Volksweerbaarheid – Voorwaarts Lisse!

Recently I witnessed the concert of this mysterious new Dutch act, on a festival with Ostara and Of the wand and the Moon in Lisse. That performance was surprisingly good, so the demand for a release of Volksweerbaarheid grew rapidly. That’s why the band decided to make a (short) cdr with recordings of a part of this concert, with two songs added that were recorded 11 days later. The rise of this act is a good development for the Dutch scene in my opinion. There aren’t many neo-folk related acts around, apart from A Challenge of Honour and other projects of Peter S., and the new hope Predella Avant. The fact that Volksweerbaarheid makes use of the Dutch language makes it extra special, because there aren’t many alternative acts that I know of that do the same. The texts sung by vocalist Ludo de Moraatz can not always be understood very clearly, but some of them are printed on the band’s website (for those who understand Dutch). He sings in a rather monotonous, crude manner, often more resembling the shouting of slogans than actual singing. The music is a mixture of acoustic guitars, fierce drumming and some keyboards.

Volksweerbaarheid derives its name from an old students’ association, which was erected in the early 20th century. In fact, this assocation still seems to exist somewhere in the margins of some university cities. It’s a semi-militaristic club, with as main goals, at the time of its foundation around 1900, ‘to make every Dutch citizen able of defence, and to enlarge his sense of independence and civil and militaristic awareness by means of sporting and shooting practice’ (Volksweerbaarheid means the ability of a people to defend itself). In other words, the new band Volksweerbaarheid uses the imagery of this old association to play with themes such as militarism and nationalism, while creating a nostalgic image at the same time.

Off to the music then. The first track, ‘Kultuur, starts with arabic singing. But no, we are not listening to Muslimgauze here, as the powerful martial drums make clear. On top off that you hear the shouting of slogans. The next song ‘Voorwaar, voorwaarts’ continues with heavy drumming, but then evolves into a folky song with acoustic guitars. The lyrics show a historic positivist view (forward the new man!). Next is “Bunker des aanstoots’ (translation: ‘bunker that gives offence’), with a mixture of drums and keyboards, varied with some guitar pasages. The song has some nice poetic grim lyrics, about a ‘factory of death’.

Next is the ‘themesong ‘Volksweerbaarheid’ (“the battering-ram through the lesser moral”), with fierce drumming reminding of Camerata Mediolanense. ‘Een Duits dienstmeisje’ (‘A german servant-girl’) starts with a motivational wartime speech of the old queen Wilhelmina. The song itself is actually a fine folky track, with great drums and literary references (the novel “Else Böhler” by Simon Vestdijk). Probably my personal favourite. Next is another drumming track with fiercely shouting vocals, ‘Verschroeide aarde’ (‘Scorched earth’), an old fairytale, reminding of crusades. ‘Geen defaitisme’ calls us to continue the battle, a nice folky song, the only song with vocals by Didier de Marcas, who is singing in a more conventional way. Another highlight. Last but not least is ‘Den Neerlandsche held’, an adaptation of Death in June’s ‘C’est un reve’, in which the bands wonders what has become of old Dutch literary heroes from the early 20th century, like Vaandrager, Van Doesburg and Bordewijk…

This cdr with live recorded tracks sounds promising for the future. Though the songs sound rather raw and the compositions are rather simple, they do are effective and convincing. Also in their non-conventional lyrics and with their image which plays a (not always serious) game with political controversy, Volksweerbaarheid demonstrates its originality and potential.

artist: Volksweerbaarheid
label: self-released
details: live cd, 8 tracks