From the cold Austrian alps blows in this two-track EP that serves as a ghostly fingerprint in the realm of Germanic Folklore. Though the artists take a separate approach towards finding the spirit of the featured songs of the same name, both achieve an element of surrealism and ancient mysticism. As a separate entity however, Sturmpercht is no newcomer to the world of dark Germanic folk music, and are largely the reason that the sub-label Percht even exists. Finding their first release with 2003’s “Der Tanz des Tatzelwurms” EP, the project has gone on to continue to have a lengthy and productive career, still going strong but slowing down a bit now nearly a decade later and showcasing their first new song in nearly three years. Rauhnacht on the other hand, while having an experienced musician at the helm, is a project that is more or less in its infancy having found its first full-length effort in 2010 with the well-received full-length “Vorweitschweigen” that has been the project’s only release prior to this special effort. The man behind the music, one Stefan Traunmüller, is equally well-known for his recent work in the world of gothic metal through the project Golden Dawn, but has also joined a well-received project in the pagan black metal realm called Wallachia that had a cult classic in the late 90’s entitled “From Behind the Light”.
This is obviously a very special release to the Steinklang family if for no other reason than the sheer quality that they have dedicated funds towards for realizing the various versions of “Zur Ew’gen Ruh”. Though the folk side of the Steinklang family is accustomed to wood-box editions, there was an unusual amount of work put towards this release that cryptically adds to the air of mystery that already surrounds it’s very nature, as it was released “for dark and mystic winter nights”. True, there is something deathly cold about both tracks found here, an atmosphere that both elevates the listener’s perception towards the archaic Germanic mountains of Western Europe and evokes an emotional understanding, first through the sombre melodic tones of Sturmpercht.
Sturmpercht’s single track on this EP creates an aural experience not unlike that of depressive dark ambiance, hammering the listener with images of roaming mists and fogs that create a lightly oppressive emotion. The lyrics work in this direction as well, opening the song with German lyrics that do not sing, but rather whisper lightly as if carried on the wind images of the arriving Winter that descends upon the Germanic alpine forests. Desolation reigns in this time as wildlife is difficult to come across, leaving only the sound of groaning trees and the silence between. The open nature of the music paints the nature of the image remarkably clear both in its gentle nature and its open production. Crystalline bells meet minimal yet emotive accordion melodies to bring about subtle folk textures. Where Sturmpercht’s track seems to paint the tenebrous beauty of these surroundings, Rauhnacht’s blackened style heralds the harshness of this scenery though it too arrives on the wings of the bell-laden melodic beauty that carried on through Sturmpercht’s track. For the most powerful verses, Rauhnacht concentrates on classic melodic black metal riffs with a folk texture, but also in short bridging moments has a deeply buried minimal flute-laden approach. Whereas Sturmpercht focused on the forest itself, Rauhnacht’s track has a more human element lyrically, speaking of tortured souls mercilessly carried on the breath of the wind, forced to walk the Winter forests forever, alone. These themes not only remind of the Alpine tradition of the Perchten, but also of the unique dark atmospheric sounds of early Agalloch recordings.
Besides this promo, there are four different versions of this beautiful release, of which only two are still actively attainable. The original run included, on the lowest possible end, the CD-EP packaged in a foldout-cover that came with a wooden slip-case with the print burnt into it. This edition is limited to 250 copies and, from what I understand, is still very much available. The CD-EP was also released in a special large wood box in a limitation of 50 copies that included the print burnt into the box, some various artifacts from Alpine forests and a bottle of Zirbenschnaps. This version was limited to 50 copies and is sold out, but fear not! A second edition of the box has been made and includes a different bottle of Zirbenschnaps and a different wood box. This is also limited to 50 copies. An ultra-limited version of the box also exists that was never available for sale. This version that was limited to 10 copies was only created as a signed version to be given to the friends of both artists involved on this EP — so should you ever come across this, you’ll know that you’ve found a rare treasure indeed. For those curious about the Zirbenschnaps, this explanation is straight from the label: “The original handmade Zirbenschnaps cannot be bought anywhere and is only made by a few farmers in the higher alpine regions, where the ancient Zirben (Pinus Cembra) trees grow. the Zirbentree is very rare to find, can get over 1000 years old (the oldest documented tree is nearly 2000) and is under strict natural protection. in alpine traditions the Zirbenschnaps is said to cure quite every disease.”