Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sophia - Herbstwerk (2001)

Imagine a choral work performed in a cathedral of ice with distant rumblings of war and you have 'Miserere', the opening track of Peter Pettersson's second album as Sophia. The second and title track, 'Herbstwerk', is brutally penetrated by martial/industrial hammers. This seems to reflect real anger and sets the scene for much of the rest of the album.

'March Of Strength' continues in the same robust mould - grim and claustrophobic, it conveys the grueling agony of war. It concludes with a quiet piano passage, a reflective 'after the battle' survey of the scene of carnage.

'Inner Turmoil' is a piece of rumbling ambience while 'Copper Sun' has a grand martial choir, synth brass fanfares and strident percussion. In penultimate position is 'My Salvation', a more mellow piece transcending the clamour of battle and coming as a contrast and relief.

I wish this grim, Nietzschean, martial music had existed when I was an adolescent - I'd have loved it! But now that my attitudes and tastes have mellowed with age, I am inclined to prefer Peter Pettersson's more melodic work as Arcana.

Review taken from FLUXEUROPA.

01 - Miserere
02 - Herbstwerk
03 - March of Strength
04 - Winterflame
05 - Inner Turmoil
06 - Copper Sun
07 - My Salvation
08 - Prost!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Arditi - Marching on to Victory (2003)

Launched in the wake of the excellent 'Unity of Blood' EP, this latest release from Martin Bjorkman (Algaion) and Henry Moller (Puissance) is accompanied by images of defiant warriors and fallen soldiery. Europe's tragic past is regenerated for thirty-seven minutes of symphonic heaven. The Arditi, meaning the 'Daring Ones', was an elite commando unit operating in Italy between the wars.

There is a hollow, empty feel to the first track and 'Determination' shudders nervously like a brutalised child locked in a psychopath's bathroom. Military snares and wooden taps compete for space with a shrill Italian voice sample, creating a fine ambient atmosphere. 'Sturm V' begins like an approaching train, before the heavy percussion and classical synths build into a tumultuous mish-mash of excitement and expectation. The leader and his followers captured for posterity in a cacophony of Germanic time-capsules. 'Unity of Blood', which is already known to us from the 7" single of the same name, sweeps in like a gloomy overlord. Mixed with the heady strains of a looped choir, a sustained barrage of ambience is battered senseless with devastating drums and militaristic entreaties. It sounds like someone is giving Mickey Mouse a damn good kicking behind the scenes of 'Fantasia'.

'Marching On To Victory' is an eerie combination of merry flute and attentive drum, like ghostly troops winding their way through the shattered ruins of Europa. And whilst the track is woefully brief, on the other hand, it is easily compensated for in terms of representing one of the more bombastic tracks on the album. 'Bless Our Arms' is heavier still and the awesome drums and screeching ambience take it in turns to assail the ears. An English voice can be heard appealing to God and commentating on the vast importance of obtaining victory at the earliest possible stage. The sheer power and supernatural overtones of this song, meanwhile, leave one in little doubt that the call has been answered. 'Sun of Predappio', a reference to Benito Mussolini's hometown, continues the obsession with brutal percussion and the occasional choral interjections make it sound like a cross between 'The Omen' and the 1922 March on Rome. Cheering crowds and a truly mystifying soundscape make this the best track on the album.

'Holy Order' functions like a contextual reinvigoration and adds a more spiritual tinge to the proceedings. This time the ambience almost resembles a human whisper, but the high-pitched tones that lurk in the background make it unnerving and uncomfortable. For those who fail to establish the connection between war and the sublime, this track may seem rather out of place. But the relationship between selfless martyrdom and the occult forces which operate in the world like a law unto themselves, ensure that this song commands an important place in the general scheme of things. Which brings us to the final and conclusive track, 'Militant Struggle', which seems to put the whole thing into perspective. A church organ plays like a requiem for the dead, as extreme percussion and deep bass tones cry out for more volunteers. Defeat is not failure. It is a cathartic trigger for future action. The fallen are replaced by those of new blood. When the percussion disappears from time to time, albeit momentarily, there is time to reflect. But when everything comes together again with an unrepentent and dynamic energy, the message becomes clear. This is the time for the warrior to re-emerge from the shadows, to take his place among the few willing to lay down their lives for the struggle. A struggle, of course, which is perpetual and never-ending. A fantastic album with an important message. For more information about Arditi, please contact: .

Review taken from S Y N T H E S I S.

01 - Determination
02 - Sturm V
03 - Unity of Blood
04 - Marching on to Victory
05 - Bless Our Arms
06 - Sun of Predappio
07 - Holy Order
08 - Militant Struggle