the neo-folk of
Darkwood

CD (2005), CD (2006), CD (2013)
Heidenvolk              Darkwood : Weltenwende (D,2005)**°'

I’ve always tried to have a good insight int the acid folk scene. After having finished some article on the German scene, some people said to me I shouldn’t have neglected the German neo-folk scene, so I asked for a recommendation of some groups I should still check out, and was recommended to chek out a number of bands, of which Darkwood was included. Partly I’m still confirmed with this idea, that the neo-folk scene is different in energy. They have the shadow of the Gothic pose behind them or are often overlapped by it. It is driven by the traumatic post-war shadowy aspect without seemingly much need or effort to solve it. At first hearing I had to learn to look behind the usual neo-folk related two/three chord monotony of depression which is a bit too deliberate with simplified dark texts that do not offer much to life’s pulses, but never the less have nice arrangements compensating for the loss of energy elsewhere. The German texts especially reveal for me deeper feelings and experiences in a slightly stagnated world. The cover shows a picture of a Nazi-time statue of a perfect energetic human, showing the dignity of the German race with an idealised identity which now has been broken and traumatised. Experiencing this really is the deeper curse of truth for most people inside Germany. People had experienced the power of unity to conceive something and now are left with a broken feeling because its essence failed in its purpose or had too much of a price attached. This still-leaning towards the former and now lost ideals, which showed its destructive dark side, as a sense of perception might especially be more present in East Germany from where Henrick Vogel, Project leader of Darkwood comes from. In Eastern Germany lies also a nationalist desire to recover after too many years of failing. Often such ideas with the will to recover its unity, and the neo-folk expressions related with it, might also have some hidden new fascist lovers somewhere, but here it is more a still unfocused feeling of loss and with no other replacement. In reality the old feeling of unity people had, besides in a slow evolution of a cultural higher expression and development, had a much longer and continuing history of some pagan-and friendship related feelings. Nothing of these relations are expressed much by this quiet soul. Not much is seen to recover, or to discover or to express beyond the variations of expressions and some insights within the stagnated feeling of loss.

This recording of Darkwood is based upon an earlier 10” with additional bonus tracks making it a kind of best of compilation of the group. I’ve listened to the music on different occasions (best installation, headphones). When one can hear all details and the listener is not tired, the dark aspects don’t take him too much down, and the varied arrangements (glockenspiel, flute, acoustic guitars, accordion with some cello, bass percussion, .) work more in a (German) romantic way though with a still slightly dark sense of beauty. I guess there’s enough honesty in expressions. The music still leans enough to acid folk singer-songwriting it will appeal to those listeners too. The German language here sounds poetic, gentle and in some way sweet. The songs themselves are sad, and are arranged chamber-like. A mood evoking consistent release.

Audio : "Der Falken Flug", "Torn Nation" & with info : http://www.myspace.com/heidenvolk 
Homepage : http://www.darkwood.de/ ;  Label entry : http://www.heidenvolk.de/eis030.html
Other reviews : http://www.funprox.com/reviews/review.asp?show=1432
& http://www.fluxeuropa.com/darkwood-weltenwende.htm
& http://www.heimdallr.ch/Reviews/2003/Darkwood-Weltenwende.html
& http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20050513113912177
Dutch review : http://www.folkforum.nl/content/view/5222/55/
& http://www.kindamuzik.net/twang/article.shtml?id=4558
& http://www.gothtronic.com/?page=23&reviews=13732006 Darkwood release ->
Heidenvolk              Darkwood : Notwendfeuer (D,2006)***'

General introduction to misinterpretations by the public of images in German neofolk traditions :

To understand fully German neofolk it’s good to understand the German soul and what has built up over the years, of which in its seriousness has two important sources in its origins and evolutions, of which dark German Romantism is a part, but also a lighter and happy “Heimat” association, which is a connection with a comfortable home in a family and with community unity. Historically and especially related with neighbouring countries, the more protective fundaments of homes were often vulnerable to change by people who did not build further on this beautiful fundament, resulting in wars and strife that found much cause in the deeper wish for a bigger bond with regulations founded on the values of that German unity. However, the way in which especially the second world war evolved, resulted in the end in the breaking of that unity, because it took too huge sacrifices by themselves and by others, that in Germany it still pretty much continues further as a trauma, not only because of the bad things that happened and the whole evaluation of its results, and of themselves (the Germans) in the memory of various people, but also in that way that nowadays it became difficult to describe the same beauties in these Romantic and communal foundations without being misunderstood and misinterpreted for being extreme nationalists. For those older German people who built the country anew, and who learned from the mistakes, and established some changes in society as a benefit, they were busy enough building up change, a mixture of German sterling qualities to local ideas with an American way of reaching hands to a global economy, but it’s the generation that came after them especially who feels lost when searching for their German historical, communal and spiritual roots, because their experiences all comes back to the second world war’s breaking point with this German unity. That is the main reason why many neofolk roots take elements of this reality. For outsiders I can confirm that this is not because they support or make publicity for war, but it is so that in their historical folk roots it is hardly impossible to look beyond this turning point. Only beyond this reality you can look to this point towards two directions : to the making of a new future and to go back to all the roots of much older communal traditions.

The CD :

Some German Romantic literature has been used to inspire. The title (referring to “inner need fire of change”) is based upon Karl Bröger (1886-1944), “Wintermärchen”/”winter fairytale” is based upon Otto Ernst (1862-1926), “Niblungenland” is based upon Adolf Bartels (1862-1945), “Feuerkreis”/“circle of fire” is based upon “Trumpeten”/”Trumpets” by George Trakl (1878-1914).

