Reviews: martial

(bombastic / orchestral / military soundscapes)

Dernière Volonté – Devant Le Miroir

After a first superficial listen to this cd, I thought ‘Hmm, I’ve heard this before’. One day later I noticed myself humming and tapping along. These new songs by Geoffrey D.’s project are just too attractive to resist. Again Dernière Volonté has delivered a fine album full of catchy ‘military pop’.

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Karjalan Sissit – Tanssit On Loppu Nyt

Tanssit On Loppu Nyt is the fourth album by Karjalan Sissit aka Markus Pesonen from Finland/Sweden. Just like the previous album Karjalasta Kajahtaa, the new album is released on cd by Cyclic Law and on vinyl byEternal Soul Records. Again we’re treated to an oppressive mix of martial industrial music and atmospheric dark ambient pieces.

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Arditi – Standards of triumph

In a few years time Arditi produced quite a string of releases on obscure labels. After a limited 7? single, they now release their first album through Portugal’s Equilibrium Music. The Swedish duo has not changed much about their concept. The blood, suffering and victories of the battlefield are translated into bombastic neo-classical hymns.

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:Golgatha: – Kydos – Reflections On Heroism

The first official full-length cd of :Golgotha: is devoted to war and more particular heroism in various forms. From the Japanse kamikaze units of 1945 to the ‘harmony of pen and sword’ of Mishima to the honourable death on the battlefield in ancient times. [Read more…]

Triarii – Pièce Héroique

With the debut Ars militaria Triarii directly made a name for itself in the martial neo-classical scene. Therefore quite a bit was expected from the follow-up from the German project. Well, they could stand the pressure and have come up with an improved successor.
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Gae Bolg – Requiem

The unique band Gae Bolg is well known for years and some of their older work is legendary. Gae Bolg blends medieval sounds with bombastic and martial elements. This new album Requiem is a mass for the dead and dedicated to passed away relatives and friends of the band’s mastermind Eric Roger.

Requiem is rather tranquil and serene in comparison with some older records. Still there is a lot of tension and suspense in the music. Orchestral elements dominate the sound but the real pounding and bombastic tracks are sparse. A track like ‘Totentanz’ is one of the few exceptions and is a very powerful dance tune.

If you have heard the sound of Gae Bolg and have (some of) the albums there will be no real surprises. Requiem is a worthy release by the band and will please the fans of the genre without a doubt.

Lokasenna – Archive II: 1998-2005

Last year the Belgain act Lokasenna surprised with a very good post-industrial release. The five tracks on the self-released cd-r were of high quality. Now a second cd-r is released. This new release consists of three new tracks. Next to those you get two live tracks from the first concert the band did in Belgium and one electro parody track.

‘November Wind’ is a slowly evolving and tranquil ambient piece with a good tension throughout the track. The second track ‘Wir stehen hier’ is bombastic and military sounding. This piece is based on a sample from ‘Thriumpf des Willens’. The vocal sample is used in a nice way. It seems the troops are singing along with the martial rhythm in a folky way.

More truly folk is ‘Ostara’, which is a typical dark folk song. Too bad is that after that the electro parody tracks breaks the nice atmosphere of the cd-r. The two live versions from tracks of the first cd-r are good extras on the other hand.

Lokasenna could become a name in the post-industrial scene if the band continues to evolve. The band announced they are talking about a release with Elitepop, which should see the light later this year. Keep an eye out for this band!

Phragments – Homo Homini Lvpvs

The barbed wire on the cover betrays that this won’t be a peaceful release. And indeed, this cd-r by Phragments has a clear apocalyptic and martial atmosphere. It’s the first full-length album of this one-man project from Slovakia after some shorter attempts.

The eight tracks in general have a (synthetic) orchestral neoclassical approach, with pounding percussion and atmospheric synth layers underneath. The music is mostly instrumental, with a few speech samples and choirs added, notably on the ritual ‘Community-identity-stability’.

