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REVIEWS

  • Review: The Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem (Gary Stanfield)2012-07-28 20:45:13The Stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem is a monumental achievement. It raises the bar on runic studies among Heathens by a vast margin. I recommend it to anyone who has any interest whatsoever in the pre-Christian traditions of Europe.
  • Review: Werewolf Songs (Various Artists)2012-05-28 13:44:41This is a very rich, atmospheric, and beautiful compilation album of folk music inspired by Swedish werewolf folklore. It includes artists such as Faun Fables, Hedningarna, and Birch Book!
  • Review: Achega Solar (Arde Fero)2012-03-17 14:28:29Achega Solar is a rich and beautiful adventure into archaic folk consciousness, delving into that special realm of speculation and fancy from which all tall stories of wisdom and grace descend. Its a wonderful musical achievement, and a precious listening experience.
  • Review: Die Große Göttin (Falkenstein)2012-02-26 15:13:13Falkenstein is a one-man neofolk outfit from Germany, a creative vessel for musician Tobias Franke. Its music is dark, muscular, and resonant. The songs evoke myriad images of rural, pre-modern Europe: farmland at the rim of dark forests; black, moist earth; skies pregnant with clouds. This is Romantic music, to be sure, and in the best possible sense: an evocation of nature and humanity interwoven impeccably.
  • Review: Self Titled (Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnissa)2011-11-29 17:29:06Tuhat Kuolemaa Sekunnissa is a neofolk outfit from Finland. Their music is dreamy, earthy, and yet also muscular. It feels carved from hard wood, bristling with a raw and rough texture that feels good against one's skin.
  • Review: Clergy of Oneiros (Somnivore)2011-09-21 15:10:08True to their name, Finnish experimentalists Somnivore have served up a dream-laden sonic voyage with their album Clergy of Oneiros. Using found sounds, samples, noisescapes, and a stately sense of drama, they've created an unsettling, absorbing, and subtle piece of otherworldly work.
  • Review: Self-titled (Tervahäät)2011-09-01 09:14:40Tervahäät is highly recommended for fans of folk music, ambient music, doom metal (although I stress that is is not metal by any stretch), and lovers of nature in its colder incarnations. It is not for those who cannot tolerate darkness and depth – the shallow and easily satisfied should look elsewhere. This album is both dark forest and reflective waters, and invites us to find ourselves in surprising new ways and places.
  • Review: Tuhkankantajat (MAA)2011-07-16 07:31:51Tuhkankantajat is darkness tempered with ecstasy; raw and sophisticated; deeply interior yet verging on the boundless. These Finnish masters have been quietly forging rich new possibilities for neofolk, and it seems to me only a matter of time for their influence to pervade widely.
  • Review: Silver Moon Slumber (Key)2011-07-10 13:56:42Hailing from the cold but beautiful climes of Finland, Key are purveyors of dreamy and evocative neofolk. Their new release Silver Moon Slumber is a beautiful album, at once trancelike and atmospheric. Loaded with unique groove, and resonant with inflections from New Wave, this release conjures cold but joyous landscapes in the mind’s ear.
  • Review: Medicine (Marc Broude)2011-06-28 11:56:45Medicine is a kind of ambient/experimental/jazz monster, a cold and misty dream, a delirious wandering into the frigid canyons and plateaus of frosty Niflheim. Medicine? This is shamanistic medicine, seidhr medicine, medicine of the heart, the spirit, the soul. Ordeal medicine, dancing with death, drawing us into mystery, puncturing the thin skin of self-evident, everyday life.
  • Review: Restless in Flight (Forest of the Soul)2011-06-23 21:06:15Forest of the Soul is the newest project from Nechochwen’s Andrew Della Cagna and Aaron Carey. Given the excellence of Nechochwen’s folk-black metal fusion, I had high hopes for Restless in Flight, which sees Della Cagna’s intimidating multi-instrumentality paired off with Aaron Carey’s talented guitar playing. Excellent though it is, I unfortunately fear that this release does not sit as well with me as Nechochwen’s work.
  • Review: Opuscula Magica Volume I (Andrew Chumbley)2011-05-19 18:41:48
  • Review: Cult of Youth (Cult of Youth)2011-02-20 00:07:50Whether delving into psych-folk head-trips, wild western digressions, or good old foot-stomping punk anthems, Cult of Youth are always in total control – and yet always feel on the very brim of total chaos. These guys are an unstoppable juggernaut.
