand, needs to juggle both the Poe text and the images from the Watson-Webber film to fully capture Poe’s usage of sound. Per Robertson of Hands of Ruin:

I used a mixture of acoustic and electronic sounds throughout the soundtrack. The film has one foot in the Gothic world of Poe and one in the modern and abstract world of experimental cinema. The mixture of old and modern sounds therefore seemed appropriate.

In the Hands of Ruin version, the film starts off with a low ambient hum that is found in drone and dark ambient music. As the traveller on horseback approaches the House of Usher a throbbing, rhythmic percussion is added. In a martial-industrial sense, this is quite apropos: the silhouetted traveler on horse back does have a military image about him, as if he is a scout or a cavalrymen. In a sense, the traveller is invading the House of Usher for only when he arrives does the sequence of events (Madeline fainting, being sealed away, etc.) commence. When Madeline drinks from her glass and is shown the coffin in the serving tray, the percussion escalates, becoming more bombastic, complimenting the high-stakes nature of the scene.

     In the next sequence, Hands of Ruin incorporates diegetic music in the form of bells: as the traveller arrives at the door, he pulls a cord to ring the door bell. Of course, it isn’t one bell that is rang, but a multitude of them. Even when the action has moved on past the traveller ringing the bells, the sound/music repeats a few more time, in essence shifting from diegetic to non-diegetic. This adds to both the surrealism and the unease of the sequence; the Hands of Ruin bells then become both the practical sound effect as well as part of the music, both of which lure and disorient Madeline. Hands of Ruin takes advantage of blending the music into a diegetic source a second time as the many hammers rain down on Madeline’s coffin. In these sequences, the martial drumming in the score not only compliments the action via the rhythm, but can be inferred as to coming from the hammers as well.

     It is the final, climatic sequence of when Madeline leaves her tomb that is the most important to both the original Poe text as well as the Watson-Webber version, and the Hands of Ruin soundtrack captures the sound for this sequence perfectly. As the various words fill the screen, the hands of Ruin becomes its most bombastic and jarring yet. The sequences of staircases moving upwards like gears have both a “gear-like” and “marching” effect to them, which compliments the martial and the industrial qualities of the score. The rhythm becomes more sustained and more intense as Madeline “marches” to Roderick’s quarters. This sequence is all about movement, and the inherent nature of martial-industrial music is the idea of marching forward. One of the effects of martial drumming in the era of antiquity was the destabilize the enemy, and such a destabilization occurs in this sequence: a resurrected Madeline is mad had she throws herself atop the frightened Roderick. Visually, the sequence is already shocking, but the Hands of Ruin soundtrack truly brings out the sublime elements in both the visuals as well as the adapted Poe text.

     The end result is that the Hands of Ruin alternate martial-industrial soundtrack is successful at not only complimenting the Watson-Webber Usher, but also capturing the sounds of Poe from his text. While perhaps not adapted verbatim the various creaks and screams alluded to in the text, the Hands of Ruin instead concentrates on replicating the power of Poe’s words as interpreted by Watson and Webber: anguish and melancholy.

End Notes

1. Hildegarde Lasell Watson, The Edge of the Woods: A Memoir, (self-pub, 1979), 108-109.

2. Ibid., 108.

3. Ibid.

4. Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 101.

5. Dennis Pahl, "Sounding the Sublime: Poe, Burke, and the (Non) Sense of Language," Poe Studies 42, no. 1 (2009): 41, accessed July 28, 2018,

6. Ibid., 42.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., 47.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., 48.

12. Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher (Los Angeles, CA: Shadowridge Press, 2017), 47.

13. Pahl, “Sounding the Sublime,” 48.

14. Colin Z. Robertson, “Soundtracking The Fall of the House of Usher (1928),” Greatwritersfranzkafka, last modified February, 2013,


Aguirre: the Wrath of God. Directed by Werner Herzog. 1972. Troy, MI: Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2002. DVD.

Allerseelen. Alle Lust Will Ewigkeit / Traumlied. Aorta. AOR702. 1999. Record.