The sound on Homo Homini Lvpvs is quite bombastic and will appeal to lovers of the more orchestral Swedish acts. A track like ‘Pangean hymn’ is very heavy and militaristic. Other tracks sound more like oppressive industrial soundscapes, for example ‘The cogwheel turns’.

The musical style of Phragments is not entirely original, but I think the music is well executed. Some tracks are a bit monotonous, but overall this is a very enjoyable release which is limited to only 150 copies in special packaging.

The Protagonist -­ Songs of Experience

The Protagonist is not the most productive artist on Cold Meat Industry, but when he delivers a new piece of work you are in for a feast. Songs of Experience is a masterpiece. The bombastic compositions and dark and melancholy moods make up for an intruiging soundtrack.

This cd should be played very loud. Basically as loud as possible to experience the full impact of the music when the rhythms and melodies are poured out on you. If you do this, you will not be disappointed by this new record by The Protagonist.

In Slaughter Natives / Voice of Hate – Split

In Slaughter Natives fans are almost getting spoiled. In 2004 the symphonic industrial project around Jouni Havukainen released its first proper studio album (Resurrection) since 1996. Now a limited split single with the obscure project Voice Of Hate has followed, as far as I know the first ISN release on vinyl.

Voice of Hate, based in Spain, contributes a dark and slow piece called ‘Reduced to ashes’ which makes me thing of a cross between Swans and Black Sabbath. It’s an oppressive track dominated by a monotonous, droney acoustic guitar sound and grave whispered vocals. Halfway some stranger psychedelic guitar sounds make their entrance, which enhance the occultish feeling. An interesting contribution, though towards the end I long for some more variation.

Then it’s time for In Slaughter Natives. And it quickly becomes clear that this is not a typical ISN track. Perhaps not surprising, because Tomas Petterson of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrium (sic) took care of the vocals and lyrics. The lyrics of Petterson have always been dominated by erotic themes, but lately (think of the Satyriasis album) they seem to become more explicit. ‘Consume my burning hollow’ directly starts with the sentences ‘Would you fuck me if I let you? / Would you find your way inside?”.

I must say, it’s a succeeded collaboration of these Swedish giants. The result sounds mostly like a typical ritual Ordo track with a heavy bombastic musical accompaniment. Though the track is rather monotonous, it has an overwhelming sound which grows in intensity. It makes me put the needle back in the first groove various times in a row.

A Challenge of Honour vs. Praetorio – Hadrian’s Wall

This split 10” contains two new tracks by well-known Dutch act ACOH, as well as two tracks by newcomer Praetorio. When first listening to this piece of vinyl (which comes in a very nice cover) it struck me that the two projects sound quite a like. Both create bombastic neo-classical synth-based music, with heavy percussion, which wouldn’t do bad as a fantasy movie soundtrack.

This immediately leads me to my main point of criticism regarding the two tracks by ACOH: The music is nice and sounds far from amateurish, but I cannot find myself to listen to it and get excited. In fact, I find myself reading a book or doing some studying until the cracking of the needle warns me that the record ended.. Both ACOH tracks are more or less build out of one basic melody and lack climax or variety. It’s epic background music but just doesn’t challenge the listener (at least not me).

Although the two Praetorio tracks sound similar, I’m positively surprised nonetheless. The basis ingredients are the same, but there’s more.. I like the loud synths coming in at certain points (they sound a bit 80’s, even), and the fact that there’s variety in volume. Praetorio really creates some tension with changes in dynamics and loudness. Valens Hadriani part 1 definitely is a fine piece of neo-classical which keeps the listener focused, I really enjoyed this track. The second Praetorio track is more tranquil, and serves well as an outro to this release.
In conclusion; although a solid release, I have to say I wasn’t moved by the ACOH tracks, but was positively surprised by Praetorio.

