‘Now We Rise and We Are Everywhere’ — Nick Drake (1948-1974)
And having now evoked the legend of King Arthur, Merlin, Excalibur, and the Holy Grail, I can clearly recall driving one autumn morning down the A39 as it snaked its way through the Mendip hills. The Somerset Levels cloaked in thick fog with just the Tor floating above the ancient town of Glastonbury. The clouds so low that I had the surreal sensation of being able to walk upon them. A subconscious frontier between the real and ethereal. What the faint hearted describe as eerie but others consider exquisite and magical. Such moments conjuring images of the Cheruscan warrior Arminius, who Tacitus calls the Liberator haud dubie Germaniae, defeating the Roman Legions in the Tuetoburg Forest in 9 AD, and Saxon shield walls lining the crest of a distant hill, their spear tips gleaming, at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 AD. Events that have inspired high and low poetry alike. With Josephine Scheffel writing A Nation’s Hero (1892) from the perspective of the Germanic leader’s wife Thusneld to commemorate the defeat of Varus and the seizure of his Legion’s Eagles deep in the Germanic wilds:
A child, a child! His father’s kind
How high my heart does beat!
But should I glow in mother’s lust
Rome’s yoke you have to break!
On Herman, on! The Romans fight
Your son must be no slave!
Bring Varus’ shield and crest to me
As price for all my pains!
I shan’t give breast-milk to this child,
Teutates, hear my oath!
Until of serfdom’s awful pain
My Fatherland is freed
The hero went to fight ‘gainst Rome
In furious battle-lust.
His wife did ‘ere the sun went down
The infant put to breast.
A patriotic outpouring of feeling that also reverberates through the poet Heinrich Heine’s (1797-1856) Letters from Berlin: ‘I still hear how an ancient stone calls out to me: passerby, note, Armin has beaten Varus here!’ With his contemporary Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) writing the hymn Germania:
Not them, the blessed, who once appeared,
Those images of gods in the ancient land,
Them, it is true, I may not now invoke, but if,
You waters of my homeland, now with you
The love of my heart laments . . .
And this love for the Germanic Heimat ripples through their folk tunes. For as per Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorism in his Twilight of the Idols (1889) ‘Without music life would be a mistake. The German thinks of God as singing songs’. The poet Stefan George (1868-1933) believed himself to be a direct literary descendant of Hölderlin, and that art gave sustenance and spiritual succor to the Volk. George was unquestionably one of the finest poets to have written in German. He was also an elitist antidemocrat like Nietzsche and the Master of the Cosmic Circle which included Ludwig Klages (1872-1956). Klages himself, a noted philosopher and psychologist, who wrote in Rhythmen and Runes (1944):
To the Jew, everything human is a sham. One might even say that the Jewish face is but a mask. The Jew is not a liar, he is the lie itself. From this vantage point, we can say that the Jew is not a man. He lives the pseudo-life of a ghoul whose fortunes are linked to Yaweh-Moloch. He employs deception as the weapon with which he will exterminate mankind. The Jew is the very incarnation of the unearthly power of destruction.
A prediction that pre-dates the wholesale falsification of history and the steering of public opinion by popular opinion formers like Bob Dylan with his protest songs like “Emmett Till” (1962) and “Hurricane” (1975). Klages was accompanied in his adherence to the premise of Nietzschean Lebensphilosophie by Fanny zu Revenlow (1871-1918), the Bohemian Countess of Schwabing, who described feminists as viragoes and her brother Ernst, a decorated naval officer who wrote The Vampire of the Continent (1916). Meanwhile, the centrifugal character of the Circle, Stefan George, positioned himself as the defender of the true but Secret Germany, as opposed to contemporary bourgeois society. An idea derived from Hölderlin’s notion of a secret German creative genius, as revealed in his odes “Gesang des Deutschen” and “An die Deutschen.” George made it his mission to provide a Heilsgeschichte (a salvation narrative) for the Germans. He sought through the resurrection of imperial mythologies, as per his poem “Porta Nigra,” referencing the Saxon king Henry the Fowler (876-936) and Charlemagne (742-814), the Holy Roman Emperor, who was known as the Sachsenschlachter (butcher of the Saxons), to re-ignite the Rhineland culture he loved so much. His anti-pacifist and militantly nationalist championing of imperial mythology evidenced in the poet’s last collection of poems Das Neue Reich (1928), in which he insists that Germany must shoulder the burden of leadership for the Europaidee. The Master going to his grave firmly believing the ahnherrschaft of National Socialism was of his creation. His poem ‘Star of the Covenant’ declaring:
This is the realm of the spirit: reflection
Of my realm — grange and grove.
