December is fitting time of year to be digesting Pagan music–as Yuletide approaches, we in the Western World embrace a season of festivities, and no doubt each year more of us come to understand the pre-Christian nature of it all. It is also at about this time last year that I reviewed Waldtraene‘s previous offering, Heidenblut–a decidedly Heathen affair. This somewhat prolific German duo now bring us Es wusste einst die Alten, their third album in four years.
It must be said: the cover art is undeniably topical. A dwarven character reminiscent of Santa Klaus beckons us into his fire-lit home beneath a snow-capped tree. It is a cartoonish, fun, yet compellingly Germanic depiction which reminds me of a series of learning books I enjoyed as a child called Gnomes. This imagery draws upon what some of us consider to be a ‘folk soul’, and will no doubt give isolated listeners the same familiar welcome that it does I.
We enter Es wusste einst die Alten with the audial equivalent of the cover’s visual welcome and then proceed with predictable fare: traditional, acoustic, and vocal-led folk music. The first musical number–the album’s title track–is led by a recurring flute melody, followed by the consistent male-female harmonies of Horda and Knoepfchen. From here on there is little surprise, and I am actually heartened to discover that Waldtraene have paid no heed to previous album reviews–such as mine–which defined their music as formulaic. This act has a wonderfully traditional, solid vision, and they execute it comfortably. Whilst many musicians see composition as an opportunity to step outside of the comfort zone they and their listeners possess, Waldtraene exists exclusively to bolster that comfort zone–to celebrate it and invite others to enjoy it with them. They also insist on singing in their native tongue, and I can only admire them for this. If anything, as a non-German speaker, it aids my enjoyment.
The song-writing quality here is on par with Heidenblut, but it must be said that the performances are more proficient and more authoritative. Waldtraene have no reservations about what they’re doing. They do it with pride and glee, and their promotional photos suggest a deep and sincere adherence to historical German religion and lore.
Waldtraene’s music sits somewhere between the gleeful folk-rock that seems popular in Germany and the dark folk music that many Heathen Harvest readers will already be acquainted with. For that reason it fills a void, serving as faithful Heathen music for the more colourful moments in life.
01) Ein Hauch Schicksal
02) Es wussten einst die Alten
03) Des Nachts im Traum
04) Wage Erinnerungen
06) Erben des Donners
07) Im Reich der weissen Pferde
08) Asenheil und Wanensegen
09) Der Freunde Gaben
10) Himinbjorg nenn ich, Heimdall sagt man
12) Die Herrin vom Wald
14) Des Skalden Rat
15) Bragis Skaldensang