Category Archives: music

EsoTerra, the journal of extreme culture * Chad Hensley (editor) (2011)

EsoTerra (“arcane earth”) was a magazine that had nine issues between 1991 and 2000. I knew it, since the magazine also featured extreme music, flyers were also spread in the music scene that I go around in. I thought I might have a copy somewhere, but I guess that was wishfull thinking. I have never been much of a magazine buyer. EsoTerra started four years after the first publication of Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture and deals with similar subjects. Parfey’s book and also EsoTerra were quite controversial in their time, but the fact that Apocalypse Culture is available from Amazon and also this ‘best of EsoTerra‘, the shock has made room for curiosity. I must say that Apocalypse Culture looks more extreme to me than EsoTerra. When you look at my review of the book and the subjects features, EsoTerra comes as easy reading with perhaps an interview with a necrophiliac (like in the other book, but this time also a ‘light one’) and quite a few pages about different sexual preferences, but by far the larger part of the book are interviews with artists and some not too sensation-seeking articles about The Process Church Of Final Judgement or a man that visited John Wayne Gacy on death row a couple of times. The book is mostly enjoyable for historical interests. The interview with Genesis P-Orridge gives a nice insight in the early industrial/noise scene, the interview with Strength Through Joy some of the earlier ideas of the popband Ostara, Merzbow speaks about his early noise efforts and the sex-culture of Japan and H.R. Giger about his art. There are interviews with Albin Julius, Roger Karmanik, David Tibet, Boyd Rice, Mother Destruction, Women of Sodom, Trevor Brown, Joe Coleman and many more. All amusing, but not really groundbreaking or shocking. I had a fun time reading through this ‘best of’ over 300 pages with quality printing with people with weird interests read like a breeze. The only thing I would have liked is when the dates of the interviews were mentioned or at least the issue of original publication would have been mentioned to be better able to place the text in time.
2011 creation books, isbn 9781840681666

Die Zauberflote. an Alchemical Allegory * Tjeu van den Berk (isbn 9004130993)

Quite some books have been written about Mozarts famous opera “The Magic Flute”. The story is so symbolic and full of mysteries, that many have broken their heads to explain it. It is known that Mozart was a freemason, so the opera is often depicted as a masonic story, while others see an initiation-story and more others just a loose romantising with symbols to please the public of the late 18th century.

The Dutch scholar Van den Berk (1938) was first intrigued by the music and later by the story and he spend years to investigate the characters, story, history of Vienna in Mozarts time, etc. This resulted in a magnificent work that was first published in Dutch in 2002. Two years later the fifth pressing saw the light of day and every pressing has had corrections, expansions and general editing. Readers brought things under the writers attention, for example freemasons noticed something that he overlooked, or opera-experts knew of something in the score (the written music) so now we have a four-times-made-better massive investigation of “Die Zauberflöte”. There is also an (expensive) English version).

Van den Berk did not really find a Masonic symbolism in the opera, also not really Rosicrucian, but an alchemical; the whole opera is the course of ‘the great work’. To found his theories, Van den Berk extensively investigated Hermetism, alchemy, Freemasonry in Vienna in Mozarts time, Rosicrucianism, mythology and towards the end of the book the writers of the libretto Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) and Karl Gieseke (1761-1831) and the “homo esotericus” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) himself. read more

Ästhetische Mobilmachung * Andreas Speit (ed.) (isbn 3897718049)

“Ästhetic Mobilisation – Dark Wave, Neofolk and Industrial under pressure of rightwing ideologies” is what I would make of the German title of this book. There are more books about gothic/darkwave music in Germany, simply because this genre is much larger in Germany than anywhere else. Also there are more books from leftish circles about several subject. This book is of course about the neofolk/industrial scene. It is released by “RAT” or “Reihe Antifaschistischer Texte” (“series of antifascist texts”) of the “Unrast Verlag” (“unrest publishers”). It is a compilation of six articles.

