It’s Monday morning, October, 08:17 in the morning. Outside it is cold, dark and pouring with rain. Literally pouring! I find myself on the train, on my way to work, with a newspaper that tells me a cold front will pass over Holland and it will bring lots of rain during the whole day. Well, looking out of the window I can confirm that. Walking out of the station it gets even worse. Every single bucket of water that every single god of the pagan pantheon could find is thrown down right here, right now. So without any hesitation, I walk past my trusty bike and step right into the city bus, out of that waterfall of rain into the warmth of the bus cabin.
As I get comfortable on the bus seat I put the Emian’s new album in my Discman. And their music takes me deep into the magic of the Arabian desert. I can feel the hot wind rub my face as the sand dunes open up in my imagination. The contrast could not be bigger with the world outside my window. So I crawl even deeper into the corner of my seat and drift away in the warmth of Emian’s ever-expanding musical world.
From the first album, Aquaterra up to, their third album Egeria, Emian has been on quite an interesting musical journey. You only have to look at the list of instruments they play on every CD to see it. On Aquaterra it is the ‘common’ Celtic folk instruments; Irish harp, fiddle, flutes, tin whistle, Irish bouzouki, and acoustic bass. On the Mediterranean pagan folk album Khymeia the band added castanets, hurdy-gurdy, and Persian santur. On Egeria we suddenly see a whole range of ‘exotic’ instruments. Medieval bagpipe, bombarda, a Greek Aulos, the ciaramella, a marranzano, the Tibetan horn, an Indian harmonium, the Algerian mondol and a bandola, all new instruments to the Emain sound.
You can also see this journey back in the booklet as Anna Cefalo told me. In many ancient cultures the dragonfly, depicted on the sleeve art, stands for rebirth and transition. for Emian the dragonfly represents the transformation the band made from its birth to where the band is now. To my question, if the album title is also connected to that idea of transition Anna answered yes. Egeria is not only an ancient nymph, a Camena of the Roman pantheon, she was also an ancient traveler and as such her name is a worthy title for this CD. On this album the band decided to travel back to their cultural roots, all the way back to Roman times, the Etruscans and even the Middle East.
It’s only while listening to the new cd’s of Emian and Vael, and talking to Anna Cefalo about it, that I realized that there is more to pagan folk than the Celtic and Nordic folk that I started to associate the genre with through Omnia, SeeD, and LEAF. Looking at the roots of the Mediterranean bands there is ancient Greece, the Romans or Etruscans, the Carthaginians, the Spanish Celtic tribes, the ancient cultures in the middle east, even the Egyptians are all part of the roots of Mediterranean people nowadays. Just as much as the Celtic and Viking culture is part of our western European pagan legacy.
So on Egeria, Emian explores their own pagan folk roots and with it new musical possibilities and you can clearly hear it on the new album. Where, on Khymeia, the focus was still on the open sound of the harp, bouzouki, and fiddle -with the hurdy-gurdy mixed more in the background- on Egeria the focus shifted towards the reed instruments, the medieval bagpipe, and the hurdy-gurdy. Another thing that changed is the production. Khymeia had a very rich sound, The music had many layers woven into it. Egeria is soberer, more focused on the melody and the lyrics. You could say Khymeia was a pop-folk album where Egeria has more of a singer-songwriter feel to it.
The best example of that ‘new’ sound is the fifth song on Egeria, La Casa Dell’Orco. It’s only the bouzouki, harp, and flute that start this beautiful song. The single sound of Martino’s drum then leads us into this ballad about the shepherd Silpa, that manages to slay a giant orc, but loses the one closest to his heart nevertheless. Anna Cefalo really shines in this song. With every verse, her voice gets more intense. You can really feel the hurt and sadness coming through with every note she sings, the medieval bagpipe and bombarda solo at the end only helps to tell this tragic story based on a legend from the area of Irpinia in the Italian Alps. (for those interested, Anna kindly translated the text into English, you can find the translation at the bottom of this review.) La Casa Dell’Orco is easily my most favorite song on Egeria. And although at certain moments I do miss the rich sound of Khymeia, the singer-songwriter approach brings out a new side to Emian that is equally nice, because La Casa Dell’ Orco isn’t the only lovely song on this album, Anna, as always, shines on more songs.