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

czrobertson. “The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) (Hands of Ruin soundtrack).” YouTube video, 13:11. April 21, 2012.

Dernière Volonté. Le Feu Sacré. Hau Ruck!. HR!11. 2000. CD.

Hallstatt, Gerhard. Blutleuchte. Jacksonville, OR: Ajna, 2010.

Hrossharsgrani. Pro Liberate Dimicandum Est. Steinklang Industries. SKD 24. 2009. CD.

In the Nursery. An Ambush of Ghosts. ITN Corporation. Digital download.

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———. Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, The. ITN Corporation. Corp 015. 1996. CD.

———. Electric Edwardians. ITN Corporation. Digital download.

———. Fall of the House of Usher, The. ITN Corporation. 2015. Digital download.

———. Hindle Wakes. ITN Corporation. Corp 023. 2001. CD.

———. Man with a Movie Camera. ITN Corporation. Digital download.

———. Page of Madness, A. ITN Corporation. Digital download.

———. Passion of Joan of Arc, The. ITN Corporation. Corp 030. 2008. CD.

———. Stormhorse. ITN Corporation. Corp 006. 1997. CD.

In The Nursery ‎– Music To Make Movies To.” Discogs. Last accessed Septeember 15, 2017.

Kreuzweg Ost. Edelrost. Cold Spring. CSR58CD. 2005. CD.

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Mulholland Drive. Directed by David Lynch. 2001. Universal City, CA: Universal Studios, 2002. DVD.

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TSIDMZ. Pax Deorum Hominumque. Old Europa Cafe. OECD 158. 2012. CD.

Various ‎– Leni Riefenstahl 100 - Geliebt, Verfolgt Und Unvergessen.” Discogs. Last accessed September 15, 2017.

Various Artists. Riefenstahl. VAWS. VAWS 202. 1996. CD.

Von Thronstahl. Re-turn Your Revolts into Style!. Fasci-Nation Recordings. 002. 2002. CD.

Von Thronstahl / The Days of the Trumpet Call. Pessoa / Cioran. Terra Fria. tf003. 2004. CD.

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Watson, James Silby and Melville Webber, dirs. The Fall of the House of Usher in Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941. 1928; Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2005. DVD Boxset.

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


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.”


1. Pat Saperstein, “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74,” Variety, last modified August 26, 2017,

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.

4. “Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast,” YouTube video, 4:23, posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012.

5. “Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live),” YouTube video, 6:26, posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015.

6. “Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi,” YouTube video, 5:50, posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010.

7. “Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed,” YouTube video, 5:31, posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010.

8. “Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb),” YouTube video, 7:35, posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015.

9. “Xorcist – Pray,” YouTube video, 5:24, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010.

10. “Xorcist – You Are The One,” YouTube video, 5:18, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011.

11. “Xorcist – Be With Me,” YouTube video, 5:17, posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011.

12. “Kapital,” The Unofficial Laibach Site, accessed August 27, 2017.

13. “Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014,” YouTube video, 5:38, posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015.

14. “Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity,” YouTube video, 7:27, posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017.

15. “Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot,” YouTube Video, 3:46, posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. 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.

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

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


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.

Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi.” YouTube video, 5:50. Posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010.

Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed.” YouTube video, 5:31. Posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010.

Kapital.” The Unofficial Laibach Site. Accessed August 27, 2017.

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.

Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot.” YouTube video, 3:46. Posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012.

Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.” YouTube video, 6:14. Posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008.

Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity.” YouTube video, 7:27. Posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017.

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.

Skinny Puppy - Blood on the Wall.” YouTube video, 3:00. Posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” November 1, 2012.

Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live).” YouTube video, 6:26. Posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015.

Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast.” YouTube video, 4:23. Posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012.

Xorcist – Be With Me.” YouTube video, 5:17. Posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011.

Xorcist – Pray.” YouTube video, 5:24. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010.

Xorcist – You Are The One.” YouTube video, 5:18. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011.