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Double Feature: Sturmpercht – Alpenglühen + Bergentrückt

Alpenglühen

Alpenglühen

Sturmpercht is an interesting musical group that combines traditional alpine folk with the more modern occurrence of neofolk as well as, at times, borrow from their psych folk brethren with a firm grasp of experimentalism. The Austrian act draws inspiration from the traditions and stories of the pre-Christian Alpine people, which is reflected both in their music and their imagery. While I have never personally seen the group live, there are numerous videos and photographs where one can see that they carry out their music into theatrical stage performances by means of traditional dress and the use of local instrumentation. In other words, Sturmpercht is a band that very much goes beyond the realm of pure entertainment and into more of a ceremonial realm which gives the listener a glimpse into the past, at least as much as you can in the modern age.

The first album of this double feature is their latest, Alpenglühen, and consists of various live recordings. According to the artist, the songs were recorded “private and live at the alphouse, in caves and on stage” between the years of 2003 and 2008. While the album has many tracks, twenty-four in total, many of them are under three minutes, while some clock in at over five minutes. The album also features many tracks that the fans of Sturmpercht have heard on previous albums such as “Geister im Waldgebirg”, “Schattenlieder”, and “Stürm Ins Leben Wild Hinein!”. The tracks featured on this album are numerous and represent a nice dosage of what the band has offered throughout the years.

Sturmpercht

Sturmpercht

One of the problems that I have always had with live recordings is that the sound quality almost universally comes out bad, which with regards to any form of folk music can either make or break a release. I should point out that there are times when I have found that lower quality recordings can add atmosphere to a record; however, this is not always the case. Artists who might use a great variety of instruments, such as Sturmpercht, mostly require higher sound quality standards so that the listener can hear the song as a whole–so that each instrument can be heard and proper representation can be given. This is the greatest downfall of Alpenglühen; the quality detracts from the overall sound of the songs being performed. While I acknowledge that it is fairly difficult and, at times, very expensive to record a high quality live album, the quality of this release is pretty spotty.

That said, the overall performance of Sturmpercht throughout the entire album is solid, and one can tell that they are a collective of talented musicians. Some of their songs are quite complex and feature a great variety of instruments, and while this can sometimes result in redundant use of simplistic patterns for less experienced artists, this is not the case for Sturmpercht, who have proven that they are well rehearsed and able to perform just as well live as they do in the studio.

Overall, Alpenglühen is a very nice addition to and already lengthy and celebrated discography, and I believe that those who are already fans of Sturmpercht will greatly appreciate it for its ability to give a more intimate and organic insight into the band than their studio recordings. However, I do not think that someone who is new to the group will likely appreciate it as the sound quality tends to detract from the overall experience.

Bergentrückt

Bergentrückt

Unlike Alpenglühen, Bergentrückt is a studio album–the fifth for Sturmpercht–and was released by Steinklang Industries‘ dedicated Percht sub-imprint. This album, while continuing on with their Austrian folk sound, is much different in that it is much darker than their previous works, which contain a more joyful sound. This album centers around a phenomenon called “Bergentrückung”, which is itself involved in the tales and legends of visitors entering into a mountain to visit Kaiser Karl who lives and sleeps there in wait of the final battle at the end of days. The phenomenon is said to be experienced by those who visit the mount, spending mere hours or days within, only to return to find that many years have passed. The band does an exceptional job of providing a canvas for this theme to develop on, which fits brilliantly with the music contained within.

This album was able to capture both my ear and my mind from the very first track, which is actually one of my favorites, entitled “Der schlafende Kaiser”. From this first track the band does an excellent job of setting the mood for both the theme and the remaining songs featured on the album. Continuing through the album the next two tracks entitled “Die Drei Eisheiligen” and “Vieraeugl” furthered my interest in Bergentrückt. The former really grabbed my interest with a tremolo-picked guitar and a black metal-esque performance throughout parts of the song that subtly reminds of another Steinklang project in Rauhnåcht. The use of traditional instruments, such as various stringed instruments as well as flutes and accordion, very much adds to the album and its theme, placing its framework squarely within the context of the lower Germanic and Austrian area.

Sturmpercht

Sturmpercht

For the majority of the album, the vocals are performed in a spoken word style with vocalist Max Presch using a heavily accented voice that really blends in well with the music. With this style, it can sometimes prove to be disastrous and, sadly, all too easy for the music to dwindle into an atmosphere that becomes both more monotonous and dull over time; however, this is absolutely not the case with Bergentrückt, which impressively maintains listenability throughout all eleven tracks. I have always highly appreciated and enjoyed the vocal style presented on Sturmpercht’s previous albums such as “Geister im Waldgebirg” and “Sturm Ins Leben Wild Hinein!”, and with Bergentrückt, I have not been disappointed in this regard. The musicians involved on this record have done an excellent job of creating compositions that really help the listener to escape into the folklore that is being presented–not only to venture into the past or into fiction, but to be presented with an adequate and incredibly rare level of storytelling, which is in itself an art that is quickly becoming lost with every new generation.

Overall, the listeners who are familiar with Sturmpercht’s older material will be pleased with this latest album as it very much embodies the same spirit and cultural / instrumental elements that were found in ample supply on previous albums. With that, it also forges forward in a much darker sounding direction, which may be a welcome change of pace for those who have already long been acquainted. While some artists tend to either sound the same with each release or change direction for the worse, Sturmpercht has managed to maintain their unique sound while also creating a piece of art that stands out within their own discography. I would recommend Bergentrückt to any fan of dark folk music, as well as any listener who is searching for a rich atmospheric piece, or even those who may just be seeking to get acquainted with the folklore of Central Europe.

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Track List:

Alpenglühen:
01) Wir Rufen Deine Wölfe
02) Stürm ins Leben Wild Hinein
03) Allerseelenreigen
04) Der Lindwurm vom Tappenkar
05) Schnaderhüpflska
06) Weisst du Wohin wir Ziehn
07) Waldheimat
08) Der Weisse Wurm
09) Die Wilde Jagd
10) Der Knabe im Moor
11) Der Tanz des Tatzelwurms
12) Das Geschenk Der Wildfrau
13) Das Letzte Zapfenmandl
14) Ewige Gegenwart
15) Trinklied
16) Zirbenwalzer
17) Des Blutes Schwere Schuld
18) Der Spielmann
19) Stürm Ins Leben Wild Hinein
20) Der Tanz des Tatzelwurms
21) I Bin da Woid
22) Nachtlied
23) Weisst du Wohin Wir Ziehn
24) Auf da Alm

Rating: 7/10
Label: Percht (Austria) / PERCHT23 / CD, 3xLP Box
Alpine Folk / Neofolk

Bergentrückt:
01) Der Schlafende Kaiser
02) Die Drei Eisheiligen
03) Vieräugl
04) Die Hochzeitstafel
05) Die Dreizehnte Percht
06) Das Letzte Licht
07) Der Wildalpgeist
08) Das Wilde Heer
09) Die Übergossene Alm
10) Der Bauer und der Wuch’rer
11) Winterstille

Rating: 8/10
Written by: Conor Wrigley
Label: Percht (Austria) / PERCHT22 / CD, 3xLP Box
Alpine Folk / Neofolk