  • Review: Possessed by the Forest Queen (Lasher Keen)2011-02-18 20:00:36Presented as a limited edition vinyl release, Possessed by the Forest Queen is a splendorous invocation of the divinity of nature. With it US outfit Lasher Keen have well and truly proved themselves a dark and rising star in the world of folk music.
  • Review: The Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria (Various Artists)2011-02-18 18:20:57The Seven Deadly Sins: Luxuria is a digital-only free double album compilation of post-industrial music. Organised by Schattenspiel, the release is part two of a series of compilations exploring – and indeed celebrating! – each of the seven deadly sins from Christian mythology; Luxuria is otherwise known as lust. Being a free release, you really cannot go wrong, so if anything in my review piques your interest then do not hesitate to check it out!
  • Review: Anitya (The Joy of Nature)2011-01-22 17:53:42Anitya is the final instalment of The Joy of Nature’s three part alchemical trilogy, The Empty Circle. I will state immediately that it represents a more than fitting crown to the series. Its eerie fusion of folk, ambient, and world music influences creates endless dream states and liminal visions, subtle and absorbing allusions to the lapis, the elusive goal of the alchemical process.
  • Review: Godsaga (Sig:Ar:Tyr)2011-01-21 14:03:12Sig:Ar:Tyr’s combination of metal, folk, and ambient influences gives it an appeal that draws in the listener regardless of their usual music genre preferences: Godsaga is a solid continuation of a legacy of music which really transcended conventional genre boundaries...highly recommended for anyone who likes inspiring, mythic, and stirring Heathen music.
  • Review: Manifest Destiny (Various Artists)2010-12-25 00:32:45The concept of Manifest Destiny is – as the name and artwork suggests – to give a host of American underground/post-industrial acts the opportunity for exposure to the world. Spanning neofolk, martial pop, industrial, psychedelic, and dark ambient influences, The CD includes both some well known names and some more obscure artists as well. Unfortunately as is often the case with compilation CDs it is a bit of a mixed bag.
  • Review: Giants of the Frost (Kim Wilkins)2010-12-21 16:49:10The magic for me lay in the descriptions of Asgard. Every time I read a chapter devoted to the characters there I had to lie down and take a nap and dream. I found the book to be a terrible inconvenience at work where I am allowed to read but sleeping is seriously frowned upon! The dreams were amazing and while I read the book I felt as though I were living in two worlds. My life in Asgard was as real as my life here.
  • Review: The Bells Before Dawn (Awen)2010-12-07 03:15:54The Bells Before Dawn is a voyage into neofolk marked by minimalist arrangements, deep male vocals, and a passion for history and heritage.
  • Review: Asa (Voluspaa)2010-11-19 06:02:43Voluspaa was born in Norway in the mid 1990’s black metal scene, but despite having been around for a while, Asa is their debut full length release. The wait was worth it: Voluspaa mastermind Freddy Skogstad has done a brilliant job orchestrating these epic, atmospheric, and evocative songs into a beautiful collection of folk-infused black metal (and at times…the reverse).
  • Review: Runaljod ~ Gap Var Ginnunga (Wardruna)2010-11-17 01:42:31Runa means mystery, and to me the word mystery conjures a dark, cloud-stained horizon, a pregnant foreboding, a sense of awe in the face of the wilds of nature. This album is an exploration of the spirit of the runes (eight of them to be exact), and insofar as it evokes exactly these same images…I have to pronounce it a brilliant success.
  • Review: Der Verborgene Gott (Art Abscons)2010-11-10 01:44:28I guess the old Nietzschean Gay Science comes to mind in listening to this recording – because although it lightly dances across one’s ears, it certainly is not frivolous or light-weight. There’s a seeming effortlessness to the creative spark of this music, which celebrates darkness and light; intimacy and spaciousness.
  • Review: Elhaz Othala Eihwaz (Aldrlag)2010-10-25 00:24:14It is no easy thing to capture the atmosphere and spirit of early 90’s Norwegian black metal, let alone imbue that (now all too often stale) aesthetic with vitality. Elhaz Othala Eihwaz, Aldrlag’s very limited edition demo/album, represents the most convincing attempt at such a feat that these ears have heard in a long time.
  • Review: Filthy Plumage In An Open Sea! (Cult of Youth)2010-10-06 00:22:30Obliquely chronicling one man’s overcoming of darkness, Cult of Youth’s new 20 minute long vinyl outing is a concise and powerful statement of kickass dark-folk intent.
  • Review: Restless Eyes (Lia Fail)2010-09-30 02:03:40Lia Fail are a dark/neofolk outfit from Italy who have been doing the rounds for a while now. Restless Eyes is a little two song demo/single CD presented in classy packaging. For what it is I quite enjoyed it…but the great brevity of the release makes it hard to really form a concrete opinion of the band.