Here everyone is formed anew
And born again: cradle and home
Are as unto a fairy tale.
And in ‘A Child’s Kingdom’:
You created there among the shallows
In the mysterious thickets your state-
In their shadows you heard the song
Of desire for strange splendor and distant deed.
And ‘The Burning of the Temple’ is his attempt to denigrate the sterile bourgeois culture that he saw taking hold of his nation:
What are the gods who no longer help you?
What the books, images that no longer elevate you?
Thank him who frees you from the clutter . . .
I have been sent with torch and with steel —
So that I may harden you all — not that you should soften me . . .
The charismatic George, sharing with some, if not all, his Conservative Revolutionary contemporaries a desire to attempt to harness politics in the service of the arts. What Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929), author of The Lord Chandos Letter (1902) and the great-grandson of a Jewish merchant, called ‘eine neue deutsche Wirklichkeit’. And such sentiments were not always backward looking to some imagined golden age. Gottfried Benn (1886-1957), a poet often compared with T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and according to noted literary critic E. B. Ashton, preceding the likes of Samuel Becket, Jean Genet, and the America Beatnik movement, wrote the magisterial ‘Dennoch die Schweter halten’, which though not easily translatable carries Wagnerian overtones in its Götterdämmerung stylistics. Speaking of a few great men who ‘slept behind the millennia’ and ‘a few dying warriors’. Dripping with mythological references that would not be out of place at the Bayreuther Festspielhaus, Altes Schloss or Sonnentempel. The poem becoming particularly popular in and around 1933 and being reprinted in a popular anthology entitled The Prussian Dimension: Intellectual Passages-at-Arms. Benn saying ‘I will not have myself de-nazified’. His thoughts on Germanic identity clarified in his poem ‘Who Are You’:
Who are you — all the legends
Are vanishing. What was —
Chimeras, Leda’s kindred
In genuflecting pass
His call in the opening line of his poem ‘Song’ reiterating Fichte’s appeals to the German nation:
O that we were our primal ancestors !
And a similar love of one’s homeland rings true in the commemoration of the Celtic and Anglo Saxon heritage of the British Isles, exemplified by the poem heralding the success of the ‘Battle of Brunanburh’:
King Athelstan, the lord of warriors,
Patron of heroes, and his brother too
Prince Edmund, won themselves eternal glory
In battle with the edges of their swords
Round Brunanburh: they broke the wall of shields,
The sons of Edward with their well-forged swords
Slashed at the linden-shields ; such was their nature
From boyhood that in battle they had often
Fought for their land, its treasures and its homes
Against all enemies . . .
And likewise the honour and chivalry recorded in ‘The Battle of Maldon’ 991 AD:
So stood firm the stout-hearted
Warriors in the war — they all keenly strive
Who with his part first should be able
From fey men to win life.
Warriors with weapons: wrack fell on Earth.
They stood stead-fast; Brithnoth stirred them,
Bade each of his men intend to the strife
That would from the Danes win glory…
So when Brithnoth falls and his body is hewed by ‘heathen men’ it is Aelfnoth and Wulfmeer who are celebrated as they stood firm besides the Ealdorman of Essex: ‘Then beside their liege – their lives they yielded’. The story of doomed but undying loyalty forming a short play authored by J.R.R. Tolkien entitled ‘Beorhthnoth, Beorhthelm’s Son’ (1953). Such Anglo Saxon martial defiance in defense of hearth and home revisited in the following lines by the Bard of Avon William Shakespeare:
This England never did
Nor never shall
Lie at the feet of a proud conqueror
And centuries later the British Empire immortalized by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) in his Petrarchan style sonnet ‘The Soldier’:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave all her flowers, to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts of England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts of peace, under an English heaven.