There is the lovely folk-pop ballad Rasabella, a traditional song from Calabria. The mouth harp intro puts an instant smile on my face, and then Anna’s soothing voice just lets me drift into this beautiful song, Emian at their very best.
Fronni D’Allia is the first surprise on Egeria. The intro makes me think of Valravn Or Lys, the last record of Kati Ran. It is as if Christopher Juul was asked to do the mix on this song. I like it, the eerie, slightly shaded tone of this work song from Basilicata works wonders with Anna’s crystal clear, soothing voice.
Spirit Trail is another surprise. This song honoring the native American tribes, as depicted by Martino D’amico in the booklet -although it is honoring every free-spirited person out there if you read the lyrics well- is also written and sung by Martino. And I hope it won’t be the last time he does so. His voice is just as open, friendly and pleasant to listen to as Anna’s. The song itself is again singer-songwriter folk material. A guitar and a voice, that’s all Emian needs to tell this story. Yes, they do work towards a grand climax but in the end, the essence of spirit trail is found in the magic between those two ‘humble’ instruments, voice and bouzouki.
As always Emian also recorded some instrumental songs that are well worth mentioning. The first one is Ay Yildiz that flows into Le Navi Di Istanbul. And as to be expected from the titles it has this lovely middle-eastern feel to it that actually blends in really well with Emian’s ‘normal’ Mediterranean pagan folk style. In a way, Ay Yildiz starts just as Spirit Trail, small, with just two instruments. In this case its the harp and a Middle Eastern string instrument that I don’t even dare to guess at what it might be. It’s not important anyway. What is important is the beauty of the theme they play together. How the variations on that theme build and build to make a lovely dance song. (Anna did tell me what the mystery instrument is after she read the review. It’s a Turkish oud and it is played by guest musician Peppe Frana)
Another lovely instrumental dance medley is Evoe Evoe that gracefully flows over in Vesuvius.
Again the melody starts small, this time it builds up faster, growing into a song that easily could have been on Khymeia too. Again Emian at their best. in Evoe Evoe / Vesuvius they are mixing delicate sections with lovely dance tunes, upbeat vocals with delicate solo harp moments, and the new middle eastern influences with the ‘old’ Mediterranean folk style we found on Khymeia; the best of both worlds.
Fans of Faun, Waldkauz and of course Emian themselves, will fully enjoy this new album of theirs.
– editor: Gwendolyn Snowdon
– sleeve art: Martino D’Amico
– photography in studio (1)
– photography on location (2,3,4)
Giulian PisapiaThe translation of the lyrics of La Casa Dell’Orco by Anna Cefalo
Shepherd Silpa walks among the mountains
the beasts (sheeps) follow the master safely.
Winter is near, a shelter is worthwhile
that takes away the bitter cold.
He plays to his flute sweet music,
tenacious it creeps among noble oaks,
with Matulpa his bride going down to the valley
and the dogs watching his back.
But a distant song reaches the procession,
a lugubrious chorus carried by the wind.
Curious Silpa, trembling Matulpa
– Stop your step, wayfarer! –
They entered the orc’s house:
Cronopa the giant before his altar,
in his hand an ax ready to vibrate
on a man his mortal blow …
Fee Fi Fo Fum … Fee Fi Fo Fum …
Escape Silpa, don’t turn away go away!
Escape Silpa, you know the way!
Fee fi fo fum … Blood your wine will be!
Fee fi fo fum … Meat its bread will be!
On the edge of the ditch, Silpa shows itself,
the song stops, the giant turns.
The victim flees and Silpa runs fast
the hand to his bow leads.
The arrow shot at the heart strikes,
Furious Cronopa staggers and roars.