All songs are related with the period of winter, and the fires that should warm the hearts and give a renewed courage, because also you cannot predict what kind of change will come. Consciously and simultaneously also related is the story which is experienced in Eastern Germany, a period where people must have lost a grip on their place to fall back upon. As a cruel and dirty deal (between the alies), that never has been much discussed as such yet (as far as I know), during the fall of Germany in 1945, Stalin’s Russia had already decided to confiscate Eastern Germany as if it was a sort of deal, while in reality it was conquered taking advantage of the circumstances, where no one dared to discus the righteousness of it. For the citizens it became like a long “Russian” winter. Also Berlin was split into two parts, and was completely imprisoned within walls for years.
The title of the album means something like "the inevitable changing fire". In Winter Times the fire of change always brings changes to struggles, and no one knows beforehand if it will bring a better world, only that change could come and that with this conscious idea and process with fire people are spiritually prepared for it. It is such ideas which take different forms in different songs, giving hope, where Dark Romantism is a form of describing also darker realties with referring to the hidden strength and beauty, because that is near to your heart, in true nature still is around.

The album is a solo release led by Henryck Vogel with the help of some musicians. The style is, often fastly strummed acoustic guitar, some cello arrangements and sung by soft male vocals, sometimes slightly reciting, poetry, with sparse arrangements by accordion (Manuela), and sparse percussion which sounds once slightly like martial drumming, confirming a feeling of loss, is hand percussion elsewhere, sounds like Bodhran drumming on another track. Other sparse arrangements are a trumpet once playing like a lonely soldier on a battlefield (by Chihiro), elsewhere romantic-melodic, sparse texturing keyboards, violin (by Valentin). “Roggenfelder” is with an additional sweet female vocalist (Manuela). It’s a slightly sad but hope-giving, very nice album. I’m glad each track was sung in German. (I must admit that I understand also German well, but I also think it sounds best here to hear the singer’s sing in his own language, which sounds also poetic, my friends.

I like the strong cover photo of a young person with eyes full of responsibility and discipline which must have been hard to bear, a person who surely must have felt at young age feelings of loss, loss of innocence perhaps. Such complicate difficult sum of experiences stand well for this inspiration.

Homepage : http://www.darkwood.de/ & with audio : http://www.myspace.com/heidenvolk
Label entry : http://www.heidenvolk.de/hv10.html
Descriptions : http://store.tesco-germany.com/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=CDXDHV10
& http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20061220181516670
& http://www.soleilmoon.com/store/searchresults.lasso?LabelName=HEIDEN%20VOLK
& http://www.oldeuropacafe.com/main.php?nav=pd&prdct=426
Other reviews : http://www.funprox.com/index.php/webzine-archive/reviews/2007_02/darkwood-notwendfeuer/
& http://www.eveningoflight.nl/en/interviews/henryk_vogel.htm
German reviews : http://www.nonpop.de/nonpop/index.php?type=review&area=1&p=articles&id=1299
& http://www.alternativmusik.de/rezensionen/darkwood-notwendfeuer/
& http://www.musik.terrorverlag.de/rezensionen.php?select_cd=4650
Spanish review : http://www.mentenebre.com/articulos.php?op=verarticle&artid=524
Heidenvolk Darkwood : Schicksalfahrt (=journey of destiny) (D,2013)***'

I remember how one of the earliest (German) airplane pilots once had said in a documentary had said how disappointed he was seeing that over twenty years time (after the war) people really had occupied all the land, a reason he no longer wanted to fly.  Flying often was used by those who could afford to do so, as a way of escapism in many ways, starting as an adventure at its starting point, while rising upwards, but being very confronting in its heights and lonely peeks. Darkwood’s newest album is about pilots or ‘heroes of the air’ in general. In special, it also deals with the life and death of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author (“Petit Prince”) and pilot. It also is dedicated to Amelie Hedwig Beese, the first German women who took part in the exams for a pilot license (born in Dresden, the place where Henryck lives now). The songs also incorporate German poems about flying (like “Fliegergedicht”, “Flughymne”), features stories of Exupéry when having a crash in the desert (“Secret Places”, “Dream of Flowers”), are about lonely thoughts of a pilot when flying (“Scattered Clouds”, “Der letzte Flug”), or while having memories of lost loves (“Nightwind”, “Broken Wings”).
Most songs are in English. More often I preferred to hear the songs sung in German for in that language that melancholy could be expressed so well.
The songs are sparsely arranged with strummed guitar more often, at times picked, bodhrun-like rhythms, textures of keyboards or otherwise minimal rhythms of electronics (which sounds like a walking rhythm on track 2, or which is a simple melodic rhythm on rack 4), with a few sparse other arrangements (on glockenspiel, drums,..), with a second female voice adding moody harmonies to them.
Like it is not unusual in neo-folk, the songs show a dominating factor of what sadly expresses an inevitable destiny, where the hopes and quest for freedom, the ascending are quickly bringing it’s pilot back to earth’s realities. He wishes to belong to nature’s flight in wind, clouds and air, like a bird, as a metaphor for the desires in life itself, while it’s real destiny lies elsewhere, because what it sees on earth has different stories, goals and will add more drama than that. For us who still remember these pilots, we see them as those people who fought for freedom, or who became “heroes” of war. These were also the days where a more physical relationship with the airplanes existed and where the exposure to the Elements was real, and the dramatic movements took place on many levels.

Homepage: http://darkwood.de/schicksalsfahrt.htm
Description : http://www.clear-spot.nl/item/387241/darkwood_schicksalfahrt.html










go back to review page 14 or reviews august 2013
or go back the psychedelicfolk index
or go back to the general index