Brooke who was clearly mindful of the debate whirling around Vienna and Berlin at this time about supposed Jewish cleverness and whether or not it constituted genuine creativity, wrote ‘The Old Vicarage Grantchester’, containing references to ‘temperamentvoll German Jews’ in the context of the threat of tasteless modernism. The same characters Stefan George described as ‘a totally different people from the echt German’.
Here am I, sweating, sick and hot,
And there the shadowed waters fresh
Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
Temperamentvoll German Jews
Drink beer around; and there the dews
Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
Here tulips bloom as they are told;
Unkept about those hedges blows
An English unofficial rose.
The jingoistic tone of Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’ counterbalanced in the much later works of songsmiths such as Roger Waters in his ‘The Gunner’s Dream’ on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut album (1983) and ‘Soldier Poem’ by progressive band Muse on their Black Holes and Revelations recording (2006). And perhaps such a literary heritage and the contingent imagery coupled with the romance conjured by sun-dappled sessile oaks at sunset is the secret ingredient which keeps folk music and its folk-rock derivations alive and relevant because it is at home among the woods, valleys, meadows and ‘Grimpen Mires’ of both Old Albion and great flat plains of the Central European heartland. A fertile landscape for story and song shaped by the ancient flint knappers of the South Downs of England and the architects and builders of the five thousand year old Stonehenge. People who looked and worshipped similar gods to the ancient Alemanni who lived on the banks of the Rhine and the Bronze Age people who constructed the Benther Berg tumuli near modern day Hanover. Direct descendants of the owners of the hominin teeth recently discovered near the town of Eppelsheim by Mainz on the Rhine, which predate the Out of Africa theory by five million years.
A credible hypothesis given the fact that German traditionalists sporting beards and the brow-line glasses of the transnational intelligentsia still strum their guitars under the red and black stripes and oak leaf banner of the nineteenth century Urburschenschaft fraternity in the Café Schnellroda, singing folk songs about George Von Frundsberg’s victory at the Battle of Pavia, ‘The one who won the battle, the one who won the battle!’ While PEGIDA gather in the rain in Dresden and raise their voices to the tune of ‘Holy Fatherland’:
In dangerous times, your sons cluster around you,
Surrounded by danger, Fatherland, we all stand hand in hand.
And the timelessness of the themes of even commercial mainstream bands like Jethro Tull, with their environmental flora and fauna and craft based sympathies, and Canadian band Rush with their apologia for the monarchical and fixation on natural forms of social order, which some might accuse of being on the Rauschenberg spectrum of pastiche, certainly follow in the troubadour traditions of the folk genre. Most especially on Jethro Tull’s recordings like Minstrel in the Gallery (1975), Songs from the Wood (1977), Heavy Horses (1978) and Broadsword and the Beast (1982). And Rush’s 1970’s albums like Fly By Night (1975), Caress of Steel (1975) and Farewell to Kings (1976). Tull’s front man Ian Anderson’s flute piping tunes, coupled with words like:
Let me bring you songs from the wood:
to make you feel much better than you could know.
Dust you down from tip to toe.
Show you how the garden grows.
Hold you steady as you go.
Join the chorus if you can
It’ll make of you a honest man.
Let me bring you love from the field:
Poppies red and roses filled with summer rain.
To heal the wound and still the pain
That threatens again and again
As you drag down my lover’s lane.
Lifelong celebrations here
I’ll toast you all in penny’s cheer.
Let me bring you all things refined:
Galliards and lute songs served in chilling ale.
Greetings, well met fellow, hail!
I am the cross to take your nail:
A singer of these ageless times
With kitchen prose and gutter rhymes
Songs from the wood make you feel much better!
And the more ominous song ‘Broadsword’ from Broadsword and the Beast:
I see a dark sail on the horizon
set under a black cloud that hides the sun
Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding.
Bring me my cross of gold as a talisman.
Get up to the round-house on the cliff-top standing.
Take women and children and bed them down.
Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding.
Bring me my cross of gold as a talisman.
Bless with a hard heart those who surround me.
Bless women and children who firm our hands.
Put our backs to the North Wind.
Hold fast the river.