The mountains tremble, a chilling scream,
two steps and the giant perishes.
The saved men are on him,
armed with stones they die to death the monster,
then they moved towards shepherd Silpa
proclaiming him liberator.
But in the heart of Silpa there is no victory,
Matulpa has disappeared, this is not the glory!
He throws himself to look for her, but finally he finds
his beloved eaten by wolves…
Silpa sat on the stone, leaving his head on his chest.
A great silence grew around him…
The last corpse remains of Matulpa were buried and night fell.
Silpa lay down on the ground, closed his eyes and let himself die.
Sleep Silpa, go to her again.
Sleep Silpa, still playing for her.
Fee fi fo fum… This is the grave for me …
Fee fi fo fum… I still play for you …
PerKelt – Air And Fire (2019) review
Cliff de Booy
Just a few days ago I wrote a review about the new
CD and I concluded that the album was the biggest surprise of the year. A remark I thought would stand for a few months. Not so! We are one week further and
gives me the next ‘biggest’ surprise! Who would have thought that I would listen to the first track of a PerKelt album and that my notes would say: -ballad!-, -spoken word-, -male lead vocals!!!- and -reminds me of the 60’s folk singer-songwriter Donovan!!?-. The second song I hear,Morana, is PerKelt the way I know it, fast and furious pagan speed folk, so my surprised feeling starts to fade slightly. But then Štěpán starts reciting a poem and again the comparison with
is there, specifically with the song
one of Donovan’s classic hits. What about track 4, Air And Fire then? Surely Perkelt will now go into a speed folk frenzy? No! Another gentle acoustic guitar motif, almost Spanish sounding, flowing into a midtempo flute solo with gentle guitar and violin chords… and still no lead vocals from Paya in sight!
At this point I seriously grabbed the previous album Dancer In The Wind, and listened to it, just to check if my memory could be that wrong. PerKelt were that ultra fast pagan folk band just one album ago, weren’t they!? Yep, they were. Even more intrigued I returned to Air And Fire. Track 5, Waterflies left me even more bewildered, hearing a
type chant ! Who,…why….what happened???! Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m hearing ’till now, but it is so different. Where did this surprising music come from????
I just had to know, so I did something I had never done before. I spontaneously called Štěpán, to ask him all those questions I had running through my head, totally forgetting that my normal 9 to 5 timetable and that of a musician performing at night totally do not match. And even more so forgetting that there is a one hour time difference between Holland and Great Britain, whoops! So Monday morning 08:15 sharp, Štěpán Honc, guitar player and (at least for this album) lead vocalist of Perkelt, had an overexcited reviewer from the Netherlands on the phone, asking him too many questions in too short a space of time to properly answer. (Deeply sorry about that Štěpán.) luckily Štěpán didn’t mind and patiently answered them all.
Štěpán:“Did we plan this style change? Not really, we always write songs as they come and once we have enough of them for an album we go to the studio. It’s hard to call it a conceptual work then” He laughs. “But indeed, some of these songs were written slightly differently than before. Writing poetry became my big passion as a child and I have been writing poems and little stories pretty much constantly ever since. When our fiddler Duncan joined the band a couple of years ago, we naturally started writing songs together. He was bringing his melodic ideas, often with unusual rhythm changes like you can find in the new songs I’ll Be Right Back or Betrayal, and I opened my notebook with lyrics… and it just worked together really nicely. Paya then came in and, as always, she brought some crystal-clear Celtic melodies on top of that. Together, including David we would then arrange and polish all the ideas until everything felt just right.
In some other songs, however, I desired to try the proper singer-songwriting. Write songs that can be easily played just with one voice and a guitar. In the band we al love good singer-songwriting, when poetry meets music in the most easiest-flowing- and the most sensitive of ways. Each of us listens to many songwriters, there are some brilliant Czech songwriters that nobody in the UK could hear of, for the reason of the language barrier. Inspired by this kind of music came songs like Robin And Parakeet, When The Water Is Pure or The Little Prayer. All of them, but especially the last one, The Little Prayer, also follow my obsession with spoken word.