Stormfågel – Den Nalkande Stormen

From the very first sounds until the last tones this record surprised and impressed me. Stormfågel delivered a powerful album with a mixture of neo folk, pagan folk and ritual music. Also some traditional European folk influences are to be found, mostly in the singing. The vocal parts often have an Eastern European touch. Bombastic elements spice up the music and ritualistic melodies give the songs a shamanistic feeling from time to time.

Towards the end of the album the songs become more militant sounding (for example ‘A Poison Tree’) and show some resemblance to the harsher moments of Hekate.
If you like neo folk music that has a real link to folk music, or are looking for a more original sound in that genre, this record is not to be missed.

Kreuzweg Ost – Edelrost

Just when I though the stream of war-inspired releases was drying up, Cold Spring comes with “Edelrost” by Kreuzweg Ost.
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V/A – Sturmgewitter ziehn durchs land

The first release of this small Belgian label is a split release with four bands which performed at the first Carpe Noctem Festival in Hekelgem on the 4th of September 2004. It was the initial intention that another label called Were Di! would produce this album. They were not capable enough to manage the project, so Carpe Noctem and the bands finally released it themselves with some delay, as you can read in the booklet with statements from HERR and Marcel P. There is also a nice personal report included about the festival by organiser Leslie.

HERR kicks off the split album with three songs dedicated to the ‘dreams, victory and tragedy’ of Constaninople. These songs were later also included on a complete album dedicated to the eternal city, “The winter of Constantinople” (first on Cynfeirdd, later on Cold Spring Records). The opening track sounds a bit distorted and chaotic, with heavy drums, trumpets, declamated texts and oriental samples. It is followed by a long solemn piano requiem, while ‘Tanz Konstantinople’ is a more uptempo and catchy martial piece, but less forceful and convincing than the album version. Unfortunately the sound quality of these songs is not very good. I don’ know if it has to do with my promo cd-r or with the mastering, but everything sounds a bit unbalanced.

Next are two tracks by The Days of the Trumpet Call. The neo-classical project of Raymond P. has turned into a threesome now, with Marcel P. and Carl L. as the other contributors. What mostly strikes me is the more prominent role for electric guitars and vocals, which makes the project move closer into the direction of Von Thronstahl. The Days of the Trumpet Call still displays elegant classical hymns, but the guitars make it even more bombastic, while the not entirely convincing vocals broaden the expressive possibilities. ‘Honour’ is a nice track, while Satan’s Trick appeals to me less.

The Belgian project Dead Man’s Hill contribute three tracks, with a sound somewhere between dark ambient and martial industrial. ‘Vesterbro’ (an area of Copenhagen with a doubtful reputation) leaves the best impression, a bit in the ritual vein of The Moon Lay Hidden… The other pieces are less convincing.

Last act is the notorious Von Thronstahl. First we get a ‘re-worked’ version of ‘Wider die Masse’, with an uptempo beat and heavy guitar riffs and loud shouting of the refrain. Not a version which will find its way to my cd-player very often. The remix of ‘Bellum Sacrum Bellum’, with many speech samples about the evil American government, unfortunately follows the same path and comes nowhere near their best work.

Not a compilation which is totally convincing, probably it will be most appealing to those who have attended the festival.

Un Défi d’Honneur – Le mort homme

As many know, Un Défi d’Honneur is one of the A Challenge of Hounour side-projects by Peter Savelkoul, hailing from Limburg/The Netherlands.

This piece of vinyl comes in an absolutely stunning gatefold cover with marvellous artwork by Nikolay from Levoi Pravoi (whose release I also reviewed at Funprox). Besides being marvellous, the artwork is also quite unusual for the martial/industrial/ambient scene. So of course I wondered whether the music would be ‘something completely different’ as well. Uhm well, it isn’t!

No worries though, the music on Le Mort Homme is quite good. The first track is very melodic; heavy strings and martial drumming on the one hand; good melodies on the other. It reminds me a bit of some melodic Puissance material, or perhaps the more melodic side of Predella Avant. Track 2 offers more melodic and somewhat heroic/tragic neo-classical. Maybe not that complicated, but the melodies and arrangements are good and atmospheric.