Sweet memories to drive us on for our Motherland
Lyrics redolent with rural lore, log fires under star light and trepidation of omnipresent invasion. While, Peart, Lee and Lifeson of Rush, following their flirtation with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy which gave birth to their song ‘Anthem’ on Fly by Night (1975) produced some of their most controversial work in songs like ‘A Farewell to Kings’:
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance?
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance
Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
And cruel, tormented eyes
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise
The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred halls of truth
Ancient nobles scattering
Their bitterness on youth
Can’t we find
The minds that made us strong?
Oh, can’t we learn
To feel what’s right and what’ wrong
Then, “Closer to the Heart”:
And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the heart
The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity closer to the heart
Philosophers and ploughmen?
Each must know their part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
You can be the captain
And I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart…
Then driving the egalitarians into a state of dyspeptic hysteria with their song ‘The Trees’ from the Hemispheres album (1978):
There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The trouble with the maples
And they’re quite convinced they’re right
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade?
There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘oppression!’
And the oaks, just shake their heads…
With some other eternal themes, in addition to those of we have already illustrated, like identity and the longing for a future for your children crossing the cultural, political and musical divide. Examples being Uriah Heep’s ‘Sunrise’ from The Magician’s Birthday album (1972):
To our children one by one
And before the darkness comes
Let us leave a world full of light
Of a different kind
Followed much later by the harder edged ‘Arische Kind’ by German band Landser:
Your eyes are crystal blue
Like the vast ocean
And so immensely deep and blue
That you could almost drown
And your hair is golden blond
Like a ripened field of wheat
Shining brightly like pure gold
When the sun falls on it
You are an Aryan child
With all our love
The fate of the world
Lies within your cradle
The light of the full moon
Looks down into your bed
Watching ever over you
You’ll never be alone
And the brown teddy bear
Sits bravely by your side
When the untermenschen come
Through the cold and darkened light
You still don’t understand
That all people are not good
Always remaining innocent
A person with pure blood
And your blood is so pure
That is the reason they hate you
But you can be sure
They will never get to you
Poems and songs created by real life characters not unlike Meyrick the fictional Rector from Arthur Machen’s novel The Black Seal, who is described as being ‘rooted in the soil’ and of ‘an antique family’. And the almost encyclopedic list of artists, groups and ensembles that comprise the folk rock genre and the core of our discussion, celebrate that rooted and antique quality. Whether consciously or unconsciously they are part of the great ebb and flow of musicians that have sat looking out over the Danube, Rhine, Thames and other great European rivers at the setting of the sun. Composing their operas, sonatas, prose and trifling ditties. For they are both numerous and numinous in their ubiquity. Some like Fairport Convention, Led Zeppelin, Ogunweide, Steeleye Span, Wishbone Ash and the early Genesis have already been quoted to illustrate the argument being formulated. But these were a mere drop in the ocean. They were and are still being joined by solo artists and highly accomplished virtuosos with all sorts of musical innovations to impart and socio-economic positions to portray like Martin Carthy; Eliza Carthy; Dave Swarbrick; John Kirkpatrick; Norma Waterson; Ralph McTell with his Spiral Staircase album (1968); the hair-head Donovan, who despite his vapidity was still the progenitor of the Psychedelic scene with his Sunshine Superman album (1966) and the song ‘Season of the Witch’ with the lyrics: ‘You got to pick up a stitch, two rabbits runnin’ in a ditch . . . Must be the Season of the Witch’; Steve Peregrin Took, stalwart of the bohemian Ladbroke Grove set who later founded Tyrannosaurus Rex with Marc Bolan; Mark Fry; Linda Perhacs; Judee Sill; Ashley Hutchings; Johan Fahey; Anne Briggs; Bob Theil; June Tabor; Shirley Collins; Vashti Bunyan; Welshman Meic Stevens; Lancashire’s Mike Harding; the much lamented Nick Drake, who had signed on with Witchseason Productions to produce Five Leaves Left (1968), Bryter Layter (1971) and Pink Moon (1972); John Martyn with his Solid Air album (1973); and Roy Harper who delivered the classic Stormcock in 1971:
For here we stand — hand to hand
Fighting for the Promised Land
— Roy Harper, Same Old Rock
Then there were bands like The Incredible String Band with The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968); The Albion band; The Moody Blues with their album Days of Future Passed (1967) and the single ‘Nights in White Satin’; The Battlefield Band; The Strawbs; Heron; Merlin, with their album Fly Away; Novalis; Camel; King Crimson with their In the Court of the Crimson King (1969); Bluebell Wood; Forever Amber ; The Young Tradition’s album Oberlin, with songs like ‘The Pretty Ploughboy’, ‘The Two Magicians’ and ‘Knight William’; Ithaca; Agincourt; and Alice Through the Looking Glass, comprised of artists like John Ferdinando, Peter Howell and Lee Menelaus; Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’ Summer Solstice album (1971); Amazing Blondel, named after the famous troubadour, with their classical Elizabethan albums entitled Amazing Blondel (1969) and Evensong (1970) and songs like ‘Spring Season’, ‘Willowood’, ‘Ploughman’ and the Thomas Hardy inspired ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’; Oberon’s Minas Tirith; Jumble Lane on The Holy Grail label; Candle for Judith and their album The Way We Live (1971); Farm; Moths; Hunt, Lunt and Cunningham’s Meanwhile Back in the Forest; Chimera’s Elegy to a King; Forest, with their contrapunctal harmonies singing tracks like ‘Bluebell Dance’, ‘Midnight Hanging of a Runaway Serf’ and ‘Hawk the Hawker’; Heronimus Fin; Parzival; The Chieftains; The Dubliners; Catapilla; Capercaillie, Altan; Lunasa; Planxty and their Three Drunken Maidens (1972); Runrig; Spirogyra, from the Canterbury scene, and their albums St Radigans (1971) and Bells, Boots and Candles (1973); the Faraway Folk’s Sweet England and Seasonal Man (1975); the Trees’ On the Shore (1970); Magic Carpet; Fotheringay; Mandy Morton’s Spriguns of Tolgus with their Rowdy, Dowdy Day (1974), Jack with a Feather (1975) and Revel, Weird and Wild (1976); Shide and Acorn’s Princess of the Island (1970); Gryphon with their Red Queen to Gryphon album (1974); Hawkwind’s Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975); the Scottish Christian band Caedmon; Bread, Love and Dreams’ Amaryllis (1971); Comus with their druid inspired First Utterance (1971); Mellow Candle’s Swaddling Songs (1972); C.O.B.’s Spirit of Love (1971); Stone Angel’s pre-Raphaelite-like The Waters of Sweet Sorrow (1973); Can Am des Puig’s The Book of Am (1978); Pentangle’s Sweet Child (1968), Basket of Light (1969) and Cruel Sister (1970); Cathedral, with their album Stained Glass Stories (1978); and Annie Haslam and the original incarnation of Renaissance with their 1978 hit ‘The Northern Lights’.
This extensive, but not by any means all inclusive list, greatly bolstered by the afore mentioned Ougenweid’s Eulenspiegel album (1976); along with their German compatriots Aigues Vives and their Water of Seasons (1981); Broselmaschine and their 1971 album of the same name; Lokomoyive Krauzberg with their Fete Jahre album (1975); Zippo Zetterlink with their album In the Poor Sun (1971); Emtidi and their Saat recording of 1972; and Empyrium’s Weiland album (2002). The folk-rock theme mutating in Germany into the electronic Kosmische Movement with cross-over folk and progressive bands interacting with the new electro sounds of Kraftwerk, Neu, Faust, Ash Ra, Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Harmonia, Amon Duul, Popol Vuh, Can, Wallenstein, Eloy, Kraan, Mythos, Kin Ping Meh, and Birth Control. The Kosmische Movement’s leading exponents like Klauss Schultze and Deiter Mobius (1944 – 2015), themselves inevitably influenced by KarlHeinz Stockhausen (1928-2007), composer of Stimmung (1968) and Oktophonie 1990-91 amongst other works. Minimalist soundscapes in the cadence of John Cale, who was associated with the Velvet Underground, that gave shape and form to the concepts of one Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music, and his erstwhile collaborator David Bowie (1947 – 2016) during the Thin White Duke’s artistically productive Berlin Period which gave us the poignant and awe inspiring six minute ‘Warszawa’ track off the second side of the album Low (1977), featuring the haunting lyrics of the Polish folk song Helokanie.