  • Review: At Home (All in the Merry Month of May)2010-09-29 02:12:51All in the Merry Month of May is a one-woman (with a few guests) folk outfit; with the debut release At Home we are offered a warm, quirky, DIY folk gem.
  • Review: Taiwaskivi (Halo Manash)2010-09-25 17:13:02There is a real mystique and awe surrounding Halo Manash, experimental psychic-sonic pioneers from Suomi whose unique menagerie of drones, found instruments, and primal spirit combine to yield a truly sonic experience of solemn but untamed ritualism.
  • Review: The Empty Circle Part II: Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition (The Joy of Nature)2010-09-25 03:26:39Earthy, richly layered, alternately dreamy and visceral, Trails of Blood and Fragments of the Tradition is a noble tribute to The Joy of Nature’s musical forebears, and a true celebration of life. A marvellous continuation of the trilogy of The Empty Circle, and a release which leaves me very excited to hear the concluding release of the series…
  • Review: The Empty Circle Part I: Swirling Lands of Disquiet and Catharsis (The Joy of Nature)2010-09-25 02:38:30Heavily laden with synchronistic beauty, this is an album that rewards deep exploration and reflection. The music is rich, subtle, and evokes a string of all-encompassing worlds, like pearls on the necklace of the hermaphrodite Mercurius. Couto has fulfilled the ambition of this release with an assured genius that bodes well for the sequel albums in the series of The Empty Circle.
  • Review: An English Arcanum (Telling the Bees)2010-05-08 12:30:12Imagine being seduced into the world of Merrie England, as John Michell would say: a quasi-mythical realm of music, craft, magic, the whole rustic tapestry of rural life. A world where animals are wiser than humans, and hedgerows bristle with mystery. No, that isn’t quite the world of Telling the Bees – they’re far too wise to naively devolve into such idealism – but it certainly echoes through every note of their new album, An English Arcanum, and if ever the folk mythology of Merrie England were attested by any kind of evidence, this album would be it.
  • Review: Untie the Wind (Telling the Bees)2010-05-08 12:17:43Telling The Bees are a four piece folk band with a strong classical influence and they sing their stories with a poignancy and magic all their own. Oh, and every time I put this album on to play I am immediately, utterly obsessed.
  • Review: Where Life Springs Eternal (Celestiial)2010-05-06 14:32:30US nature-loving doom outfit Celestiial are an unusual beast. Where Life Springs Eternal, their second full length album, is a fascinating mix of heavy, droning funeral doom guitars, tortured vocals, and glacial percussion. Somehow they’ve managed to take the usually oppressive and choking tools of the funeral doom metal trade to evoke an almost soothing animistic atmosphere of forests and streams and mist on the air. It’s a strange and impressive achievement.
  • Review: Loss (Wodensthrone)2010-05-04 12:38:08Loss is the debut album of UK black metal band Wodensthrone. It was recorded with the assistance of pagan black metal giants Negura Bunget, and sets out to explore the historical and cultural spirit of Europe’s pagan roots...
  • Review: Azimuths to the Otherworld (Nechochwen)2010-05-04 12:35:08Nechochwen’s second album, Azimuths to the Otherworld is an unusual and very creative release which takes time for the listener to fully absorb. The effort is worth it
  • Review: Welsh Witches and Wizards (Michael Howard)2010-04-25 19:09:00Welsh Witches and Wizards is the first book to appear, in a series of four, focusing on the witchcraft of four regions of the British Isles. Well-researched and drawing mainly on documentary evidence, this initial treatise on the Welsh lore and practice of cunning-folk is carefully hewn into 8 concise chapters.
  • Review: A Banishing Ritual (Blood of the Black Owl)2010-04-17 23:48:02Blood of the Black Owl have carved a formidable reputation with their characteristic brand of Heathen-inflected “blackened doom metal,” as I am wont to call it. Knowing the impeccable standards to which band leader Chet Scott holds all of his creative projects (Ruhr Hunter, Elemental Chrysalis with Blood of the Black Owl comrade James Woodhead, etc), I was positively bursting at the thought of hearing this new album. And high as they were, my expectations have been completely exceeded.
  • Review: Hadewych (Hadewych)2010-04-17 18:45:42While many musical artists have tried to draw together naturalistic and industrial influences, few are particularly successful – the delicate synergy of elements required is all too easily missed. This album, however, is a brilliant example of how good a combination of musical genres they can be.
