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Allerseelen – Terra Incognita

Terra Incognita

Terra Incognita

I love Allerseelen; be it the music or the concepts therein, it’s been around since 1988 for a justified reason. Allerseelen has something special to offer the post-industrial scene and is quite unique in its delivery. While being repetitive in style, no one record is the same as the last. After all, it’s this precise identity that is to be sought after, and if—God forbid—Allerseelen wandered on paths so often travelled by so many other neofolk artists, it would simply cease to exist. Actually, the project shouldn’t even be considered neofolk in the strictest sense of the word. Industrial, electronic, metal, flamenco, and jazzy elements are implemented on most of their releases and acoustic guitars, whenever present, are not the key element.

Gerhard Hallstatt, the man behind it all and who by now should be no stranger, started out with tape recordings and loops that have remained prominent on his releases ever since. I’d even dare to describe Allerseelen as music to dance to. It’s with that same approach that Hallstatt’s latest release, Terra Incognita, has been structured, placing emphasis once again on loops and danceable rhythms as the primary axis for creation and inspiration. Marcel P. (Miel Noir, Fahl, Sagittarius) is, as usual, responsible for most of the bass sections—his performance style having become, by now, a vital piece in forming the distinguished sound of Allerseelen (Marcel P. is also the percussionist and keyboardist behind a couple of songs). Assisting on electric guitars are Jörg B. (Der Blutharsch, Graumahd), John Haughm (Agalloch), Daniel P. Àrnica (Àrnica), and Alexander Wieser (Hrefnesholt, Uruk-Hai).

As you can see, every guest musician appearing on Terra Incognita are members of already established bands. They give a personal yet discreet touch to the music of Allerseelen, as the project seldom allows for excessive experimentation outside of the borders that Hallstatt has defined for himself. An exception could be noticed on ‘Böses Blut’, where the guitar performances are in the vein of Der Blutharsch, further expanding the hallucinatory nature of the song.  Robert Taylor (Changes) supplies vocals to ‘From the Emptiness’, which is another version of ‘But a Spark in the Night’ which first appeared on the Hallstatt album. This version is far richer than its predecessor, namely because of the exceptional performances from guitar and bass that have been enhanced by Daniel P. Àrnica and Marcel P. respectively.

Gerhard Halstatt

Gerhard Hallstatt

At this point I should mention that it’s a common practice for Allerseelen to revisit older songs on new albums, most of which are clearly marked as such on the track list. When a song or an experience is strong enough, one can easily be inspired repeatedly and in different ways by their essence, so, personally, I’m fine with that. On Terra Incognita, six out of the total fifteen songs are such ‘remakes’, some of which are closer to their original versions (for example, ‘Wir Sind Schwäne’), while others have become almost unrecognizable in comparison to their former selves (‘Flamme’, ‘Sturmlied’). ‘Sturmlied’ is a highlight for me as it’s a vivid track with equally impressive vocals. Its martial spirit is captivating, and at its core stands Ricarda Huch’s poem, ‘Sturmlied’. Terra Incognita is a definitive jewel for the initiated fans of Allerseelen; loops, samples, bass, and vocals come together in a more refined way than we’ve seen in years past, while the cello proves to be well suited to the compositions therein. The evident difference, compared to previous albums, is the electric guitar presence which has been noticeably boosted, yielding a more dynamic sound. A furnished production is prominent throughout the record, and even upon keen observation, one cannot but witness the flawless results; results that concern fans of Allerseelen with the standards inherent, to be precise.

The title, Terra Incognita, is suggestive of the concept that is prevalent throughout: the unknown territories of every aspect of life, the immense unexplored plains that emerge for every tiny piece of information we finally think we know upon much reflection—the magic that ensures that there is always more to seek and more to discover. The song titles and lyrics are an unmistakable guide, wherein a pilot reaches out to the sun and the stars, far above the surface of common perception (‘Fliegerlied’). Another archetypical pilot reminds us of the dangers of wanting to know too much or not being ready for the Sun (‘Ikarus’).  There is a song inspired by the Belladonna fruit, whose psychotropic properties provide for new journeys (‘Böses Blut’), and another that is inspired by the beauty of the aurora borealis and the legendary green fairy of absinthe (‘Grünes Licht’) that leads elsewhere as well. Hallstatt possesses a wide range of inspirations, from mountaineering, photography, and travelling to numerous authors, philosophers, and film directors, all of which assist him in expanding—a bit at a time—his horizons, indeed covering always a small new part of some terra incognita.

To provide details on each and every song’s themes would be an intrusive obstacle in the way of allowing Allerseelen’s audience to do some discovering of their own. I’d suffice it to say that the texts, images, and music are masterfully interwoven to create a unique playground that is at the disposal of your imagination. Choose a path, tread on it, and be not impatient with where it leads you.

Acknowledging Hallstatt’s craftsmanship for one last time, I can safely say that Terra Incognita is yet another exceptional record; one that is bound to be a cornerstone of his rightfully enduring career. For further insight on what motivates Allerseelen, the book Blutleuchte (a compilation of all his Aorta and Ahnstern pamphlets released in the ’90s) would be highly recommended.

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Track List:

01) Steingeburt (2015)
02) Fliegerlied
03) Böses Blut
04) Ikarus
05) Flamme (2015)
06) Totenschiff
07) Thule (2015)
08) From the Emptiness
09) Grünes Licht
10) Neunmondmesser
11) Sturmlied (2015)
12) Wir Sind Schwäne (2015)
13) Panzergarten (2015)
14) Was Wissen Wir vom Licht
15) Schwarzes Vinyl

Rating: 9/10
Written by: Yannis H.
Labels:
Aorta (Austria) / AORCD016 / CD
Ahnstern (Austria) / Ahnstern 53 / CD
Neofolk / Electro