And clearly the musical and cultural trends I am highlighting are not limited to the Anglo-Germanic diaspora. Indeed, folk rock continued to grow and flourish underground and on the fringes of the commercial sphere with Dutch bands like Rainman and The Subterraneans performing in the late 1960’s. Their fellow countrymen Omnia, a neo-pagan Celtic group and later the rock group The Gathering, benefitting from the sublime voice and talents of Anneke van Giersbergen, further developing the scene in the Netherlands. Then there were the Norwegian bands Amethystiam from Trondheim, Folque contributing Folque (1974) and Kjempene Pa Dovrefjell (1975) and Ulver’s Kveldssanger (1996); Sweden’s Arcana; Sjoberg and Hellman’s Kattvals album (1973); Finnish band Hadal Sherpa leading the Scandinavian folk-progressives; Swiss band Krokodil with their The Invisible World Revealed (1971), and their compatriots Celtic Frost and Hellhammer; Spain’s Narsilion who named one of their albums Namarie after the Tolkien poem referenced earlier; Laibach from Slovenia; the plethora of Pagan Viking songs being performed in front of increasingly eager audiences like ‘Trodlabundin’ sung by artists like Eivor; Russian and Belarrusian Pagan folk Songs like ‘Lecieli Zurauli Sztoj Pa Moru’ by Ven; Lithuanian Pagan songs like ‘Jurginiy liaudies daina’; Garmana’s version of ‘Sir Mannelig’; the Icelandic sounds of Voces Thules; The Skyrim song ‘The Dragon Comes’ by Sabina Zweiker; Canada’s Tanglefoot, The Duhks, The East Pointers and their Quebecois variants like La Vent du Nord; America’s The Changelings and In Gowan Ring with their albums Love Charms (1994), The Twin Trees (1997), Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home (2002) and The Serpent and the Dove (2015); and of course Faun, who like Estampie sometimes sing in High or Middle German, with their albums Zauberspruche (2002), Licht (2003), Renaissance (2005), Luna (2014) and Midgard (2016). With Spanish pagan artist Victoria Frances drawing Hekate for the cover of Faun’s Luna album which contains tracks with titles like ‘Walpurgisnacht’, ‘Buntes Volk’, ‘Die Wilde Jagd’, ‘Frau Erde’ and ‘Cuncti Simus’ . The latter song’s lyrics taken from the 14th century Red Book of Montserrat. With a fair dose of Gallic flair being added to the resurgent sound by Veronique Chalot with L’ entre du temps Clair (1979) and J’ai Vu Le Loup (1978); Dark Sanctuary; Collection d’Arnell-Andrea; and Elend. All complimented with the Latin lustre of Osanna, Museo Rosenbach and their albums Zarathustra (1973) and Metamorfosi – three concept albums based on Dante’s Divine Comedy (1320) – Inferno (1973), Paradiso (2004) and Purgatorio (2016) and the long surviving Alphatauras who issued their very first release back in 1973.