At the conservatory where I studied classical guitar, there was a period where I was struggling to find my own way of performing the melodic lines. I wasn’t very happy with the way the guitar is normally being used in this matter, so instead of listening to classical guitar music over and over again like some of my schoolmates did, I was listening to spoken word. Audio books for children were my big passion in my twenties, and the natural phrasing of the spoken word was quite an important influence on my performance and later even on my style of composing and songwriting. Admittedly I also won’t forget the first time I heard Steve from
performing The Raven by
Edgar Allen Poe!
That is a proper masterpiece! I really wanted to write something in that way -but of course with the usual PerKelt twists haha- and here I finally had a great opportunity.
With all of these songs I thought that Paya would obviously sing the lead vocal, as always, she is so good, But since I was writing the lyrics, I was the first who sang all of them to the other band members, and the guys were kinda insisting that I should keep singing them. They were so persistent that eventually I had to surrender and shake off my shyness. However, I wouldn’t call it “singing” myself, necessarily.” Štěpán adds with a laugh: “I have the vocal range of a slightly overdeveloped brick!!! So instead I focused on telling the story, emphasizing on what is important, to make my thick -although reportedly sexy- accent a bit more comprehensible. So I see it more like talking, like storytelling, really.
Is the next album gonna be in the same line as this one? I have no idea what kind of music we will be writing after this album. It will mostly depend on what will inspire us in the next couple of years, It will be a spontaneous thing, not something we plan. But I can promise you one thing, we will make sure that it is as good as possible!”
As this was a totally spontaneous early morning interview, with Štěpán indeed getting a thick Czech accent as he got into it, and me trying to follow it all while cycling to work on my bike, Štěpán kindly wrote me an email answering all my questions one more time. He did even more, he kindly wrote a personal introduction to every song on Air And Fire. And those were at times so touching I just had to add them to this review. So here is Air And Fire in Štěpán’s words and in mine. Totally spontaneous, but that is how it works in PerKelt’s world.
track 1 ROBIN AND PARAKEETŠtěpán:I have a particular feeling about keeping birds in cages. In Czechia parakeets are very popular as pets and when I see these amazing creatures trapped in a box, 50cm by 50cm their whole life, it’s quite disturbing to say the least.
I also have a feeling about some people, who are very unhappy about not having enough freedom, who keep complaining about the job they don’t like, their mortgage, yet they refuse to give up on the material comforts their lifestyle brings. A new phone every year, a big house, big TV, massages, getting drunk every night…Hence the “golden cage” and “golden key” imagery. I find it confusing. Maybe they really can’t change it. I don’t know. Or I don’t know how to do it myself. I can see that what I say is making them suffer. Their self-defence would be to convince me that I am wrong and at one point, when everything has been said, me talking or even staying would cause only pain, possibly to both of us.Cliff: This song captured me from the start and after a week of continuous listening has become my firm favourite. Štěpán has a beautiful warm and tender voice, one that, as I already said in the intro, reminds me instantly of the 60’s singer-songwriter Donovan. At first I fell in love with the melody of the song, the melody of Štěpán’s voice, but it was when I got the lyrics and saw the story behind the song that I got the full impact of it. As I was reading along while Štěpán was singing I had tears pouring over my cheeks. That’s how much its message touched me. Štěpán can say he has the vocal range of a brick. But it’s not the range that is important. It is what you do with a voice, and Štěpán is constantly reaching out to me. Reaching me way deeper than most music does. Past the point in my brain that analyses music and defines it as beautiful, interesting or just nice. He reaches deep inside my heart and cry warm tears as he does.
