“If we trace the history of any nation backwards into the past, we come at last to a period of myths and traditions which eventually fade away into impenetrable darkness.”
–Bal Gangadhar Tilak, The Arctic Home in the Vedas
This simple quotation from Tilak, one of the greatest minds to emerge from India in the Traditionalist vein and whom influenced the likes of Julius Evola and René Guénon, not only sums up the ideas behind the evolutionary process from the perspective of Radical Traditionalism — as well as the consequences of it — but it also articulates the ideas behind the book The Arctic Home in the Vedas, which itself largely influenced Parzival‘s latest offering out of their now fifteen year existence, Die Kulturnacht. The idea seems simple enough after reading Tilak’s carefully worded aphorism; Die Kulturnacht literally translates to “The Night of Culture”, which can be seen somewhat ambiguously, but in the end seems to fit in more with the idea of night descending upon culture — the twilight hours of tradition as humanity continues to spiral deeper into an abyss of decadence — cultural decline that is endlessly being advanced by the winds of progress. The most positive minds amongst you could also choose to perceive the album title as a celebration of culture rather than the evaporation of it, but that personally just doesn’t seem to fit well in the context of the darker themes at work here.
I’m admittedly unsure as to if I should consider Die Kulturnacht as an abrupt change in style or a return to one that was far more appropriate for Parzival’s themes over the years. After all, most fans whom have become acquainted with the band’s sound by now are used to the rhythmic EBM backbone that has defined their distinct style of martial industrial for nearly a decade. However, 2002’s Blut und Jordan — a mere blip on the radar considering the band’s lengthy history — was more in line with what we find here on Die Kulturnacht. Brooding, brass-heavy orchestral works and bass vocals are paired with the traditional vein of martial percussion to create a style of music that is all too familiarly Russian in character. Parzival themselves have stated that the album is influenced by the work of one of Russia’s most important operatic vocalists from the turn of the nineteenth century, Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin, but I can’t help but be reminded here of equal parts Foetus (for Parzival’s dedication to modestly complex orchestral industrial) and another Russian composer from the same time period in Victor Ewald (for his brilliant brass quintets).
That said, perhaps too much focus has been put on the brass movements that are found intermittently within Die Kulturnacht, as there is also an exceptional focus on synthetic ethnic instrumentation, stringed arrangements, and the occasional multi-vocal choir, all of which can be heard in their most dramatic representation in the track “Kali-yuga”. Even the recognizable Science-fiction side of Parzival occasionally appears through sound effects and odd melodies, especially in “Die Okkultische Matrosen”. It is the vocals that consistently steal the spotlight in each track though, as Dimitrij Bablevskij‘s emotive bassy tones are constantly on display in a manner that is quietly reserved. He shows incredible restraint with every song, taking great care to avoid forcing a performance that threatens to overcome the surrounding instrumentation, yet never fully gives in to the temptation. This heavy bass-tone also heralds another quality about Die Kulturnacht that may prove to be unexpected for many, however — that of the slow-burner. Despite the towering, apocalyptic nature of the album cover — whose familiar red and black color-scheme will remind many of Russian propaganda posters — as well as its obvious martial elements, Die Kulturnacht never quite advances beyond a steady pace. For that reason, the album — and more specifically, the twelve-minute epic “Kolowrath” — can unfortunately appear to drag on for much longer than the actual duration.
The thematic depth of Die Kulturnacht is itself worthy of praise, but the sort of orchestral complexity that is found within it is also a rarity these days. I only wish that the intensity featured within the track “Eisenbrot” had found its way to other parts of the album as well, to help break up the otherwise modest pace that dominates the rest of the album.
01) Panta Rai
03) Ex Borea
05) Das Gold der Partei
06) Die Kulturnacht
07) Cursus Polaris
08) Die Okkultische Matrosen
11) Der Schwartze Vatikan