Such eclecticism spawning new incarnations of the Gothic mode, Deathcore, modern metal bands like Undine from Mannheim, Pagan, Darkwave and Medieval orientated bands like Qntal, Corvus Corax, An Extremo, Saltatio Martis and Philip Pickett’s The Bones of All Men (1998) with its blend of rock and Thirteenth Century chant. Music that was championed by influential advocates like dark-wave German intellectual Ellen Kositza writing in Junge Freihet. The same author of anti-migrant and anti- feminist tracts like Tristresse Droite: The Evenings of Schnellroda (2015) and The Individual Cases: Why Feminism is constantly changing the road (2016). While in England David Keenan’s book England’s Invisible Reverse (2016 Edition) provides an insightful and authoritative account of the neo-folk genre which one reviewer rightly describes as ‘a rich seam of myth and innovation far beneath the darkest extremes of British ‘alternative’ culture and even the transgressive norms of the industrial music scene’. Keenan’s text replete with stories and information on Neo-folk bands like Current 93 with their album Swastikas for Noddy (1988) and tunes like ‘Benediction and Blessing’ and Tony Wakeford/Sol Invictus with songs like Looking for Europe (1990). Material that fully compliments Death in June’s Brown Book (1987); Nurse with Wound with albums like Soliloquy for Lilith (1988); Coil’s album Apes from Naples (2005); the songs of David Tibet; Sally Docherty’s Empire of Death (1999); Of The Wand and the Moon with their Sonnenheim album (2005); Darkwood with songs like ‘Wintermarchen’ (2006); Ian Reed’s Fire and Ice singing ‘Gilded by the Sun’ (1992) and ‘Dragons in the Sunset’; the American Blood Axis with their Wirfufen Deine Wolfe (1995); and the German band Orplid, formed by Uwe Nolte and Frank Machau. The band’s name taken from a poem by Eduard Morike (1804-1875) a German romantic and lyrical poet. Their song ‘The Last Ikaride’ going:
Welcome dream, with weir and horse,
Surrounded by black knights,
In the lightning secured by thunderstorms…
We do not follow a star, no grail
binds us to him,
we believe in fire and steel
and let swords sing . . .
Rome’s Masse Mensch material of 2008 including songs like ‘Sonnengotter’ and Vali’s album Forlatt (2004) providing ample evidence of the distance travelled over the decades. Symbolized by the fact that while in England metal bands like Saxon took their name directly from their ancestors and Black Sabbath mixed metal with Aleister Crowley (1874-1947), the former Deep Purple lead guitarist Richie Blackmore, has now teamed up with his wife Candice Night to produce songs directly from the Anglo-Germanic folk tradition like ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Loreley’, with lyrics based on the original myths:
Merrily we sailed along
Though the waves were plenty strong
Down the twisting Rhine
Following a song . . .
Legend’s faded storyline
Tried to warn us all
Oh, they called her Loreley
Careful or you’ll fall
Which matches the following extract from the song ‘Fair Lady Without Mercy’ from the album Buch de Balladen by Faun:
I met a noble lady on the Rhine,
So very fair was she — a fairy vision,
Her hair was long, her girt was light,
And wild her stare
I lifted her on my white steed,
And nothing but her could I see,
As she leant by my side and sang
A song of the fairies
And from the song ‘The Colourful People’ from Buntes Volk:
At night through the valley,
As the sun sets,
Went a colourful people
And a song
Their song was strange to me,
And completely unknown,
But their melody
Held me in thrall…
Through the valley
You saw the minstrels go…
Then there is their song ‘Alswinn’ from their album Midgard:
I’ve fed father’s stallion
I’ve kept watch a winter long
I’ve sifted the barley, washed the oats
But he escaped last night
I went to search
I have these horses in mind
I dragged and peered through the heath
But I lost his tracks
What sign does the horse wear?
Over his eye, his sun disk
On his forehead the Big Bear
Silver shines his body at night
His neck is decorated with a bell
His neck reaches the sky
And his tail touches earth
On his hooves, he wears runes
He roams the sky
In his golden carriage, he carries
The sun until the evening hours
Which leads us to the masterful poetry of Ian Read of Fire and Ice with his rendition of ‘The Lady of the Vanir’:
There came a Lady fae the west
Who left not one cold man here
She smelled of trees and ocean breeze
The Lady of the Vanir
She kissed the pollen on the rose
She kissed the golden corn ear
She kissed the seed within the womb
The Lady of the Vanir
She went forth from towers of light
She felt no sorrow nor fear
She went to seek the heart of the night
The Lady of the Vanir
She found the cavern dark and deep
All filled with gold and jewels dear
She found the small men at their work
The Lady of the Vanir
She put her arm about the East
And found a thought so light and clear
She breathed forth a song and melody
The Lady of the Vanir