As a song it’s a mid tempo singer-songwriter style song with Duncan Menzies (violin) and Paya Lehane (recorder) adding some touching colour to the vocals. in the second half, the song builds up momentum. It grows from an intimate singer-songwriter ballad into a grand pagan folk classic-to-be. It’s Štěpán’s intimate, loving vocals, the lyrics full of compassion contrasting against the musical exuberance, the sense of freedom running through Duncan and Paya’s solos that make this song so special. It is pagan folk at its very, very best.
track 2 MORANAŠtěpán:Morana is a Slavic goddess of winter and death. I don’t see her as a harmful force even if she is the goddess of death, someone has to do that job 🙂 And when it’s not our time yet, she brings us together in mutual helpfulness, rebirth and humility.Cliff: This is PerKelt as we now them from previous albums. Fast and energetic pagan folk. Due to the songs theme, honouring the goddess Morana, it has a simular feel as the second and third part of Omnia’s The Morrigan. Although Morana is the goddess of winter and death, the song itself is not sad. On the contrary. It Is a celebration of life. The energy really sparked from the CD. Paya and Duncan turn Morana into a swirling magical dance between flute and violin. Driven on by the fast rhythm of Štěpán’s guitar and David’s drums. This is the ultimate form of a pagan folk extravaganza!
track 3 LITTLE PRAYERŠtěpán:This song is very personal to me. I wrote this poem at a time I was getting back on my feet, after a bit of a relationship earthquake. Illegal psytrance parties, my favourite Wicca tribe rituals and some particularly close friends helped me so much. So I just started writing and eventually managed to put everything that is important for me into this little prayer. We plan to make a video of this one, so I can share all the particular images that are behind the words properly.Cliff: The contrast between Morana and the start of Little Prayer could not have been bigger. From the ultimate celebration of pagan folk live into the sole voice of Štěpán reciting one of his poems. Štěpán already mentioned that his admiration of Omnia’s The Raven was the inspiration to write this piece of poetic music. And it has become a lovely piece of music with his own unique feel. Again this music touches me way beyond the point where it normally does. Just as Robin And Parakeet this grabs me on a much more personal level. I just want to sit, hands around my knees and listen. Absorb everything Štěpán is saying. PerKelt composed the perfect music around it, building the song up in an impressive way, really complementing every word Štěpán has written. I so hope Perkelt are invited back to this years winter
so that they can perform these songs in the intimacy of the Great Hall stage. I believe it would be a wonderful performance, one I would remember for a long time. For now I have to settle for a virtual hug of friendship after hearing Little Prayer.
track 4 AIR AND FIREŠtěpán:This is an instrumental song. One particular genre of classical guitar music I love a lot is minimalism. Take a single little musical idea, start repeating it, enhance and build upon it, until it grows into a massive structure. And, if you are PerKelt, throw a little bit of psytrance feeling in the drums and add some super virtuoso recorder parts. I love this song! we have two little motifs, the gentle air at the beginning and the aggressive fire that comes later. They grow together, just as the wind makes a little bonfire grow.Cliff: Štěpán isn’t the only one loving this song, I do to. What he didn’t say in his intro is that the two motifs he is talking about are instant earworms, happy pagan earworms, dancing in and out of your ears, tickling your brain and enticing your feet to dance, to swirl, to kick the dust up from the earth. I really don’t know who I should compliment the most in this song: Duncan who, with his lovely violin melodies is enriching the PerKelt sound, Štěpán and David driving the band on with their fast rhythms, or Paya who steals the show for me with her virtuoso recorder playing. Again the energy sparks off from my speakers. One of the very best pagan folk dance songs I’ve heard in a long time, if not ever.
track 5 WATERFLIESŠtěpán:I wrote a few environmentalist poems. This poem isn’t a very happy one but the others are even much less so. I love people so much, but it’s hard to unsee that the Earth would do really great without us.Cliff:Waterflies is a chant that has the same feel as Brisinga’s Sinä Ja Minä. It’s the first song where Paya takes the lead vocals in a strong neo pagan prayer. Together with the poem recited by Štěpán, it’s a strong voice against all that we humans do wrong on this still blue planet. Will we ever change? Perhaps the more voices sing along in protest, the more people share songs like this, the more likely it is that the human race will finally listen…Really listen! Really act! Not just agree, nod and carry on regardless.
