'Unsere Feuer Brennen', which translates from the German as 'Our Fires Burning', is one of the most interesting releases that has come my way in a long time. Strikingly packaged in gold upon white and aided by both Jason Thompkins (Harvest Rain) and Nick Nedzynski (Lady Morphia), the eleven tracks on this CD run to just over 50 minutes in length.
The first of them, 'Nocturne', opens with the words 'Welcome, sweet death', taken from J. Dowland's 'A Pilgrime's Solace' from 1612 and possibly even inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Komm Susser Tod'. Regardless, it's most certainly infused with the same Classical spirit and even a wry sense of optimism. To a slight extent these poetic utterances remind me of Elijah's Mantle, but there is a darker edge to them and the words frolic menacingly with the pounding drums in the background. The second track, 'Die letzte Jagd' (The Last Hunt), is a lively mixture of acoustic guitar, bass drum and Axel Frank's stunning German vocals. An infectious chorus helps to convey the thrill of the chase and the whole thing is performed with real confidence and far more enthusiastically than most of the neo-folk dirges I'm used to hearing these days.
'Chanson de la plus haute tour' (Song of the Highest Tower) is based on Arthur Rimbaud's 1872 poem of the same name and, once again, deals with the demise of youth and even life itself. The beautiful vocals, sung here by Antje Hoppenrath, sweep from ear to ear in an arpeggio ballad that wouldn't be out of place on a Simon & Garfunkel album. Both melodic and atmospheric at the same time, this is European folk at it's very best. 'Einsamernie' (Never Lonely) interrupts this vision of late-60s harmony with muffled German vocals and explosions, a low organ swinging back and forth like a mesmeric pendulum across the tree-shattered landscape of No-Man's Land. It's rather like Ostara in one of their more Ambient moments, but perhaps tinged with the stark foreboding of Blood Axis on 'The Gospel of Inhumanity'. Meanwhile, 'Legion' vomits words out backwards like a sick dwarf being hassled by an unintelligible choir at a David Lynch garden party. It's true! Stuttering drums give way to acoustic jangling, measured vocals and crazy King Hammond-style synths that weave their way through the song like a thin brown line in an animated Bisto advert.
A tolling bell marks the onset of 'Steh auf, Nordwind!' (Rise Up, North Wind!) and one of the album's catchier numbers. The impeccable vocals remind me of Belborn's Holger F, but in between the verses the rich musical undercurrent is similar to early-90s Death In June. 'Dignitas Dei' (God's Honour) sees the return of those whirling space-age synths, joined here by dislocated chanting and the distinct feeling that you're listening to Hawkwind perform a Black Mass in Canterbury Cathedral. As a closet [Not anymore. - ML.] fan of Psychedelia, I'm glad to say that this represents a fantastic break with the increasingly dull neo-folk tradition and so perhaps it's time to dust off those liquid wheels and grab yourself a bag of hallucinogenic fungi.
Where was I? Oh yes, the review. 'Ewigland' (Eternal Country) heralds the participation of Jason Thompkins of Harvest Rain and a lilting guitar that makes this track sound like a lament to a distant homeland. All accompanied by sentimental lyrics, a rattling snare, the light blare of passing aircraft and other portentous contributions. With its uplifting chords, synthetic horns and bass guitar, 'Heilige Krieg' (Holy War) is slightly similar to 'Steh auf, Nordwind!', but the vocals are much more powerful and possess an unusual and rhythmic quality. The sampled American drawl [what "drawl", exactly?! - ML], shimmering tambourine and clip-clop percussion makes this a cataclysmic statement on the perils of our age.
The vocals on 'Hohezeit' (High Time) are performed by Antje Hoppenrath in a late-medieval style, her voice rising and falling amid hushed echoes and layers of stridulating Morricone-style effects. Quite enchanting. The final track, 'Civitas Dei' (City of God), is a slow march across an Augustinian plain of urgent voices, hypnotic cantata and the irresistible cry of a whooping electronic maelstrom. Like a heretical theocracy presiding over an inquisition of clinical radiologists, each determined to get their knobs out and have their own say.
To conclude, then, Werkraum's first album is truly remarkable and has exceeded all expectations as far as I'm concerned. It's good to see Justin Mitchell's label continuously branching out into unexplored territory, too. The lad certainly has an eye for innovative and exciting material. For more information about Werkraum go to: http://www.werkraum-heimat.net/
source : http://www.rosenoire.org/reviews/werkraum-unsere.php