Von Thronstahl – Bellum, sacrum bellum?

War, what is it good for? Well, for countless works of art in any case. Music and war are a fruitful and long-term combination. Not only has war inspired many songwriters in their lyrics (both pro and anti), it also did so in their sound, by imitating the sounds of the battlefield with the rolling of drums and the sound of trumpets. Music has also been used as a means to raise the moral of the troups or to intimidate the enemy. War has always played a significant role in the oeuvre of Von Thronstahl, but never as clearly as on “Bellum, Sacrum Bellum”. The inspiration for this album probably came after the 9/11 attack and the subsequent US ‘War on Terrorism’. People who followed this project may not be surprised that VT takes a Eurocentric approach and a critical view on American world domination and Muslim jihads. At the same time their work displays a longing for heroism and battlefield esthetism. Or so I assume, I’m not completely sure of the precise opinions presented by this release.

The digipack cover art contains a varied gallery of cut-and-paste images dealing with war and power, including president Bush waving a dollar note. The accompanying related quotes come from a varied range of sources, from Evola to Killing Joke. The same collage strategy is applied to the music. VT’s own mix of harsh industrial and bombastic neo-classical is intertwined with sampled fragments from war speeches, marching soldiers, classic and opera and dozens of popular artists. Surprising is the great number of (post)punk artists that are sampled: The Clash, The Exploited, Crass, Killing Joke, The Stranglers. Different artists that deal war in their songs. Even Michael Jackson and the Beatles are incorporated. There is also a well-done cover of Joy Division’s ‘Walked in line’ present (which Blood Axis did already before them), which perfectly fits in with the album and is quite catchy.

The music is nevertheless well recognizable as being Von Thronstahl. Neo-classical hymns (the speciality of Raymond P. – Days of the Trumpet Call) like ‘Adoration to Europa’ are alternated with harsher industrial/rock crossovers like ‘Through sun and steel transforming’, somewhere between Laibach and Rammstein. I was not completely convinced by their previous release, “Re-turn your revolt into style”. That album also employed a colourful collage-style. But “Bellum, Sacrum Bellum” is much more of unity, a tighter album with a couple of strong and even catchy songs. I do hope that the rock elements will not become too prominent in the future and not completely replace folky sounds. Fascist or not, controversial will VT always be – but that’s perhaps more interesting than being anonymous.

artist: Von Thronstahl
label: Fasci-nation
details: [fasci-nation 005]