track 6 DANCE OF GHOSTSŠtěpán: This is actually our arrangement and free translation of the song “Tanec duchů” (literally Dance of Ghosts). The song is written by my guitar teacher and very good friend back in the 90’s. He has a band called Wild West and was taking me on their tours every now and then when I was a little kiddo. I always loved this song and originally translated it just to share it with my music friends in London on our cosmic jam gatherings… but again, he guys in PerKelt liked it and agreed to arrange it for the album. Duncan brought an amazing fiddle riff that fits perfectly.It is a very powerful song about fighting against the chains of society and politics, inspired by the Native American tribes and their history.Cliff: This is the biggest contrast on the album. While the power and message of Waterflies is still resonating within me, Duncan throws out a gypsy violin intro. Dance Of Ghosts is another protest song but of a different kind than Waterflies. It is a statement on moral injustice, dressed as a pagan folk meets gypsy music meets Native American music song. Maybe a bit less exuberant than some of the other songs on Air And Fire, but with the same powerful vibe.
track 7 I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!Štěpán:This is mostly an instrumental song, the original theme written by Duncan in a crazy 13/8 time signature. For contrast we came up with a simple and straightforward 6/8 rhythm. So simple it made us laugh… I thought hey, let’s push this even further and asked the band to give me 4 minutes. And I came up with this little waltz like singing part, about the light-headed feeling when playing at festivals. I’m very happy that this song is there, it brightens the album up a lot!Cliff: Duncan has brought new idea’s into the band. And that inspired PerKelt to make their most varied album yet. The old PerKelt trademarks are still there, the speed, the virtuoso recorder, the driving acoustic guitar, the psytrance drums, but they are now mixed with much slower, much more delicate music. As a result PerKelts music is much more dynamic now, which makes the fast sections even more powerful and the gentle passages more subtle as well. And I love every second of it. I also love the musical connection that Duncan and Paya have found. Just listen how the violin and recorder dance around each other in this ‘battle’ of talents. Simply awesome!
track 8 WHEN THE WATER IS PUREŠtěpán:Not surprisingly, I wrote this song for my girlfriend. It’s about love and about freedom, about staying up all night to keep talking, about patience and honesty. During concerts I sing this song a capella , so I decided to keep it this way on the album as well.Cliff: Well, if you ever wanted to know how an overdeveloped brick sounds, then just listen to this a capella ode to love. Everything Štěpán said about his singing style is true. But in the limitations he mentioned also lays it’s power. Štěpán happens to have a really pleasant, easy to listen to type of voice. And yes, he has a thick accent, but that actually adds more melody. Just as a Scottish accent would. And the cool thing is Paya’s voice complement his extremely well.
TRACK 9 BETRAYAL
Štěpán: I read a beautiful book by
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
called Invitation. She first wrote a poem of the same title and it became so popular that in her first book she was just explaining the verses, one by one, an amazing masterpiece! The verse that stuck to me the most goes like this:
-It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
Sometimes we give a promise to another, only to find later that to try and keep trying that promise you will now cause only harm. It is a very difficult situation, easy to judge harshly for those who never experienced it. Our own journey, that I believe we are destined for, does not always align with these promises. I’ll be with you forever is kind of a typical example.
In the story of this song the Moon promises a desperate girl to never leave and be there every night. And all goes good until we realise that however powerful, even the Moon is following laws much bigger than any promise, and when the eclipse unavoidably comes, the Moon disappears from the night sky and this girl feels deeply betrayed. And in her pain she does something very stupid.
In the intro the Moon introduces herself as the proud saviour. In the outro, after this experience, she cries and realises how important the role of the Sun is, who maybe doesn’t save people in the darkness, but who keeps the people away from the darkness once they get out.Cliff: A Gregorian sounding choir starts Betrayal. As you can see from Štěpán’s description above it is a tragic story wrapped in a song, much like Omnia’s Harp Of Death.