She put her leg about the West
And felt her mother’s breast near
She gave her heart to all the world
The Lady of the Vanir
She put her womb about the North
And felt the star of night appear
She bore it forth into the light
The Lady of the Vanir
And she went forth, her white neck shone
With jewels of ice and fire
And in her path the flowers they grew
For the Lady of the Vanir
Some make things grow and this I know
And some are fair and full of cheer
But there’s no sweeter, wilder love
Than the Lady of the Vanir
And his elegy “Dragons in the Sunset”:
Dragons in the sunset
Upon the darkened sea
Sailing through the mists of time
Calling unto me
Ghost ship black and gleaming
Lindens shining bright
Ancient kinsmen call my name
Far off in the night
My heart it stood restless
And I knew not why
Memory’s spark was there
In the twinkling of an eye
I heard the thunder and saw the flash
The stormy sky did speak
A voice whispered to my soul:
You are not of the meek
Ways of eastern strangers
Are not yours to bear
You have heard the raven speak
And seen the eagle’s stare
Battle’s pain and Skald’s words
Horn of flowing mead
Steps along the lonely path
Where waits the eight-legged steed
Then I came unto a place
Of trees and running streams
There I saw heaven’s sign
A wheel that did gleam
Reality, then I know
I had found my kin
Now I sail to that great hall
Upon the fleeting wind
Dragons sailing on the breeze
Black and gleaming beam
The hand upon the steering board
Has set my spirit free
Lost no more to time and place
For I have seen this land
I have heard the Valkyrie’s song
And I’ve touched Odin’s hand
Read enjoined by his fellow countrymen and Blood & Honour stalwart Ian Stuart Donaldson (1957-1993) with his ‘Mist On The Downs’:
In shrouded forests, in England’s leafy dales
An air of mystery, yeah, of long forgotten tales
Where time stands still, and flowers sway, and the river passes by
A place of peace, of mystery, where the autumn breezes sigh
I will remember the mist upon the downs
Yeah, that September, the mist upon the downs
Through country roads, and winding lanes, leading to the hills
I walk and gaze upon the land, until I’ve had my fill
Peace of mind is yours to find, in a countryside so green
And there’s no man could stand and fail to be moved by this scene
Misty days, and secret ways, beneath the autumn trees
Falling leaves upon the ground, yeah the calm is all around me
When troubles come, when problems arise, the woodland pull is strong
Surrounded by the forest deep, there is no right nor wrong
And his classic song ‘Old Albion’:
The scent of an English meadow wafts gently through the bars
The sounds of summer harvesting can be heard from there far
The beauty of Old Albion a beauty hard to beat
But the heart has been corrupted by the change in powers seat
Our warriors are slandered and thrown into their jails
And kept from all they loved once in dungeons deep and stale
They say self-defense is no offence until the law starts with their lies
They’ll send you down for protecting your own already guilty in their lying eyes
Our hearts are full of love and pride for England is our home
The hills and dales are in our souls and the forest ours to roam
But now we lie back in our cells and think of times gone by
We think back of our lives and homes and the girls who wait and cry
Will we stand and watch them taking our freedom away?
Elegies for our time. Sounds that carry across wooded valleys like Boromir’s horn at the Breaking of the Fellowship in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. And because it is tribal and traditional it should not surprise anyone to see crowds making merry, gathered around bonfires, watching flares like flaming arrows shooting into the night sky. Because today’s open air music festivals like those at Glastonbury covering 900 acres and servicing over 150,000 people are to some extent a continuation, or some may argue a cultural appropriation, of the blazing fire festivals celebrated by our ancestors in the dim and distant past. Events like Up Hellya Aa on the Shetland islands, with our people marching in torch lit columns towards some scared grove under phosphorescent starlight. Singing loudly as they celebrate their fecundity. Moving confidently along winding forest tracks to greet the solstice and the birthing of a new season.
So I take issue with Frenchman Romain Rolland (1866-1944) who once said ‘There is too much music in Germany’ and find myself at one with the Thomas Mann (1875 -1955), who wrote ‘Can one be a musician without being German’. With the lyrics of Sonne Hagal’s ‘Odin’ taking us back to where we began:
The runes will hail you
So listen carefully
We’ll never stop until we have victory!
Don’t try to fight us, you’ll be victims, you!
Our fight is going on
And it’s the last thing we’ll do!
We are Europe’s pride
And we’re marching in line!
Our Gods are guiding us
Through all times…
Embalmed with hagalaz, we’re unconquerable!
We set our stance
Odin’s blessing, and iron will