  • Review: Georgia Through its Folktales (Michael Berman)2010-04-13 13:27:57This book is unlike most compendiums of folktales for two reasons: firstly, the relative obscurity (in the English language at any rate) of the subject matter; and secondly, the unique and fascinating reflective threads with which the stories on offer are bound together.
  • Review: Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered (Peter S. Wells)2010-04-06 13:45:12I’ve always pined for the Dark Ages of Northern Europe, and never been able to justify it – let’s face it, the “barbarian” tribes have been brought into thorough disrepute by the dour Roman commentators of the late Empire. What a pleasure, then, to discover a book that dismantles those jaded opinions with wit and clarity.
  • Review: Runes: Theory & Practice (Galina Krasskova)2010-03-13 11:51:34I have enjoyed what I have read of Galina Krasskova’s writings, so I was quite excited to review this book. Having devoured it, I have come to the conclusion that, although there are some discordant notes that did not sit comfortably with me, it is on the whole a valuable contribution to contemporary runic lore.
  • Review: Visions of Vanaheim (Svartesól)2010-03-13 11:49:53It is no secret that the modern Heathen revival has tended to be very Aesir-centric; even the term Asatru refers specifically to Odin, Thor, and their ilk, to the exclusion of their sibling family of gods, the Vanir.
  • Review: Days in Midgard: A Thousand Years On (Steven T. Abell)2010-03-13 11:46:54Open The Poetic Edda at a random page – particularly Lee Hollander’s canonical and nigh-unreadable translation – and you might find Norse mythology to be altogether too bizarre and cryptic to connect with. Such a reaction would be very understandable – Icelandic poetry is insanely complex and the stories seem to have been composed for an audience that already knew the background to the situations and characters. How, then, can we moderns find our way in? How can we translate the connection in our hearts into a form that permits speech and words?
  • Review: Runic Amulets & Magic Objects (Mindy MacLeod & Bernard Mees)2010-03-11 14:16:02This book is essential reading for anyone interested in runes or indeed European cultural history. Macleod and Mees decline to adopt the recent fashion in academic circles for dismissing the idea that the runes had any kind of magical significance, just as they refuse to pretend that different regions were hermetically sealed from one another. They steer a balanced path between emphasising the many mundane applications of the runes and their magical function, and indeed the book focuses on the latter, as may be inferred from the title.
  • Review: The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions (Joscelyn Godwin)2009-09-28 18:59:16My first encounter with Joscelyn Godwin’s work occurred about 10 years ago while leafing through an issue of the journal Rûna. Godwin’s article, “Polar and Solar Symbolism”, profoundly opened me to an esoteric school of thought that captivates my mind to this very day. Since then, I have read a handful of his other works, including the truly astounding Arktos which provided a foundation for further philosophical and spiritual inquiry. Henceforth, it continues with his latest book, The Golden Thread. For those who are unfamiliar with Godwin, this latest offering is as good a place to start as any. In fact, it may be his most accessible work to date.
  • Review: Beowulf & Grendel: The Truth Behind England’s Oldest Legend (John Grigsby)2007-09-21 00:05:33The poem known to us today as Beowulf has been something of an enigma since it first began to receive serious scholarly attention almost two hundred years ago. That it survived into the modern era at all is nothing short of miraculous, but many of the allusions contained within the text would seem to suggest that it is the sole surviving component of a much larger tradition.
  • Review: Yule (Tor Lundvall)2007-03-21 13:31:33Emotional electronica with a mistletoe arrow, this limited edition CD (only 333 originally available), leads us on a city mouse journey through the winter holiday. From entering the station to catch a homebound train, to being awaken on a snowy morning by bells and the promise of mysterious gifts, to the end of Yule and the beginning of the New Year, we are led by Xmas ghosts.
  • Review: Blood of the Black Owl (Blood of the Black Owl)2007-03-21 13:26:28Consisting of seven tracks, this ambitious metal journey begins by delivering the listener to the heart of the storm immediately upon pressing ‘play.’ A broad range of instrumentation is woven through the heavy rhythm guitar in a unique and entrancing manner. The stark, raw vocals of the opening turn to echoing screams and cavernous growls, surrounded by doom tempo drums and meditative breaks of pure drone.
  • Review: Cherries (Agnivolok)2007-03-21 13:24:14The sound of Agnivolok is an often uneven, yet masterfully produced fusion of European classical and folk with dark, atmospheric experimentalism. The lyricist and songwriter, Vera Agnivolok, creates some beautiful, warm melodies through the use of guitar, piano, and accordian. Yet her jarring and haunting vocal style, is one of the strong ingredients which sets this band apart form all others.

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