Betrayal is a strong end to this beautiful CD. It brings together all the elements that make Air And Fire such a pleasure to listen to. Štěpán’s vocals, some lovely duels between Paya and Duncan, lot’s of dynamic in the song, and David’s percussion giving it loads of energy!
I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years time Air And Fire will be a pagan folk classic just as Omnia’s Alive! has become, because this is pagan folk at its very, very best!!!
Editor: Diane Deroubaix
Pictures taken at Castlefest 2018 by Cliff de Booy
Waldkauz – Mythos (2017)
Cliff de Booy
Some albums deserve a special treatment. And Mythos, the second CD of the German band
is one of them. When it arrives, and believe me you’re missing out on a nice pagan folk album if you don’t get it, so when it arrives, do NOT put it in the CD player straight away! Trust me on this! Be patient, do your normal things, let the day pass, maybe look into the booklet a bit, (impressive sleeve art and booklet by the way) but leave the CD until the dark of the evening. Then, and only then, when the kids are in bed, the pets fed and the dishes done, light a candle. Only one. You want the flickering light to play with the shadows on the wall. Now turn on your best stereo system, go sit in the middle of the room for maximum stereo effect (or use headphones), crank up the volume and finally press play…
Zwielicht, or ‘Twilight’ in English, is probably the best intro to a Pagan Folk album I have ever heard. It pulls you right into the world of the Fae, of witches and dwarfs or the dark ancient woods of the Balkan. It is a stunning beginning to a CD that has lots more to give.
Their second album Mythos already came out in April 2017, but now that Waldkauz will perform at
for the very first time, we at CeltCast thought it was about time to finally introduce the band and their music to you.
The story of this band begins in 2010, with Gina and Lennart Klause working out the first musical ideas for what would become Waldkauz. They were soon joined by Gina’s brother Peter on percussion. The band’s official starting point is in 2013 with their first public performance, making 2018 the year of their 5th anniversary. Something they are going to celebrate with a special performance in October.
After meeting Gina, Lennart and Peter at Castlefest(!) in 2014, Nina and Niklas (old friends themselves) joined the band. The following year saw the birth of their first album
It earned them performances on the stages of MPS, das
Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum
(Medieval Fantasy Spectacle) that tours Germany every year.
When you start reading the booklet of Mythos, it soon becomes clear that it isn’t just a name. The CD really is a collection of myths and fairy-tales put to music. From the old king of the dwarfs to the witches of Eastern Europe and the old gods of ancient times, they all find their place in Waldkauz’ music. Most of the lyrics are by either Nina or Gina, with Niklas adding two texts as well. All the music is written and arranged by the whole band. Guest musicians on Mythos are
Fieke van der Hurk
(Dearworld studio), on hammered dulcimer,
Sunfire) on cello,
(Triskilian) on nyckelharpa,
(Killkenny band) on acoustic guitar,
doing a remix version of Waldlandreich, one of the bonus tracks on the album, and the public of Minden, Germany hand-clapping and in frenetic jubilation.
I already mentioned the stunning start of the CD with Zwielicht, taking you straight into a mystical world of myths and legends. It effortlessly flows into Mati Syra Zemlya, a song celebrating the Slavic
‘mother of the moist earth’,
the oldest of the Slavic deities. The song itself is best described as
Steve Evans -van Harten. It shows the first of the pillars that make Waldkauz’ sound so special: Nina’s flute playing. She plays the recorder, tin whistle, low whistle and the seljefloyte or overtune flute, made famous in the Pagan Folk world by Omnia. One moment she sounds like Steve Sic, the next it reminds you of Faun, but she can just as easily sound like
Paya Lehane. Just listen to her eerie elvish flute solo on Ringaloo Ya Merry-o, the instrumental Raigan Dannsa or the beautiful solo on Leshy, with Triskilian’s Jule Bauer joining her halfway through on nyckelharpa. I could name almost every song, the nice Perkelt style solo in Vom Wassermann for example, but I won’t. I’ll just mention one more: Baba Jaga. It starts with a wonderful flute solo which Nina picks up on again later in the song.
