This review is long overdue to say the least, and in keeping with that line of thought, this very release in itself celebrates a young career that was sadly far too short for the intelligence and musical prowess found within their music. Soulsearch was a project that hailed from Salzburg, Austria and took form in the cold Winter months of 1991. Their presence as a single entity would last for nearly a decade, stretching until 2000 when their last exalted breath of air would be released in the form of a three-track 10-inch record, “Iherno”, that was released in a meager 100 copies. To begin the band’s career, Soulsearch would self-release their only other demo, “Nature Falls Asleep”, in 1993 in a limitation of only 500 copies and would in that next years release “Die Essenz”. The following 4 years would prove to be the most important in the band’s existence and solidified their legacy as one of the forerunners of modern folk metal as 1997 would see their signing to Serenades Records for two albums: “Gwynedd: The Ethnic Truth” in 1997 and “Abred vs Annwn: Behind the Archaic Alliance” in 1998. This great news accompanied the most frustrating time of the project’s existence however as after 1995, Thom Kinberger would become the last member from the original line-up left. Regardless, these would be the only full-length offerings for this original Folk doom manifestation, and in 2006 Ahnstern would pay tribute through the release of this compilation of previously released tracks, with the only exception being the last track, “Blitz und Donnerkeil”, which was unreleased until this point.
One of the many things that any listener should take away from this album is it’s variety of styles, but the first few things that will be recognizable are it’s early 90′s raw approach to moderately extreme doom metal and its absurdly incontrovertible catchiness as well as the many comparisons that can be made to more modern projects. For example, the middle few minutes of the opening track “Heervater” just prior to the spoken word sample have an undeniably Opeth-like rhythmic progression while the second track “Narbenvolk” open in a down-trodden Song of Darkness, Words of Light-era My Dying Bride. Their sincere, powerful militant side comes out in this track as well through not only one of the most epic endings in any modern doom song (that in the end shifts to a beautiful pagan hymnal) but through the inclusion of one of poetry’s most powerful and timeless works, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “Feldfeuer” is melancholic, and later, bombastic, in sound though not in theme. Their folky melodic side doesn’t completely come out on this collection until track four, “Schwarze Erde”, when the guitars pick up a harmonious sound that heralds projects like Crown of Autumn and also features a harpsichord outro that is quickly taken over by the bombastic percussion and speech-like ferocity of “Kundgebung”. Tracks will go on to feature both sombre moods and joyous ones (“Rabenhorst”) and extreme amounts of groove (“Traumkampf”), but Soulsearch’s Celtic persona comes out in full force for both the aptly titled “Spielmann” and the one new track available, the closer, “Blitz und Donnerkeil”.
The outside of the packaging’s artwork bears the image of the Gundestrup Cauldron which, besides being a perfect representation of the lyrical value that defines Soulsearch, also largely represents Soulsearch’s Celtic heritage. Thematically, Soulsearch possessed a Heathen spirit and a love for their Celtic roots and pagan legends that would put them directly in line with the future folk metal projects that they had so influenced. However, it is the seriousness in which they take these themes that seems to put them in a higher standing, a point of character that inextricably links them with Germanic neofolk projects of the same geographical area and inevitably is a logical reason behind their release on a label like Ahnstern for this final encore. Along with many references to Arthurian legends, most lyrics have a very personal approach, taking a long path away from the academic and more into an introverted mode of story-telling and, at times, fury as relative to social and environmental issues. Through a translation of the German text on the inside of the digipak, ideas from vocalist / guitarist Thom Kinberger at the time of writing (2006) deal with such anti-modern thoughts as the mindless modern enslavement of the human race through religious and political veils, though if these ideas show up in the music itself, they are hidden in translation. After all, with the acceptance of the old ways that are present in the music of Soulsearch comes the rejection of modern ideologies, and even through lingual barriers, their stance is strong, if not pure in all of it’s archaic glory.
04) Schwarze Erde
11) Blitz und Donnerkeil