Last July, I had the pleasure of writing about the first album ‘Voorwarts!’ from Dutch martial ambient project, Striider. Since then composer Jornt has been hard at work, appearing on the highly recommended three way split ‘Prepare’ with Das Brandopfer and Tiefe Sehnsucht as well as contributing to the nearly sold out four artist compilation ‘Civis Europaeus Sum’ alongside BloodSoil, Legionarii and TSIDMZ. In addition to this output that would satisfy many, Striider has also delivered a second full length album, ‘Heimweh.’ Released through Skull Line Mailorder, the two disc, ultra limited, hand numbered edition, sealed in a flag with an additional miniature flag, a postcard and a sticker, ‘Heimweh’ mirrors with its packaging the well crafted quality of the music contained within. I can imagine a man stationed at the front dashing off a note on the back of the postcard to his sweetheart back home during a moment of respite, letting her know he’s alive and she is loved.
‘Voorwarts!’ was an album concerned with the pandemonium and chaos of the blitzkrieg and trenches. Its sound characterized by dense layers of marching percussion, historical samples, traditional songs, artillery blasts, maddening crowds, flanging sirens, divebombing planes and harsh blocks of noise all synthesizing to create a powerful evocation of the romance and horror of the battlefield. ‘Heimweh’ focuses on a different aspect of combat, with this album we are taken into the conflicts waged within the psyche of the soldier and the veteran. Titled with the German word for homesickness, ‘Heimweh’ examines the soldier estranged from their home, accountable with their lives and uncertain with anxiety that they may not return should their efforts make to slight. This album trades the high contrast parade and mania of the last work for a more subdued palette of hunger and reflection.
A thin fanfare of unison cornets opening the second track, ‘Berlin I,’ hushes abruptly into a set of muffled timpani dirging doomward almost tribal, while the once hearty voices of commanding men dissolve into a murky undercurrent of delay. Beneath the voices of authority and pacing drums, the massed forces are holding foot nearly imperceptible, subtly matching step alongside the timpani as they drudge across the pale ambient soundscape, together they guide to ground the orders dropping from above. As the objectives begin sounding fragmented and lose coherence, rounds of gunfire scatter grey across the field while a virile ‘Gloria’ stresses through, further on until a bleak second of total crushing silence relieves and overwhelms. Then, suddenly, like an archaic phalanx maneuver the front is remade and returned; fresh commander, kettle set and corps.
The feeling of longing, of trying to make way back to places left behind manifests in several ways in ‘Heimweh.’ The track ‘Neu-Schwabenland’ describes the desolate stretch of frozen Antarctic waste notorious for daring early polar expeditions riddled by tragedy, made legendary with an endless conspiracy lore near unrivaled for its florid paranoia and quite possibly the furthest one can find themselves from home unless home be based deep underground or reached only by Hanebu is rendered aural here by Jornt with the unyielding severity characteristic of the dark ambient niche isolationism. This music calls forth fears of contamination and the unknown. Hollow winds race immense through the barren icepack plagued with turbulent alien voices stacked to densities beyond translation. This track has a pronounced unease to it, the moment of highest intensity marked by a weak heartrending cry uttered by some unimaginably frail and helpless creature whose plea turns alone and only once, immediately absorbed back into the unrelenting icy breath of hell.
In contrast to the technopocalyptic landscape heard in ‘Neu-Schwabenland,’ a hearty long distance ‘Groeten uit Dietsland!’ hallmarks the end of ‘Heimweh’ Swarthy accordionists line up antiphonal along the lane of a bridge spanning swift water flowing underneath, the liquid rushing blends neatly with the accordion spiel to accompany a men’s chorus as they fill their surroundings with the old, popular marching style and agreeable sing along melody of the affirmation march ‘Lied der Flämische Freiwillige,’ the company song of The Flemish Legion, a German Waffen SS volunteer division recruited from men of Flemish background. The volkish lyrics in this version call out totemic to the Stormvogel (seagull), to share their traits of perseverance and survivalism to aid them to move forward fail-safe as they struggled the strange tides of battle strewn Northern Europe, crossing the Baltic lands and moving into Russia. Midway through, the march time camaraderie suddenly decays completely into an intense wall of harsh noise briefly before the album ends with the sounds of moving water, a gull is heard marking the shoreline near, finally calling the irrendentists home.
The album version of ‘Trommelfuer’ opens with a crystalline, high pitched long tone ringing through the ether by itself, seductively lighting a path into a cavernous mix of warm dark texturing pierced here and there with barrages of faded gunfire and barking oration. The gaslight comes in quiet turns pulling the listener deeper into the mix until they are suddenly ambushed by a twisted bit of merry melodies circus organ and warped into the next track. On the bonus disc, Striider’s harsher side project, Beutewaffen, remixes the song ominously with a much darker repressive atmosphere. The addition of a heavier low end and more sampled voices illicits a hallucinatory dissociated feel. Strydwolf adds strummed guitar giving a rhythmic steadiness to his folk take on the track which coupled with the crisp production technique makes the mood of this remix lighter than the rest of the album. Remixes from Legionarii and Fasci Di Combattimento as well as a few tracks not on the album proper make up the rest of the bonus disc.
‘Hiemweh’ is an excellent collection of martial dark ambience in beautiful packaging from the young Dutch artist Striider living up to the promising expectations garnered from his previous material. This album is well recommended to anyone who can find the beauty in scenes of carnage as well as pull deeper meaning from it. I am going to leave you with the weapons grade video that accompanies the song ‘In Trenches We Trust’ for a good taste of where Striider has been going this year.
01 – Ave!
02 – Berlin I
03 – In Trenches We Trust
04 – Grebbeberg
05 – Berlin II
06 – Neu-Schwabenland
07 – Trommelfeuer
08 – Beelitz-Heilstätten Sanatorium
09 – Groeten uit Dietsland!
Heimweh Bonus CD – Remixes And Bonus Tracks
01 – Interlude (10 mei 1940)
02 – Trommelfeuer (Beutewaffen remix)
03 – Thousand-yard stare
04 – In Trenches We Trust (Fasci Di Combattimento Remix)
05 – Trommelfeuer (Strydwolf remix)
06 – Berlin I (Verlaten speeltuinen video version)
07 – In Trenches We Trust (Legionarii remix)
08 – Striider – Heldengrab
09 – Striider – The Green Devils