Baba Jaga also features another quality of the Waldkauz sound, the percussion. It is strong, fast and keeps driving the songs on. I cannot sit still when I listen to Peter playing the combination of drums and djembe. Not only in this song, his percussion skills in Mati Syra Zemlya, Am Wegesrand, Ringaloo Ya Merry-o, Mond Und Sonne and the mighty drum-rolls on Raigan Dannsa, even the ‘basic’ rhythm of Dimna Juda, all stand out because they are fast, varied and rhythmical. And it’s not only on drums. Xylophone, glockenspiel, finger cymbals, he throws everything but the kitchen sink at it, even an anvil!
The third pillar of the Waldkauz sound are their vocals. The band is blessed with three strong vocalists, Nina, Gina and Niklas, and they are equally good. Separate or in harmony, their voices just work beautifully. Just listen to their voices blend in Dimna Juda, Ringaloo Ya Merry-o or Father Of Stone, a more orchestral choral song where Niklas takes the lead. Leshy with some cool spoken word sections reminding me of the late
Dreamworld album. Mond Und Sonne has some quality polyphonic singing, even ending in a cool canon. But the best song on the CD has to be Waldlandreich. Beautifully sung, both by Nina solo and the three of them together. I also have to mention those spoken word sections again. In this case in the dark
style. Such a beautiful song. With the flute solo, the build-up from fragile ballad to a powerful Pagan Folk song, even with distorted bouzouki riffs in the end almost giving it a Folk Metal feel, my personal favourite.
By now it must be clear what the fourth pillar under the Waldkauz sound is, its variation. Waldkauz’ sound is found somewhere in the middle of
with touches of
and a bit of
to add flavour.
As said earlier Mati Syra Zemlya is Irfan meets Omnia. A bit in the style of Dil gaya. Am Wegesrand is more Omnia’s Prayer CD meets Faun’s newer work. A catchy up-tempo Pagan Folk song with real hit-potential. Ringaloo Ya Merry-O cheerful, almost commercial start takes us to the British Folk scene but soon mixes into a darker sound, fitting with the text itself. Father of stone then goes much darker, Wagnerian. It is almost a traditional Metal ballad turned acoustic. It has this strong powerful arrangement, the choral low singing of Niklas and the ladies, I could easily see
use this on one of their albums.
Mythos keeps giving like that. Waldkauz have the ability to give every song that special flavour, that special sauce it needs. A staccato guitar in Leshy to make it darker. A ‘displeased’ banjo to create a Ennio Morricone kind of feel for Hinter Der Brombeerhecke. Distorted instruments or a brass section to put in little accents in the music? Waldkauz will do it. That’s the real power of Mythos. The songs are all catchy ear-worms with the right arrangements to get the best out of those songs. With the percussion and vocals as the real strong points. At first you have the impression the album is just filled with danceable cheerful songs. There is nothing bad about that, but when you start to listen more closely you hear this dark undertone hidden in the lyrics and the music. Just as there always is a dark note in the myths and fairy tales that Mythos is inspired by.
Reading back I notice that I didn’t mention Niklas and Gina that much. As if they are not that important in the overall Waldkauz sound, which of course isn’t true. Quite often they take the supporting role, an underestimated part, but oh-so important. The flute solo starting Mati Syra Zemlya for example, wouldn’t really work without Niklas and Gina supporting it.
Not to worry, Gina and Niklas get plenty of room to shine too. Just listen to the beautiful intro Niklas plays on Waldlandreich or the duet between Gina’s Celtic harp and Nina’s recorder starting Am Wegesrand. The song Ringaloo Ya Merry-O is of course built around a cool harp riff from Gina and last but not least, Woods Of Ukraine, the intro song to Baba Jaga is a beautiful duet between Niklas on bouzouki and Gina on Celtic harp.
All in all I am left with just one conclusion: Mythos is a really nice album. Well worth having for everyone who loves quality Pagan Folk music.