Side B continues in the same vein. Heavy synths and drums with a bit of melody woven though the tracks. The last track again reminds me of Puissance (“In shining armour”), and is perhaps the most neo-classical track on this album. I’m not really sure, but I think there are some classical music and orchestra-samples manipulated for this track, and perhaps this goes for more tracks as well.

Overall this is a good release. The music is much more tranquil than I expected, but harbours some melodies that really sound tragic (which is good!). No 30’s jazz nightclub influences though, as one would have expected based on the artwork..

Pimentola – MM – MMV

Pimentola is a still little-known Finnish bombastic neo-folk act. On this album everything which Lempo, the guy behind Pimentola, released with Pimentola from 2000 onwards is collected. One new track and one (the first ever) remix are added.

On this record you can clearly hear the progress Pimentola made. From the very bombastic and orchestral sound on the first demo (tracks 9 to 14 on this release) and the outro, that was released on the “Defend The Palace” compilation, to the darker and more soundscape-like sounds on the later demo and the new track “Kuoleiden Kieli”.

The cd opens with this latest demo, that already was reviewed on Funprox before, so I’ll leave you to read that review, suffice to say I do like these tracks. The new track again seems to take a step closer to dark-industrial and away from the very orchestral music. It knows how to grow on the listener slowly and then surprise with a break. If this is the way Pimentola is evolving, some very good things may indeed await.

The remix of the untitled track II, by Älymystö can not really interest me, it takes all the more prominent sounds away from the tracks and leaves the dark backbone, makes this some more threatening, but without impressing the listener with a really dark sound or pure beauty.

The old demo is next on the record and is as already noted very orchestral, more folky, sometimes medieval in nature. Very synth-based, where original instruments might have had a better sound, it’s cold, but well-thought-out music. This same basicly goes for the horn-driven outro of this cd.

Though this is not really an album as much as it is a collection, it surely shows an act that might grow, an act that already has done some wonderful stuff.

Levoi Pravoi – March in September

“March in September” is the official debut release, vinyl only, by this Russian/American duo. What immediately strikes me is the fantastic artwork, consisting of a Jugendstil-like drawing combined with natural brown and green. This is really a pleasure to the eye!

Levoi Pravoi starts off with a track called “Me ne Frego” (indeed!), a martial intro piece with low vocals and original synths and samples. Track 2, “Golden September”, manages to convince right away. The music is quite martial, with bombastic drumming and snare, with a rhythm which would work well on the military/folk dance floors. The vocals and synth sound add some originality to the music; especially the somewhat weird and wobbly synths work out well. The two following tracks keep up the martial atmosphere, although the fourth piece (“The bitter road”) stands out with it’s nice melody, bombast, and singing. “Rus” is just another excellent track, which nicely builds to a climax. The sound is rich and full, making me forget the fact that I’m listening to a debut album.

On side B the high standard of the first 5 songs is maintained. All tracks are good and offer enough variety to keep one’s attention. “Ryba Beloshyolka” is a somewhat different song, a short one with great sounding sampled singing, probably in Russian.. “Chugunnie Sny” closes the album off; a long atmospheric track which reminds me a bit of the older Blutharsch material.

As we are all aware of the fact that there are lots of good though totally non-original albums out there in the martial field, I want to stress out that this album is not only a pleasure to listen to, but harbours enough originality to really stand out. And indeed, since this is only the debut by these fellows, who knows what the future will bring? All in all, my advice is to just buy this outstanding album, you won’t be disappointed!

As All Die / FDH – North American Underground Alliance

Both bands are present with three tracks on this ‘North American Underground Alliance’. As All Die kicks of with a martial-industrial track of pretty poor sound quality, not really originally called ‘Power through will.’ It’s very reminiscent of Archon Satani and the likes: low pitched drumming, dark noises and spoken word passages on death and destruction. ‘Where falcons soar’ is another track probably inspired by a CMI act, namely Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. Nice and bleak guitar picking, some synthesizers and again the spoken words. I’m not really impressed: the production is quite bad and the vocals really annoy me: pathetically breathing ‘We all die’ and such. When the guys behind As All Die in the track ‘Kali Yuga’ talk about righteous discrimination of the weak (probably implying they themselves are strong and intelligent) I’m not really interested anymore.