The book opens with an introduction by Speit. It speaks about the Wave Gotik Treffens and the problems with rightwing elements at the 2000 edition. Speit says that gothic/darkwave music has long left behind its exclusive character, but subscenes keep popping up. Now there is a scene with extreme right views with its own magazines (Sigill/Zinnober, Ahnstern/Aorta, Occidental Congress, Letters From The Nuovo Europae). However the gothic scene in general could long be regarded as unpolitical, Speit sees a tendency to the right in the whole of it, mostly caused by an uncoming genre promoting extreme right ideas and the acceptance of this tendency by the ‘normal gruftie’. Speit also answers a few simple objections that ‘we’ use.

The first real article is called “The wonderful and frightening World of … Gothic, Grufts und Industrial – die Schwarze Szene und deren Musik im Überblick” and is written by Hans Wanders. As the title suggests, this is a introductionary article about gothic music. Wanders gives the history of the music, the underlying philosophy of it in different times and shows how big the music is nowadays. Here and there he misses the point or forgets things, but overall his article is an alright read. Going from shock-goth-rock to industrial, noise and accoustic music with a slowly growing piece of “fascist esthetics”, this article leads the way for the rest of the book. read more

Looking For Europe, neofolk und hintergründe * Andreas Diesel & Dieter Gerten (isbn 3936878021 * 2005)

A week ago I got this book and also the accompanying 4 cd compilation, which is reviewed in the music section. Two writers claim to have written the definate history of the musical genre of “neofolk”. The compilation cd makes you familiar with predecessors, old and new bands in a variety of styles that the writers caught under the name “neofolk”. Diesel seems that have listened to the music for quite a while, also he is a writer on a variety of subjects. Gerten is a scientist who also seems that have known the music for a while. So this would make the writers ‘insiders’ but with a background which should make them able to properly investigate things and write subjectively. This is true, so the book definately is about as good as a book about the ‘phenomenon’ neofolk can be.

