01 Movement of Protest
03 Infernal Pacts
04 Der Nebelwerfer
05 Schwarze Sonne (feat. Strydwolf)
06 Uhrsonne Feuer Adler (Striider edit)
08 Der Totentanz (feat. Strydwolf)
10 Siegfrieds Funeral
12 We Shall Never Surrender
13 Burried in Flowers
14 An die Maschinen
15 Unsere Heimat
16 Steinerne Symbole
18 One Down One Down
Das Brandopfer is a newly formed martial industrial project. “Infernal Pacts” is their first release, preceded by a participation in the compilation “The Seven Deadly Sins : Avaritia”, with the first track of this album, “Movement of Protest”. “Das Brandopfer” (The Burnt Offering) is also a novel by the German writer and theologian Albrecht Goes (1908–2000), published in 1954. The narrative, taking place during the time of the Third Reich, is given from the standpoint of a librarian renting a room in Frau Walker’s house. Frau Walker is a butcher’s wife, who is given an order by the regime to allow Jews to shop in her store. As the arrangement proceeds and she starts to develop personal relations with her clients, the handling of Jews becomes harsher, and traces of the Holocaust appear in everyday life. Driven by remorse and despair, she sets fire to her house while the city is being bombarded, intending to sacrifice herself in a symbolic act of redemption. She is rescued by one of her Jewish clients, but the burn marks on her face remain, to indicate her sense of complicity in the atrocities of a war that has deeply scarred the consciences of those who endured it. Behind Goes’ sharp, simple language exist many layers of interpretation, as he presents the endless repercussions of an overall painful subject. As a Protestant Christian he examines the conflict of sincere religious belief in times of war, where the acts required by the circumstances violate the message of hope, love and forgiveness traditionally conveyed in the Gospels. Neutrality is tested as a moral behaviour, and the events presented in the narration leave no room for time-related apologetics. When we stand by and watch someone else commit the crime, are we in fact accomplices in the crime or is our distancing justified? Does the turn of events compel us to follow, or do we have a choice?
Are we prepared to pay the price for redemption, as Frau Walker was? However, to me the most important message of all is the breaking down of hate-ridden propaganda and the discovery of the person being behind the mask. As Frau Walker begins to know her clients better, she realizes they possess the same human qualities as her German compatriots, and starts to judge them under the standards of humanity instead of those of race or origin. Albrecht Goes believes it is possible for understanding to occur in times of war between two parties of seemingly opposite sides. Europe is once again shaken by circumstances capable of generating conditions of national enmity. His novel can serve as a reminder that the opposite side has the same characteristics that we do. From this realisation comes the ability to traverse our common ground, rather than remain entrenched in our differences.
Now why did I indulge in such an extensive prologue instead of occupying myself with the release, you will ask. Simply because, musical merit aside, the most remarkable feature of this release is the profound and global understanding of WWII and its detrimental effect in the collective psyche of Europe, but also in each nation and each individual separately. It cannot be taken into consideration independently from its historical background, and I believe the choice of name for the project is anything but random. There is a specific kind of bravery and objectivity with which the parts of those involved are dealt with, stemming exactly from the deep-rooted sense of humanity expressed in Goes’ novel. War is painted in its true colours, unaffected by idealisation or condemnation.
In “Unsere Heimat” the crushing layers of industrialized noise mingled with war cries and declarations, cover a faintly audible, dejected melody in the background. Behind the force and determination of battle lies the terrible conscience of annihilation. Patriotism is brought forth under the light of heroic self-sacrifice, but also in its tragic aspect, as the incentive for misery and lives lost. The rigorous, unchanging symbols of “Steinerne Symbole” become the mantra that pushes the music forward, in a heavily militarized track of equally resolute strength and empty desolation. The abandoned battlefields where the blood of the soldiers was shed comes to mind in “Einheit”, where the whispering voices of the dead come together in unison, while the trumpet plays their last farewell. They are one in death as they were on the battlefield. “We Shall Never Surrender” contains an extract of the historical speech given by Winston Churchill in the British House of Commons in 1940. The epic atmosphere of the synths and male choir accompanying it give it the courageous, sacred tone of resistance in defence of our country, even when all the odds are against us.
“Infernal Pacts” is a clearly martial industrial album, never doubting itself and its origins. The majority of it is comprised of rhythmic industrial tracks with ferocious militaristic elements (marches, voice samples, distortions and belligerent drumming). As repetitive, merciless and aggressive as the sounds of war itself, the music is powerful and highly assertive, managing to give the listener a very complete idea of the WWII era by including a variety of samples (German Christmas carols, speeches, broadcasts). Nonetheless, other influences appear in some of the tracks, for instance “Schwarze Sonne” and “Defector” contain significant neofolk elements (acoustic guitar, down-tempo melody, male vocals) while “Der Totenkrantz” is altogether a neofolk track, with a beautiful acoustic guitar melody and melancholic, emotional vocals. Strydwolf have lent their expertise both at “Der Totenkrantz” and “Schwarze Sonne”, at the end of which we can hear a very moving extract from a radio broadcast, where the German soldiers, connected through the broadcast in all the different parts of the world where they are stationed, sing a Christmas carol. The dark ambient and neoclassical elements add a funereal, austere tone to some of the tracks. Such melodic, neoclassical passages and atmospheric ambience can be found in “Panacea”, “Siegfrieds Funeral”, “Buried in Flowers” and “Onslaught” – an excellent example of high-strung martial neoclassical with an ever-increasing tempo culminating in a crescendo of strings, military drums, marching songs and female choir. In my opinion one of the best tracks in the album along with “Panacea” and “Unsere Heimat”. The album chooses to end with its harshest, noisiest tracks, thus denoting the gruesome aspect of war, the one that has to do with dead bodies, shattered hopes and crushed morale.
Even though it is a first release, “Infernal Pacts” impresses with its level of maturity in terms of composition and execution, as well as meaning and expression. Brandopfer’s powerful, confident brand of pure martial industrial is amended with the inclusion of neoclassical, neofolk, noise and dark ambient elements. Fearlessly indicating the true nature of its subject, it allows for the atmosphere needed to depict heroism and the melody required to express the doubt, fear and sadness over lives lost and disillusioned ideals. Its fierce, ruthless militaristic character remains a constant throughout the recording. Yet another highly recommended release from SkullLine, which if nothing more confirms its reputation as a label not afraid to take risks by releasing little known artists, based on standards of quality rather than recognizability. Das Brandopfer is an artist to look out for, and you will want to start doing that with “Infernal Pacts”. In other words, don’t miss it!