FDH, which stands for Frank den Haan, is more interesting. ‘New year zero zero’ really has a typical and compelling atmosphere, with a kind of choral samples and electric piano repetition. In the remaining two tracks FDH knows to create an interesting blend of organic sounds and noisy electronic effects. FDH definitely has more attention for melody than As All Die. Too bad the sound quality is not optimal. I really wonder what FDH will sound like with a good production. Especially the last track of the split is really interesting, nice, calming and melancholic. This is the kind of melancholy I like: that which is induced by melody and structure, not just consisting of some low-pitched synthesizer and some standard ritualistic drumming.

Protagonist, The – Interim

After several years The Protagonist is back with a sign of life. Magnus Sundström has been busy with his other project Des Esseintes and his label Fin de Siècle, but luckily he now found the time to focus on new Protagonist material. The debut album “A rebours” (1998) is one of my favourite albums, so I was curious what The Protagonist would have to offer us this time. The title of this 4-track mini cd, which comes in a nice digipack, is “Interim”, so I guess this should be regarded as an intermediate station, perhaps in anticipation of a full album.

The first song ‘Strife’ displays a very percussive, bombastic sound, coming near to Sophia or In Slaughter Native. Quite overwhelming. In general the new material seems to be somewhat heavier than the debut album.
On ‘Sacrifice’ the heavy martial percussion and threatening horn sound is accompanied by a flowing neo-classical melody, like I have come to expect from the Protagonist. Dramatic and compelling.
‘Der wahnsinn’ is a fitting title. This orchestral track sounds very filmic. I imagine the protagonist of a black & white movie being chased by a madman though the narrow alleys of a decaying city.
The last piece, ‘La fin de la journée’, is the only song on this EP which features (spoken) vocals, by Marjorie Stievenart. The text is taken from Baudelaire’s “Les fleurs du mal”, with which The Protagonist moves on the same decadent territory as on “A rebours”. A slow and moving composition, in the line of some In the Nursery soundtrack material. I hope that on an eventual full-length album more will be done with vocals, because that creates the necessary variation.

With “Interim” The Protagonist does not offer revolutionary new insights, but the EP certainly convinces with solid material.

Kriegsfall-U – S/T

At this point little is known of Kriegsfall-U in terms of biography. What is known is that the self-titled Kriegsfall-U is the Hungarian band’s debut release on Cold Spring (licensed from Mozgalom Records). Previously the act participated in a limited split 7″ with Wappenbund, released by Mozgalom. Furthermore Kriegsfall-U will appear on the forthcoming compilation Swarm, also on Cold Spring.

Kriegsfall-U’s debut effort is not a lengthy one at only seven tracks and thirty-eight minutes. But in this case, less may be more. Described on the Cold Spring website as an album with “heroic, esoteric, and philosophical influences,” Kriegsfall-U does not disappoint. Fitting well the label of post-industrial, the album shows these signs along with neo-classical elements, spoken word sections and martial drums. Other songs show signs of rhythmic industrial, as with “Porta heroum.” While I thought improvements might be made in places with mixing and production, I was very impressed by the strength of these songs. Thematically, the album might be said to rest primarily on the songs/pieces: “The Great Man I. –The Stance” and “The Great Man II. –Realisation.” The liner notes give a dedication to Béla Hamvas, the brilliant Hungarian author/philosopher, who is credited here and honored for his inspiration.

Additionally, the album comes in an attractive digipack (minus the front cover picture, which looks cropped and misplaced in my opinion- my only complaint!) with a colorful foldout poster. An impressive album from Kriegsfall-U in thought, character and style!