“Neofolk” is a subsubgenre of “gothic music” and more precily came forth from the “industrial” branch of gothic music. Both the musicians and the audience of neofolk often have a background in either industrial and/or wave music (both “gothic”) or metal. In large parts of the gothic scene, there is an interest in more than just music, in a smaller part of the metal scene this is also the case. This other-than-music interest concerns art, literature, philosophy, religion and often esotericism. It is funny to see how certain subgenres and their audiences seem to have similar other-than-music interests. A simple example, people listening to black metal are often interested in satanic, anti-Christian and occult subjects. This can work in both ways. People like a style of music and get an interest in ‘its philosophy’, but also people into certain subjects may find that there are musicians with similar interests. This is also the case in “gothic music”. Diesel and Gerten describe that early industrial artists used certain subjects for shock-value, while there was in interest in certain thinkers. As this developed and while getting mixed with other ingredients, a scene started to grow with an interest history (World Wars, Napoleon, etc.), totalitarian regimes, pre-Christian beliefs, certain thinkers and philosophers, etc. Of course there is as much variety in the subjects as there are individuals. A musical style that also developed was simple, acoustic guitar based music with harmonious elements (violins, flutes, etc.) (later also with a more bombastic is militant sound) and lyrics and artwork with the subjects that I named. This music is called “neofolk”. Within the same scene there are other, often purely electronic, projects, but with similar preferences for lyrics and artwork (this can be “industrial”, “noise”, bombastic (orchestral) music, “military pop”, etc.). The writers decided to put all of that under the banner “neofolk”. I do not agree with it, even when I can understand that if you call some music from that scene “neofolk” and other music “industrial” (like I do, see my music section), there is no term left to describe the subscene as a total. So far the information for people being unfamiliar with my musical tastes.
Both on the cd and in the book, the writers give a history of the genre with predecessors (it is in the book that I learned that some of the bands on the cds had more influences than I thought myself), describe developments within the scene and then dig deeper into the philosophical background. This is done by very readable texts (in German of course), interviews and descriptions of the scenes of the UK, the USA, Germany and Austria, Southern Europe, France and Belgium, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia (I miss my own country which has maybe but a few, but some of the better bands; quite a fixed scene and many of the problems described in the book!). Because of the dubious mix of concepts (world wars, nazi-symbology, paganism, conservative writers, etc.) in artwork and lyrics, the scene often seen as a bunch of fascists and there have been problems with concerts for many years (activists from the extreme left often make objections when there is a concert, which are consequentally often cancelled). Publications and actions against the genre, bands, fans, organisators, magazines, mailorders, etc. are still daily reality. Naturally (and justly) this issue is written about at length and musicians and other persons from the scenes are questioned about it in the interviews. The artists are of the opinion that this issue falls under their artistic freedom, they show both sides of the medal (but of course the ‘faulty elements’ are always highlighted) and that they do not make politics at all. Diesel and Gerten clearly share the views from the scene. With detailed descriptions of the layered symbology of the music (they have been searching for the sources of samples, asking difficult questions to artists) and the background (part III is about the spiritual backgroundss, postmodern romanticism, playing with fire and the cultural criticism of the artists, there are appendices about Nietzsche, Evola and Jünger (three popular thinkers), hypocrisy, etc.) they show what is really ‘on the scenes mind’. This is almost entirely opposite to the findings of the writers of Ästhetische Mobilmachung (see book reviews archive) which is written purely to show how extreme right the whole neofolk scene is. Diesel and Gerten agree that the mix that is made is sometimes lightly inflammable, or at least dubious, but none of the bands are trying to force ideas upon listeners of anybody, call for racism, make nazi ideas right or anything, just to make people think for themselves, investigate and being not afraid of taboos (you can only judge Mein Kampf when you read it, not when you read about it).
I agree with this approach. There has never been a band that tried to force their convictions on their audience, not even to show them. When certain symbology (for example a “black sun” on a cd or on stage) makes you wonder what they mean, you wonder! When lyrics or interviews lead you towards writers as Julius Evola or Ernst Jünger, you can decide for yourself whether or not to read them and form your own view on them and their writings. I do the same with You can get ideas here to read books, try to find a certain cd, read an article and catch an interest in some subject, and after that it is upto you. You don’t have to agree with my view of Auf Die Marmorklippen, my Evola article is not to convert you to Italian fascism (maybe just to warm you when you want to read Evola), my music and film reviews are not to make you spend money on music and films you may not like. All of these things won’t even tell you where I stand (or if you read well, some may; but you can of course always ask).
A few things that I do not agree with in Looking For Europe. Like I said, the term “neofolk” is used differently from how I would use it, that is a detail. Further I think some bands are out of place and other bands lack (also see music reviews section). For example, why Von Thronstahl / Forthcoming Fire only mentioned in half a line? Forthcoming Fire and later Von Thronstahl have put a massive stamp on the scene as a whole (in my view of course) with their image, musical style and extraordinary well-readedness. Is it because they openly give their non-neutral political colour in interviews? Because he does, Josef K. become the ‘consciousness of the scene’. In interviews (and also in Looking For Europe) Josef has become the example of how ‘bad things can be’. “I am not like Josef K.”, “he certainly is no Josef K.”, meaning, “I may play with nazi symbology, but I am not a fascist”. Whether or not Josef K. is a fascist, Von Thronstahl has never been the vehicle to spread the (possible) ideas, so this band is no different from any other band in this book, regardless his (possible) political ideas.

Conclusion: Looking For Europe is your ultimate book about neofolk music, the scene and the philosophy. The book is interesting for people who have listened to the music for many years. I enjoyed reading about Current 93, Death In June, the minutious description of TMLHBAC and Der Blutharsch, etc. and also the essays about Nietzsche, Jünger, Evola; the neopagan part, the interviews, eurocentrism, etc. etc. People who are not familiar with the music and its concepts will get a very descent introduction here. The writers are critical, honest and come to the conclusion that conservatism and nationalism (hardly touched upon btw) or even “rightness” is not the same as fascism or extreme-rightness such as some people want us to believe. The neofolk scene mostly consists of intelligent, individual and well-read people with a wide scope of interests and a critical mind. Anti-activists also get a place in the book and all the rest of them who may read this book, will get a more wide-ranging view on the music, the scene and its symbology than in their own publications which only highlight what is thought to be dangerous. Read the book, then read Ästhetische Mobilmachung and then draw your own conclusions like a good “neofolker” should!